The ‘Battle of Singapore’ that lasted for about eight days (8th Feb-15th Feb, 1942) in the tiny island state of Singapore during WWII is regarded as the biggest debacle for the British Army since its inception. The battle also turned out to be the biggest catastrophe that Great Britain suffered in WWII. The English had underestimated the strength of the Japanese army that overran Singapore in the course of just a week and took more than 1,00,000 POWs (prisoners of war).
The battle which is also referred to as 'The Fall of Singapore' that led to the Japanese occupation of Britain's 'impenetrable fortress' clearly demonstrated Japan’s superior battling tactics in territorial, naval and aerial warfare compared to the English. Japan’s seemingly invincible streak that was proving disastrous for the Allied Forces ended with the dropping of 'Little Boy'-the first atomic bomb-over Hiroshima on 6th August, 1945.
Singapore War FactsFact no.1:The Japanese attacked Singapore for the first time on December 8th, 1941 by repeatedly torpedoed the British warships ‘Prince of Wales’ and ‘Repulse’ through its torpedo bombers. Ultimately, the ships sank as the fighter aircrafts of the British’s RAF (Royal Air Force) could not offer a blanket of protection. The RAF fighter planes parked on the different airstrips in Singapore had already been wiped out by serial aerial bombings by the Japanese.
Fact no.2:When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour in December 1941 in a bid to repulse the US advance to South-East Asia or the Far-East, the English military commanders thought that in case they attacked Singapore, they would take the same strategy i.e. attack by sea. Britain had a robust naval presence and the navy was confident that they would be able to hold back any attack. However, they were caught off-guard when the Japanese troops were seen advancing through the thick and dense jungles of the Malayan Peninsula.
Fact no.3:It now fell upon the army to halt the marauding advance of the Japanese troops. The army had strength of almost 90,000 men and was made up of soldiers from Australia, Britain and India. Lieutenant General Arthur Percival was the commander of the Allied Forces. However since most of the soldiers under Percival’s command were not battle-ready, the Japanese soldiers completely trounced them in the ‘Battle of Jitra’ that lasted for two days (11th and 12th December, 1941). From this battle onwards, the Allied troops started retreating.
Fact no.4:The Japanese troops spared no mercy on the Allied soldiers and were utterly ruthless in their treatment. Even the local population who had only given shelter to the Allied forces were murdered in cold blood. Soldiers who lay wounded and maimed were mercilessly killed. Even those who were either captured or had surrendered were not spared.
Fact no.5:Japan lays siege on Kuala Lumpur (the capital of Malaysia then known as Malaya) and captures the city on 11th January, 1942. By seizing Kuala Lumpur, Japan amply demonstrated its efficiency and efficacy as a combative and battle hardened nation.
Fact no.6:Japanese troops landed on the Singapore harbour on 8th February, 1942 via the Johor Strait that formed a gulf between Malaya and Singapore. Spencer Percival had ordered his men to be spread out evenly on the 70-mile long coastline along the island. A 23,000 strong Japanese army captured nearly 1, 00, 000 prisoners of war. About 9,000 soldiers died during the construction of the Burmese-Thailand railway.
Fact no.8:The local population of Singapore also bore the brunt of the battle. Approximately, 50,000 men, women and children many of whom were of Chinese origin were killed.
Fact no.9:Singapore’s pumping stations and reservoirs captured by the Japanese on 14th February, 1942. Singapore was in state of total paralysis.
Fact no.10:Spencer Percival declares a ceasefire and decides to surrender. An armistice is signed in the Ford Factory on Bukit Timah Street.
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