Mersing (103.833E 2.433N) was a fishing port and one of the few sizeable towns on the northeast coast of Malaya in 1941. It was garrisoned by Australian 22 Brigade when war broke out.

During the British retreat in Malaya, the final attempt to hold the line Batu Pahat (102.921E 1.845N) - Kluang - Mersing ended in disaster. Heath meant to hold the town at all cost, but the commander of 15 Indian Brigade evacuated the town after he lost communications with headquarters. Ordered to retake the town, he withdrew a second time on 25-26 January when it became clear that his force was in imminent peril of being cut off and destroyed.The brigade was forced to abandon its vehicles when yet a bridge was blown too soon, and more than 1000 men had to be evacuated by sea as the rest infiltrated back through Japanese lines. Some 4000 men escaped to British lines or were evacuated by sea.

22 Indian Brigade successfully ambushed the Japanese advance from Mersing on 26 January, driving the Japanese back to Mersing and delaying their advance by three days. However, the brigade was caught on the wrong side of a river the next day when yet another bridge was prematurely demolished. The commander of 9 Indian Division, Arthur Barstow, was ambushed and killed when he went forward to reestablish communications. Only a handful of survivors of 22 Indian Brigade ever reached Singapore.

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