Operation Zipper in Malaya

Discussion in 'History' started by Olive, Mar 4, 2013.

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  1. I have just got back my late father's naval records. He never spoke of his war service in WW2, except to say that he was on landing craft and had been to India once but didn't care much for it!

    Between joining up in October 1942 and December 1944 he was on various training bases in England and Scotland - HMSs Royal Arthur, Shrapnel, Drake, Dinosaur, Stopford, Dundonald, Squid and Turtle.

    On 1st. Jan 1945 he was posted to LCI (L) 183. I spent yesterday on Google trying to find out first what on earth that was, and then trying to find out where she went and what she did between January and December 1945.

    If I am correct, she was was a ship of class Landing Craft Infantry (Large) and was lent to Britain by the Americans under the terms of the Lend Lease Act. There's even a pretty poor picture of her in dry dock on navsource.org.

    I found a description of a film held at the Imperial War Museum called OPERATION ZIPPER: AMPHIBIOUS LANDINGS ON THE MALAYAN COAST BY 23RD INDIAN DIVISION AT AND AROUND PORT DICKSON (12/9/1945). Which includes the sentence: "View from a landing craft passing LCI(L) 183."

    It makes a rather unfortunate search term :blush: but I have found out a little bit about Operation Zipper. (The Malayan one, not the plot to assassinate JFK!) It seems it was to have been a D-Day style operation, sailing from the east coast of India to Japanese-occupied Malaya, but the dropping of the Atom Bomb and the subsequent Japanese surrender meant that the Allied forces were able to land virtually unopposed.

    I have found only 2 casualties from LCI (L) 183 - Leading Stoker James Cowell, who died of illness on 22nd April and Leading Seaman Bernard Kane, who died on VJ Day 15 August, DOWS (cause not given). They are both buried in Madras War cemetery in Chennai, India, which supports the evidence that LCI(L) 183 was involved in Operation Zipper.

    If anyone else has any information about LCI (L) 183 or Operation Zipper I would be very grateful to know of it.
  2. Seaweed

    Seaweed War Hero Book Reviewer

    None of the people invoilved in Operation Zipper had any foreknowledge of the atom bomb. They were all expecting to take part in a viciously opposed landing with many casualties. As things turned out, after the Bomb which spared so many, the simplest way to get our forces ashore in Malaya was just to press on with Op Zipper - but mercifully without the attendant casualties.
  3. Yes, that is what I have gathered from what little there is about it I have found on the internet so far. I have sent off for a book called The Forgotten Fleet: Story of the British Pacific Fleet, 1944-45 and hopefully I will learn a little bit more about it from that.

    My dad had already lost his big brother who was killed on the beach at Hermanville on D-Day, so that voyage from India must have been quite a tough one for him, not knowing what to expect, but then for the operation to be hardly even mentioned after the war may have been worse still for those involved, especially when they'd spent 2 years or more training for it.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2013
  4. Olive, if you'd like to read the awful truth about Operation Zipper see if you can find a copy of Stephen Harper's 1985 book 'Miracle of Deliverance - the Case for the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki '.

    I bought the book that year and was surprised to discover that a substantial portion of the book deals with Operation Zipper in which Harper was a Naval Lieutenant. Despite the fact this was several weeks after the Japanese surrender Mountbatten insisted it go ahead with beach landings like the invasion that had previously been thought to be necessary and because of poor planning, ignoring admiralty chart warnings regarding seabed conditions etc and many men were quite unnecessarily lost. The most sensible option would have been a peaceful re-occupation which could easily have been achieved at the various ports down the west coast of Malaya (I lived there for 17 years). The well know Daily Express sports writer, Frank Rostron was there as a war correspondent and he said 'Every effort was made to hush it up and the story was censored. I wrote a chapter on it in my recent book 'Hollow Heroes' and if you give me your email address I'll send it to you. Michael Arnold
  5. Once again I am impressed and astounded by the knowledge of RR personnel.

    I had never heard of Operation Zipper and shall now do some reading.

    Hope the OP gets more information.
  6. Cracking first post Michael , thank you.
  7. Thanks Stirlin. The truth was that Mountbatten was desperate for the glory of some mini D-Day invasion and was not about to be thwarted by the Japanese surrender on August 15th. On 20th August Mountbatten had been signalled by General Seishiro Iragaki, the Japanese commencer for Singapore and Malaya that he would abide by his emperor's decision to surrender. Moreover, when Mountbatten visited Churchill at Potsdam in July he had been warned by Churchill, in strict confidence, that he might have to change his plans due to the proposed use of a new weapon. So, he had plenty of time in which to change his plans, but his landing craft, which were the slowest of his vessels, still departed India on 27th September - but of course with no resistance no landing craft should been necessary.

    As I said before, a sensible man - which Mountbatten certainly was not - would have accepted that the sole intention was the re-occupation of Malaya and Singapore and this could have been achieved without too much trouble and without any loss of Allied lives. The Singapore part of the operation, called Operation Tiderace was relatively simple because it utilised Singapore harbour, but the landings at Morib, just south of what was Port Swettenham were an unmitigated disaster, Stephen Harper commenting 'It was heart-breaking to see bodies floating among the crates and crates of stores that covered the surface of the sea'.

    About a week later, the force's newspaper SEAC published its own account of the landings, saying 'It was splendid scene, with every kind of supply and equipment pouring ashore'. In fact a number of senior officers subsequently said that had the Japanese not surrendered, and if the beaches had been defended 'I wouldn't be here today'. Who was it who said the first casualty of war is the truth?

    Michael Arnold
  8. operationzipper.jpg Despite no Japanese resistance, the landings themselves were a shambles. No account had been taken of tide conditions, or of the mangrove swamps. Much of the accompanying transport was overcome by the tide and units became widely dispersed. Luckily, no-one was shooting at them as they came ashore.


    It's also worth trying to dig up information on FORCE 136 and their part in Op. Zipper.

    Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten and Major General Sir Frank Messervy with Force 136 leaders after their disbandment in Singapore, 1946.

    Before Operation Zipper - Operation Neptune.

    A Normandy Landings D.S.M. group of four awarded to Ordinary Seaman Charles Bell, Royal Navy, who served aboard H.M. L.C.I. (L) 183 as part of Force “S” on D-Day
    Distinguished Service Medal, G.VI.R. (Ord. Seaman Charles Bell, C/JX355974); 1939-45 Star; Atlantic Star, clasp, France and Germany Star; War Medal, very fine (4) £1000-1200
    Footnote D.S.M. London Gazette 14 November 1944: ‘For gallantry, skill, determination and undaunted devotion to duty during the landing of Allied Forces on the coast of Normandy.’ The official recommendation, taken from Admiral Vian’s List of recommendations for “Operation Neptune”, states: ‘For gallantry and devotion to duty while leading lifeline from ramps in an exposed position while under constant small arms and mortar fire.’ Ordinary Seaman Charles Bell served aboard H.M. Landing Craft Infantry (Light) No. 183 in the 261st L.C.I.(L) flotilla with Force “S” of the Eastern Naval Task Force under the overall command of Rear-Admiral Vian.

    (Medals went for £2,100 6th July 2004)
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2015
  9. Not a fan then, despite his other achievements.
  10. Olive. My father landed on Morib beach as part of Operation Zipper, he was part of a R.E.M.E. mobile workshop attached to the 23rd. They set up camp at the back of the beach and his job was to go out to the landing craft and drive (scream) the vehicles off onto the beach and then hand them back to the Indian drivers and recover the vehicles that had sunk into the soft sand. Eight years ago we went back to morib with dad. After Morib dad spent time in Singapore and Thailand and lastly Hong Kong before returning to Liverpool via Singapore and Sri-Lanka.
  11. Hi, My father was the REME officer in charge of the preparation of vehicles for this operation, the landings and recovery during and after the operation. I have his report on this with maps. He was very reluctant to talk about this (or any other war experiences) but he was one the first senior officers on the beach and took the surrender of at least on Japanese offer as until we were burgled we had the sword. The digital report and maps are too big to upload.
    • Informative Informative x 1

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