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World War II: Fall of Singapore

Updated on June 10, 2012

Battle Map

Singapore Island in early 1942.
Singapore Island in early 1942. | Source

Down and Out

While the British were able to thwart the Germans at the Battle of Britain. The obsolete RAF fighters stationed in Malaya such as the Hurricane (pictured) proved no match for the modern Japanese air force.
While the British were able to thwart the Germans at the Battle of Britain. The obsolete RAF fighters stationed in Malaya such as the Hurricane (pictured) proved no match for the modern Japanese air force. | Source

Background

For nearly 150 years, the island of Singapore on the southern tip of the Malayan Peninsula was the jewel in the crown of Britain’s vast East Asian Empire. In late 1941 though, the winds of change were in the air. War raged in Europe, virtually all of the Western European nations, apart from Britain and a few neutral countries lay under the Nazi jackboot. Now Hitler had turned his attention eastwards and had already launched his ambitious plan to crush Bolshevism once and for all. In the Far East though, another member of the Axis began to execute a series of plans to build a vast Empire of its own. Japan of course had already began its imperialist expansion in the late 1930’s by launching a brutal and bloody invasion of China, committing deplorable atrocities wherever they went. Now, they sought to expel the white man from Asia, virtually all of their propaganda focused on their hatred of the Anglo-Saxon powers.

At this time, the entire Indian subcontinent and much of East Asia including Burma, Singapore and Malaya lay under British rule. The Dutch ruled over what is now today Indonesia, the French held Vietnam, then known as French Indochina, and the Americans held sway over the Philippines. On the 7th December, Japan launched the Pacific War; squadrons of Mitsubishi fighter bombers caught the American Pacific Fleet off guard at Pearl Harbour, wounding it severely. Just 24 hours later, the Japanese 25th Army led by Lieutenant General Tomoyuki Yamashita invaded British Malaya from Indochina and Thailand. Although the British held the advantage in numbers, the Japanese concentrated their forces and used their proficiency in jungle warfare and combined arms combat to repeatedly outflank the enemy and drive them back towards the southern tip of the peninsular, towards Singapore.

The Japanese’s modern air force quickly gained air superiority over the rather obsolete fighters of the British and Commonwealth; there were very few spitfires out in the east, compared with back home unfortunately. The rapidly advancing Japanese inflicted two further blows by attacking and successfully sinking two prized British battleships, HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales. It seemed incredible; the British Empire which had ruled over East Asia for more than a century had been bought to its knees, by what was perceived at the time as an army of savages, the Empire was quite literally collapsing like a pack of cards.

Breaking the Link

A view of the blown up causeway that stretched from Singapore Island to the mainland.
A view of the blown up causeway that stretched from Singapore Island to the mainland. | Source

Defending the Island

The commander of the British and Empire forces Lieutenant General Arthur Percival was confident that the defences already established on the island would be enough to hold back the Japanese wave, but he needed to secure the island. On the 31st January 1942 the last troops withdrew from the peninsula back to the island, prompting Percival to order the blowing up of the narrow crossing way that effectively cut off the island.

Just across the causeway lay the Sultan of Johor’s Palace. The Sultan had elected to side with the Japanese and had allowed Yamashita the use of his palace as a battle headquarters. From the top of the five storey tower he could easily see the displacement of troops on the north of the island. You may think though that shutting himself in a small room at the top of a tower in full range of the British guns would amount to pure suicide. But Yamashita knew he was quite safe, on account of the British being constrained by colonial decorum. Before the war, the colonial government has assured the Sultan that his palace would not be shelled in battle.

Percival, now trapped on the island pinned his hopes largely on 18,000 reinforcements that were due to arrive in Singapore at any moment. However, the disaster of the Malayan campaign had rung alarm bells back in London and Prime Minister Winston Churchill began to view the so called ‘Gibraltar of the East’ as a lost cause; even going so far to threaten to turn the ships around and begin making preparations for evacuating the island. However, his Australian counterpart John Curtin declared that such an act would be regarded as an inexcusable betrayal. The severity of Curtin’s words worked, and Churchill gave up all thoughts of abandoning Singapore, the 18,000 troops arrived and preparations were made to try to construct some suitable defences. Curtin, who so gravelly concerned at the Japanese expansion decided to send an extra 2000 mostly untrained Australian reinforcements to Singapore. They joined up with their fellow commonwealth allies plus a new unit made up of Chinese civilians called Dalforce. The formation of a civilian army was an unprecedented move for the British. It was a move that reversed more than a century of colonial superiority. The British Empire, more than anything was built on prestige and if the authorities were resorting to relying on Chinese help, it raised troubling questions about that famous prestige, but more importantly their ability to protect Singapore. All in all the number of Empire troops amounted to 85,000, the majority of who were fresh and experienced, the rest were the remnants of the army that had retreated from Malaya. Yamashita was vastly outnumbered, with a force of just 36,000, but his men were battle hardened, buoyed by victory and totally single minded.

Britain's Pride and Joy

The 15 inch coastal defence guns designed to protect Singapore from attack via the sea.
The 15 inch coastal defence guns designed to protect Singapore from attack via the sea. | Source

Invasion Map

This map shows where the Japanese invaded and how the British deployed their troops to try and counter it.
This map shows where the Japanese invaded and how the British deployed their troops to try and counter it. | Source

Sacrificing Lives for Honour

The declaration by Winston Churchill in 1942 that the honour of the British Empire was more important than the lives of soldiers and civilians leaves a rather bitter taste in the mouth.
The declaration by Winston Churchill in 1942 that the honour of the British Empire was more important than the lives of soldiers and civilians leaves a rather bitter taste in the mouth. | Source

The Battle Begins

On the 3rd February, the Japanese began their assault on Singapore’s defences, their artillery and relentless air attacks obliterated the city. The Brits could do little to stem the attack, as most of their air force had earlier been destroyed during the Malaya campaign. In just a few days, as a result of up to three air raids a day, nearly 1000 civilians were killed. The shocked native civilians watching this horror unfurl before their eyes began to lose faith in the British Empire.

Knowing he couldn’t rely on air support, Percival concentrated on boosting Singapore’s land defences, the Brits pride and joy were the 15 inch naval guns that pointed in intimidating fashion out to sea. But the guns were pointing the wrong away, the Japanese intended to attack from the opposite direction, plus they were filled with ammo designed to inflict damage upon ships, so in fact they would be close to useless against fast moving troops.

Percival had guessed that Yamashita would attack from the east, so moved 12,000 British and Indian troops towards Serangoon to face them. But there were no beach defences whatsoever, the Brits felt that the beach defences might lower morale, because it might be interpreted as contemplating a Japanese landing.

Just in case Yamashita hatched a different plan, Percival asked the commander of Australian forces, Major General Gordon Bennett to send 6000 troops to the other side of the island. The Australians now had to defend a 12 mile stretch of mangrove just to the west of the causeway. Bennett knew that defending the coastline was near impossible, and given his abrasive character would have normally objected to such a plan. But relations between himself and Percival were strained, so he remained silent. Joining the Australians on the beach, were 1000 Chinese of the Dalforce, they’d only completed their training three days later. Now they would receive their baptism of fire in an exposed position against some of the best soldiers in the world.

Yamashita readied his troops to land on Singapore Island; he chose the sparsely defended Australian and Dalforce position where the strait was at its narrowest. He tried to fool Percival into where he would land by directing a lot of sea traffic eastwards towards the main British army. He also elected to bombard British defences on both sides of the island. Some of the soldiers who’d fought in the Great War claimed that some of it was worse than anything that the Germans had thrown against them in the trenches. By now, the situation was becoming desperate and the Commonwealth artillery decided to expel all thoughts of decorum and courtesy and proceeded to shell the Sultan’s palace.

On the 7th February Yamashita launched a diversionary attack to fire across the water near the main Britain position, in an attempt to further fool Percival. Fighting alongside the Japanese were Indian troops who had previously fought alongside British troops in Malaya. They’d deserted and formed a new Indian National Army commanded by anti British nationalist Captain Mohan Singh. The next night, 13,000 Japanese soldiers embarked on the six minute crossing across the strait of Johor. Percival, seemingly oblivious to all that was going on was still convinced that the Japanese would attack the main British army in the North East. Quietly and stealthily, the Japanese closed in on the Australians and Chinese.

The attack started, the gunfire disturbing the calmness of the night, both the Australians and Chinese fought bravely, but they were heavily outnumbered and some of the Chinese Dalforce was only armed with small shotguns and machetes. The pressure soon became too much, they fell back, allowing the Japanese to gain a foothold on Singapore Island. Whatever morale and discipline remained now totally fell away among the Australians, many who probably didn’t want to be there in the first place decided to desert.

For Britain it was one disaster after another, in barely 24 hours, they had lost control of the causeway and the entire western side of the island. The following day, General Yamashita felt confident to cross over the causeway himself and establish a new headquarters on the island. It also gave him the first opportunity to examine the trickle of POW’s arriving into the Japanese camp. For Percival and his staff, it seemed as if the end was inevitable, and the pressure only heightened when they received a message from Winston Churchill himself: ‘There must be at this stage, be no thought of saving the troops or sparing the population. The Battle must be fought till the bitter end, at all costs. The honour of the British Empire and the British Army is at stake.’ These are strange and disturbing words from a man so revered in history. Remember that less than two years before, he had ordered the successful rescue of 338,000 troops from the beaches of Dunkirk and had seen his home country bravely repel an invasion attempt from Hitler. These words help us gain insight into Churchill’s mind, and indeed the minds of the ruling class. The people of Singapore are not really British, and thus their survival is less important than the integrity of the British Empire.

Percival had left half of his army sitting idle on the North East coast, whilst the Australians and Chinese suffered under the Japanese onslaught. Finally, after three full days, it suddenly dawned upon the commander that he had been tricked and so ordered his men across the island to support the Australians, who were now being firmly driven back.

Singapore Firebombed

The relentless bombardment by the Japanese literally bought Singapore City to its knees.
The relentless bombardment by the Japanese literally bought Singapore City to its knees. | Source

Remembering a Massacre

This plaque outside the Alexandra Hospital in Singapore commemorates the 150 people killed by the Japanese during their rampage through the hospital in 1942.
This plaque outside the Alexandra Hospital in Singapore commemorates the 150 people killed by the Japanese during their rampage through the hospital in 1942. | Source

The Final Moments

At Bukit Timah, the battered and bruised British Empire army, plagued with desertions and discontent made a determined stand. As the battle wore on into the night, the sheer, wild fanaticism of the Japanese soldiers shocked the Empire troops to the core. The British had no choice to withdraw. By now, it finally seemed to be dawning on the arrogant British that they were fighting an enemy that was at least an equal to them, if not better.

By the 14th February, the Japanese were overlooking the city. One million people were now trapped within a radius of just three miles. The very fabric of Singaporean society was beginning to tear apart. Over half of the city’s water supply was going to waste through broken pipes; the main hospital in the city was the Alexandra Hospital which unfortunately lay directly in the path of the Japanese advance. Originally it had been built to accommodate 550 patients but was crammed with nearly double that amount, most of them being sick or wounded soldiers. At 2:30 pm, retreating Indian troops entered the hospital, using it for cover to fire on the Japanese as they advanced into the city. Shortly afterwards, a Japanese company in full battle gear charged into the hospital looking for the Indians. Finding them gone, they instead rampaged through the wards, killing indiscriminately; even patients on the operating table weren’t safe from their brutality.

As the final moments approached, the Japanese bombardment took its toll on the civilian population, the streets quickly becoming littered with the dead. With their world crumbling around them, the British colonists were desperate to escape; women and children were crowded onto passenger ships. According to some reports, some Australian troops tried to force their way onto the ships, resulting in a tense standoff between themselves and the Royal Marines in charge of guarding the harbour. This hasty evacuation of Singapore revealed damning evidence of the British view of their Asian subjects. In addition to the soldiers who deserted, more than 10,000 women and children were evacuated, around 7000 of them were white. In a sense, the people were saying ‘we don’t belong here; we’ve had our fun, now we’re going home.’ Those that were left stranded on the wharf were left to face the ever advancing Japanese, now banging on the city gates.

The Japanese had captured most of the British’s ammo, fuel and had total control of Singapore’s main water supplies. As nightfall approached, the first Japanese appeared in the outskirts of the city. Now, the fighting came down to its simplest form, hand to hand fighting for every street, the civilian population watched on helplessly. Realising the hopelessness of the situation, General Percival messaged High Command, seeking permission to surrender. Churchill now realised that the time for public bravado was over. The next day, he sent Percival a simple reply permitting him to be the sole judge of the moment.

Surrender

Lt. General Arthur Percival (carrying the Union flag) and his party on their way to surrender to the Japanese.
Lt. General Arthur Percival (carrying the Union flag) and his party on their way to surrender to the Japanese. | Source

Did You Know?

Britain's defeat at Singapore was the worst in its history, with more than 80,000 troops surrendering to the Japanese. It surpassed anything that had occurred in World War I and the Napoleonic Wars, and was the biggest loss in terms of colonial territory since the loss of the American colonies in 1776.

Victory

The Japanese marching victoriously through Fullerton Square in Singapore City.
The Japanese marching victoriously through Fullerton Square in Singapore City. | Source

A Harsh Regime

Japanese soldiers shooting dead a number of Sikh prisoners that had served with the British.
Japanese soldiers shooting dead a number of Sikh prisoners that had served with the British. | Source

The Moment the War Ended

The dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki effectively forced the Japanese to surrender unconditionally finally ending World War II after six bloody years.
The dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki effectively forced the Japanese to surrender unconditionally finally ending World War II after six bloody years. | Source

Return of the Empire

On the 12th September 1945- the victorious British returned to reclaim Singapore, but their war experiences had changed both the colony and its master. By the 1960s the British were gone and the people of Singapore were now in  full charge.
On the 12th September 1945- the victorious British returned to reclaim Singapore, but their war experiences had changed both the colony and its master. By the 1960s the British were gone and the people of Singapore were now in full charge. | Source

Surrender and Aftermath

The next day, Sunday the 15th February 1942 marked the end of over 100 years of continuous British rule in Singapore. General Percival surrendered unconditionally to the Japanese. Back in Japan, the populace was euphoric; this was seen as the vital first step towards expelling the colonial powers from Asia forever. The lightning victory seemed to confirm that Japan was truly the rightful steward of Asia.

While the Japanese began rounding up prisoners, Major General Gordon Bennett, the commander of the Australian forces paid a few hundred pounds to the skipper of a fishing boat and escaped safely to Australia to pass on his supposed expertise in jungle warfare. History condemns Bennett’s actions, although it must be noted that he did tell his units to fight till the bitter end and to make no attempt at escape. It’s just that he failed to uphold his duty as a leader of men; he deserted his men instead of standing by them. It comes as no surprise to learn that he never commanded in battle again.

For those that surrendered in Singapore what lay ahead was three brutal years in captivity. All in all, 30,000 British, 15,000 Australian and 40,000 Indian troops joined the 30,000 POW’S taken in Malaya. Unlike Bennett, Percival stuck by his men, and went with them into the hell of the prison camps. Despite the fact, that he’d led his men to a humiliating defeat, he retained the respect of the men.

Among the native Singaporeans though, what little respect that had for the British was quickly dispelled. The Japanese marched the defeated Commonwealth troops through the centre of Singapore towards Changi prison. With the British gone, many of the locals saw the Japanese as heroic liberators. But under the Japanese occupation, the fate of the three main ethnic groups was very different. The Japanese knew that the Indians wanted the British out of their homeland. So on the 17th February, the Japanese assembled 40,000 Indian soldiers from the Empire forces at Farrer Park Racecourse in Singapore. Mohan Singh the leader of the Indian National army set about persuading his countrymen to join the Japanese and to fight for independence in India. In an extraordinary display of anti colonial zeal, some 20,000 Indians turned their backs on 200 years of history and abandoned their loyalty to the British King.

The Indians who had deserted the British now became the jailors of their former masters at the POW camps. Any expectations that the prisoners of war had that they would be treated humanely was quickly shattered. But it wasn’t just the prisoners that received savage beatings; the Japanese often inflicted them on each other. It may sound strange to us, but for them it was used as a form of corporal punishment, and was quite normal. The philosophy was that the more you get beaten, the more frustrated you got, and eager to fight you were, thus the reason why the prisoners were treated extra cruelly. But the most horrific brutality of the Japanese military system was reserved for the Chinese.

Just three days after the surrender, the Japanese rounded up anyone considered hostile and in scenes recalling the brutal invasion of China proceeded to slaughter them, it’s estimated that during the Japanese occupation, some 50,000 Chinese Singaporeans were murdered by the Japanese.

For 3 more years, the Pacific War raged; at its peak in 1942, the Japanese Empire extended over 20 million square miles and its land conquests amounted to more than a third greater than Germany’s. In Malaya and Singapore, a population of five million Asians was under total Japanese control. The Japanese occupation quickly drove a wedge between the local Chinese and Malay communities. The Japanese had promised the Malay’s independence, but it never came. Instead, they behaved more like some harsh, new colonial power. Their ill treatment and brutality extended to hundreds of thousands of prisoners of war. By mid 1945 most languished in camps, reduced to a pitiful state by enforced labour.

But the war in the Pacific would now end in the most horrific fashion, with the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on the 6th August 1945. Three days later a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. The casualties from both bombings amounted to more than 200,000. Japan’s Emperor Hirohito had little alternative but to surrender unconditionally. In the Philippines, Lieutenant General Percival, who’d managed to survive the horrors of the prison camp met once more with General Yamashita to accept his surrender. The Japanese general who’d captured Singapore was tried for war crimes and executed.

On the 12th September 1945, the British returned to Singapore and proceeded to march the Japanese through the streets in front of jubilant locals. One by one all of the old European colonial powers returned to reclaim their territories. But for the people of East Asia things had changed, the British themselves had changed; their appetite for Empire was on the wane. By the early 1960’s all of Southeast Asia was independent, although not all transitions from colonial rule to self rule went peacefully, the important thing was that the people of East Asia now had control of their own destiny.

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Being a history buff and former history teacher I am always happy to read hubs such as this one. Great job of research and reporting as accurately as possible the events leading up to the fall.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      What a great article, jkenny. I'm not as up on this part of the war as I want to be, so this was really appreciated. What a shabby episode in the history of British arms. I know Churchill took the fall of Singapore as one of the darkest days in the Empire. I find Churchill to be one of the most fascinating peopl in history, but, as you noted, he was not above being an imperious jerk on occasion. Voted up, interesting and shared.

    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 4 years ago from Singapore

      A very well written article.Most authentic I must say

    • wba108@yahoo.com profile image

      wba108@yahoo.com 4 years ago from upstate, NY

      Wow this isn't a very flattering view of the British Australian or American military in ww2! Could this account be a bit skewed, to make the western powers look bad? No doubt there's some truth to your accounts but I have difficulty swallowing the whole thing.

      I really don't know that much about this battle but I heard that the British actually overestimated the Japanese threat and retreated when they didn't need to. This and a series of strategic blunders sealed their fate.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      The fall of Singapore was not very flattering.

    • joanveronica profile image

      Joan Veronica Robertson 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Congratulations on a difficult job, well done. This was a rather chaotic battle ground. It was very significant to me, as one of my uncles (married my father's sister), was amongst the POW and suffered the three years of imprisonment. I saw photos taken after he got back to Liverpool, and it was difficult to comprehend that that was a human being, he looked like a walking skeleton. Pretty awful! And I know enough about this historical event, to know that it was just a pile of blunders and mismanagement. Voted up, awesome and interesting.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 4 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      This was fascinating to read. Actual (real) people by the thousands and thousands died so needlessly. It's hard to absorb this much information at once. I can imagine this took a long time to write.

      As for the Major General Bennett, I certainly hope he was courtmartialed to the fullest extent of the Australian military law for living by a double standard than that which he expected of his troops.

      Voting up and across.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks billy, I really appreciate your feedback, being a former history teacher and all. Really means a lot to me, so thank you very much.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Hi Harald, you're absolutely right about Churchill. Apparently the decision to attack Gallipoli in WW1 was Churchill's idea and we all know what happened there. I think its important that all aspects of Churchill's life are presented, in Britain we tend to sugar coat him a little too much.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      I see your point wba108@yahoo.com, but its important to remember that not everything that the Allies did in WW2 was good, and most of the bad things they did were in the Pacific War, culminating in killing nearly a quarter of a million innocent citizens with the atomic bomb.

      As for the Brits, it was imperial arrogance that cost them Singapore, they regarded the Japanese in the same way they'd previously regarded the native Africans, as backward and inferior- and of course the blunders made by Percival also went a long way to sealing Singapore's fate.

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thank you Joan. Interesting to hear about your uncle. My granddad's best friend served in the Pacific too, and was one of the men who was captured in Malaya. Apparently when he returned to Britain in 1945, my granddad said he looked like a walking corpse. Unsurprisingly my granddad spent the rest of his life despising the Japanese, even more so than the Germans whom he'd fought against. Thanks again Joan.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thank you Pamela, it did take a long time to write up, but the research took even longer, so I really appreciating you noticing that. I've just been reading up about what happened to Bennett after the war. Apparently when Percival was released, he accused Bennett of relinquishing his position unlawfully. A court of enquiry was set up but Bennett was never charged with desertion. He returned to Australia and became an orchardist.

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thank you MG Singh, I very much appreciate your feedback, considering you're actually from Singapore. Thanks again.

    • sen.sush23 profile image

      Sushmita 4 years ago from Kolkata, India

      Jkenny, it is an exhaustive account of the fall of Singapore, and I really was not so updated on the historical and strategical details. I am very interested in the details of the Pacific war. I noted a little contradiction in your account on the INA. You mention 'Fighting alongside the Japanese were Indian troops who had previously fought alongside British troops in Malaya. They’d deserted and formed a new Indian National Army commanded by anti British nationalist Captain Mohan Singh.' Later however you say the Indian POW were offered by Japanese to change sides after the fall of Singapore.

      As far as I know, the Indians had been an integral part of the British army for long, and even in the war in Singapore they had fought for the British, as part of the British Army. Though I do not know the details of how the Indian POW were incorporated in the INA, I do know that INA had its identity as the first Nationalist Indian Army (while India was still under colonial fetters) and it had a military, strategic coalition with the Japanese to stand against the Imperialist British in the war only after occupation of Singapore by the Japanese. This was a tactical choice on which the Indian Congress got divided, with few siding with Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, who lead the INA in 1943, in the wars against the British in Burma, Imphal and Kohima. The INA had also declared itself the provisional government of free India. The sentiments of the common Indian was however very much with Leader Subhas Chandra. The Indians in the British Army though, sympathetic as they may have been with the cause of the INA, never deserted the British Army in the war against fascism.

      Voted up and sharing.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Hi sen.sush, according to my research, there were desertions across all the Empire nations in the aftermath of Malaya and during the battle too. You're right that the majority of Indians did fight alongside the British, but some mostly led by Mohan Singh did desert. After the surrender, the Japanese offered those Indians who'd remained loyal to the British a chance to switch sides, hence why they were gathered together at Farrer Park Race Course. 20,000 did agree to switch sides, although it must be noted that most of the Indians did remain loyal to the British.

      Thanks for the info on the INA,I remember reading that after WW2 finished, the majority of the British were actually resigned to losing India, and indeed most of East Asia.

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 4 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      Great article James. You really cover all details of the disastrous fall of Singapore very well. But could I say a small amount in defence of Winston Churchill, most particularly with regard to his reputation regarding the Gallipoli campaign? Churchill was wrongly blamed for the failure of that venture. He wanted naval support to be provided for the invasion but it was refused. If Winston had been listened to, the campaign would have been a successful one.

      Nevertheless, as an honourable man, Churchill took all responsibility for the failure himself and he resigned from the government. He then re-joined the Army and spent the next several years fighting in the trenches at the frontline. I doubt many modern government ministers would behave so honourably.

    • sen.sush23 profile image

      Sushmita 4 years ago from Kolkata, India

      Thanks JKenny for the clarifications. It is for sure that many of the regiments must have been in a dilemma to decide which was the lesser of evils- imperialism or fascism. Though standing away from that time, now, we know, imperialism was dying out and fascism had to be killed.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Oh wow, thanks for the info on Churchill Christopher, I lost a lot respect for him while writing this, but you've restored it somewhat. I agree that compared to most other politicians he's a saint and I didn't know about him fighting in the trenches, so I'm grateful for that. Thanks for popping by, always appreciated.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      No problem sen.sush, I've been reading more about it, and it turns out that most of the Indians that defected only did it because their friends did it, there were only a relatively small number that shared Mohan Singh's sentiments. You're right about acknowledging the death of imperialism, Britain had already ceded control of Australia, New Zealand and Canada. I think most people knew that the days of the Empire were done.

      My granddad actually fought alongside Indian troops in Italy and he called them the bravest soldiers he'd ever seen

    • sen.sush23 profile image

      Sushmita 4 years ago from Kolkata, India

      I had two uncles who fought in the troops before Independence, they were however very young, probably in late teens and early twenties. They were engineers, not really marching out with arms.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Wow, really interesting. Thanks for sharing that.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      May I support what Christopher said regarding Churchill? Galipoli was a strategic attempt to break the impasse of the trenches on the Western Front. Had it been executed as Churchill planned, it may very well have shortened the war, but the commander of the naval forces involved ordered his ships to turn back, afraid the Turks had mined the waters, and basically dumped the land forces about as far back as possible. Despite others' failings, including former Lord of the Admiralty Fisher, Churchill shouldered the blame and volunteered to serve in the trenches. Self-serving plug: I have a hub about Churchill's service on the Western Front.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      You may, Harald and I appreciate your input- you and Christopher have restored my faith in Churchill as a leader of men. I'll be sure to check out that hub you wrote on him, thanks.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi JK, this was completely fascinating, I only knew bits and pieces about the Fall of Singapore, but didn't know that there were so many different cultures involved. It still never fails to amaze me how we had two wars going on at the same time, Germany and Japan. Churchill was just a man of his time and grew up with the British Empire, but as christopher pointed out he redeemed himself. The dropping of the bombs on Japan was an appalling thing to happen, but I have always stated that if we hadn't then how long, and how many more innocent people would have died? the war would have gone on for years, fascinating reading, cheers nell

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks Nell, I truly find it amazing how any of the main countries re-emerged after the war, particularly Japan after the atomic bomb droppings. But I think you're right, the Americans were desperate to end the war, they knew the Japanese wouldn't surrender, so they had to resort to drastic measures. Cheers for popping by, Nell.

    • 34th Bomb Group profile image

      34th Bomb Group 4 years ago from Western New York State

      Very well done! The fall of Fortress Singapore was one of the darkest days in British Military History.

      The bombs had to be dropped or millions more would have died - estimates of American deaths were we to have to invade the Home Islands range from 1,000,000 to 3,000,000. Then we have the civilians who would have walked into cannons for Hirohito.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks 34th Bomb Group- like the name. Hmmm, yes when you consider the difficulty of actually invading Japan and the obsessive devotion of the Japanese people towards their Emperor, perhaps the bombs were a necessary evil, they certainly worked in ending Japanese resolve. Thanks for popping by.

    • 34th Bomb Group profile image

      34th Bomb Group 4 years ago from Western New York State

      My Dad's Unit - 8th Army Air Force.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Wow really, so he was stationed in England then? Whereabouts? I'm guessing from you avatar that he flew B17 Bombers?

    • 34th Bomb Group profile image

      34th Bomb Group 4 years ago from Western New York State

      Yes - B-17's out of Mendlesham, England. 8th Army Air Force, 34th Bomb Group, 391st Squadron. Bombardier/Navigator and any other job that needed doing up there!

      Thanks for asking!

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      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Wow, cool. I've always had a fascination with WW2 Bombers, ever since I watched the film 'Memphis Belle'. Thanks for telling me.

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      34th Bomb Group 4 years ago from Western New York State

      Try "Twelve O'Clock High" with Gregory Peck. Daddy said that was the most accurate. Pretty sobering.

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      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks for that, I'll check it out.

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      Graham Lee 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi JKenny. This is an excellent piece of work. Your research and effort shines through. First class.

      Voted up / all /following.

      Graham.

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      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Hi old albion, I very much appreciate your kind words. Thank you very much the follow and the fan mail.

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      John history 3 years ago

      Great article but you have short changed the Australians & must dig deeper for accurate sources. In Malaya they were from the same highly motivated, all volunteer Australian Imperial Force and trained to the same standards as the Aussies who were actually the first Allied ground forces to defeat the Italians at Bardia, the Germans at Tobruk and the Japanese at Milne Bay. In Malaya they fought with the same determination and were the only allied force that defeated a Japanese force and had command of the battlefield long enough to count the enemy dead. They also successfully destroyed groups of enemy tanks on several occasions without any of their own air or tank support, a rare feat in WW2. However their commander Gordon Bennett was typical of Allied leaders early in the war, a WW1 veteran who didn't grasp mobile warfare and he allowed his troops to be easily outflanked on the West Coast and they were then forced to withdraw, although conducted several ambushes and delaying battles during this retreat. So despite local successes their leaders failings did not allow their fighting capabilities to halt the Japanese advance down Malaya.

      When they were allocated the North West sector of Singapore, Percival expected them to be rested there after their battles in Malaya and allocated most of his defence equipment to the North East sector where he expected the attack. Australian night patrols crossed the causeway and located landing craft hidden inland and they requested artillery strikes, but these were denied by Percival because he simply didn't believe the Japanese would attack their sector.

      So when they were attacked on Singapore's coast, they were outnumbered, outgunned and realised their commanders were out thought. It was also established by this stage that without air cover or tanks in their forces, their cause of defending Singapore was lost and they felt betrayed by Allied military leaders. As Rommel said after D Day, even the best trained infantry in WW2 who had no air cover were about as effective as primitive spear wielding barbarians against a modern army with firearms. And just like the Germans on Normandy were doomed to fail without air cover, the defenders of Malaya and Singapore were also destined to fail because the Japanese controlled the skies and employed tanks against men armed with rifles and bayonets...

      And yes a few stragglers who made it back to Singapore city did get drunk and cause trouble, but this was because they knew that because of the above factors they were about to be killed or captured. (And of course this is what actually happened.) But some modern historians have attempted to generalise the performance of 18,000 Australian infantry in the Malayan Campaign based on the few discouraged stragglers who simply gave up in the dying days of the battle. However many early sources verify the above facts and paint a glowing picture of proud Australian men who volunteered to leave their families and homeland and fight a ferocious foe and based on my research they did their loved ones and nation proud.

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      James Kenny 3 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thank you very much for your input John.

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      John history 3 years ago

      My pleasure JKenny I have a degree in history and studied this conflict, but I also know an older man whose father was one of the Australians who died fighting in Malaya in WW2. My friend was only about 5 and so grew up never knowing his father's love or guidance and to this day feels the loss and bitterness the Battle of Singapore caused to his family. And all because his father chose to volunteer and fight to defend his young family and nation from the forces of militarism and fascism that were threatening the world at that time. War is a very sad thing indeed.

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