Japanese Continue to Advance ...
Meanwhile, the Japanese had made advances on the North coast
from the beachhead, along the North shore of the island, the
critical high ground on Mount Butler and Jardine's Lookout.
The East and West Brigades were positioned to defend an attack
from the South. When the Japanese attacked from the North, from
the mainland, and pushed westward to the center of the island,
then South, they intended to cut the defenders' fighting
strength in half. When the Japanese sawed through the Rajputs,
they left the East Brigade fighting alone and one handed. It was
forced to withdraw to the southwest, towards the North/South
line dividing the two Brigades.
The Winnipeg Grenadiers were positioned to defend the South
coast of the island, the front line of resistance if the attack
came from the sea. The Royal Scots were in reserve and the
Punjabs were in the rear guard position. The new line of defense
now ran from the North cost to the South, in roughly the
island's centre. But the attack, essentially from the rear, had
allowed the Japanese to move as quickly as they did and put the
entire island in serious trouble. If the defenders couldn't
recapture the heights that surrounded them, they were going to
be cut to pieces.
Brigadier Lawson had stationed his West Brigade Headquarters at
Wong Nei Chong Gap, and "D" Company of the Winnipeg Grenadiers
H.Q.'s were just across the road from him. He had formed what he
called "flying columns" designated as rapid response troops which
would be sent to wherever they were needed. These troops were on
alert just to the South of the Grenadiers' Headquarters. As the
Japanese hurtled forward, two platoons of Grenadiers were
ordered to counter-attack. The Grenadiers rushed to respond and
were cut to pieces in the attempt to stop the Japanese. The
Japanese had taken complete control over the high ground.
The West Brigade rushed to meet the oncoming Japanese and were
caught in a meat grinder. The Japanese were attacking them from
the North, down the centre-line, and from the West. The two
brigades were compelled to attempt a link-up at the centre line,
thus preventing them from mounting a concerted, head-on
counter-attack or a steady line of defense. They found
themselves forced to fight wherever the Japanese chose to apply
December 19, The Royal Rifles of Canada
On December 19th, Major
Parker was called to Brigade Headquarters at Stone Hill. He was
given orders to move "D" Company, RR of C from Obelisk Hill,
where they had been since December 8th, to Stanley Mound.
Brigadier Wallis had decided to abandon Obelisk Hill and to
concentrate his troops on, and around Stanley Mound. Returning
to Obelisk, Major Parker ordered his men to pack up and "D"
Company began to move out at about 15:00 hrs. that afternoon.
Royal Rifles "D" Company Headquarters Platoon, and No.17 Platoon
began the ascent of Stanley Mound at about 16:30 hrs. On the way
up they were joined by No.16 Platoon but No.18 Platoon, which
had been left in reserve at Obelisk Hill, ran into some
difficulties getting away. Major Parker wrote. "Number 18
Platoon was detained under someone else's command and was having
difficulty getting away, due to a difference in rank. It was too
late for them to join us in the ascent, but we met them the next
morning on the way down." With No.18 Platoon unable to take
their position on Stanley Mound due to confusion in command the
mission was in danger of failing before it began.
On the morning of December 20, though they had just arrived on
Stanley Mound, "D" Company were ordered to descend and move to a
"Rotary Area" for rest and re-arming, then re-deployment.
Totally exhausted, they were badly in need of a break and some
hot food. The rest they got was to be all too short, and the
food was cold.
For the next three days "D" Company of the Royal Rifles ate and
catnapped whenever the opportunity presented itself, which was
most often in their gun pits. It was non-stop fighting over the
rugged terrain. Their most urgent objective was to join up with
the Winnipeg Grenadiers of the West Brigade before the Japanese
could split the two Brigades and prevent a cohesive defense.
The Winnipeg Grenadiers
On the morning of December
19th, the West Brigade was fighting a desperate battle to avoid
separation from the East Brigade. The Japanese had captured
Mount Butler on their rush into the West Brigade zone of
defense. The Winnipeg Grenadiers were taking incessant
punishment from the heights of Mount Butler and their very
survival depended on retaking the high ground.
Early that morning, "A" Company of the Winnipeg Grenadiers were
given the herculean task of retaking Jardine's Lookout, then to
push on and retake Mount Butler. The Japanese were well dug in,
and a formidable force for a Company sized unit to take on.
The Grenadiers commenced their attack facing almost impossible
odds. In the din of battle ,"A" Company was separated into two
sections of two platoons each. They lost contact with each
other. One section, under the leadership a 20-year old 2nd/Lt.
Charles French, fought their way up Jardine's Lookout and
cleared the top with bayonets, driving the Japanese back, but
with such heavy losses that the section was reduced to just 65
men. With extraordinary courage and tenacity the remaining
Grenadiers pushed on and attacked Mount Butler.