The Commanding Officer of The British Battalion

Lieutenant Colonel Esmond Morrison MC of The Royal Leicestershire Regiment assumed command of the British Battalion on its formation on 20th December 1941. He was then 48. His professionalism and personal bravery were outstanding, and impressed all those with whom he came in contact. His inspiring leadership in this disastrous campaign, and in the years of captivity which followed, was recognised by the award of the Distinguished Service Order. Few decorations could have been more deserved.

Lieutenant Colonel Esmond Morrison MC.
Lieutenant Colonel Esmond Morrison MC.

A few months after the capitulation Colonel Morrison had to take a working battalion from Singapore to Thailand to work on the strategic railway to Lower Burma. It consisted of the remnants of the British Battalion and men from other units.

The Times obituary of 11th May 1966, contributed by a brother officer, said; 'Fully to appreciate the quality of this remarkable man, it is necessary to understand the spiritual atmosphere in which we lived. We were the survivors of perhaps the most crushing defeat that British arms had ever suffered. We were ashamed, bitter and disillusioned. Racketeering, theft, disloyalty and ignoble suspicions were all endemic. We knew only too well what comrade can do to comrade under certain conditions. Worst of all, we each knew privately the depths to which we ourselves could so easily sink.

Against a background of hardship, brutality, disease and death, Colonel Morrison stood out as a symbol of decency and fortitude. During those terrible years from February 1942 to June 1945 survival was largely a matter of morale. Without Morrison's strength and humanity, many might have despaired and died'.

Lieutenant Colonel Wallis, previously Adjutant of the British Battalion, wrote: 'Perhaps Esmond Morrison's leadership will chiefly be remembered during the appalling conditions of captivity after the capitulation. The example of his personal courage and quiet dignified bearing was an inspiration to the men of the British Battalion during those terrible years'.


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