July 1941, Signs of impending war in the Far East became unmistakable.
Fearing further Japanese action against Indo China and entry into Siam, Imperial
defences in Malaya were strengthened by significant reinforcements of British
and Indian troops together with RAF personnel. Often with little combat
experience, they were confronted by Japanese troops, battle hardened from their
experiences in Manchuria and China. The 18th Division, originally destined for
the Middle East, then Burma, finally arrived in Singapore on 22nd January 1942
only weeks before the Fall of Singapore.
without warning, Japanese forces attacked the main US Pacific Naval Base at
Pearl Harbour, Hawaii.
China, Japanese troops occupied the International Settlement at Shanghai and
British and US concessions at Tientsin.
entry to war was not unexpected. Since the takeover of foreign policy by the
military faction led by General Tojo, relations with Britain and the US had
8th December Britain and the US formally
declared war on Japan with Germany and Italy declaring war on the US three days
25th December, after 14 days of heavy fighting,
Hong Kong fell to Japanese forces
capital of Sarawak was taken at the same time.
In Singapore, at 1900hrs on 15th February,
1942, four British officers under a flag of truce accepted General
Yamashita’s demand for unconditional surrender. The Japanese formally occupied
Singapore on 16th February.
Japanese claimed 60,000 prisoners; 32,000 Indian, 15,000 British, 13,000
7th March Japanese forces who had landed in Java on 1st
March occupied Batavia the capital and 3 days later, the Dutch Naval Base at
Surabaya and the city of Bandaung. The fighting in Java then came to an end.
Japanese claimed 93000 Dutch, and 5000 British, Australian and American POWs.
three short months, Japanese Imperial Forces had driven the British out of the
Malayan peninsula, the Dutch out of the Dutch East Indies and the Americans out
of many islands in the Philippines.
were close to India and within a few hundred miles of Australia. Their
mastery of the air and jungle warfare and strategic use of carrier borne forces
had sent a message to the whole of South East Asia that the old colonial forces
were no longer invincible.
still, tens of thousands of prisoners of war would be used, often in dreadful
conditions, as coolie labour, often in full view of the indigenous population.
9th April US and Filipino forces on the Bataan peninsula of Luzon were
finally overrun by Japanese forces after an heroic resistance lasting four
months. With the exception of 3500 marines and others who escaped to Corregidor,
36,800 defenders were killed or captured.
By 14th May, Kalewan, West of Mandalay and
within striking distance of Imphal in Assam, was taken.
two months, the Japanese had effectively driven out the British from Burma and
were poised on the border with India.
Although the tide was beginning to turn, with US victories in the Battles of the
Coral Sea and Midway Island, more than three years would pass before the POWs
would be liberated and then only after many thousands of them had died after
being forced to work in inhumane conditions.