“He was val­ued for his so­cial con­fi­dence and lev­el­head­ed­ness and was guar­an­teed to re­late well with the In­dian of­fi­cers

The se­rial: Largie Cas­tle, A Ri­fled Nest Day67

The Courier & Advertiser (Fife Edition) - - SERIAL - By Mary Glad­stone

The bat­tal­ion had re­turned an In­dian of­fi­cer to In­dia be­cause “he ex­pressed views con­sid­ered to be highly ob­jec­tion­able in an of­fi­cer hold­ing a com­mis­sion in the ser­vice”. Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Sir Lionel Bond (Gen­eral Of­fi­cer Com­mand­ing, Malaya) re­garded the in­ci­dent se­ri­ously enough to launch an en­quiry into the ex­tent of dis­con­tent within the In­dian Army in Malaya. With the in­flux of In­dian troops into Sin­ga­pore and Malaya, fears grew that res­i­dent na­tion­al­ist par­ties were in­fect­ing of­fi­cers and men with a sense of griev­ance.

For some time there had been dis­sat­is­fac­tion in the In­dian Army, but the only sig­nif­i­cant mutiny of In­dian sol­diers be­tween 1857 and 1941 was in Sin­ga­pore in 1915 when sol­diers from 5th Light In­fantry ran amok. To avoid mutiny, a com­pany was made up of sol­diers from dif­fer­ent re­li­gions and races with each com­mu­nity hav­ing their own hol­i­days and eat­ing ar­range­ments.

One rea­son for a height­ened sense of re­sent­ment among In­dian of­fi­cers was the op­er­a­tion of a colour bar in Sin­ga­pore, for­bid­ding them en­try to clubs and other forms of so­cial life in the city. This was a shock as th­ese of­fi­cers fully ex­pected to be treated like their Bri­tish coun­ter­part. Pro­mo­tion It says some­thing that An­gus was ap­pointed brigade­ma­jor at this crit­i­cal time. His pro­mo­tion to chief of staff of a brigade with two In­dian bat­tal­ions was be­cause he was val­ued for his so­cial con­fi­dence and level-head­ed­ness and was guar­an­teed to re­late well with the In­dian of­fi­cers.

As the year con­tin­ued, the threat of in­va­sion grew. When Ger­many in­vaded the USSR, the sit­u­a­tion changed in East Asia. This was the mo­ment that Ja­pan had been wait­ing for. On July 2 1941, at an Im­pe­rial Con­fer­ence in Tokyo, Ja­pan de­cided to ex­pand its troops in South-East Asia and set up bases in south In­doChina, where the French au­thor­i­ties ac­cepted Ja­panese de­mands. Three weeks af­ter the con­fer­ence, the first batch of Ja­panese forces ar­rived in south­ern Indo-China.

Ja­panese war­ships en­tered the colony and its air force made a base near Saigon. The eastern im­pe­rial power was now within easy reach of Malaya and the sought-af­ter oil fields of the Dutch East Indies.

On July 25, two days af­ter Ja­pan’s ac­tion, the US banned the ex­port of oil and other ma­te­ri­als that aided Ja­pan’s mil­i­tary pur­poses. When the Bri­tish and Dutch fol­lowed suit, it caused sur­prise and anger within Ja­pan (80% of its oil was im­ported from Amer­ica and 10% from the Dutch East Indies). Ja­pan, how­ever, was un­daunted; the coun­try was stock­pil­ing oil and had enough in re­serve for 18 months.

Its war-ma­chine was poised for an op­por­tune mo­ment to launch an at­tack on Im­pe­rial Bri­tain and its al­lies in the re­gion. Nev­er­the­less, few of Ja­pan’s po­ten­tial en­e­mies knew when that mo­ment would be.

In Au­gust 1941 An­gus took a break from his du­ties. “I have not had any leave for ex­actly a year,” he wrote to Es­ther on Au­gust 11, “and I was be­gin­ning to feel that I needed one.” There was no ques­tion of him re­turn­ing home. Not only did the war pre­vent it but even in peace­time, sol­diers were sel­dom granted home leave while serv­ing over­seas. Ag­gres­sive Be­cause of Ja­pan’s re­cent ag­gres­sive poli­cies in South East Asia, An­gus and his brigade were ex­pected to be ready for the en­emy to in­vade at any time. With this in mind, he chose a place within easy range of his Sin­ga­pore head­quar­ters for a three week respite. “Things are a bit tense out here as I write, and I am quite ex­pect­ing to be called from leave any mo­ment.”

As in In­dia, there were bolt-holes in Malaya for army of­fi­cers want­ing to get away from steamy Sin­ga­pore. The long­est es­tab­lished was Pe­nang, an is­land off Malaya’s west coast.

As early as 1786, tired Euro­peans con­gre­gated there to en­joy the mild cli­mate of Pe­nang Hill. Over 2,500 feet high, this green oa­sis stretched as far as the is­land’s west­ern shores. An­gus prob­a­bly knew Pe­nang which, with Malacca and Sin­ga­pore, was a crown colony of the Straits Set­tle­ments. It was to Pe­nang that his friend An­gus Rose was posted in De­cem­ber 1940 to take care of the is­land’s de­fence plans.

Pe­nang or Pu­lau Pi­nang was not that far from Sin­ga­pore: a 12-hour ride on the night train to Kuala Lumpur and then a jour­ney by steamship from Port Swet­ten­ham to the is­land. An­gus would have been im­pressed by the sight of colo­nial Ge­orge­town, its clas­si­cal fronted civic build­ings, clock tower ded­i­cated to Queen Vic­to­ria, and all within spit­ting range of ships berthed in the har­bour.

This trop­i­cal is­land was rich, com­pact and only a few acres smaller than Sin­ga­pore. It had sump­tu­ous palaces owned by Chi­nese trad­ing mag­nates, large colon­naded churches, mosques, Bud­dhist tem­ples, and shops, whose ve­ran­das ex­tended the length of their frontages, so that the pub­lic could am­ble along cov­ered walk­ways pro­tected from the sun or the mon­soon rain.

Where the Roses lived is undis­closed. The most for­tu­nate found ac­com­mo­da­tion on the forested hill in el­e­gant man­sions where their com­fort­able life­style was main­tained by fleets of ser­vants.

El­e­gant though it was, Pe­nang was too sub­ur­ban for An­gus. He needed a more open, peo­ple-less space in which to re­lax. There was a chain of hill sta­tions stretch­ing the length of the Malayan cen­tral range, each with a golf course cleared from the jun­gle and other pro­vi­sions for out­door recre­ation. Clean air An­gus chose Malaya’s Pa­hang prov­ince in the Cameron High­lands to get away. De­riv­ing its name from Wil­liam Cameron, a Bri­tish sur­veyor who came to the re­gion in 1885, the plateau is be­tween Pe­nang in the north, Kuala Lumpur in the south, and about 400 miles from Sin­ga­pore.

More than 4,700 feet above sea level, it was an ideal “home-from-home” for Euro­peans, and by the mid 1920s it at­tracted a steady flow of vis­i­tors who en­joyed the cool breezes and clean air; they came also to ad­mire the wa­ter­falls, tea plan­ta­tions, and ter­races of straw­ber­ries.

Although Ken­neth McLeod claimed it was “ideal for those serv­ing in Malaya,” the Cameron High­lands (fondly termed “a lit­tle cor­ner of Eng­land in Asia”) was a poor sec­ond to Largie.

In his let­ter to Mum, An­gus com­ments with envy on her good for­tune in be­ing able to take three months’ leave there.

“I would give al­most any­thing to get home even for three weeks, let alone months. But I’m afraid there is no chance of that till we have fixed up this wretched fel­low, Hitler!” More to­mor­row

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