The day after Pearl Harbor, a big Japanese pressure descended on the British army at Singapore and gave Britain its most humiliating defeat.
By Mark Simmons
On Saturday, December 6, 1941, a Royal Australian Air Pressure Lockheed Hudson bomber on a reconnaissance mission from Khota Bahru on the west coast of Malaya was flying northwest over the China Sea towards the Gulf of Thailand.
At 12:12 pm, close to the restrict of its vary, the Hudson’s crew noticed a Japanese cruiser and three transports steaming in the identical course. Half an hour later a greater convoy of 18 transports with cruisers and destroyers was noticed south of the primary sighting.
Flight Lieutenant John C. Ramshaw took his plane down for a better look. The Japanese didn’t open hearth. The Hudson signaled the sighting again to Khota Bahru.
The reviews of the sightings, and that of a second Hudson confirming these of the primary, couldn’t have come at a greater time for the Commander in Chief Far East, Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham. He had been appointed to the command in 1940. His cost was to keep away from struggle with Japan, if potential.
The Japanese plan to seize Malaya and Singapore was based mostly on Japan’s want to forestall any danger to shipments of important oil provides from the Netherlands East Indies when, as anticipated, these islands have been seized.
The Japanese additionally needed to dent British status by capturing Singapore—the naval and business image of Britain’s empire within the Far East. The 25th Imperial Japanese Military, underneath Basic Tomoyuki Yamashita, was given 5 months to take Singapore and Malaya. He had three divisions underneath his command: the fifth (Lt. Gen. Takuro Matsui), the 18th (Lt. Gen. Renya Mutaguchi), and the Imperial Guards (Lt. Gen. Takuma Nishimura), for a complete of 62,000 males, with 183 weapons and 228 tanks.
The third Air Division was hooked up to 25th Military with 168 fighter plane, 180 bombers, and 45 reconnaissance plane. The Southern Expeditionary Fleet, with the 22nd Air Flotilla and 158 plane, was to guard the convoys.
The plan belonged to the Imperial Navy underneath Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, however the Military and Navy had bitterly argued technique, with the Military feeling no transfer south must be made till China had been conquered.
The Navy needed the Dutch oilfields and the approval of the emperor for its plan. The primary process was to seize Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, to safe Japanese strains of communication to Burma and Malaya.
British technique within the area was based mostly on political issues fairly than sound army considering. The Military was in Malaya to guard the air bases. The Air Pressure was there to guard the naval base on Singapore Island. In occasions of hazard, so the idea went, the Royal Navy would offer the facility to discourage any invasion; they could possibly be there in pressure in 48 days.
Moreover, the British had not even thought-about the potential for a land assault from the thick jungles to the north; their 15-inch coastal protection weapons at Singapore identified to sea; they might not be rotated to fireside at a menace from the north. In 1940, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill had gone as far as to smugly declare that any try by Japan to seize Singapore can be “a mad enterprise.”
Definitely, by the center of 1940 British intelligence was properly conscious of Japan’s army planning by means of its alerts intelligence (Sigint) based mostly on intercepts of Japanese telegraphic messages. Commander Eric Nave from the Royal Australian Navy’s cryptographic unit, and Hugh Foss, a Scot, have been the 2 males principally chargeable for breaking Japanese naval codes within the prewar years.
Japanese intelligence was additionally conscious of the poor state of Singapore’s defenses by way of spies on the bottom. In 1940, the Japanese had acquired paperwork captured by the Germans from the British cargo ship Automedon, which contained secret British stories and was captured and sunk by the German floor raider Atlantis. One of many captured studies included the minutes of the British Warfare Cupboard assembly of August 15, 1940. It outlined the Far East coverage, together with the protection of Malaya, and revealed Hong Kong and Borneo to be indefensible whereas Singapore couldn’t be strengthened. Nor would Britain go to conflict if Japan attacked Thailand.
Nevertheless, by 1941, the Royal Navy was closely engaged within the Atlantic and Mediterranean and had few assets to spare within the occasion of Japanese aggression in or close to Malaya. In 1941, the Admiralty did, nevertheless, work on a plan to create Britain’s third fleet—the “Japanese Fleet.” It was to include seven battleships, one plane service, and quite a few cruisers and destroyers. Nevertheless, the capital ships chosen have been previous or sluggish, together with the previous battlecruisers Renown and Repulse and the battleships Nelson and Rodney, together with different well-worn ships.
Time was towards the Royal Navy; most of the ships wanted refitting and the newest radar gear put in. The most important disadvantage was that destroyers weren’t out there, being absolutely dedicated within the House and Mediterranean Fleets or for convoy work. Implementation of the plan was postponed to an optimistic March 1942.
After turning into prime minister, Winston Churchill had made his view clear to the First Sea Lord that a robust drive must be despatched to the Indian Ocean. “Probably the most economical disposition can be to ship Duke of York as quickly as she is obvious of constructional defects, by way of Trinidad and Simonstown to the East. She could possibly be joined by Repulse or Renown and one plane service of excessive velocity. This highly effective drive may present itself within the triangle Aden-Singapore-Simonstown. It will exert a paralysing impact upon Japanese Naval motion.”
It was the brand new battleship Prince of Wales (commissioned January 1941) that lastly sailed for Cape City. Later she joined the ageing battlecruiser Repulse at Ceylon; each ships arrived at Singapore on November 11, 1941. It was deliberate that the brand new plane service HMS Indomitable, working within the West Indies, would be a part of the small fleet.
Nevertheless, on November three, Indomitable ran aground on a reef off Bermuda and broken her hull; she was ordered to Norfolk, Virginia, for repairs. The U.S. Navy dockyard labored quick, and she or he was away in 12 days. However it was all too late by the point she reached the Indian Ocean; the destiny of Prince of Wales and Repulse, designated Pressure Z, was settled. The 2 warships have been sunk by Japanese plane on December 10.
The Royal Air Pressure had 158 plane, a few of which have been out of date, to defend Singapore and Malaya. It had been estimated that some 550 first-line plane have been wanted for an sufficient protection. The Military had III Corps consisting of the 11th and ninth Indian Divisions and the eighth Australian Division with the Singapore Fortress troops and a reserve brigade, for a complete of 88,600 males.
The British had deliberate a preemptive strike, Operation Matador, to satisfy the Japanese head-on in southern Thailand. It was an excellent idea. A 24-hour warning of a Japanese touchdown was all it required for to be efficient. Brooke-Popham had the warning, and he was additionally free now from asking permission from the Conflict Cupboard to order Matador.
On December 1, Britain obtained a pledge of American help within the occasion of warfare with Japan. Nevertheless, it was conditional on a Japanese assault on British territory. “They’ve made you personally answerable for declaring struggle on Japan,” noticed Brooke-Popham’s chief of employees, Basic Ian S.O. Playfair.
Matador’s plans included the occupation of Singora and Patani in Thailand. Nevertheless, on account of troop shortages, this was not potential. The operation was revised with the primary drive, the 11th Indian Division based mostly in Kedah, shifting so far as Singora, 130 miles north of the Malayan border.
A smaller drive from the Penang garrison would drive alongside the Patani Street from the border city of Krah. Its goal was the Ledge, 35 miles on the Thai aspect of the frontier. The street right here was reduce into the sheer aspect of a hill and will simply be blocked. The plan envisioned the Japanese being resisted at Singora, allowed to land at Patani, after which boxed in at Krah.
There have been a number of seashores in japanese Malaya that the Japanese might use for amphibious landings. The 4 almost definitely have been Khota Bahru, defended by eighth Indian Brigade, Kuantan, Endau, and Mersing a lot farther south and defended by the Australians.
At the moment of the yr, the northeast monsoon might whip up the seas, however even in these circumstances landings have been potential; solely probably the most extreme climate would cease the Japanese. Fastened defenses had been constructed at Jitra, inland close to the Thai border, to defend the airfields however not the border itself. Even these have been incomplete.
On December 6, Common Arthur Percival, commander of Commonwealth forces in Malaya, flew north to clear up some issues relating to Operation Matador with Basic Sir Lewis Heath, commander of III Indian Corps, who was not in favor of the operation. That night Percival returned to Singapore to seek out that Brooke-Popham had not activated Matador. Even with every thing pointing to a Japanese invasion, the commander in chief couldn’t make up his thoughts.
On the afternoon of December 6, a Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boat did not find the enemy fleet. One other Catalina discovered the Japanese convoy 80 miles south of Cape Cambodia crusing west towards Thailand. The Catalina was shot down by the convoy’s air cowl earlier than it might report the sighting, and Hudson bombers failed to seek out the convoy on account of poor visibility. Thirty essential hours had handed because the first sightings; Matador waited.
At 5:50 pm, one other Hudson noticed the convoy and was shot at however despatched a radio sign. The convoy was 70 miles north of Singora, steaming south towards Patani and Khota Bahru.
Brooke-Popham nonetheless dithered. He met Percival at 9 pm on the sixth within the Struggle Room on the naval base on Singapore Island. At 10:30 pm, Admiral Sir Tom Phillips, commander of Pressure Z, joined them. Finally a choice was made. Matador can be activated at daybreak on December eight. That may, nevertheless, be too late.
Shortly after midnight on Sunday, December 7, Mutaguchi’s 18th Division started touchdown at Khota Bahru (the place the three/17 Dogra Regiment was defending the seashores); the third Air Division started bombing and strafing the airfield a mile and a half inland. A couple of hours later the Japanese had 26,000 males ashore. In the meantime, the fifth Division landed in Thailand at Singora and Patani.
At daybreak on December 7, the Indian troops at Posts 13 and 14 of the three/17 Dogra Regiment reported they have been about to be overrun as Japanese touchdown craft continued to disgorge their troops. British 18-pounder weapons opened hearth, and Japanese warships replied. Many within the first wave of assaulting troops have been minimize down by machine-gun hearth. A few of the touchdown craft got here into the creek between the Bandang and Sabak seashores and attacked the defenders from the rear. By 1 pm, after savage hand-to-hand preventing, the seashores have been cleared by the Japanese troops.
The Australian Hudsons from Khota Bahru airfield attacked the Japanese transports off the seashores with some success. One burst into flames after being bombed and was deserted; one other was broken. Japanese troopers leaped over the edges of the stricken ships or scrambled into touchdown craft as Hudsons bombed and strafed them. Two Hudsons have been shot down by antiaircraft hearth.
Basic Heath might hardly consider his state of affairs. His III Indian Corps must stand-to all night time awaiting the order to maneuver into Thailand. Shortly after midnight on December eight, he telephoned Singapore, rousing Percival from his mattress with the information the Japanese have been ashore at Khota Bahru.
Admiral Phillips had not returned from Manila, the place he had held talks with American Admiral Thomas C. Hart about joint motion with the U.S. Asiatic Fleet. On the Conflict Room assembly he recommended he might take his ships to sea and head north, reasoning that if an invasion was beneath approach he may have the ability to cease it earlier than the Japanese gained a foothold.
He put his plan to these on the assembly and requested for land-based fighter cowl. Air Vice Marshal Conway Pulford indicated the restrictions of his fighter pilots and lack of coaching within the naval help position, though they might attempt to help Drive Z. The assembly was damaged up by an air raid warning. At four:30 am, Japanese bombers hit Singapore.
Phillips signaled the Admiralty at 6 am on December eight and advised them he was taking Drive Z to sea towards Khota Bahru: “I fee the probabilities of getting there no greater than 50-50, however I’m positive it’s the one means during which to halt the invasion and, if it may be halted, they need to discover it unattainable to start out once more. Shock is completely important however it’s simply potential on this thick monsoon climate, given even a mean quantity of luck. However, if we’re noticed, which is sure to occur eventually, we will be attacked.”
Finally Percival knowledgeable Basic Heath at his Kuala Lumpur headquarters that the Japanese have been already in Singora and Patani and informed him to ship a cellular pressure throughout the border to delay the enemy advance. Then, at 10 am a message arrived at Heath’s headquarters, canceling Matador. After the warfare, Heath wrote, “I discover it unattainable to excuse Basic Percival for allowing Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham to not arrive at a choice on 7 December when every thing pointed to the knowledge of Japan initiating the conflict in Malaya.”
It was a horrible mix-up that solely benefitted the Japanese. Seventy minutes earlier than the plane of the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor, troops of Common Yamashita’s 25th Military have been pouring ashore on the seashores at Khota Bahru.
All via December eight, about 150 plane of the seventh Japanese Air Brigade flying initially from southern Indochina attacked the seven RAF airfields in northern Malaya. Pulford had began the day with 110 plane at these bases. By the top he had half that quantity—40 had been destroyed and 20 broken—forcing him to withdraw the remaining plane south. The Japanese had gained air superiority in a single day.
Singora and Patani quickly fell to the Japanese fifth Division, which brushed apart token resistance from the Thai Military. The Japanese quickly had 60 plane working from Singora airfield and over 100 farther north at Bangkok.
Brigadier Berthold Key, commander of eighth Brigade of the Indian ninth Division, ordered two of his battalions to counterattack the Japanese on the seashores at Khota Bahru. Nevertheless, the assault shortly broke down in a heavy monsoon downpour, and Key’s males did not cease Japanese makes an attempt to take the airfield. Though Pulford had ordered the plane despatched farther south to Kuantan, about midnight the airfield fell after determined resistance by the Indian troops.
At 7 pm, Japanese ships have been again on the seashores touchdown extra troops. Key had no choice however to withdraw to Khota Bahru city. Within the deluge, his troops struggled to retreat with many getting misplaced, whereas others didn’t obtain the order and remained of their trenches to be worn out.
Brooke-Popham’s hesitation had already severely weakened the ninth and 11th Indian Divisions and the RAF. Pulford’s air drive was now largely tasked with the protection of the naval base at Singapore and the safety of convoys bringing provides and reinforcements.
This highlighted the flawed technique the British had adopted. The Military had been deployed to guard the airfields, and half of Percival’s infantry battalions in northern Malaya have been dedicated to this position. As an alternative, they need to have been dug in alongside the primary routes south with robust cellular forces in help. With well-trained troops and enough transport, it may need been potential to switch troops as wanted, however this may show extraordinarily troublesome.
At 5:10 pm on December eight, the Australian destroyer Vampire led Pressure Z away from Singapore. She was adopted by the destroyer Tenedos, then Repulse and Prince of Wales and two extra destroyers, Electra and Categorical. It was a high quality night and, because the ships moved down the Johore Strait, spectators lined the shore to wave them off. The onlookers should have been heartened on the sight.
Some on board the ships weren’t so assured. Seaman W.S. Searle of Prince of Wales wrote, “We had left Singapore in superb climate however I had this premonition that the Prince of Wales would by no means return to Singapore or some other port. I had this sense that this was the top so far as the ship was involved.” He was proper.
Admiral Phillips was as involved as Seaman Searle as messages got here in from Rear Admiral Arthur Palliser in Singapore. The RAF would offer reconnaissance from eight am on December 9, however solely with one Catalina as much as a variety of 100 miles northwestward. Even worse, “Fighter safety on Wednesday 10th won’t, repeat, not be attainable.” And, “Japanese have giant bomber forces based mostly southern Indo-China and probably in Thailand,” and that the army state of affairs at Khota Bahru “doesn’t appear good.”
Nevertheless, the RAF had not deserted the Navy altogether, though closely engaged within the land preventing in northern Malaya. Quantity 453 Australian Squadron with Brewster Buffalo fighters at Sembawong airfield on Singapore Island have been tasked to help Drive Z.
At 1:30 pm on December 9, Drive Z was noticed by the Japanese submarine I-65. The submarine managed to remain in visible contact till three:50, when the ships entered a squall and call was misplaced. The submarine regained contact about 6 pm however an approaching plane pressured it to dive. Once I-65 surfaced there was no signal of the ships. There had been a two-hour delay from the primary sighting and the receiving of the alerts from I-65.
The Japanese Navy was satisfied the British ships have been nonetheless in Singapore, so it got here as a shock to seek out them heading towards Khota Bahru. Vice Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa aboard the cruiser Chokai was about 120 miles from the reported place of the British ships and ordered all Japanese warships within the space to seek for the British within the remaining hours of daylight. A number of of Ozawa’s cruisers launched their seaplanes to assist the search.
About an hour earlier than nightfall, Prince of Wales’ radar picked up three plane—seaplanes from the Japanese cruisers. They stored out of antiaircraft vary and plotted the course and velocity of Drive Z, relaying this info to Admiral Ozawa.
By eight:15, Admiral Phillips knew Pressure Z had been sighted. At eight:55, Prince of Wales signaled Repulse: “Have most regretfully cancelled the operation as a result of, having been situated by plane, shock was misplaced and our goal can be virtually sure to be passed by the morning and the enemy absolutely ready for us.”
Drive Z was returning to Singapore. Nevertheless, simply earlier than midnight, Admiral Palliser signalled: “Enemy reported touchdown Kuantan. Latitude zero.350 north.”
Phillips was properly conscious that if the Japanese seized the street operating inland from Kuantan, Malaya can be minimize in two. He turned his ships towards Kuanton and elevated velocity to 25 knots. He was eager to catch the enemy abruptly, so he didn’t break radio silence to tell Singapore of his change of plan, feeling this may reveal his place to the enemy.
Phillips appears to have assumed Palliser would organize air cowl for the morning of the 10th; No. 453 Squadron was on standby to help Drive Z. Nevertheless, nothing was carried out, the Kuanton report was a false alarm, and RAF HQ at Singapore had no concept the place Pressure Z was.
The Japanese submarine I-58 noticed the British ships about midnight on a southerly course and shadowed on the floor, sending a number of alerts after first making an attempt an unsuccessful torpedo assault.
The place of Pressure Z was relayed to the Japanese 22nd Air Flotilla in French Indochina; on December 9 it had tried to seek out the British ships with out success. At 6 am on the 10th the Japanese launched 30 bombers and 50 torpedo bombers. They flew south 150 miles past Kuanton, virtually so far as Singapore, however noticed nothing. Nevertheless, on the return a break within the clouds revealed the British ships. The high-level bombers got here in first at about 11 am, adopted by the torpedo bombers.
The British ships had noticed the Japanese plane on radar. Within the very first assault, Repulse and Prince of Wales have been hit by bombs, after which a torpedo hit the flagship.
Captain Invoice Tennant of Repulse reported after the motion, “The second assault was shared by Prince of Wales and was made by torpedo-bomber plane. I’m not ready to say what number of machines took half on this assault however, on conclusion, I’ve the impression that we had succeeded in combing the tracks of numerous torpedoes, probably as many as twelve.
“We have been steaming at 25 knots on the time. I maintained a gentle course till the plane appeared dedicated to the assault, when the wheel was put over and the assaults providentially combed. I want to document the precious work completed by all bridge personnel right now in calmly mentioning approaching torpedo-bombing plane which largely contributed to our luck in dodging all these torpedoes.”
Repulse tried to assist Prince of Wales, however Repulse was hit once more by a bomb, then 4 extra torpedoes hit Prince of Wales. Having dodged 19 torpedoes, Repulse was struck 5 occasions; she rolled over at 12:33.
Sergeant H.A. Nunn of the Royal Marines aboard Repulse recalled, “It was time for me to go over the aspect, so I kicked off my footwear and climbed over the guardrail. It was potential to stroll partway down the ship’s aspect, however I needed to end the remainder of the journey on my seat, whatever the rips and tears to my individual and clothes. I had my lifebelt with me however I had no qualms about going into the water, as I used to be a robust swimmer.
“I didn’t even consider the likelihood that there could also be sharks within the neighborhood. My solely concern was to attempt to get away from the ship and the oily patch that was starting to unfold out over the floor of the water.”
From Repulse, 796 males out of a complement of 1,309, together with Captain Tennant and Sergeant Nunn, have been rescued. The destroyer Categorical got here in to take males off the stricken Prince of Wales.
Lieutenant W.M. Graham remembers surviving as Prince of Wales keeled over. “I used to be capable of muster most of my close-range gun crews over on the starboard aspect and keep in mind fairly clearly strolling over the bilge keel, retaining tempo with the roll, and considering how clear the ship’s backside appeared as I swam away. The final time I had seen the underside of the Prince of Wales was once I noticed her being launched at Cammell Laird’s yard at Birkenhead [Liverpool] in 1939.”
The Buffaloes of No. 453 Squadron arrived simply in time to see Prince of Wales go down. Flight Lieutenant Tom Vigors recalled seeing the survivors within the oily water waving to him. “I [saw] many males in dire hazard waving, cheering, and joking as in the event that they have been holidaymakers at Brighton waving at a low-flying plane. It shook me, for right here was one thing above human nature. I take off my hat to them, for in them I noticed the spirit that wins wars.”
Winston Churchill said, “In my entire expertise, I don’t keep in mind any naval blow so heavy or so painful because the sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse.”
The lack of the British warships was an enormous increase to Japanese status, bolstering the parable of their invincibility. In Berlin, Adolf Hitler was jubilant on the information after which made the deadly mistake of declaring struggle on the USA.
In Malaya, the British Military was now largely by itself. On December eight, Basic Matsui’s fifth Division had began shifting south from Singora and Patani, hoping to cross the Perak River. The British Operation Krohcol was designed to foil this transfer. Nevertheless, the British wanted to win the race to the Ledge—the street reduce into the hillside above the Patani River.
Main Basic David Murray-Lyon’s pressure, assigned this position, obtained off to a nasty begin and didn’t arrive initially line on December eight. Nevertheless, the three/16 Punjabis have been there and began ahead into Thailand on their very own with out artillery help. They quickly bumped into hassle with the Thais, who had been advised to defend the nation towards the British within the hope of not scary the Japanese. Thus, the Thai police have been manning roadblocks, unaware the Japanese had invaded, and delayed the British advance.
The subsequent day the Punjabis acquired inside six miles of the Ledge however quickly got here beneath hearth from the Japanese 42nd Regiment, supported by tanks, which had crushed them there. The three/16 was pressured to withdraw and suffered heavy casualties.
One other British pressure, this time mechanized and with artillery, superior into Thailand from Kedah alongside the Singora-Jitra Street and ran right into a Japanese column. The British gunners introduced the column to a halt, however Japanese infantry swarmed into the jungle and shortly outflanked the place, forcing again the British, who then destroyed bridges as they rejoined the 11th Indian Division at Jitra.
The Jitra line was not robust or based mostly on pure options, and Murray-Lyon unfold his forces too thinly over a 12-mile entrance from Jitra to the ocean as an alternative of concentrating on the 2 principal roads main into Jitra from the north.
The Japanese had captured a map displaying the British defenses at Jitra. Their assault was reckless however the tanks carried them by way of the poorly ready strains. In 15 hours, the Japanese broke via and three,000 Indian troops surrendered. Big quantities of kit have been captured—sufficient ammunition and meals to maintain the Japanese going for months. The Japanese poured into northern Malaya alongside good roads, the infantry rushing alongside on bicycles. On the east coast, the 18th Division took Khota Bahru.
Murray-Lyon’s request to withdraw 30 miles south to Gurum was refused. Nevertheless, he repeated the request because the Japanese advance from Kroh threatened to chop him off. On December 13, his drained, rain-soaked, and largely confused males trudged south. At Gurum, the sixth Brigade headquarters was destroyed and the 11th Indian Division was in peril of collapse. They withdrew past the Muda River, dropping males continually. By December 20, they have been farther south, close to Taipang, leaving Penang uncovered. The British lacked air cowl. The outdated Buffaloes have been no match for the Japanese Zero fighters.
From Brigadier Archie Paris’s reserve 12th Brigade, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders have been pushed ahead to Bailing on the primary street from Kroh with three corporations, whereas C Firm with armored automobiles went to Grik in case the Japanese used that mountain monitor. The Argylls have been one of many few British infantry models that, because of their commanding officer, Lt. Col. Ian Stewart, had undergone rigorous jungle coaching. Many desk-bound troopers thought Stewart, who stored his troopers “square-bashing,” was “barking mad.”
Stewart created fast-moving Tiger Patrols designed to encircle enemy troops and drive them into roadblocks of artillery, mortars, and armored automobiles. Now he was about to place his techniques to the check.
Within the first conflict, the Japanese misplaced closely. Nevertheless, weight of numbers pressured the Argylls again. Firm C managed to carry again the 42nd Japanese Infantry Regiment for a time however needed to fall again to Sumpitan, conducting a preventing withdrawal down 150 miles of the Grik Street.
With the 5/2 Punjabis, the Argylls fought at Sumpitan, Lenggong, and Kota Tampan. Captain Kenneth McLeod paid tribute to the help offered by the two/three Australian Motor Transport Firm. “They have been all the time on the ready factors able to take our troops. Each once in a while, they might seize a rifle and have a shot on the enemy. They have been nice chaps.”
Lieutenant Basic Sir Henry Pownall reached Singapore on December 23 to take over command from Brooke-Popham and wasted no time in touring the battlefields on the western entrance. He hoped to carry the Japanese at Kampar, a hill place that gave scope for artillery, an arm during which the British have been superior. He wrote, “The 11th Division have had a reasonably good shaking up. They have been thrown on to the mistaken leg and took a while, certainly too lengthy, to recuperate. Heath is, I feel, all proper. He has aged so much since I knew him in India. He’s not ‘full of fireside,’ however he does know what’s to be carried out to tug the troops round.”
Pownall was not overly impressed by Percival and confided to his diary that he hoped he wouldn’t have to alleviate Percival, whom he discovered missing in inspiration and “gloomy.”
The mixed remnants of the sixth and 15th Brigades have been to dig in at Kampar, whereas the 12th and 28th Brigades fought delaying actions to the north. Eleventh Division commander Murray-Lyon and all three of his brigade commanders had been changed. On the night time of December 27-28, Archibald Paris, Murray-Lyon’s momentary alternative, despatched his personal 12th Brigade south of Ipoh.
The 28th Brigade was to hitch the defenders at Kampar whereas the 12th Brigade delayed the Japanese strategy, then withdraw via Kampar to Bidor. They have been largely ineffective at delaying the Japanese; the Argyll’s armored automobiles got here to their help by holding the bridge over the Kampar River and permitting them to move. By the point 12th Brigade reached the reserve place, it was shattered, dropping 500 males and most of its automobiles.
The British commanders have been properly conscious that reinforcements—the 18th British Division and 50 Hurricane fighters and pilots—have been on their approach. It was very important to carry the Japanese as far north as attainable to maintain their plane away from Singapore; however the convoy was not anticipated to reach till January 13-15.
On December 31, the Japanese began probing the positions at Kampar. The subsequent day, the primary assault got here, with bitter preventing lasting 48 hours. Then the sixth and 15th Brigades began to tug again. Nevertheless, it was not the assault at Kampar that pressured this withdrawal; the Japanese had outflanked the place by sea. In an armada of small boats that they had used the Perak River by way of Telok Anson.
When information of the touchdown reached Brigadier Paris, he despatched the weakened 12th Brigade from Bidor to stall the enemy. The Argylls and 19th Hyderabad Regiment initially held the Japanese 4th Guards at Telok Anson. The preventing was fierce, and the Argylls bore the brunt of the assault. The 12th Brigade couldn’t maintain the street south open, so the great place at Kampar was misplaced and the 11th Division withdrew to an inferior one on the Slim River.
The 12th Brigade took up positions on a stretch of street between Songkau and Trolak, with the 28th Brigade masking the road eastward alongside the street to the Slim River Bridge. Most battalions have been right down to firm power and lacked antitank defenses, and the nation didn’t favor subject artillery.
On January 5, the Japanese attacked down the railway line after 12th Brigade had been closely bombed. They have been initially thrown again however got here ahead the subsequent day by way of the railway and street with tank help. The bridge over the Slim River ought to have been blown however was taken intact.
The thrust got here to a halt with the Japanese penetrating 19 miles into the 11th Division’s space. With the lack of this battle, central Malaya was gone and with it the most important metropolis, Kuala Lumpur.
Australian Maj. Gen. Henry Gordon-Bennett turned extra concerned within the battle after the choice was made to make an in depth withdrawal into Johore. Giving up the provinces of Negri Sembilon, Selanger, and Malacca, this is able to imply preventing in open nation the place Japanese armor can be much more helpful. Nevertheless, Gordon-Bennett felt he had a superb probability to carry the Japanese, though he had not been impressed by the show of British management up to now. The choice was taken to face at Muar, the place there have been no bridges over the Muar River’s decrease reaches.
On December 30, Basic Archibald Wavell was appointed Supreme Commander, South West Pacific. On January 7 he arrived in Singapore then flew north to evaluation the state of affairs. He quickly confirmed Percival’s opinion that the decisive battle must be fought in northwest Johore utilizing the Australians and 45th Indian Brigade. It was hoped this is able to give time for the 18th British Division to reach and for the ninth and 11th Divisions to relaxation and reorganize.
Wavell was impressed with Gordon-Bennett even when the Australian was dismissive of the Indian soldier’s lack of preventing qualities. His rivalry that “one Australian is value 10 Japanese” was largely bluster. Nevertheless, Wavell was properly conscious of the preventing spirit of Australian troops and he felt Gordon-Bennett was the aggressive commander wanted. He knowledgeable London that Gordon-Bennett would “conduct very lively defence and can hopefully be capable of delay enemy until assortment of reserves allows us to ship counter-stroke which won’t be earlier than the center of February.”
On January 13, the 53rd Brigade of 18th British Division disembarked in Singapore with 50 Hurricane fighters however solely 25 pilots.
In the meantime, Yamashita was resting his fifth Division at Seremban, 30 miles south of Kuala Lumpur, whereas the Imperial Guards concentrated in Malacca. By this time the rest of Mutaguchi’s 18th Division had landed at Singora. On January 14, the Japanese moved towards the Australians of Gordon-Bennett’s Westforce.
At Gemas, the Japanese have been allowed to cross the river by way of a bridge, nevertheless it was then blown behind them. They met the two/30 Australian Battalion and a subject artillery battery, which minimize the Japanese to items. The renewed assault the subsequent day was repulsed, however strain elevated and the Australians withdrew that night time.
On the west coast, the Japanese landed by sea behind the British place at Muar, then reduce the Muar-Bakri Street behind the British 45th Brigade. The street to Yong Peng was open, threatening the Australians within the middle. Gordon-Bennett despatched the two/29 Battalion to strengthen Muar.
Whereas the newly arrived 53rd Brigade (which had been on ships for 3 months) relieved an Australian battalion on the east coast, Percival was satisfied he now confronted 5 Japanese divisions and flung the 53rd into the battle earlier than it was acclimated.
Extra Japanese landings have been made between Muar and Batu Pahat. The British 45th Brigade was ordered to recapture Muar to permit the Australians within the middle to withdraw south from Segamat earlier than turning into trapped. The counterattack quickly broke down, the brigade having to battle its approach again by means of Japanese roadblocks.
Lastly, the 45th, with the two/29 Australians, took to the jungle, abandoning automobiles and weapons. Out of four,000 males, fewer than 1,000 made it again; the Japanese massacred the wounded. Nevertheless, their sacrifice had held up the Imperial Guards, permitting Westforce to flee south.
The subsequent protection line was 90 miles south, crossing Malaya from Batu Pahat by way of Kluang to Mersing on the east coast. This was III Corps’ space, and Lt. Gen. Heath took command. Percival ordered no retreat with out his permission. Nevertheless, it was the identical story because the Japanese moved by sea. At Batu Pahat, the 6/15 Brigade was withdrawn after dropping half its power, 2,700 males escaping the encompassing Japanese by sea. This compelled Westforce at Kluang to tug again.
Thanks to 2 Australian battalions, in six days of preventing ending on January 22, Muar Drive managed to destroy an organization of Japanese tanks and the equal of a battalion of Imperial Guards.
Common Yamashita was now operating not on time. He wrote in his diary that Nishimura, commander of the Guards Division and Matsui of the 15th Division, had disobeyed his orders and delayed the advance.
Within the east, the Australians repeated their ambush method close to Hersung, luring the Japanese right into a “firebox” of rifle corporations and subject weapons and wiping out a Japanese drive. However such actions didn’t reverse the development of withdrawal.
On January 30, Wavell approved Percival to withdraw to Singapore Island. The Japanese managed to slide between the retreating brigades of the ninth Indian Division and, throughout this final interval of the mainland marketing campaign, the 45th and 22nd Indian Brigades suffered so many causalities they not existed. The III Corps arrived at Singapore Island with a number of thousand males lacking.
On January 22, the 44th Indian Brigade arrived with 7,000 uncooked, untrained males. Two days later, 1,900 Australians arrived in an identical state, however with them was the two/four Australian Machine Gun Battalion—a welcome reinforcement. Every week later the majority of the 18th British Division arrived; the 54th and 55th Brigades got here ashore from American transport ships.
Sadly, the Empress of Asia, carrying 2,235 members of 18th British Division, together with the Reconnaissance Battalion, ninth Northumberland Fusiliers, 125th Anti-Tank Regiment, and different parts, was bombed and sunk on February 5, virtually close by of Singapore. A lot of the crew and virtually all of the troopers have been rescued, however all of the gear was misplaced.
The Australians crossed the Causeway at daybreak on January 31, nevertheless it was the Argylls that have been the final unit to cross—with their pipers enjoying “Hielan Laddie.”
Main John Wyett requested Lt. Col. Ian Stewart why he did that. “You recognize, Wyett,” Stewart stated, “the difficulty with you Australians is that you haven’t any sense of historical past. When the story of the Argylls is written, you will see that they go down in historical past because the final unit to cross the Causeway—piped throughout by their pipers.”
The inhabitants of Singapore had swollen to just about one million. To defend it, Percival had 85,000 males—17 Indian battalions, 13 British, six Australian, and two Malay. However numbers are deceptive; many models had been battered within the mainland marketing campaign whereas others have been uncooked from the convoys. A few of these had by no means even fired a rifle earlier than.
Percival divided the island into 4 sectors: the Metropolis held by the Malaya Brigade and Fortress troops; the Northern space, together with the naval base, held by III Corps, strengthened by 18th Division; and the Western space held by the eighth Australian Division; the 12th Indian Brigade shaped the reserve and held the water reservoirs.
Percival had parceled out his males to cowl all potential shore landings, a recipe for failure. He believed the Japanese would assault east of the Causeway. His important concern was holding the naval base, however that was close to ineffective now. Wavell had advised Percival that, in his opinion, the Japanese would assault within the northwest alongside the route of their primary axis of advance down the west coast of Malaya. To maneuver their complete drive from west to east to cross at a wider spot made no sense to anybody besides Percival.
Though the state of affairs seemed grim, most of the British refused to concede. On January 29, 1942, 210 Royal Marine survivors from Prince of Wales and Repulse, beneath Royal Marine Captain Bob Lang, joined 250 males of Main Angus Rose’s 2nd Argylls to hold out operations utilizing boats to strike from the ocean 140 miles behind Japanese strains. As each detachments have been from the Marine Plymouth Division, the composite unit, formally referred to as the Marine Argyll Battalion, turned generally known as the Plymouth Argylls after the English soccer membership of that identify. Roseforce, as they have been additionally recognized, set ambushes, destroyed automobiles, and killed two senior Japanese employees officers of their automobiles.
On February 6, Yamashita issued his assault orders to his senior commanders. The assault on Singapore would start at eight:30 pm, February eight. The fifth and 18th Divisions would land on the west coast, their first goal Tengah airfield. Within the second part, the Imperial Guards would assault the Causeway sector after which isolate British forces within the naval base. Subsequent can be the water reservoirs. When these have been taken, Yamashita calculated the British would give up.
Nishimura was not comfortable that his Guards have been relegated to the second part, which he seen as an insult. Yamashita’s chief of employees, Basic Sosaku Suzuki, tried to clean issues over between the 2 males however failed.
Churchill anticipated a battle within the streets and advised Wavell, “I anticipate each inch of floor to be defended … and no query of give up to be entertained till after protracted preventing among the many ruins of Singapore Metropolis.”
On the night time of February eight, Japanese artillery opened hearth with 440 weapons utilizing 200 rounds per gun all alongside the Johore Strait. At eight:45 pm, the primary wave of four,000 Japanese troops crossed the Johore Strait and gained a foothold on Singapore’s northwestern shore. In the meantime, the Imperial Guards had been demonstrating in east Jahore, feigning an assault from the northeast. Over the subsequent hour, the entire entrance from the Buloh River to the righthand firm of the two/19 Battalion was underneath assault. The Vickers machine weapons reduce up the invaders, however nonetheless they got here on, closing in on the two/19’s weapon pits. The lads there held out for less than 15 minutes earlier than being overrun.
Because the exhausted Australian defenders withdrew, the Plymouth Argylls have been ordered on the morning of February 9 to advance northward up the Bukit Timah Street then westward alongside the Choa Chu Kang Street towards Tengah airfield.
Shortly after arriving, the Royal Marines got here beneath air assault, and a few sections turned misplaced within the unfamiliar terrain. Two extra days of preventing adopted because the Plymouth Argylls engaged the Japanese between Tengah and the dairy farm that lay east of the Higher Bukit Timah Street. A lot of the Argylls have been minimize off when the Japanese introduced their tanks down the street and smashed via two roadblocks.
The primary physique of Royal Marines escaped throughout the dairy farm and down the “Pipeline” to the golf course. No sooner had they arrived at Tyersall Park than the camp and the neighboring Indian army hospital have been destroyed in an air assault. Within the confusion that adopted and subsequent shelling and mortaring, there was an extra dispersal of males, together with the wounded.
By late morning on the ninth, each Japanese divisions have been ashore together with their artillery. The 44th Indian Brigade held on, however the 22nd Australian Brigade, which bore the brunt of the assault, was wrecked. Though strengthened by the sixth and 15th Brigades, the Australians have been cut up up by the enemy’s infiltration techniques. That night time, Yamashita arrange his headquarters in a rubber plantation simply north of Tengah airfield.
The subsequent morning, Percival nonetheless discovered it onerous to consider that no assault would come within the northeast, so he left all of the formations there intact however moved the 12th Indian Brigade to the Bukit Panjang space. This brigade now consisted of the 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (aka the Plymouth Argylls) and 400 males of the four/19 Hyderabads.
On the night of February 9, the Imperial Guards got here throughout the strait close to the Causeway. The Japanese needed to take Singapore by Kigensetsu Day, February 11, the founding day of the Japanese Empire. By daybreak on the 11th, that they had taken Bukit Timah.
To hasten the British capitulation, a message was dropped by air urging Percival to give up; he ignored it.
The defenders on the metropolis’s water reservoirs have been attacked on February 12, however by now the fifth and 18th Japanese Divisions have been exhausted. The Guards have been now the primary power, though Yamashita disliked them and their commander. He needed to depend on them, however they refused to be hurried.
Repairs to the Causeway have been accomplished, and Japanese forces to the north have been streaming onto the island. The Japanese realized their artillery ammunition was operating out, whereas the British gunners have been devastating and appeared to have an inexhaustible provide of shells. One Japanese infantry assault was damaged up by a livid barrage earlier than it might begin.
From London, Churchill demanded, “There have to be no considered sparing the troops or inhabitants; commanders and senior officers ought to die with their troops. The honour of the British Empire and the British Military is at stake.”
The demand went unheeded. At 2 pm, February 15, shocking information reached Yamashita that a peace envoy—a brigadier with a white flag—had appeared on the entrance line. At first the Japanese thought it was a trick. Main Kunitake, one in every of Yamashita’s employees officers, felt the white flag was a ruse, for the Japanese infantry was dropping with fatigue and starting to marvel in the event that they may be those to give up. Later within the day Percival got here himself to the Ford Manufacturing unit at Bukit Timah to sue for peace.
In his diary Yamashita wrote of his nervousness throughout that assembly: “I now realized that the British Military had about 100,000 males towards my three divisions of 30,000 males. Additionally they had many extra bullets and different munitions than I had. I used to be afraid … that they might uncover that our forces have been a lot lower than theirs.”
He adopted a hectoring method with Percival to cover his nervousness. He emphasised “Sure” or “No” in English a number of occasions as as to if Percival was going to give up. Lastly Percival agreed and signed the give up doc, and the 2 generals shook arms. At eight:30 pm on February 15, 1942, the British troops on the island ceased hearth.
The Plymouth Argylls have been one of many few models that fought with distinction within the dying days of the Malayan marketing campaign, battling to the top, whereas many different models abandoned or tried to pressure their method onto ships within the harbor. The surviving Plymouth Argylls went into captivity and spent the subsequent 31/2 years within the atrocious circumstances of Japanese jail camps working as slave laborers on the notorious Burma-Thailand “Dying Railway.”
Percival was undoubtedly influenced in his choice by Japanese atrocities on the Alexandria Hospital on February 14, when the wounded and employees have been massacred in chilly blood. These have been the “Butchers of Nanking,” well-known for his or her brutality. Percival was a humane man, and he needed to think about Singapore’s huge civilian inhabitants in a protracted resistance.
Later, whereas summing up the marketing campaign, Percival felt defeat was on account of British inferiority within the air and a scarcity of tanks. Nevertheless, Yamashita felt racial disunity between British, Chinese language, Malays, Indians, and Australians was an essential issue.
It’s an fascinating query to ask how lengthy the British would have wanted to battle to show the tables; Wavell thought the Japanese might be fought to a standstill. However Yamashita might name on assets from China and Manchuria, whereas British reinforcements have been restricted.
Maybe Wavell was proper; a extra aggressive commander may need succeeded. Common Stanley Kirby later wrote that he felt the disaster rested with extra males than simply Percival. “One can sum up by saying that these liable for the conduct of the land marketing campaign in Malaya dedicated each conceivable blunder. Wavell, Percival, Heath, and [Gordon-] Bennett had all made critical errors of judgement relating to the enemy and the perfect methods of coping with him. From the start, Wavell, as he later admitted, had underestimated the Japanese soldier simply as he overrated Percival’s probabilities of beating him.”
As an alternative, in 70 days at the price of three,500 lifeless the Japanese defeated the British and led almost 100,000 troops into captivity, smashing perpetually the British Empire within the East. Hundreds of British, Indian, and Australian prisoners died in captivity.