The 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 the heat.

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.

December 20

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.




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