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
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.
the retreat onto Singapore Island on 31st January fighting
eased while Japanese forces regrouped.
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
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
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.
Japanese claimed 60,000 prisoners: 32,000 Indian, 15,000 British, 13,000