The Actions at Batu Pahat
On 16th January 1942, the Japanese made further landings in strength on the west coast of Malaya, near the towns of Muar and Batu Pahat. The latter is 30 miles south west of Kluang, and between the two lies Ayer Hitam. To counter this new threat the British Battalion was sent to Batu Pahat. They failed to make contact with the enemy who had gone to ground in the jungle covered hills, south west of the town.
The newly arrived 18th British Infantry Division was now operating, and the 53rd Brigade, consisting of the 2nd Cambridgeshires, 5th Norfolks and 6th Norfolks, was despatched to the Batu Pahat area. The Cambridgeshires relieved the British Battalion who returned to their so-called rest area at Kluang. In view of the threatening situation at Batu Pahat, the Battalion was moved to an intermediate position around Ayer Hitam, where they were fired on by an enemy patrol.
The Battalion was still too far from Batu Pahat to give effective support, and on 18th January they returned to that place to reinforce the Cambridgeshires. An offensive sweep to surround the enemy south of Batu Pahat did not succeed owing to the dense jungle. Skirmishing took place over the next few days, but on the evening of the 23rd January the main enemy advance reached the river north of Batu Pahat. On the next day, the British Battalion took up new positions to cover the all important coastal road.
The enemy succeeded in infiltrating between Batu Pahat and Ayer Hitam, and, even worse, in getting round south west of the town. The 6/15th Brigade was in danger of being cut off, and orders were given by the Brigade Commander for a withdrawal. This had actually begun when the Divisional Commander ordered that Batu Pahat must be held. The unfortunate Cambridgeshires had to fight their way back into the town, losing many men in the process. They were reinforced by the 5th Norfolks.