Second World War Diaries
Introduction to The Second World War 1939–1945
The 1st Battalion the East Surreys was in France soon after the outbreak of the Second World War and were evacuated through Dunkirk in June 1940. After two years of training in England and Scotland, they landed in North Africa in November 1942, as part of the assaulting troops of "Operation Torch"; this was the first Anglo-American operation of the War. Then followed the capture of Tunis and Medjez-el-Bab and the Battle of Tebourba. The short successful campaign against Sicily followed. They crossed to Italy with the 78th Division and there followed a very arduous campaign up the toe of the Country, with heavy fighting around Monte Cassino and "The Bowl". There was a short break for training in Egypt and then the Battalion continued its time in Italy until the final German surrender.
The 2nd East Surreys was in Malaya in 1940, where the Battalion served with great distinction against the Japanese, but with heavy losses. The 1st Leicestershire Regiment suffered a similar fate and the two battalions were joined together in the face of the enemy to form what was called the "British Battalion". They fought on until the Army was forced to surrender in Singapore. Of the two battalions, only 265 men remained and of those 149 died during the three and a half years of Japanese imprisonment.