The Principles of War Podcast
14 LT McCure Moral Courage and the Battle of Bakri
Leadership Malaya Podcast

14 – LT McCure, Moral Courage and the Battle of Bakri

Listen to this podcast to find out how moral courage overcame the lack of combined arms training in the 2nd AIF in Malaya, particularly at the Battle of Bakri.

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A lot of this story has come from an audio interview of LT Russell ‘Bill’ McCure.  It is an amazing record of the preparation, conduct and aftermath of his participation in the Malaya Campaign.

LT McCure started out in the 53rd Ack Ack Search Light Bty and he wanted to join the 2nd AIF.  The only way was for him to obtain a commission.  He undertook that and was assigned to the 58th Infantry Battalion.  The CMF was parading 2 nights a week.

Battle of Bakri

LT McCure showed multiple examples of Moral Courage.  This made it difficult for him to do his job, but he understood what was required of him, in spite of the direct orders from the CO of the 2nd/29th.

We look at the Battle of Bakri, especially the initial contacts with the Gotanda Tank Detachment. McCure was ordered forward on 17 January 1942 in command of a troop of four guns to assist the 2/29th Battalion south of Muar. The CO of the 2nd/29th toldld him, ‘I don’t expect the Japanese to use tanks so, for my part, you can go home’, he deployed two guns along the road beyond an intersection at Bakri. Early the next day Japanese tanks appeared and for almost an hour the gunners engaged them.

The Japanese attacked without infantry support, attempting a filleting attack.  The Gotanda Tank Detachment chose audacity and speed over combined arms and because of the actions of LT McCure the gamble did not pay off.  Too often in the Malaya campaign, the Japanese weren’t held to account for paying off some of the Principles of War.  The lack of cooperation of the infantry created the losses at Bakri for the Japanese tanks.  After the battle, the CO said to him, ‘Only for your persistence in defying my orders and positioning your guns where you did, there would have been wholesale slaughter. I’m so sorry’.

How did the 2nd/29th’s CO, LT COL Robertson’s training let him down when it came to combined arms training?

The withdrawal from Bakri was hellish.  The Japanese had manoeuvred around the 2nd/29th and cut them off.  LT COL Anderson in command of the 2nd/19th pushes forward to bring out the 2nd/29th, but Bill is stuck behind enemy lines.  He stays in Malaya for the rest of the war.  He spends time attacking Japanese troops, supplies, and trains.  He ends up with a group of Malay Communists until the end of the war.

Bill’s story is a great example of moral and physical courage and a story that too few people have heard, especially considering that he was active in Malaya for the rest of the war.





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Peter June 29, 2018 at 2:18 am

This is a truely cracking and inspirational story. These guys did some amazing things and I’m sure they would want us to learn from their experiences, successes and, sadly, failures.

The AWM oral histories are a superb resource. Recommended for everyone with an interest in how people cope under the most difficult and tying conditions.

Well done PoW for bringing us this material, and for your insightful analyses.

James Eling June 29, 2018 at 2:43 am

Thank you. It definitely adds another dimension when you are listening to the actual person who was there.

Mark December 29, 2021 at 9:22 am

I have been to Muar, Bakri Junction and Paring Sulong on a number of occasions in the late 1980s and the atmosphere was still eerie.


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