The Fall of Fortress
1 Feb 1942-15 Feb 1942
- Percival makes an address to the people of Singapore
from the British Malaya Broadcasting Corporation studios at
- Percival moves his headquarters to the Sine Road Military Camp.
- A reinforcement convoy, MS1, arrives in Singapore with HMAS
Hobart as part of the escort.
- Bennett inspects his shoreline defence positions. He
plans to stop the Japanese on the beaches.
- Japanese aircraft make several strikes on the Royal Navy storage
tanks at Sembawang. Bombing raids take place at Janjong Pager
Railway Station area.
- Two United States transport ships are escorted by HMAS Vampire
through the Sundra Strait.
- A military conference takes place at the new
headquarters of the Australian Military Commander at Hillview
- The governor of Singapore accompanies Percival to the Keppel
Harbour area to inspect the damage from the Japanese bombing.
- HMAS Vendetta, under repair and immobilised in Singapore
dockyard, commences a long voyage home to Australia under tow by the
destroyer HMS Stongbow.
- Instillations at Tengah, Seletar and Sembawang come
under heavy Japanese artillery fire.
- Intelligence reports indicate that the Japanese have taken up
observation posts at the government office buildings in the centre
of Johore Bahru and at the tower of the Sultan's Palace.
- HMAS Hobart and HMS Tenedos take survivors from SS Norah Moller
damaged beyond repair by Japanese bombing in Banka Strait.
- Japanese guns open fire on Australian
the northern sector of the island of Singapore.
- The city of Singapore is bombarded by long range artillery fire.
- The remaining troops of the British 18th Division arrive in
- The Empress of Asia is sunk by Japanese dive bombers as she
enters the Straits of Singapore.
- At Sembawang the Royal Australian Air Force is unable to operate
due to heavy shelling.
- All aircraft are withdrawn to Paleonbang in Sumatra.
- HMAS Vampire departs Batavia escorting three merchant ships to
- HMAS Yarra picks up 1800 survivors from Empress of Asia.
- Japanese Artillery fires intensifies along the
- At the Australian frontline, intelligence gathering patrols cross
the Straits in small boats.
- Bennett inspects the medical facilities of the 2/10th
Australian General Hospital at Manor House and the 2/13th in the
chapel at St Patrick's school in Siglap.
- Japanese artillery strikes the 2/10th Hospital.
- At the north-west sector, Australian intelligence units return
with details of Japanese gun placements.
- The Japanese invasion of Singapore begins.
- Singapore is under continuous
attack as Japanese
aircraft attack the military headquarters. The bombardment destroys
telegraph and telephone lines.
- The main Japanese attack continues throughout the day.
- Communication problems exist between forward and rear command
- Troops from the 5th and 18th Divisions are seen along the
plantation roads. They board motor launches and landing craft on the
Skudia, Danga and Malayu rivers and move towards the Singapore
- An Australian observation post on the Lim Chu Kang Road reports
sounds of approaching motor craft. Several Japanese barges are sunk
by the Australians. Japanese craft move through the defence lines.
The Australians are forced to withdraw.
- To the west, Japanese forces drive back the frontline of defence.
- North of the Berih River, Japanese troops are seen moving towards
the Tengah Airfield.
- HMAS Hobart joins the escort of the Emu through the Sundra
- HMAS Hobart joins the escort of the Emu through the Sundra
- At Bennett's headquarters on the Bukit Timah Village
frontline information is obscure as communication lines are cut.
- Bennett orders the Australian 2/29th Battalion to the north-west
- At the Australian 22nd Brigade headquarters, Brigadier Taylor
plans a counter-attack.
- The Japanese reach Ama Keng Village. Brigadier Taylor moves his
headquarters and cancels the counter-attack.
- The air battle begins, six Japanese aircraft and one Hurricane
are lost in the fight. After two more sorties the Hurricanes are
sent back to Sumatra.
- The 12th Indian Brigade arrives at Keat Hang Road.
- Percival and Bennett meet to plan their strategy.
- Brigadier Taylor orders a withdrawal
from the Jurang Line.
- The Japanese take Tengah airfield.
- At Kranji, Australian machine gunners of the 27th
Brigade stop an assault by the Japanese Imperial Guards.
- The Australian Forces are ordered to retreat from the Kranji
- Wavell flies back to Java.
- Bennett promotes Varley to Brigadier and issues
orders that the new commander is in permanent charge.
- Intelligence reports confirm that the Japanese
commander has moved his headquarters to the Ford Motor Factory on
the Bukit Timah Road.
- Percival receives a signal from Wavell. He meets with his
commanders and orders that the fighting must continue.
- The Governor and Lady Thomas move to the Singapore Club.
- HMAS Toowoomba rescues 42 survivors from the bombed merchant ship
- Percival, in his bunker at Fort Canning, is briefed
on the battle situation.
- At 0930 hours, Percival summons his commanders. They have two
options. One is to counter attack to take back the MacRichie
Reservoir and the food at Bukit Timah. The second choice is to
surrender. The first option is rejected and Percival decides to
- A white flag is hoisted on top of the broadcasting station at
- A delegation is sent to the Japanese. The Japanese commander
states that he will only talk to Percival.
- Percival leaves to sign the surrender
- At 1715 hours, Percival and his staff arrive at the Ford Motor
Factory. The surrender documents are signed.
Myths about Fortress
- The guns could only face the ocean, they could not
be fired towards Malaya.
- Not so. The naval guns
installed could manage full traverse and fire towards Malaya.
Unfortunately there was little use in so doing. They were NAVAL
guns with ammunition for firing at ships at sea over very long
distances i.e. flat trajectory. That is totally
different from firing at a bunch of infantry soldiers on
pushbikes. As anti personnel weapons they were useless,
regardless of which way they pointed.
- The guns of Changi
still covered the sea approaches to the now deserted naval
base, but as the Japanese forced their way south towards
Singapore in the weeks that followed there dawned the bitter
realization that these guns could not fire effectively in
the direction from which the attack would now surely come.
Writing to Mr Churchill on 16th January, General Wavell was
obliged to say that ‘although the fortress cannon of
heaviest nature had all-round traverse, their flat
trajectory made them unsuitable for counter battery work.’
He could certainly not guarantee to dominate enemy siege
batteries with them. A further point which soon emerged was
that most of the ammunition for these guns was of the armour
piercing variety, quite unsuitable for the bombardment of
ground forces. From Changi
- The island could have been defended as Tobruk was
if only the "cowardly" British had not surrendered
- Untrue and unfair. Tobruk was a
totally different proposition. It was filled with mainly service
personnel, had its' own water supply, had a reasonable chance of
food and ammo resupply by sea and had a
large allied army building up on land behind it to relieve the beleaguered
garrison, given time. Singapore had none of that. It had a huge
civilian population to worry about, no chance of resupply, no
water, no friendly army to its rear and therefore no
chance of surviving for any more than a few days with
unnecessary & massive
loss of life.
Myths about treatment
- The prisoners were herded into a prison.
- Not so. They were herded into a
prison camp, made up of British Army barracks set in thousands
of acres of rubber plantations, market gardens and the like. For
quite a while there was not even any barbed wire. When barbed
wire was introduced the Aussies went outside it on a regular,
almost nightly, basis without any problems. Attempting to escape
FROM THE ISLAND was punishable, slipping out for a bit of
scrounging was 'blind eye' stuff.
- It was not difficult to
find one's way out of the camp, and some of the more
intrepid prisoners would forage among the old British Army
dumps and sell their finds at black market prices. There
were plenty of local traders only too willing to indulge in
illicit enterprises and the black market rapidly became a
thriving concern. Changi contained a great many ‘saleable’
commodities, but on occasion the desire for food would
override common sense, as for example when precious M &
B tablets from the hospital were being traded for bully beef
or when men went out to sell the clothes they wore in
exchange for food. from Changi History
- And then there were other
'creative' ways of finding things for the concert party. As
men went out to work they would try and find things they
thought the concert party might need. Over the years musical
instruments, including a piano and drum kit, clothes and a
sewing machine found their way to the concert party.
Although it was forbidden to bring these things into the
camp, if the POW's managed to smuggle them in they would be
allowed to keep them. from the ABC website about Changi
- The prisoners were regularly beaten.
- Reports of people who
were there and other reliable sources indicate that source of
many of the beatings was actually the Sikhs
who had gone over to the Japanese and were used as guards. It is
recorded that the Japanese stopped the abuses fairly quickly.
- Then again there were the
guards. Most were Sikhs who had succumbed to Japanese
pressure and had gone over to the enemy. These Sikhs, who
were regarded as traitors by the prisoners, took advantage
of their position to make increasingly absurd demands on the
prisoners and eventually even the Japanese realised that
they were going too far. Consequently in November 1942 the
Japanese tried to remove the causes of the trouble by
ordering the Indians to recognize all forms of salutation,
not to enter the prisoner-of-war area except when on duty,
and not to strike the prisoners who failed to salute.
Forbidden to use violence, the Sikhs now resorted to forcing
the escorting officers to strike the prisoners, and they
also took any opportunity to drill alleged offenders and to
make them stand to attention for long
periods. from Changi History
- The prisoners were deliberately starved.
- False. The prisoners were
undernourished, badly. Not deliberately. However there are several things to be
taken into account here;
- they were placed on Japanese
ration scales which consisted mainly of rice. OK for the Japanese,
unfamiliar and unwelcome to Australians who were used to a
meat ration that was twice what even the British Army got.
- ration scales were reduced
even for the Japanese as resupply from outside
Malaya/Singapore became more difficult as the war
progressed. It is probably true to say that the British,
Australian and US navies had more to do with starving the
prisoners than any deliberate decision by the Japanese
- it must be remembered that
at the same time Japanese front line troops were dying of
starvation in New Guinea (and turning cannibal if eye
witness accounts are to be believed) because of the same
reason, no resupply possible by sea.
- Imagine an Australian
guard at the Cowra POW Camp, guarding Japanese, being
told "we intend to feed the prisoners better than
our own troops". His understandable reaction would
be "Not while I'm around, Mate". Are the
Japanese prison guards any different? Editor.
- After the first
fortnight, during which British army rations were
issued, prisoners had to make do with the Japanese
ration scales, which consisted mainly of rice, and it
was only gradually that the cooks devised means of
making it palatable. Apart from rice, a little tea,
sugar and salt were issued, together with the occasional
ration of meat or fish. The Japanese refused to allow
Red Cross relief parcels to be distributed, so any
supplementing of the meagre rations depended on the
ingenuity of the prisoners themselves. The rubber
plantations that lay between Selarang and the Gaol were
gradually cut down and camp gardens appeared in their
place. These gardens grew such fresh vegetables as sweet
potatoes, Chinese cabbage and tapioca, and they remained
a most valuable source of food right until the end of
the war. from Changi History
liberated Australian prisoners of war, Singapore, August 1945
- The prisoners were worked to death.
- Untrue. For a long time boredom
was a big worry for the allied officers looking to the interests
of their men and trying to keep them occupied. Work parties were
sent out but they were not 'slave labour'. When work started on
the airport construction work became harder but that was as much
a problem of poor nourishment as overwork. Changi was not like
the Death Railway.
- The Japanese refused to allow Red Cross parcels to
- Here the question has to be
asked "What Red Cross parcels"? I have heard a
thousand times that the distribution was not allowed. I have
never seen or heard any evidence that Red Cross parcels were
available. (If you have
such evidence please share it with me)
- The prisoners were forced to live in overcrowded
- Yes they were, particularly by
Australian standards; by Asian standards untrue.
- Even in the
1960's and 70's when I served with the Australian Army in Malaya
there were huge differences. At Terendak we bunked 8 men
to a room, the British Army in the same barracks, 16 to a
room, the Malaysian Army, same barracks, 20 to a room. That
was peacetime and the soldiers were not POWs. It has a lot
to do with national expectations and standards. Editor.
- The prisoners were regularly executed.
- Not so. Some executions did
take place but it was not the norm and it was usually for
attempting to escape which by Japanese and German rules can be
punishable by death.
- The prisoners were treated like animals.
- Even the POWs themselves do not
make this claim about Changi. They were allowed a Concert Party that gave
regular performances (and travelled to other areas to perform), a
"University" and other time filling recreational
- Within the divisional areas,
however, the Japanese were hardly ever to be seen, a phenomenon
which Russell Braddon noted with gratitude when he arrived from
Kuala Lumpur in November 1942. In contrast with the privations
he had suffered in Kuala Lumpur and the suffering he and
countless others were to endure later in Thailand, Changi camp
in 1942 seemed to him to be the 'Phoney Captivity'. His views
were typical of those expressed by many other men who had been
taken prisoner in Malaya or the Dutch East Indies and were
brought to Changi during that year; its acres of grass and trees
and its well spaced, well appointed buildings seemed to savour
of another world, as did the welcome they received from the
older inhabitants, who greeted them most warmly and gave them
all their essential needs. from Changi History
- The Japanese were seen as Asian 'liberators' by the
local population, helping to throw off the yoke of colonialism. They
actually helped the Japanese.
- Totally false. The local
population was mainly Chinese. China had been at war with Japan
for several years. The Japanese were particularly brutal in that
campaign and the local Chinese knew that. In fact, in the first
few months over 50,000 Chinese locals were slaughtered by the
Japanese and the remainder were forced to raise $50 MILLION to
be give to the Japanese government.
stated elsewhere none of the above is an attempt to justify
Japanese actions. I feel however that if we are to castigate a
race for their treatment of our soldiers we should do so from a
firm base of truth. Making accusations based on myth weakens our
prisoners of war. Second World War. Prisoners of the Japanese
Over 22,000 Australians became
prisoners of war of the Japanese in south-east Asia . The wave of
Japanese victories ending with the capture of the Netherlands East
Indies in March 1942 left in its wake a mass of Allied prisoners of war,
including many Australians. Most of the Australians (14,972) were
captured in Singapore ; other principal Australian prisoner-of-war
groups were captured in Java (2,736); Timor (1,137); Ambon (1,075); and
New Britain (1,049).
At the end of the war Australian
prisoners of war were widely distributed: 5,549 on Singapore Island and
in Johore (Malaya); 4,830 in Burma and Thailand; 265 in French-Indo
China; 385 on Java; 243 on Sumatra; 100 on Ambon; 2 on Macassar; 7 on
Bali; 150 at Kuching (British North Borneo); 2,700 distributed between
Japan, Korea, and Manchuria; and 200 on Hainan Island.
when various prisoner-of-war forces left Changi Singapore , and their
||Date departure from Changi
15 May 1942
8 July 1942
28 Nov 1942
14-18 March 1942
29 May 1943
26 April 1943
16 May 1943
23 August 1943
Senior Officers’ Party
16 August 1942
Japan via Formosa and Korea
Senior Working Party
16 August 1942
Takeo (Formosa) and Seoul (Korea)
|AIF units were split up
between various forces and work parties. The prisoners of war reading
list contains battalion unit histories which cover this topic.