Now Reading
I Spent The Day Exploring Malaya’s World War 2 Battlefields With MMHTA

I Spent The Day Exploring Malaya’s World War 2 Battlefields With MMHTA

Military historians from the Malaysia Military History Tourism Association (MMHTA) share what went down in Malaya on 8 December 1941.

Subscribe to our FREE Newsletter, or Telegram and WhatsApp channels for the latest stories and updates.

The quote, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it,” accredited to philosopher George Santayana, is a phrase we’re all familiar with, especially since it’s often quoted in history books.

I was reminded of this phrase again when I attended a storytelling event Live Library of World War 2 (WW2) “Visit the Battlefields” organised by the Malaysia Military History Tourism Association (MMHTA) in collaboration with Open Table Group.

The event was held at Overtime Café at Sentul Point, lending a casual and friendly vibe to the story-sharing session.

Henry Wan takes participants through the events of WW2 in Malaya, starting in Kota Bharu. The second image illustrates Japan’s plan and strategy to take over Singapore. Image: Adeline Leong/TRP.

What most of us usually know about WW2 is from the Western or American lens, thanks to Hollywood.

During the event, I learned that WW2 reached Malayan shores at midnight on 8 December 1941 starting in Kota Bharu.

History nerds will realize that this means the Japanese Army invaded Malaya a few hours before the bombing of Pearl Harbour.

What happened in Kota Bharu is a story most Malaysians know well if they paid attention in history class.

In simplest terms, it was the day the Japanese army snuck into Malaya on bicycles and pushed back the British forces all the way to Singapore.

Japan eventually took over Singapore as well on 15 February 1942. In total, it took the Japanese army about 69 days to conquer Malaya and Singapore, a duration that even surprised the Japanese imperial army who expected a longer battle.

And that was just the start of a three-year nightmare and reign of terror by Japan in Malaya. Stories of torture, rape, and murder during Japan’s reign are covered extensively in our history books.

Listening raptly to Colonel Allen Lai. Image: Adeline Leong/TRP

The short period it took for the Japanese army to take over the country was a testament to the leadership and the strategic mind of General Tomoyuki Yamashita. His achievement earned him the nickname The Tiger of Malaya.

It was also interesting to learn that this could have been avoided if the British forces implemented Ops Matador.

Ops Matador was a plan to move the British Malaya forces into position in Thailand to counter a Japanese amphibious attack on Malaya. However, the plan was implemented a little too late and coupled with the bad intel received, the Japanese army had the upper hand.

After landing in Kota Bharu, the Japanese army made their way down south. The biggest battle occurred in Kampar as it was a “choke point” and the only way to get to Singapore (there was no highway yet!).

The Battle of Kampar took place on 30 December 1941 and lasted until 2 January 1942.

Left: A map showing the Japanese Army’s route to conquer Malaya and Singapore. Right: An example of a uniform complete with a hat that was worn by our troops in Malaya back then. Image: Adeline Leong/TRP

After the main session, participants can opt to break off into smaller groups to hear in detail about the different battles and pose questions to know more. Otherwise, they can choose to remain in the “main” area for the next session.

There are also books and magazines to purchase to learn more about our history and military.

Overall, I learned a lot of interesting information and some personal stories shared by our military historians such as Col Tan Siew Soo (rtd), Col Raymond Goh (rtd), Brig General Dato Goh Seng Toh (rtd), Col Ajaya Kumar (rtd), and Henry Wan.

READ MORE: The British ‘Hornets’ Who Dropped Bombs On Malaysia In The 40s & 50s

READ MORE: Chinese Caught ‘Robbing’ Prince of Wales Off Kuantan Waters

More about Malaysia Military History Tourism Association

All the founding members of MMHTA are former senior military officers of the Malaysian Armed Forces.

Thus, MMHTA has insider access to military archives, enhancing their historical tours with unmatched authenticity and insights.

They hold several interesting tours, such as the Battle of Kampar and the Battle of Muar tours.

For more information about the tours, head over to

Share your thoughts with us via TRP’s FacebookTwitterInstagram, or Threads.

Get more stories like this to your inbox by signing up for our newsletter.

© 2024 The Rakyat Post. All Rights Reserved. Owned by 3rd Wave Media Sdn Bhd