Invasion of Malaya and Singapore
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Malaya was known for its rich natural resources, and that very aspect was eyed by the Japanese militarists and industrialists. In 1939, Malaya was the resource of 40% of the world's rubber and 60% of the world's tin; that fact alone interested Japanese expansionists, but two additional reasons sealed the approval on the invasion planning that started in early 1941. The first was that most of this rubber and tin supply went to Japan's potential cross-ocean rival, the United States. Secondly, Japan needed oil. Every drop of oil consumed by Japan's military and industrial capacities had to be imported. The Japanese Navy alone needed 400 tons of oil an hour to maintain its war readiness. While Malaya only had a limited amount of oil production, the peninsula was a perfect staging point to launch and support further invasion for the oil rich islands of Borneo, Java, and Sumatra. In Jun 1941 Japan was refused supplies of iron and oil from United States, Britain, and Netherlands, therefore further reinforced Japanese thought that Southeast Asia must be taken. In addition to the natural resources, Malaya was also part of Japan's "Outline Plan for the Execution of the Empire's National Policy", a plan to expand the outer perimeters so wide that her enemies would not be able to attack by air against the home islands. This perimeter extends from the Kurile islands down to Wake, Guam, the East Indies, Borneo, Malaya, and up to Burma.
In general, the Japanese troops knew very little of jungle warfare. The Japanese Army did not embark on conducting research with jungle warfare until Dec 1940, and even then the effort was not fruitful, as the responsibility of the research was given to the Taiwan Army, and the island of Taiwan lacked any jungle for this purpose. Furthermore, Japanese intelligence only detected 30,000 to 50,000 British and Commonwealth troops in Malaya, when in fact there were about 88,600 men; this under-estimation could have easily caused serious harm in the Japanese invasion, but General Tomoyuki Yamashita would later admit that "our battle in Malaya was successful because we took the enemy lightly". Yamashita was given the overall responsibility of the invasion. On paper, he commanded a force 70,000-strong, organized into three divisions; in reality, the Japanese strength was less than that, as the 5th Division left behind a whole regiment in Shanghai, China as late as 26 Dec 1941, while the 18th Division left two headquarters regiments in Canton, China. Meanwhile, the Imperial Guard Division, elite academically, had no combat experience.
The defenses in Malaya and Singapore were equally unprepared for war. Coordination between the ground troops and the small Royal Air Force contingent in the region was poor, while the ground troops, particularly conscripts from India, lacked training and were not properly equipped. High ranking British officers, too, lacked training in jungle warfare. In fact, some of them were not even considering that they needed to know how to conduct a war in the Malayan jungles, as indicated by some of their frustrated complaints that there was no room for them to conduct training maneuvers because the jungle was in the way. While Singapore was boasted to be a fortress that could resist an amphibious invasion, defense against a convention invasion down the Malayan peninsula was inadequate. Finally, another hint of Singapore's unpreparedness was the lack of food rationing despite its mother country had been in war since 1939 and the Japanese invasion seemed inescapable by late 1941. The only major attempt that the British had committed in building the defense of Malaya and Singapore seemed to be a request for the United States to station capital ships of the US Pacific Fleet in Singapore, but that request was denied.
The Start of the Invasion
8 Dec 1941
The invasion fleet left the port of Samah on 4 Dec 1941. Although detected by British scout planes two days earlier, bad weather provided stealth for the invasion convoy. On 8 Dec, after some fighting at Kota Bharu, the Japanese troops took coast cities of Singora (Thailand), Patani (Thailand), and Kota Bharu (Malaya). British planes attempted to attack landing ships, but Japanese troops made beachhead at Kota Bharu within three hours despite the air distraction. At an airfield near Kota Bharu, Indian troops who received incorrect intelligence that the Japanese were far ahead than where they actually were killed their own commander Lt. Col. Hendricks and fled the airfield without destroying anything, providing the Japanese invaders a fully working airfield along with fuel and ammunition. General Yamashita, in Singora, negotiated with the Thai government, and won an agreement that allowed Japanese troops to move within Thai borders toward Malaya without local resistance. Meanwhile, Colonel Tsuji's men, disguised in civilian attire, secured key bridges beyond Malaya's borders before the British could destroy them on their retreat. No reinforcements from United States' Philippines appeared during the landings, as the US forces were busy fending off a nearly simultaneous invasion at Philippines and at Pearl Harbor. On the same day, 8 Dec, Japan sent her first air raid on the city of Singapore, resulting in 61 deaths. British command in Singapore still did not call for a general blackout of the city.
Battle off Kuantan
10 Dec 1941
With the threat of Germany, the bulk of the British Royal Navy were recalled to defend the English Channel, Northern Atlantic, and the Mediterranean. When it came to the defense of British interests in the Pacific, the duty fell squarely on the shoulders of three capital ships (with a support cast of smaller ships, of course). The battle cruiser Repulse was commanded by Captain W. G. Tennant, an older design but sported six 15" guns. The second ship was the battleship Prince of Wales, a ship practically fresh out of the docks (she was commissioned in March 1941), sporting ten 14" modern guns and good anti-aircraft defenses, but her total tonnage was limited by the treaty. The Prince of Wales was commanded by Captain J. C. Leach of the Royal Navy. The last large ship was the Indomitable, a 23,000-ton aircraft carrier with a compliment of 45 fighters. This force was designated "Force G" and sent underway to rendezvous in Singapore.
Indomitable soon ran into bad luck -- she ran aground on 3 Nov 1941 off Jamaica, and had to sail north to Norfolk, Virginia, United States for 12 days worth of repairs. With the Japanese striking earlier than expected (United States estimated that the earliest date Japan would gather enough force to attack United States and/or British holdings in the Pacific would be Mar 1942), she would not make it in time to fight alongside her squadron mates, but this mishap would save her to fight another day.
Near Ceylon, the Repulse and the Prince of Wales met, and the force was renamed "Force Z", and sailed for Singapore. With Admiral Sir Thomas Philips flagged aboard the Prince of Wales, the fleet of two warships and four destroyers reached Singapore just as news of Japan's mostly successful attack all across Pacific reached the admiral. He decided to take his fleet up the eastern Malaya coast to stop any further landing operations against Malaya. He sailed half-way up the coast of Malaya when he had heard a radio report that a Japanese landing at the port of Kuantan was being staged, and turned the fleet around toward Kuantan during the night, planning on a dawn attack against the landing ships. At 2352, Japanese submarine I-58 spotted Force Z and launched a torpedo, but missed so widely that there were no British reports of being attacked. I-58 reported the finding to Rear Admiral Matsunaga Sadaichi's 22nd Air Flotilla, which launched 76 aircraft to search for Force Z. It was of interest to note that should these planes not be able to find Force Z, they had the orders to fly all the way to Singapore for a bombing run, without ample supplies of fuel for the return trip; the commander essentially told the pilots that should they not find the British fleet, they would not be allowed to return to base with honor. Luckily for the Japanese pilots and unfortunately for the British, Ensign Hoashi Masame of a reconnaissance aircraft spotted the British ships at 1045 on 10 Dec in the Gulf of Siam. Admiral Nobutake Kondo sent cruisers and torpedo planes to attack the ships, but the British warships escaped the first attack.
As Japanese aircraft of the 22nd Air Flotilla approached, they were surprised to see two capital ships without air cover. With the Indomitable out of action and the airfields at Kota Bharu already under Japanese control, there were no available air cover for the British ships (also interesting to note that when the attack occurred, Philips only requested for destroyers for assistance, not aircraft). Little after 1000 Japanese aircraft began the attack on the British ships. The Repulse, with inadequate anti-aircraft weaponry, was disabled quickly and sank at 1233, killing 500 men. The Prince of Wales suffered heavy damage and was abandoned at 1300. Over 300 men lost their lives, including Admiral Philips and Captain Leach, who stood at the bridge and went down with the ship. Later, the British found out that sending the ships to Kuantan was pointless, as the port was never a target that day. At the end of the battle, Japan had lost only 3 aircraft. After Pearl Harbor and Philippines only a couple of days before, Japan once again proved that airpower was the future of naval warfare, not big warships. Ironically, the largest battleship in history, Yamato, would be launched 11 days later, and become the flagship of the Combined Fleet.
Fall of Jitra
11 Dec 1941
The 11th Indian Division was in no shape to defend Jitra with no working communications systems and flooded trenches. The oncoming Japanese attack captured several artillery and anti-aircraft guns, however, the attack on the city of Jitra on the night of 11 Dec caused heavy losses among the Japanese troops. A shift in tactics allowed the Japanese column to drive a deep wedge into the center of the British line of defense, and then the addition of a reinforcement force broke through the line. During the British retreat, there was much confusion due to the lack of a good communications system, and it was fueled by unorthodox tactics employed by the Japanese, including snipers under disguise as local civilians. The Japanese forces would push to the vicinity of Penang within days.
Fall of Penang
17 Dec 1941
Penang was an island garrison, consisted of four anti-aircraft guns and 500 troops. The first attack on the island by the Japanese was as early as 11 Dec, in the form of air raids. During one of the raids, a bomb was dropped on a firestation, which resulted in no firefighting capability from the civilians. Some RAF resistance was present, but was largely unsuccesful. The city fell under a state of lawlessness within days, with uncontrollable looting while corpses were left rotting on the streets.
On 17 Dec, Japanese troops landed on the island of Penang with no resistance, as British forces had already evacuated the island on the previous day. Once again, the British failed to destroy resources that could be used by the invaders, including a fully functional radio station. The Japanese troops used the radio station to broadcast the cruel message "Hello, Singapore, this is Penang calling. How do you like our bombing?" and proceeded to massacre the Penang residents during a large-scale looting. General Tamashita called a stop to the atrocities, and executed three soldiers as punishment. Lt. Col. Kobayashi was also placed under arrest as punishment. However, the image of the Japanese as brutal conquerers would forever be carved in the minds of the natives.
General Archibald Wavell, British commander-in-chief in the area, had little confidence in Lieutenant General Arthur Percival, who was in tactical command of the defending troops. During the defensive campaign, Wavell interfered in Percival's decision making on several occasions, but he repeated failed to replace Percival, thus further weakening the British ability to fight.
Fall of Kuala Lumpur
11 Jan 1942
Japanese troops, originally thought as inferior in jungle warfare, continued to surprise British troops as they moved quickly down the peninsula. Part of the Japanese secret was bicycles, providing Japanese soldiers great mobility in the rubber plantations. On 11 Jan, tanks reached the edge of Kuala Lumpur, and had taken the capital city with relatively little difficulty. In the city Yamashita found stores of food, fuel, and ammunition, solving his previously stressful situation of a long supply line from Siam/northern coasts of Malaya.
Within weeks, British troops slowly backed into Singapore as Japanese troops advanced. Gordon Bennett and his Australian 8th Division staged several ambushes against Japanese troops, while successful in causing casualties, they largely did not significantly slow the Japanese advance. Blown bridges, however, slowed the momentum, but the Japanese was still able to reach as far south as Gemas on 15 Jan and Johore by the end of the month. The fortress of Singapore was in sight, and the quantity of men killed, wounded, or captured thus far was the equivalent of two divisions of men for the British, while Yamashita had lost about five thousand (two thousand dead).
Battle of Singapore
1-15 Feb 1942
On 1 Feb 1942, the Japanese reached Singapore island after overrunning British, Australian, and Indian troops. On 5 Feb, down to 18 tanks and lacked ammunition and food, the smaller force commanded of Yamashita attacked the island of Pulau Ubin on the east, creating a bluff that another Japanese force was attacking from the east. This deceived Percival, who moved his major ammunitions stores to the east when the actual Japanese attack came down from the northwest. On 8 Feb, the actual attack on Singapore started with landing of troops on Singapore's northwest coast. Australian troops fought off initial landing attempts while inflicting enormous casualties on the part of the Japanese. However, the Australian troops retreated unnecessarily amidst the confusion of battle, allowing Japanese troops to gain a strong foothold at the shore defense installations. Subsequent landings would be unopposed.
From very early on, British commander Percival had his troops destroy docks and fuel dumps to prevent enemy capture. While it indeed took away Japan's ability to have readily available infrastructure and various resources, the early destruction of such facilities further destroyed defender morale. Such moves instilled the soldiers with the notion that the battle had already been lost.
On 10 Feb, the Japanese 5th and 18th Divisions routed the 22nd Australian Brigade, who retreated further into the city and turned on its citizens, pillaging the city of its food and liquor. By this time, Japanese tanks were also in Singapore in force, first routing Indian troops at the hills of Bukit Timah then denying a successful counterattack by British Brigadier Coates. While RAF fighter pilots bravely downed several Japanese bombers early in the assault, most of them were picked off one by one in dogfights by the superior Zero fighters. Singapore citizens continued to evacuate the city as they had done earlier, though at this stage many boats out of the city faced strafing by Japanese fighters. On 13 Feb, Japanese troops would seize or damage most city reservoirs, attempting to cause chaos by drying up the city. "While there's water," Lieutenant General Arthur Percival says, "We fight on."
On 14 Feb, Japanese troops closed into the city, and atrocities ensued. Lt. Western, a British medical officer, surrendered with a white flag but was bayoneted to death. Then, the Japanese troops entered the Alexandra Hospital, killing over 300 doctors, nurses, and patients, most by bayonets. When Yamashita heard about the incident, he had the Japanese soldiers responsible for the attack executed at the hospital.
Other reports of atrocities including gruesome accounts where Japanese troops emasculated captured British soldiers and sewed their penises to their lips before hanging them in trees where Allied patrols would find them; signs on their necks read "he took a long time to die". Such displays were meant to, and were successful to a certain degree, to demoralize Allied soldiers.
At 1400 hours on Sunday, 15 Feb, Percival decided that he only had enough supplies for two more days of fighting, and surrendered. Yamashita asked Percival, who wore the baggy British tropical uniform shorts that date, "do you wish to surrender unconditionally?", and Percival answered "Yes we do", and that marked the fall of the "Impregnable Fortress" of Singapore to Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita. Yamashita's troops had only enough ammunitions to fight a few more days, but Percival did not have that intelligence. Singapore, the Gibraltar of the East, would remain under Japanese control until the end of the war. Until the last moment of battle, the British shore batteries of 15" and 19" guns pointed southward, waiting for the naval assault expected but never came.
Conclusion of the Campaign
At the conclusion of the Japanese campaign at Malaya, all Allied troops at the peninsula, numbered at over 138,000, were killed or captured. Many of the captured would endure a four-year long brutal captivity as forced labor in Indo-China. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill considered the British defeat at Singapore one of the most humiliating British defeats of all time. Many historians suggested similarly.
Epilogue: Sook Ching Massacre
16 Feb-2 Mar 1942
After Percival's surrender that concluded the military campaign, the Japanese Army became concerned about both moral and monetary support from Malayan and Singaporean Chinese to Chiang Kaishek's Nationalist government in China. In a process that the Japanese called Daikensho ("the Great Inspection") and the Chinese called Sook Ching ("the Purge", coined in 1946), Yamashita authorized his men to cooperate with the Kempeitai on a purge of Chinese groups that were likely to undermine Japanese occupation. Some of the groups targeted were known supporters of the China Relief Fund, Chinese men with tattoos (believed to be members of secret societies), communists, and politicians, among others. The purge soon expanded to cover almost all Chinese men, many of whom had nothing to do with any of the anti-Japanese groups. During the purge, Singaporean Chinese men were sent to remote sites such as Changi, Punggol, Blakang Mati, and Bedok and executed by drowning or by machine gunning; in Penang, indiscriminate killings took place, where entire villages of Chinese were imprisoned and executed. The purge was called off on 3 Mar 1942. Because of the lack of records, death tolls were not certain. Post-war Japanese authority recognized the figure of 5,000 killed, while Singaporean estimated upwards of 100,000. Most historians agreed that the number was likely somewhere between 25,000 and 50,000, based on evidence provided during post-war trials.
The massacre deprived the Japanese of any cooperation from Malayans and Singaporeans, Chinese or otherwise. Consequently, significant amount of troops became tied-down in Malaya and Singapore to maintain order.
In 1947, seven Japanese officers were tried and found guilty of war crimes for the Sook Ching Massacre. Commander of No. 2 Field Kempeitai Lieutenant Colonel Masayuki Oishi was executed on 26 Jun 1947; Lieutenant General Saburo Kawamura was also executed on the same date. The remaining five were given life sentences, including Lieutenant General Takuma Nishimura, who was later found guilty of the Parit Sulong Massacre by an Australian court and was executed as according to the Australian tribunal.
Sources: American Caesar, Britain at War, Nihon Kaigun, the Pacific Campaign, the Pacific War, Wikipedia, World War II Plus 55.
Invasion of Malaya and Singapore Interactive Map
Invasion of Malaya and Singapore Timeline
|19 Feb 1941||The Australian 8th Division arrived in Singapore.|
|28 Apr 1941||Churchill, without reference to the Chiefs of Staff, issued a directive stating that there is no need at the present time to make provisions for the defence of Malaya and Singapore.|
|13 Nov 1941||Allied troops established a new defensive line from the mouth of the Muar River to Gemas in British Malaya.|
|25 Nov 1941||Japanese troops transports en route to Malaya were detected off Taiwan.|
|2 Dec 1941||US PBY Catalina patrol aircraft reported 20 Japanese transports congregating in Cam Ranh Bay off Indochina.|
|3 Dec 1941||US PBY Catalina patrol aircraft reported 30 Japanese transports congregating in Cam Ranh Bay off Indochina, 10 more than the previous day. Meanwhile, a Japanese fleet departed Hainan Island in southern China for Thailand.|
|4 Dec 1941||Japanese invasion fleets departed from various locations for their destinations in Malaya and Thailand. Later this day, American PBY Catalina patrol aircraft reported that the 30 Japanese transports detected on the previous day in Cam Ranh Bay off Indochina were no longer there.|
|5 Dec 1941||Japanese invasion fleet boarded a Norwegian freighter and destroyed her radio.|
|6 Dec 1941||US Navy yacht Isabel was detected by a floatplane from Japanese seaplane carrier Kamikawa Maru off Indochina; Isabel was later ordered to abort her current mission as bait for first fire and to sail for Manila, Philippine Islands. Shortly after, nearby, a Japanese Zero fighter covering the Malaya invasion force found and shot down a British PBY Catalina patrol aircraft.|
|7 Dec 1941||Japanese troops invaded Khota Baru, Malaya, two hours before the attack on Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii. A series of landings in nearby Thailand initially met stiff resistance, but the Thai government negotiated for an armistice within hours.|
|8 Dec 1941||RAF Hudson aircraft bombed Japanese invasion shipping off Kota Bharu, British Malaya, setting cargo ship Awajisan Maru afire. The Japanese 143rd Infantry Regiment of 55th Division (under command of 25th Army) landed on four beaches in southern Thailand; local Thai forces, unaware of their government's agreement to allow free passage to the Burma border, put up a fierce resistance and killed 79 Japanese soldiers. Japanese aircraft began arriving at Songkla in southern Thailand to prepare for air raids against targets in British Malaya.|
|9 Dec 1941||Bitter fighting between British and Japanese troops took place for the airfield at Kota Bharu in British Malaya, while two groups of Indian troops crossed into Thailand to destroy roads and railroads. In Thailand, the Japanese entered Bangkok. Out at sea, Japanese aircraft and submarine I-65 spotted British battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battlecruiser HMS Repulse; torpedo bombers were launched from Saigon, occupied French Indochina, but they failed to locate the ships.|
|10 Dec 1941||Japanese submarine I-58 spotted British battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battlecruiser HMS Repulse off British Malaya, launched five torpedoes, but all of them missed; beginning at 1117 hours, Japanese aircraft began to attack. Overwhelmed, HMS Repulse was sunk at 1233 hours (513 killed), followed by HMS Prince of Wales at 1318 hours (327 killed); destroyers HMS Electra, HMS Express, and HMS Vampire rescued 1,862 survivors. On land, the British commanders dispatched the 1st Battalion of the 14th Punjab Regiment and the 2nd Battalion of the 1st Gurkha Rifles regiment to Changlun and Asun in northern British Malaya to counter the Japanese advance; contact was made at Changlun at 2100 hours, where two Japanese tanks were destroyed before the Punjabi troops fell back toward Asun.|
|11 Dec 1941||Japanese infantrymen under the command of Colonel Shizuo Saeki overran the defenses set up by Punjabi troops between Changlun and Asun, British Malaya, and gave chase into Asun, where Gurkha troops slowed the Japanese advance by destroying the two Japanese tanks in the spearhead; the Gurkha positions, however, would be captured by 1900 hours, killing or capturing 350 men. Nearby, Japanese troops also under Saeki reached the outskirts of Jitra, British Malaya, which was defended by troops of the 11th Indian Division. Out at sea, Japanese pilot Lieutenant Ito, flying a torpedo bomber over the location where Repulse and Prince of Wales were sunk on the previous day, dropped a wreath to honor the killed British sailors.|
|12 Dec 1941||Colonel Shizuo Saeki led elements of the Japanese 5th Division attacked Jitra, British Malaya. After sundown, British General Lewis Heath gave the order for the 11th Indian Division to withdraw from Jitra.|
|13 Dec 1941||Just after 0000 hours, Dutch submarine O.16 entered Mueang Patani, Thailand and damaged four Japanese freighters with six torpedoes, sinking a number of them in shallow water. All ships would later be repaired and put back into service. At 0200 hours, rearguard Indian troops blew up the bridge at Jitra, British Malaya before joining the main body falling back toward Gurun to the south. Later on the same day, Japanese troops arrived at the abandoned airfield at Alor Setar, British Malaya, capturing bombs and aviation fuel.|
|14 Dec 1941||At 1500 hours, Japanese troops overran Allied defenses near Gurun, British Malaya but failed to reach the town.|
|15 Dec 1941||Japanese troops overran the Allied defenses at Gurun, British Malaya, opening up the road toward Penang. On the same day, the British abandoned the RAF base at Butterworth near Penang, flying all of of the remaining aircraft to Singapore.|
|16 Dec 1941||European civilians began to evacuate from Penang, Malaya while Allied troops destroyed guns, ammunition dumps, and other military facilities to prevent Japanese capture; the radio station and the ships in the harbor, however, were overlooked and would later be pressed into Japanese service.|
|17 Dec 1941||British and Indian troops established a defensive line 65 miles south of Penang, British Malaya near the Perak River.|
|19 Dec 1941||Japanese troops captured Penang, Malaya.|
|20 Dec 1941||Two RAF Buffalo fighters attacked the Japanese barracks at Victoria Point, Burma near the border with Thailand, inflicting heavy casualties. Meanwhile, in Malaya, Japanese troops attempted to flank the Allied positions on the Perak River while another column marched along the Grik Road.|
|21 Dec 1941||Having seen previous success with the same tactic on a smaller scale, Japanese launched a large number of rafts down the Perak River toward Kuala Kangsar, Malaya in an attempt to bypass nearby roadblocks; casualties were heavy, but the Japanese troops were able to establish a bridgehead downstream, causing the British to abandon the Perak River positions and to fall back.|
|25 Dec 1941||The Allies completed the abandonment of defensive positions along the Perak River in Malaya and established new positions at Ipoh about 10 miles to the south.|
|26 Dec 1941||British and Indian troops clashed at Chemor, Malaya north of Ipoh. Later in the day, the Allies withdrew from Ipoh and fell back to Kampar 25 miles to the south.|
|27 Dec 1941||Japanese bombers attacked Kuala Lumpur, British Malaya. Meanwhile, Japanese troops advanced toward Kampar in western Malaya and Kuantan on the east coast.|
|28 Dec 1941||Indian 22nd Brigade arrived at Kuantan, Malaya.|
|30 Dec 1941||8,000 troops of the 9th Brigade of the Japanese 5th Division launched probing attacks on Kampar on the west coast of British Malaya. On the east coast, Japanese troops attacked the defensive positions north of the Kuantan River, whose defenders were confused by inaccurate intelligence that the Japanese were to land from the sea behind them.|
|31 Dec 1941||British 155th Field Regiment of the Lanarkshire Yeomanry stopped a Japanese attack at Kampar, British Malaya; further south on the western coast, the Japanese landed behind the Allied lines. On the east coast, the Indian 9th Division fell back to the south side of the Kuantan River. Far to the south, at Singapore, British and Dutch transports took on civilians for evacuation to South Africa. Finally, off the Chinese coast, 56 Japanese troop transports departed the island of Taiwan, escorted by 3 cruisers and 16 destroyers, for an amphibious operations in British Malaya.|
|1 Jan 1942||Japanese troops continued the assault on Kampar, British Malaya; both sides incurred heavy casualties in the morning. Meanwhile, Japanese 11th Regiment landed in the Bernam River 35 miles to the southwest. In London, England, United Kingdom, Winston Churchill complained of the British Royal Navy's inability to disrupt Japanese shipping in Malayan waters.|
|2 Jan 1942||Japanese and Anglo-Indian troops continued to fight at Kampar Hill in British Malaya and prepared to withdraw southward later in the day. To the south, troops of the Japanese 4th Imperial Guard Regiment sailed down the Perak River to reinforce the Japanese 11th Regiment at Bernam River; Indian 12th Infantry Brigade arrived to reinforce the failing defense at Telok Anson nearby. Far to the south, Japanese aircraft based in Malaya and Borneo attacked Singapore.|
|3 Jan 1942||The Japanese made an amphibious attack at Kuala Selangor in western Malaya, which was repelled by Indian troops. In eastern Malaya, Japanese troops pushed through Indian 9th Division defenses and crossed the Kuantan River, capturing the airfield nearby.|
|4 Jan 1942||Indian 11th Infantry Division withdrew from Kampar Hill in western Malaya, falling back to a new defensive line at the Slim River.|
|5 Jan 1942||Japanese troops launched probing attacks at the defenses manned by Indian troops at Trolak, British Malaya; 60 Japanese were killed without achieving success.|
|7 Jan 1942||Japanese tanks wiped out the Indian 11th Division at Slim River, British Malaya early in the morning; by 0930 hours, both the road and railway bridges were secured by Japanese troops.|
|8 Jan 1942||Japanese troops penetrated the outer lines of defense at Kuala Lumpur, Malaya, which was about 15 miles north of the capital city. Australian 8th Division began to move forward to replace the nearly-destroyed Indian 11th Division near Kuala Lumpur.|
|10 Jan 1942||Japanese tanks and infantry attacked the remnants of the Indian 11th Division at Serendah, Malaya, 15 miles north of Kuala Lumpur, which was being evacuated. Out to sea in the Gulf of Siam, Dutch submarine O 19 sank Japanese freighters Akita Maru and Tairyu Maru.|
|11 Jan 1942||Japanese troops entered Kuala Lumpur, the capital of British Malaya, unopposed, capturing large amounts of supplies and ammunition left behind by the evacuating British and colonial troops.|
|13 Jan 1942||Allied convoy DM1 arrived at Singapore from Durban, South Africa, delivering 9,100 troops, anti-aircraft guns, and 52 Hurricane fighters (with 24 pilots).|
|14 Jan 1942||Japanese troops on bicycles, supported by tanks, crossed the Gemencheh Bridge over the Kelamah River in British Malaya at 1600 hours into an Australian ambush, killing somewhere between 140 and 700 Japanese troops while losing only 1 killed and 6 captured (they would later be executed); the Japanese would return after dark to successfully secure and repair the bridge. Elsewhere, Japanese troops captured Malacca on the west coast.|
|15 Jan 1942||Japanese troops crossed the Gemencheh Bridge over the Kelamah River in British Malaya at 1000 hours to attack Australian-held positions at Gemas; although the initial attack failed with the loss of six tanks, subsequent attacks and flanking maneuvers forced the Australians to fall back to the Gemas River. Elsewhere, Japanese 4th and 5th Imperial Guard Regiments wiped out forward positions held by elements of the Indian 45th Brigade north of the Muar River.|
|16 Jan 1942||Japanese 4th and 5th Imperial Guards Regiments crossed the Muar River in British Malaya before dawn, forcing the Indian 45th Brigade to withdraw from Muar.|
|17 Jan 1942||Indian 45th Brigade withdrew from Bukit Bakri, British Malaya.|
|18 Jan 1942||Australian troops destroyed 9 Japanese tanks north of Bakri, Malaya at 0645 hours, but by the evening the Japanese were able to get through this area.|
|19 Jan 1942||The headquarters of the Indian 45th Brigade in Malaya was destroyed by a Japanese air raid at 1000 hours, wounding General Duncan and killing all of his staff officers. Elsewhere in British Malaya, Australian 8th Division withdrew from Gemas to prevent being cut off by a Japanese flanking maneuver.|
|20 Jan 1942||Hawker Hurricane fighters, sent as reinforcements to Singapore, shot down eight Japanese bombers from a force of 27 attacking the city. Ground troops had less success, however, as the Indian and Australian retreat from Bakri, Malaya was cut off by the Japanese. Also on this date, more Japanese troops landed at Endau, Malaya.|
|21 Jan 1942||Following the catastrophe of the previous day, Japanese Mitsubishi A6M fighters escorted the bombers to Singapore and shot down five of the defending Hurricane fighters without loss; during the period 30 Dec 1941 to 15 Feb 1942, Singapore would suffer 18 heavy air raids and 25 lesser attacks. Meanwhile, to the north in Malaya, the retreat of Indian and Australian troops from Bakri was blocked at the Parit Sulong bridge at 0930 hours.|
|22 Jan 1942||Two RAF Albacore aircraft from Singapore attacked the Japanese positions at the Parit Sulong bridge in Malaya in an attempt to relieve the Indian and Australian troops being blocked there; failing to break through the Japanese lines, the Allied troops decided to break up to small groups and take the risk of fleeing through the jungle. Nearby, 110 captured Australian and 40 captured Indian troops were executed by the Japanese by machine gunning, bayoneting, beheading, and burning.|
|24 Jan 1942||Troop convoy MS2 arrived at Singapore, disembarking an Australian machine gun battalion and 1,900 green conscripts.|
|25 Jan 1942||Troops of the Japanese Imperial Guard captured Batu Pahat, British Malaya; in response, Lieutenant General Arthur Percival ordered troops in Malaya to withdraw to Singapore. Meanwhile, Allied convoy BM10 from Bombay, India arrived at Singapore, disembarking 4,745 troops of the Indian 44th Infantry Brigade, vehicles, and supplies.|
|26 Jan 1942||British, Indian, and Australian troops began to withdraw from the Batu Pahat-Ayer Hitam-Jemaluang defensive line in British Malaya as ordered by Lieutenant General Arthur Percival on the previous day. On the east coast, 1,500 troops of the British Brigade of the Indian 11th Division were cut off at Rengit. At 1100 hours, Japanese 18th Division landed at Endau, 80 miles north of Singapore. At 1500 hours, RAF biplane aircraft attacked the Endau landing force, causing little damage and losing 5 Vildebeest aircraft. At 1630 hours, destroyers HMS Thanet and HMAS Vampire departed Singapore to attack the Japanese ships at Endau. Finally, at 1730 hours, another air attack was conducted by 9 Vildebeest and 3 Albacore aircraft, escorted by some Hurricane fighters; this attack also achieved little, and 9 aircraft were lost.|
|27 Jan 1942||At 0318 hours, destroyers HMS Thanet and HMAS Vampire engaged Japanese cruiser Sendai and six destroyers, which were protecting the troop transports that the two Allied destroyers were aiming to sink, off British Malaya; in the ensuing Battle of Endau, Japanese troop transports Kansai Maru and Kanbera Maru were damaged. At 0400 hours, HMS Thanet was sunk; 38 were killed, 67 survived and were rescued by friendly forces, and 31 survived and were captured by the Japanese. Also in eastern Malaya, British gunboats HMS Dragonfly and HMS Scorpion evacuated 1,500 British troops from Rengit and transported them to Singapore.|
|28 Jan 1942||Japanese troops outflanked and wiped out Indian 22nd Brigade at Layang Layang, British Malaya. Meanwhile, US B-17 bombers based on Java, Dutch East Indies bombed Kuala Lumpur. After sundown, British gunboats HMS Dragonfly and HMS Scorpion evacuated British troops at Rengit.|
|29 Jan 1942||British colonial administrators and civilians departed from Johore Bahru, British Malaya for Singapore.|
|30 Jan 1942||British troops in the southern tip of British Malaya completed the withdraw into Singapore, thus marking the start of the siege. After sundown, British gunboats HMS Dragonfly and HMS Scorpion once again sailed for Rengit to evacuate the last of the enveloped British troops there.|
|31 Jan 1942||Indian sappers destroyed the main causeway linking Singapore and British Malaya at 0815 hours. Shortly after, Japanese troops captured Johore Bharu, Malaya.|
|1 Feb 1942||Japanese troops reached Singapore, pausing for the following few days to prepare for a landing on the island. Meanwhile, General Arthur Percival announced that "the battle of Malaya has come to an end and the battle of Singapore has started.... Today we stand beleaguered in our island fortress. Our task is to hold this fortress until help can come."|
|2 Feb 1942||Japanese aircraft attacked naval facilities at Singapore, forcing Allied warships to withdraw for the Dutch East Indies.|
|4 Feb 1942||Believing that reinforcements were on their way, the British Authorities in Singapore turned down a Japanese demand for the unconditional surrender.|
|5 Feb 1942||Japanese troops attacked the Pulau Ubin island to the east of Singapore, drawing British troops to move to that region; the actual attack would come from the northwest three days later. Out at sea, passenger liner Empress of Asia, with reinforcement for Singapore aboard and fallen behind from fellow BM12 convoy members, was attacked and sunk by 9 Japanese aircraft; although the loss of life was small (16 killed), all the weapons and equipment aboard her were lost; 1,804 survivors were rescued by Australian sloop HMAS Yarra.|
|6 Feb 1942||Japanese artillery and aerial bombardment continued against various military and port facilities at Singapore.|
|8 Feb 1942||The main Japanese offensive against Singapore began. Australian troops stationed on the northwestern coast of Singapore initially inflicted heavy casualties on the Japanese landing, but confusion of battle caused them to retreat prematurely, providing Japanese a beachhead by nightfall.|
|9 Feb 1942||During the day, Japanese troops captured Tengah airfield at Singapore while behind the front 10,000 additional troops arrived at the beachheads. At 2100 hours, the Japanese 4th Imperial Guard Regiment landed at Kranji in northern Singapore, but the attempt was driven off by Australian 27th Brigade's heavy machine gun and mortar fire before the Australians fell back in anticipation of another landing.|
|10 Feb 1942||Australian 22nd Brigade misunderstood an order and withdrew past the Jurong Road in northern Singapore, thus exposing the flanks of neighboring Indian troops, forcing the entire Allied line to shift further south. Meanwhile, the British Royal Air Force withdrew the small number of aircraft from Singapore to prevent Japanese capture. After sundown, Japanese troops captured the Bukit Timah heights which overlooked Singapore and hosted two reservoirs of fresh water.|
|11 Feb 1942||Battle of Bukit Timah: Japanese 5th Division attacked Indian, Chinese, and British troops along the Choa Chu Kang Road at Bukit Timah Hill in Singapore. Supported by 50 tanks, Japanese troops halted the Allied counterattacks and took the hill. After the battle, to avenge their casualties, the Japanese troops massacred Chinese civilians living in a nearby village.|
|12 Feb 1942||Before dawn, British cruiser HMS Durban, destroyer HMS Stronghold, destroyer HMS Jupiter, transport Empire Star, and transport Gorgon departed Singapore with British Royal Navy personnel for Batavia, Java, Dutch East Indies; they would be attacked and damaged by Japanese aircraft en route. Meanwhile, on Singapore island, Japanese troops made conservative probing attacks in western Singapore as the Allies slowly withdrew into the city.|
|13 Feb 1942||Japanese troops pushed the 55th Brigade of the British 18th Division out of its position which controlled the last fresh water reservoir in Singapore for the British. Arthur Percival's senior staff members persuaded him to request permission to surrender. At 1830 hours, a large convoy of 44 ships departed Singapore with evacuees; a few of these ships would be attacked and sunk by Japanese aircraft.|
|14 Feb 1942||While Japanese troops penetrated the lines manned by the 1st Malay Brigade at Singapore and reached the Alexandra Barracks Hospital, where 323 hospital staff and patients would soon be brutally massacred, Archibald Wavell rejected Arthur Percival's request to surrender Singapore.|
|15 Feb 1942||With Winston Churchill's permission, Arthur Percival decided to surrender Singapore. A delegation bearing a white flag was dispatched at 1130 hours, but it was turned back by the Japanese, who requested Percival to surrender in person, which Percival complied at 1715 hours. At the Ford Motor Factory at Bukit Timah, Percival signed the surrender document at 2030 hours, making the biggest capitulation in British militay history official.|
|16 Feb 1942||The Sook Ching massacre began in Singapore during which somewhere between 5,000 (Japanese estimates) and 100,000 (Singaporean estimates) ethnic Chinese civilians were killed during the following 3 weeks.|
|17 Feb 1942||Japanese occupation administration at Singapore sent 3,000 British civilians to Changi prison and 50,000 British, Australian, and Indian captured troops to Selarang Barracks. Some of the captured Indian troops were taken to hear Captain Mohan Singh at Farrer Park, who attempted to persuade them to collaborate with the Japanese.|
Visitor Submitted Comments
All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.
» Adnan bin Saidi
» Bennett, Gordon
» Daigo, Tadashige
» Kondo, Nobutake
» Percival, Arthur
» Phillips, Thomas
» Shiraichi, Kayutaka
» Tokuno, Hiroshi
» Yamashita, Tomoyuki
» Malaya and Singapore
» Prince of Wales
» American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964
- » 792 biographies
- » 310 events
- » 30,178 timeline entries
- » 699 ships
- » 308 aircraft models
- » 164 vehicle models
- » 275 weapon models
- » 80 historical documents
- » 69 facilities
- » 346 book reviews
- » 231 maps
- » 19,222 photos, 1,611 in color
Captain Henry P. Jim Crowe, Guadalcanal, 13 Jan 1943