FEPOW Memorial Church



Philippines & Hawaii Malaya Java & Sumatra Burma Strategic Imperatives


Early December 1941 Japanese forces landed in Kota Bahru, Northern Malaya, with light tanks and armoured vehicles together with heavy dive bomber support. Skilful amphibious landings of troops behind British lines threatened flanks and forced a series of withdrawals southwards. This gave the Japanese control of the northern airfields and massive air superiority over a wide area.

17th December Penang was evacuated and on 29th December the tin mining town of Ipoh fell to the Japanese.

7th January 1942 the Japanese launched a new offensive in Lower Perak with heavy tank support. Kuala Lumpur was evacuated on 11th January.

20th January a superior Japanese force, operating under fine strategic leadership and with total aerial domination, forced allied forces to make a fighting retreat onto Singapore Island. The final retreat was covered by the Argyll and Sutherland and Gordon Highlanders.

By the night of 30-31st January all Allied forces were concentrated on the island. The causeway linking Singapore island with the mainland was blown up to slow the Japanese advance.


After the retreat onto Singapore Island on 31st January fighting eased while Japanese forces regrouped.

The island’s heavy batteries were in constant use but were ill designed for close quarter ground fighting. During this period, constant attacks by Japanese aircraft inflicted considerable loss of life on civilian and military personnel alike.

Preceded by heavy artillery and aerial bombardment throughout the day, the main assault began just before midnight on 8th February. Massive Japanese infantry landings were made on a front between Sungei Kranji and Pasir Laba on the North West of the island. British, Australian, Indian, and Chinese troops resisted fiercely but were pushed back allowing Japanese infiltration.

9th February fresh landings were again heavily supported by Japanese aircraft whose air superiority prevented any effective response by British fighter aircraft.

12th February saw heavy fighting near the racecourse only 2 miles north of the city. This put Singapore’s reservoirs, the only source of water, under serious threat.

By 13th February Japanese forces were in the vicinity of the reservoir with fierce fighting there and in the village of Ang Mo Kio. Despite strong allied resistance, a numerically superior enemy with the advantage of total air superiority occupied the Naval Base and penetrated the outskirts of the city. A million people were forced into a perimeter of 3 miles with water supplies only expected to last for 24 hours.

At 1900hrs on 15th February, four British officers, under a flag of truce, accepted General Yamashita’s demand for unconditional surrender. To have continued fighting would have lead to appalling loss of life. The Japanese formally occupied Singapore on 16th February. This was the end of the Malaya Campaign. 

Throughout this difficult period, it is not the courage of ordinary servicemen and women that history calls into question.

The Japanese claimed 60,000 prisoners: 32,000 Indian, 15,000 British, 13,000 Australian.                                                                                        Top

British & Commonwealth Order of Battle