James Kerr - A fighting withdrawal

Running time
4 min 30 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


The 2/29th battalion, the Victorian battalion, had been sent to oppose a supposedly small force of Japanese that were stationed across the river. Unfortunately, few Japanese, as I said it was small force, turned out to be an Imperial Japanese guard's division. Perfectly trained troops, usually bigger than the average Japanese. And the 2/29th were only three companies less one platoon. So haven't even a full battalion of men facing a full division.

So once they met up with the Australians, the usual tactics of course, once the Australians held them up. And our guns knocked out eight tanks, which came down the road to break through the defences of the 2/29th. They circled around the 2/29th and us, of course. So that's what the tactics were, they met head on with strong opposition, and couldn't break through…Well, held them up for four days, which was incredible considering the small force like that vs a full division.

And the 2/19th, which was the New South Wales battalion had been sent up to reinforce the 2/29th, so they were coming up the road to reinforce. They then met the Japanese, of course, that had gone around us. So they met them, so they were trying to fight their way up to us. And after four days, we realized that the commanding officer for the 2/29th had been killed. They realized that we couldn't hold any longer, so they made a fighting withdrawl back towards the 2/19th. So, unfortunately, we had to leave our guns behind, we couldn't bring our guns with us. So we just walked out with the infantry, so we made a fighting withdrawal to join up with the 2/19th Battalion…Made our way back towards the 2nd, which we eventually did meet up with them, fighting our way through road rocks all the way back.

So it was a fighting withdrawal, it wasn't a rout, it was a fighting withdrawal. It was very difficult…What was left of the 2/29th ‘cause they had had quite the beating, the front line. Got back to this bridge at Parit Sulong, which is a bridge over a small river, and unfortunately the Japanese had got there first. So they had it heavily fortified. And there were swamps on both sides of the river, so Charles Anderson, the commanding officer of the 2/19th battalion, who incidentally won the Victoria Cross, he decided we couldn't break through, through the bridge, because it was heavily fortified, so virtually it was every man for himself.

Unfortunately, part of it was that we had 110 Australians, 35 Indians in trucks, they were all wounded men. So we had to leave the men behind in the trucks and hope that the Japanese would treat them humanely. But what they did, they pulled them all out of the trucks, killed, shot or bayoneted them. And then burnt them. So they were all killed. I went back in to Parit Sulong mission, just before, to get away from Parit Sulong, I headed back to Parit Sulong. I'd been cut off and sent around the fighting action and headed back to join the main body. We'd been sent around the rear of the Japanese, all dug in on a hill, holding us up with 44 and the 2/29th, and we got around and engaged the enemy, but by the time we broke off the action, only 19 of us out of 45 survived.

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