Operation Poker Face

This was the British reoccupation of Port Swettenham and Port Dickson, and subsequent advance to Kuala Lumpur in Malaya after the surrender of Japan, by Lieutenant General O. L. Roberts’s Indian XXXIV Corps (9/12 September 1945).

The undertaking on the west coast of Malaya had been planned as the initial assault phase of ‘Zipper’, but had been overtaken by the end of the war. Thus ‘Zipper’ was replaced by the reoccupation of Singapore in ‘Tiderace’, and the reoccupation of Port Swettenham and Port Dickson in ‘Poker Face’.

While the advance headquarters of the Indian XV Corps and the Indian 5th Division were moving to and occupying Singapore island, the planned ‘Zipper’ convoys had set out from various ports in India for what was now the ‘Poker Face’ landing beaches in the area of Port Swettenham and Port Dickson. The landings were to be carried out as rehearsed, except that there was to be no covering fire and a Japanese envoy was to be on hand to meet Major General G. N. Wood, commander of the Indian 25th Division. The first landings were to be effected on 9 September by 25th Division on the Morib beaches some 18 miles (29 km) to the south of Port Swettenham, and Brigadier N. McDonald’s Indian 37th Brigade of Major General D. C. Hawthorn’s Indian 23rd Division on the beaches to the west of Sepang, 8 miles (13 km) north-west of Port Dickson. Their immediate objectives were Kelanang airfield, on which two Supermarine Spitfire squadrons were to be based after flying in from the escort carrier Trumpeter, and the Sepang road junction respectively, both of which were a few miles inland from the beaches.

After occupying the road junction, the Indian 37th Brigade was to move to the south toward Port Dickson, where the rest of 23rd Division was to land over the beaches in the area to the south of the town on 12 September.

Escorted by the battleships Nelson and French Richelieu, the light cruisers Nigeria and Ceylon, the light anti-aircraft cruiser Cleopatra, a carrier force comprising the light anti-aircraft cruiser Royalist and the escort carriers Archer, Emperor, Hunter, Khedive, Pursuer and Stalker, and a screen of 15 destroyers, the convoys arrived off their beaches at daybreak on 9 September and the first flights of landing craft moved into their appointed beaches on time. For a short time the operation proceeded according to schedule, but was then beset by a host of technical and terrain problems. The infantry force was able to move, however, and by 16.30 had occupied Port Swettenham and Klang via Telok Datok, and Kelanang airfield had been handed over by a party of 100 Japanese who had been guarding it.

After spending the night on the beach at Morib, the divisional headquarters, without any vehicles or equipment, moved to Klang on 10 September. The advance headquarters of the RAF’s No. 224 Group, commanded by Air Commodore the Earl of Bandon, landed with the Indian 25th Division.

On 9 September, some 20 miles (32 km) to the south-east, the Indian 37th Brigade had landed to the north of Port Dickson and had quickly reached the Sepang road junction. As at Morib, however, the beach proved unsuitable for the unloading of vehicles from tank landing ships and at 12.30 the brigade headquarters stopped the attempt to get vehicles ashore. On the following day the brigade occupied Port Dickson and Hawthorn.

On 11 September, Admiral the Lord Louis Mountbatten, General Sir William Slim and Roberts visited 25th Division at Klang before it moved inland to Kuala Lumpur, into which the Indian XXXIV Corps planned a ceremonial entry on 13 September. Reconnaissance of the beaches to the south of Port Dickson disclosed that an area about 1 mile (1.6 km) north of Cape Rachado was suitable for the landing of both men and vehicles, and the leading troops of the rest of 23rd Division began to land there on 12 September. On this day an outbreak of looting in Kuala Lumpur persuaded the British command to send patrols of the Indian 25th Division into the city for the restoration of order.