155/156th Royal Artillery Regiment Penicuik

Discussion in 'Royal Artillery' started by LinMount, Jun 20, 2010.

  1. LinMount

    LinMount Junior Member

    Hi All - New to this....Can anyone help me or point me in the right direction. Apologies for the long posting but I know you are all experts at research so would like some suggestions as to where I should turn. I do not have his army number unfortunately.

    John Arthur Farmer - 13/08/1916

    I am trying to find information about my dad's army career in WW2 and his movements. So far I have not unearthed any hard evidence of which regiment he was in but have narrowed it down to possibly the 155th or 156th Royal Artilery regiment.

    Brief history - he was in the Royal Artillery at Pencuik before going to India in 1941. I know he worked alongside the gurkhas whom he admired. He went down to Singapore along the Malay penisula and know his regiment was one of the first to face the Japs. He was captured in Singapore early on and spent three months in Changi Jail before being sent to Formosa POW camp and was put to work in the copper mine. He was there for a while maybe three years before going somewhere else (an Island) where he worked in a sugar refinery.

    Then being liberated he was taken on a ship home via Freemantle and ended up at Chester Military Hospital. I have a few stories that he told my mum but sadly I never got the chance to ask him anything myself as I was only 10 yrs old when he died. He died as a direct result of his treatment in the POW camps.

    Any leads would be good - especially how to find out his army number and whether he was actually in either 155 or 156 RA regiment. I have a picture of him in India in 1941 with C Battery E Troop written on the reverse so would like to know how to find out more about his movements. Also how to find out his movements as a POW.

    Thanks in advance

  2. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

    Hi LinMount and welcome to the forum.

    Both these regiments were drawn from the Lanarkshire Yeomanry, and while 155th served with 9th Indian Division in India and latter with 11th Indian Division in Malaya, 156th fought with 5th British Infantry Division in Sicily, Italy and NW Europe. So if your father fought in Malaya he did that with 155th Field Regiment RA, and Gurkhas you mentioned were from 28th Indian Brigade. Maybe some other will be able to give you more detail about regiment or how to find more about his movements as a POW.

    Some interesting links for you:

    RA 1939-45 155 Fld Rgt
    Lanarkshire Yeomanry - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Field Regiments Royal Artillery [1939-1945]

    From the last link

    After further acclimatisation, B and C Batteries were moved to Malaya in October just before the Japanese invasion. [A Battery remained in India and was subsequently to be assumed into the 60th Field Regiment under the title of the 'Lanarkshire Yeomanry' Battery'.] Much has been written about the disastrous Malayan campaign but whatever the opinion of historians about the effectiveness of the Commonwealth troops, there is nothing but praise for the performance of the 155th. In his book, 'Seventy days to Singapore', the American historian Stanley Falk speaking about the action at Slim River, records 'Finally, two miles below the bridge, at about 9.30, they [the Japanese] met their match: a regiment of field artillery [B Battery of the 155th], moving forward to support the 28th Brigade. The Japanese overran part of the surprised artillery column; but then a howitzer detachment got its 4.5 inch piece into action. At a range of only thirty yards, it knocked out the leading tank and impressed upon the others the wisdom of withdrawal'. In this action the CO, Lt Col Murdoch was killed and the Adjutant, Captain Charles Gordon Brown, who had moved to the front line to command the detachment which took on the tanks, lost an arm but won an MC. A few days later, an other officer of the Battery, Captain Andrew Sewell won an MC in a separate action. Despite their bravery and determination, like all the other British and Commonwealth units which had been badly let down by the political and military hierarchy, the 155th were lead into captivity and thereafter subjected to barbaric and despicable treatment at the hands of the Japanese. Some ended up on the infamous Burma - Thai Railway but most were shipped to Formosa [now Taiwan] where they slaved in the hell hole of the notorious Kinkaseky Copper Mine.

  3. LinMount

    LinMount Junior Member

    Wow, Thanks Enes.

    You have given me some very interesting information there to continue researching and also confirmed that my dad must have been in the 155th RA Regiment.

    I would love to be able to put all the pieces together eventually and find the full picture of his movements. I have also been trying to find some contact for the regiment in Lanarkshire to be able to search their records etc. Planning a visit up there this summer - any ideas how I could get this info.

    Kind Regards and thanks again
  4. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

    Well I'm not sure. Looks that Lankashire Yeomanry doesn't have its own museum but maybe you can try to contact Lanark Museum

    Lanark Museum and the Royal Burgh of Lanark Museum Trust

    or Scottish National War Museum in Edinburgh

    National War Museum

    Also you I found this:

    There is a growing interest in the history of the Lanarkshire Yeomanry and its place in military history over the years and anyone with any relevant information, or who would wish to know more, can contact Campbell Thomson at ct@jcthomson.co.uk
    here. I don't know how old is this link but maybe you can try to contact him. Also found this on youtube:

    YouTube - Lanarkshire Yeomanry

    One member of 155th Regiment wrote a book about his experience in Malaya and latter as POW

    BEF-Battles.org.uk - Out of the Depths of Hell

    I really don't know what else to suggest to you, hope some other forum member will be able to give you more info.

  5. Derek Barton

    Derek Barton Senior Member

    Hi LinMount welcome to the forum. The following accounts of 155 Field Rgt RA are from The History of the RA:

    On 11 December 1941 the regiment were in action at Jitra in support of 15 Indian Infantry brigade. They had been at Jitra since the 8th in pouring rain and thick mud. At last light on the 11th a tank was engaged coming down the main road. The following day a barrage was put down in front of the Leicesters and prevented the enemy from closing with them. C Troop OP was rushed and Capt Forster and his assistant were killed. The Japs then worked round the flank of the Jats and the guns had to leapfrog back. By now the japs had advanced further and C Bty command post came under machinegun fire. The guns were ordered back and by mid evening were in action at Alor Star airfield. 2 guns of F Tp were lost during the move.

    Covering fire was provided for a number of attacks but eventually ammo ran low just as the japs were massing for another attack. At this point the brigade was given permission to withdraw behind the Kedah river. They then had to break contact and withdraw just as the enemy were attacking, a most difficult and dangerous task.

    After more attacks the Brigade withdrew again on the night of 13/14th to Gurun some 20 miles south. 155th were in action at Gurun by last light on the 13th. As the last of the infantry arrived at Gurun the enemy approached with tanks in the lead. They were engaged by anti-tank guns and withdrew, but not for long. C Bty reported infantry withdrawing through the gun position saying the enemy were only a few hundred yards away. The japs continued their relentless attacks and at 0130 hrs on the 14th came straight down the main road under heavy fire and pushed through 6 Indian Infantry Brigade's positions. C Bty's Left Section was ordered to swing their guns round and prepare to fire on the village of Gundrun. At this point the position was dive bombed and 1 gunner was killed.

    By the 15th the position was critical and the Brigade was ordered to withdraw over the Muda river 7 miles to the south. As the infantry pulled out the enemy was held in check by the guns of 155th. While C Bty withdrew over the river, B Bty moved back to Ipoh to exchange their 4.5 guns for 25 pdrs. As they were withdrawing jap pressure increased and they came into action by the police barracks at Taiping before continuing to Ipoh.

    I will post some more later.
  6. Derek Barton

    Derek Barton Senior Member

    By 28th December 1941 the 155th were at Sahum with their OP's with the 2/9th Gurkhas. The regiment overlooked the destroyed bridge at Dipang and the Sungei Siput tin mines. At dawn on the 30th 4 Jap staff cars approached the demolished bridge. As the occupants left their cars B Bty gave them 8 rounds gunfire and that was the end of them all. Numerous shoots were carried out between digging in, camouflaging, ammo dumping and getting some rest.

    The enemy attacked on New year's Eve and the guns were continuously in action. After an intensive bombardment the main attack began at 0700 hrs 1st January 1942. The infantry were pushed hard but 155th's accurate fire broke up numerous attacks. Fighting continued on the 2nd but the positions held and TSM Hugill was awarded the DCM and Gnr Walker the MM for their actions that day.

    The Japs pushing forward on the flanks put the Divisions lines of communication under threat and another withdrawl was ordered to the Slim River. By last light on the 4th RHQ and C Bty had moved to an area about 6 miles south of Tapah to cover the British battalion while B Bty remained behind to act as a rearguard for 2/9th Gurkhas. They then moved to Bidor.

    More to come
  7. Derek Barton

    Derek Barton Senior Member

    The Battle of Slim River

    11 Indian Division put a reinforced 12 Brigade forward at Trolak with 137 Field Rgt RA and a Troop of 215 Anti-Tank Bty. 28 Bde with 155th and a Troop from 215 A/Tk Bty covered Slim River Station and Slim River Bridge. As gun positions were hard to find only 350 Bty of 137th was in action. The remainder of 137th were parked up at the Cluny Rubber Estate between Kampong Slim and Slim River Bridge. 155th were in a hide at Behrang 6 miles south of Slim Bridge. Everyone was still dead tired having withdrawn 176 miles in 3 weeks and had managed only 3 days rest.

    The battle began on the afternoon of 5 Jan 42. The first attacks were held and then there was little activity until just after midnight on the 6th. In bright moonlight the japs attacked down the road with heavy artillery and mortar support. The forward Indian battalion, the Hyderbads, was overwhelmed and forced to retire. at 0430 hrs they hit the Punjabs and communications were cut to 350 Bty. At 0700 hrs the japs hit the Argylls and tanks overran the last anti tank gun. By now all communications were lost and the commanders had no idea what was happening.

    at 0735 hrs the 5/14 Pujabs were attacked just north of Slim River Station and another troop of the anti-tank guns was overrun. They then swept through the 2/9 Gurkhas before they knew what was happening and overran 2/1 Gurkhas. Heading for Slim Bridge they raked the remainder of 137th with fire as they passed. They reached the bridge at 0840 hrs where there was a troop of 16 Light Anti Aircraft Bty. They held their fire until the enemy were just 100 yards away then opened up with their 40mm Bofors. The small shells bounced off the jap tanks and the exposed crews took heavy casualties.

    I'll continue with 155th's part in the battle later.
  8. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

    Here you have a map for the Battle of Slim River with position of 155th Regiment RA during the battle.
  9. Derek Barton

    Derek Barton Senior Member

    Thanks for that Enes, saved me having to copy the one in my book :)

    At 0800 hrs 155th recieved orders to deploy against tank attack. The CO with 3 other officers and BSM Billings went forward on motorbikes to find positions and open an advanced HQ. Sgt Keen was ordered to follow with his 4.5 in Howitzer. About a mile north of Slim village they met jap tanks head on at 0845 hrs. The CO was killed and 2 officers captured but Capt Mackenzie took cover and watched as the tank crews dismounted and slaughtered the LAA gunners. The BSM was also killed.

    The regt was advancing with guns at 400 yard intervals when Sgt Keen's gun came round a corner and met Lt Eustace who said enemy tanks were just ahead. The 4.5 was brought into action and the first enemy tank appeared around a bend. Sgt Keen waited until the range was down to 125 yards and then fired. The first round hit the tank but did not stop it but a second round set it on fire. A second tank arrived and Sgt Keen fired 4 more rounds before being ordered to limber up.

    The Adjutant, Capt Brown was laying wounded in the road. 2 jap soldiers leapt from a tank and ran towards him but he and L/Bdr Mair dispatched them with their pistols. As the gun tractor pulled away it was hit but did not stop and Sgt Keen was cut down by automatic fire as he ran after it. Capt Brown was later awarded the MC. As there were no infantry, C Bty sent patrols forward under BSM Roadnight and they engaged jap tank crews. An Anti-Tank Troop now moved up and came into action alongside 155th and this little force stopped all further penetration south that night.

    Meanwhile Maj Wilson of B Bty was trying to collect the disorganised remmnants of 12th and 15th Indian Infantry brigades who were pushing down the railway towards Tanjong Malim. C Bty covered them with 2 guns near the North Road - Behrang junction. B Bty came into action covering Tanjong Malim and Capt Mackenzie established an OP there.

    350 Bty of 137 Fld Rgt withdrew to Tanjong Malim where it was joined by an anti-tank troop and an infantry battalion. There was little left of 137th and so it was broken up and 350 Bty became part of 155th.

    Still more to come
  10. Derek Barton

    Derek Barton Senior Member

    By the middle of January 11 Indian Div had moved back to Yong Peng. 155th had a splendid OP near Yong Peng with a view over open ground towards Parit Sulong on the right, and over rubber to Batu Pahat and the coast. From the OP the enemy landings at Batu Pahat could be seen but were out of range of the guns.

    On the morning of the 19th reports were received of enemy advancing from Batu Pahat. at 1100 hrs they attacked C Company of the Norfolks driving it back. F Troop engaged the enemy over open sights as D Coy slowly gave ground. It was the battalions first battle and it was nervous and inexperienced and as A and B Coys passed through the guns they said "give 'em hell". BSM Roadnight took a small party of gunners forward to give local protection to the guns and dealt with an enemy party with grenades.

    In spite of gallant work by C Bty firing at point blank range the japs pressed on. BSM Roadnight led 6 gunners in a bayonet charge against a jap platoon and routed it, buying much needed time. At 1730 hrs the guns of 155th got out just in time. By the 22nd C Bty was in Jahore Bahru.

    Nearly done now.
  11. LinMount

    LinMount Junior Member

    Thanks very much both of you - a lot to take in and an amazing detailed account of his possible movements. Where did you get this info from Derek?

    Thanks Enes will definitely look into the Museum possibility for more info.
  12. Derek Barton

    Derek Barton Senior Member

    The extracts all come from History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery - The Far East Theatre 1941-46 by Gen Sir Martin Farndale.
  13. LinMount

    LinMount Junior Member

    Are you actually typing all this out yourself Derek? Wow!
  14. Derek Barton

    Derek Barton Senior Member

    Yes, it's the only way to extract the information as the bits on the 155th are spread over numerous pages. I also have to include some of the background so that it will make sense. It's not a problem though as I enjoy putting together the time line for one particular unit.

    As any of my friends would tell you I can talk for hours on the RA and it's good to have an appreciative audience :) I'm an ex gunner myself having joined at 15 years old and served for nearly 20 years.

    I'll post some more on the 155th tomorrow to finish their story with the surrender at Singapore.
  15. LinMount

    LinMount Junior Member

    Yes, it's the only way to extract the information as the bits on the 155th are spread over numerous pages. I also have to include some of the background so that it will make sense. It's not a problem though as I enjoy putting together the time line for one particular unit.

    As any of my friends would tell you I can talk for hours on the RA and it's good to have an appreciative audience :) I'm an ex gunner myself having joined at 15 years old and served for nearly 20 years.

    I'll post some more on the 155th tomorrow to finish their story with the surrender at Singapore.
    Yes a very appreciative audience indeed! :) I am only just realising how bad things were for dad and how lucky he was to escape death on so many occasions. I hope to visit Taiwan one day to see where it all happened - just a bit of closure for me I guess.

    Thanks for taking so much time to give me the info - it is very very much appreciated.

    Where did you serve then?
  16. Derek Barton

    Derek Barton Senior Member

    Being a post war and just about post national service soldier my service was split between the UK and Germany. I joined as a boy in 1962 and did 2 years in mid Wales. I then went in 1965 to 2 Light Rgt RA in Colchester. This was a strategic reserve unit and we were on 24 hrs standby to go anywhere in the world. At the end of the year we were posted to Germany as a field rgt.

    In 1968 we moved back to the UK to Barnard Castle although we were still part of BAOR on paper. In 1971 we moved back to Germany to replace a Canadian Brigade. From 1972 to 1974 I was detached from the rgt to N Ireland doing a plain clothes job. I returned to 2nd Fld and did a 6 month tour in N Ireland with the rgt in 1975.

    In 1976 I applied for a UK posting for family reasons and went to The Royal School of Artillery at Larkhill on Salisbury Plain. Here I was part of a 3 man video production unit. I handed in my notice and left in 1981 again for family reasons. After a break of 7 years I joined the Home Service Force, a sort of Dad's Army outfit attached to the local TA and became a Gunner again as the local TA unit was artillery. I had to leave after 3 years as an old back injury became worse and I was forced to retire.
  17. Derek Barton

    Derek Barton Senior Member

    On with the 155th saga.

    During the night of 21/22 Jan the japs attacked C Troop just south of Ayer Hitam but did not close as there were infantry protecting the guns. At 0900 hrs on the 22nd D Troop was attacked and the guns engaged the enemy over open sights and with small arms. Capt Anderson engaged the attackers from the flank with C Troop. Maj Wilson of B Bty arrived in his carrier but was instantly killed by a sniper. The japs then charged and overran the position at the point of the bayonet. Capt Mackenzie took charge and ordered C Troop and the one surviving gun of D Troop into action at a new position nearer to Batu Pahat. The gunners had fought to the end.

    Plans were drawn up for the defence of Singapore island and 3 Forces were deployed, East, West and West Coast. 155th were to provide one Bty with West Force at Ayer Hitam and one with West Coast Force at Benut.

    At 1600 hrs on the 26th Jan 2 guns of D Troop plus one from C Troop of B Bty were taken in close to the enemy to blast out of the way some machine guns that were preventing the break out. This failed as most of the shells burst in the trees. It was here that Gnr Holdsworth was awarded the MM. At 1800 hrs orders were given to destroy all guns and equipment and make for the coast. The march through a swamp was hard going as the men were dead tired and covered in mud and slime. After many adventures the men of B Bty were taken off by the Royal Navy having not lost a single man since Maj Wilson had been killed. The rest of 155th crossed the causeway into Singapore during the night of 27th Jan.

    I'll post the rest on the fall of Singapore later.
  18. Derek Barton

    Derek Barton Senior Member


    155th had C Bty in action with 4.5 in Howitzers about 1 mile south of Sembawang airfield on the Nee Soon road, RHQ was a mile north east at Chong Peng. All were dug in, wired and OP's established in the naval base ready for a long siege.By 1st Feb B Bty had recovered from the battle at Batu Pahat, had drawn new 25 pdrs and moved into action about 1 mile east of Chong Peng. The guns first opened fire on 4th Feb, BSM Roadnight sinking 5 enemy barges loaded with infantry and was awarded a DCM for his many gallant and courageous acts during the long withdrawl through Malaya.

    As more and more japs crossed on to the island the defenders were pushed back towards the city. By last light on the 12th 155th reported being in action in Newton Road Singapore. By the 13th the regiment was in action at Farrer park. The guns were very close together and mixed in with those of other regiments, all firing in different directions as they responded to calls for fire.

    A fire fight broke out between some Punjabis and the Manchesters each convinced, in the dark, that the other were japs. A section of 135th Field fired some rounds over open sights and narrowly missed B Bty command post. There was continuous enemy shelling during the night of 13/14th causing many casualties. An ammo truck was hit and exploded and Capt Eustace was hit by splinters and died on his way to hospital. There were many more casualties that night as the Gunners did what they could amid growing confusuion.

    After dark on the 13th Lt Col Gold and 9 men of 155th including BSM Roadnight, who had just been told of his award of the DCM, were told to try and escape with an official evacuation party. They found a junk and rowed out of the harbour with the city blazing behind them. They were swamped, bombed and machine gunned but somehow reached Ringat in Sumatra in 9 days. They then took a bus to Padang where they were taken on board HMAS Hobart and 19 days later they were in Colombo

    Finally the surrender came and 155th reported destroying its guns at 1730hrs.

    One final comment to follow.
  19. Derek Barton

    Derek Barton Senior Member

    The following was written after the war by Denis Russell-Roberts, himself a prisoner:

    Those of us who were priveleged to observe both officers and men of the Lanarkshire Yeomanry during those years in captivity in Changi are able to testify to the value of a County Association in that important relationship between officers and men. This Yeomanry regiment set an example of behaviour as prisoners of war which simply can not be rivalled. (Their outstanding part in the campaign, especially at Slim River, is another story). They were like one great big family in which everyone took care of everyone. When small parties or even individual soldiers of the regiment were taken away by the Japs and transferred to remote camps, somehow or other an officer of the regiment would be sure to find his way. No soldier of that regiment was ever allowed to feel forgotten. They seemed to possess a spirit which said "we came through this as a regiment and not as individuals". It was one of those things which sticks in the memory, which some of us talk about even today.
  20. LinMount

    LinMount Junior Member

    You're doing a great job here and thanks for filling me in on your life in the army. Sounds like you had an eventful time. What do you feel when you read about the action you are telling me about - would you liked to have been there in the thick of the action too?

    ONce I have read all this through a few times I may have some questions for you if ok?

    Is E troop ever mentioned haha......

    Your last posting was very heart warming for me - I am gathering a real picture together now of how my dad's army life was. The You Tube videa that Enes found was interesting and I have already got the book he mentioned - very harrowing accounts of what the men went through in the POW camps.

    My dad was a tall man and the Japs didn't like tall men - he spent most of his time on his 'hunkers' squatting down - they didn't like the men standing upright. He also had a tattoo of a bulldog on his arm which they threatened to cut off on numerous occasions. He worked down the copper mine for a time and got a poisoned leg with the atrocious conditions - it was lanced by a pair of blunt scissors by a mate - the only thing they had available. The 8 inch scar on his leg was pretty bad and all caved in - but he never really talked about it. What amazes me is that tey went through all that and all the survivors came home and just got on with their lives bearly mentioning what they went through.

    I hope to take my elderly mum to Taiwan for the 65th Anniversary of liberation in November. It will be a costly trip but I am in touch with a POW Society that offers sponsorships to families of POW. Just feel I need to go.

    Anyway I digress - yes I may have a few questions so please bear with me.

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