Extract from the War diary of Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Lynley, on action at Appam, Malaya:.

About 9.30 am as the mist burnt off the Nips made their first move.

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Hazy figures came up the main road [C9/D9] , it appeared about a platoon. I was with the second section of the 2nd Platoon (remnants of the 2/2nd Gurkha Rifles) on the north face of ridge above Appam [C7]. To the East Captain Peter Boyd and the 1st Platoon (remnants of the 2/1st Gurkha Rifles) were also dug in [C8/D8] and to the West Captain Eddie "Wireless" Shoestring was with the first section of the Second Platoon [B7].

Quickly the Nip scouts spotted the 1st Platoon and his men returned fire. The Nips went to ground using cover well and brought up a machine gun platoon to the edge of the North West Jungle line and began to pin 1st platoon.

I took initiative and wirelessed Lieutenant Colonel Sherlock Holmes to put a barrage down on the Nip line. His men of 155th FA/Lanarkshire Yeomanry [battery pos'n B1] did sterling work and the Nips took punishment and went to ground.

I began to realise that the Nips really can move through the jungle like greased lightening when from nowhere our right flank was subject to heavy fire from the jungle [E8/E7] and then were close assaulted by Thaaasands of Nips. First section put up a good fight but were overwhelmed, due to the suppressing fire put down by machine guns from the North [C9] and infantry fire from the jungle.

The next hour did not go well as the remained of 1st Platoon under Captain Boyd attempted to hold the line but were failing. In addition, Captain Shoestring had identified that the Nips had bypassed his positions using the jungle to the West and were pressurising him.

I moved with the second section towards the village of Appam, fully expecting Captain Shoestring to be overrun before I could fill the gap. I am delighted to say that he and his brave men threw back in chaos a two section strength attack with Flag waving leader left dead on the battlefield.

Twice I had been on the wireless to find that our artillery was giving Nips bloody noses elsewhere but it would be available again soon.

My hopes at that point were low and a call into the Brigadier Endeavour Morse updated him that I needed any help that might be available. I also left messages for the third section of 2nd Platoon, defending the howitzers at [C2] to move forward with haste to defend the West side of the ridge to the South of Appam.

My section reached Appam just in time as we were being chased by Nip units on the crest behind us and as the boys assessed our positions it was clear that Nips were crossing the shallow river in the jungle to both the East [E6] and West [A6] of us unimpeded.

One Gurkha had appeared as the sole survivor of Shoesting's heroic stand that gave us time. He was able to provide information that strong Nip forces were now moving through the Jungle to the West of the ridge [B7/B6].

Trouble loomed, I had no further reserves and if the Nips to East were as strong as I believed, Captain John Rebus, who was well dug in to the ridge to the south of Appam [D4/D5] with the 3rd Platoon, could be rolled over somewhat like Captain Boyd.

On the West, more worryingly all I had was F/O Troop Sergeant-Major John Watson and our best howitzer dug in [B5] more as desperate anti-tank protection than an ability to single handed take on hordes of Nips. The third section of 2nd Platoon were on the ridge [C4] but not in great cover and too far away to protect the gun emplacement.

I was in the middle of Appam unable to interfere with either attach, being chased by more Nips and not in great cover.

I instructed artillery barrage as soon as available on the urgent code to hit the ridge at the jungle [B7/B6] and waited, moving the section across the river to the South Edge of Appam.

The Nips attacked Captain Rebus in the same manner as previously experienced by Captain Boyd coming from [E5]. The difference was twofold, i) they were further ahead and without machine gun support and ii) he comes from Edinburgh and unknown to them is a great man to have on your side in a fight.

It quickly was apparent that the Nips had been repulsed back into the jungle, with yet another dead ex flag waving leader left on the battlefield, and as they did not have further re-inforcements the momentum was halted.

To my delight the main artillery barrage opened on the jungle crest to the North West of Appam with fine effect. Captain Shoestring's heroic defence had delayed the bulk of the yellow hordes for long enough that they were caught by the barrage. I believe his selfless sacrifice should be recognised with at least a posthumous bar for his MC awarded in France.

At the same time Troop Sergeant-Major Watson opened up over open sights with his 4.5" Howitzer on Nips moving in the open on the North Eastern side of the crest [D7]. His fire broke the unit there and under its diversion I moved my section up the road South to get over the crest out of line of sight [C4] and then head West to get in the jungle and support the Howitzer which was exposed.

The Third section of 2nd Platoon and my own units were unable to reach the howitzer position before it was assaulted by what appeared to be an HQ Section. Stout Lanarkshire men they were and within ten minutes the Nips sloped off into the jungle leaving behind the body of a senior Nip officer.

A race was now on between the 2nd Platoon and the Nips, as to who would get to the weakened howitzer first. Sadly I must report that when we arrived we had to clear the position of Nips who had, using MG support overwhelmed the position.

Captain Rebus piled heavy fire into the jungle behind the aborted Nip attack and eliminated all threats. He was then able to release the Third section 3rd Platoon to follow me to shore up the Western side, although on the way they took some casualties from Japanese dive bombers.

Unbeknown to me, but as reported latter my original request of support had been delivered. When the units arrived Lt Col Holmes decided that the two anti-tank units were not required and sent them back to Lardak. The Hyderabad Platoon under Captain Reginald Wexford was directed to dig in a section as best they could on the West side of the third ridge [B2], the second section to use the strong defensive positions prepared by the 2nd Platoon [C2] and the third section to move forward through the jungle edge on the West side to make contact with myself.

We had by now in the middle of the afternoon observed significant Nip activity just over the first ridge to the North but little movement forward. Captain Rebus continues to fire at any units that moved and I ordered the artillery barrage to shift onto the top of the first ridge [C7] to attempt to disrupt the MG's that were beginning to appear and attempt to pin Rebus.

My troops cleared all remaining troops from the South side of the river at [A6].

To our stunned disbelieve through the now falling barrage on the first ridge [C7] appeared four lorries of Nips moving at high speed along the road. Captain Rebus took out the first lorry, the barrage hit the third and blocked the forth from coming forward BUT the second was driven by a dervish and they were through the village and upon the second section 3rd Platoon [D5] before any effect fire could be brought upon them. I watched apprehensively as a yellow sea submerged the position. I should not of worried within a few minutes a small part of the sea flowed due the hill towards Appam and the following fire from Rebus and first company effectively destroyed the survivors of the failed assault.

At this stage the days fighting died down with the Nips slinking back into the jungle to lick their serious wounds. Rumours were that Lardak had fallen and my men began to collect their weapons together and prepare to fall back to fight another day.

Casualties

  • Captain Boyd

  • Captain Shoestring

  • Troop Sergeant-Major Watson

  • 1st Platoon First section

  • 2nd Platoon

  • No4 Gun team 155

  • 4 other ranks in second and third sections 2nd Platoon

  • 3 other ranks in 3rd Platoon

Estimated Nip casualties

  • 6 senior officers

  • 4 Platoons

  • 1 MG Platoon

  • 2 lorries destroyed and one captured

Gerard Cassels