Kota Baharu

(102.24E 6.13N) Also Anglicized as Khota Baharu, Khota Bharu, and other variations, this town on the north coast of Malaya was the key to the defense of the peninsula. From its large, modern air base, which was equipped with an air search radar by late 1941, an air force could have dominated the Gulf of Siam and the Kra Isthmus. Unfortunately, the British had no modern air force to spare in late 1941. The air base had only 10 Hudsons of 1st Squadron protected by just 2 Buffalos of 243 Squadron.  There were an additional 7 Vildebeestes of 7 Squadron at nearby Gong Kedah airfield. These obsolete types were inadequate to seriously threaten the Japanese invasion convoys.

When elements of 56 Regiment, 18 Division (Takumi Force) came ashore early on the morning of 8 December 1941, they found the beach protected by a series of bunkers manned by 8 Indian BrigadeMachine gun fire inflicted heavy casualties on the Japanese until the gun ports were literally blocked by Japanese corpses.  At that point the Japanese were able to get around the bunkers and take them from the rear.  The town fell on 1400 on 9 December. Casualties were 320 killed and 538 wounded, plus a transport sunk and another badly damaged. The British lost 68 killed, 360 wounded and 37 missing.

With the seizure of the air base, the Japanese were able to bring their fighter aircraft forward and achieve air superiority over the rest of Malaya.

Rail connections


Gong Kedah

Hat Yai


Bradley et al. (1992)

Thompson (2005)

Willmott (1982) (accessed 2002; now defunct)

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