George Town

Located on the island of Penang off the west coast of Malaya (100.329E 5.4086N), George Town was a center of the tin trade, with some 3000 tons of tin stored in warehouses in late 1941.  It boasted a decent anchorage and a small airfield commanding the Strait of Malacca.  However, the two battalions allocated to its defense were soon drawn off to the mainland, where the situation had become desperate, and the garrison had only small arms and two ancient coastal defense guns with which to repel the Japanese: Antiaircraft guns for the airfield had not yet arrived.

The town was raided by 41 aircraft on 11 December 1941 and continued through 14 December. The damage was extensive and contributed to the breakdown of order.

The evacuation of George Town early in the Malaya campaign (on 16 December 1941) meant that Japanese light naval forces were able to land small infantry units behind British lines at will, which helped render the problem of defending the Malay peninsula intractable.

The evacuation itself was a sordid affair, with non-Europeans denied a place on departing ships. One Chinese judge was thrown off a ship that still found space for the fortress commander's automobile. Hastings (2011) quotes a refugee who concluded that the evacuation was "a thing which I am sure will never be forgotten nor forgiven." While the British feared that Europeans would be in greater peril than native Malays under a Japanese occupation, the local Chinese, who had strongly supported the Kuomintang in mainland China, were probably nearly as equally at risk.

Climate Information:

Elevation 17'

Temperatures: Jan 90/73, Apr 91/75, Jul 90/74, Oct 89/73, record 98/65

Rainfall: Jan 8/3.7, Apr 14/7.4, Jul 12/7.5, Oct 21/16.9 == 107.7" per annum


Hastings (2011)

Thompson (2005)

Willmott (1982)

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