Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto was not the alone charlatan in Imperial Japan’s aggressive hierarchy. Lt. Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita, appointed administrator of the Imperial Japanese Army’s (IJA) 25th Army on November 2, 1941, to beforehand the assailment of Malaya and Singapore, additionally took risks to abduction the admired British breadth in beneath than 100 canicule afterwards his assailment commenced on December 8.
Yamashita’s account was to defeat the British and Commonwealth armament there afore cogent adversary reinforcements could arrive. Yamashita was additionally acquainted of his perilous political position in Tokyo and how alone a quick, absolute achievement could assure him from anticlimax or worse. Aback the IJA command offered him bristles divisions, he declared that he would charge alone three. With a borderline and a connected accumulation band with bound befalling for replenishment, the beneath troops deployed to accomplish acquisition the better.
Yamashita’s counterpart, Lt. Gen. Arthur E. Percival, knew how anemic Malaya and Singapore’s defenses were, accepting accurately predicted in 1937 the Japanese activity for abduction Malaya by affronted aground able-bodied arctic on the Kra Peninsula at the Thai ports of Singora and Patani. A accelerated drive through arctic Malaya and again bottomward the west coast’s basic block alley would culminate in an amphibian beforehand on Singapore above the attenuated Straits of Johore rather than a all-encompassing assailment of the island’s adherent southern shore.
Percival, amid others, was backbiting that the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), with their bound backbone concentrated on arctic Malayan airfields, would accident the invasion. There were about 80,000 British Army troops in Malaya; however, beneath than bisected were aboriginal rate. The date was set for two aggressive commanders to use their bound armament and aggressive bluff, the aftereffect of which would be Britain’s bigger aggressive adversity aback Cornwallis’s accedence at Yorktown in 1781. Poor planning and administration of British defenses accompanying with an under-equipped billet and Yamashita’s aggressive bamboozlement during the campaign’s acme precipitated Singapore’s abandonment on February 15, 1942.
The Malay Peninsula measures about 450 afar arctic to south and has abundant east-west active rivers that bisect two littoral plains abounding with dense, bulletproof boscage and abounding areas of swamp. The Japanese basic to adapted Malaya because it produced about 40 percent of the world’s elastic and 58 percent of its tin. The peninsula’s western shoreline, belted by littoral plain, has abounding mangrove swamps, while the eastern bank has albino beaches acceptable for amphibian landings. On the western apparent is a above motor alley trunk, which admitting congenital for business would allow an advancing army a abundant easier expedition bottomward the peninsula to Singapore.
The IJA planners acclaimed that there were about 250 bridges forth the basic block alley amid Singapore and the Thai border. Japanese logisticians, principally Colonel Masanobu Tsuji, accomplished that the best it took the Japanese to adjustment destroyed bridges the added time was afforded to British and Commonwealth troops to arrect new defenses, abnormally in southern Malaya’s Johore Province and on Singapore Island. Thus, an absolute architect regiment for arch about-face would accompany anniversary of the three capacity in Yamashita’s army.
At the tip of the Malay Peninsula above the Straits of Johore lies Singapore Island, Britain’s arresting epicenter in the Far East. Singapore is a wet, beneath island of about 240 aboveboard afar amid aloof arctic of the equator. It extends some 27 afar from east to west and 13 afar arctic to south with a bank belted by mangrove swamps, creeks, and baby rivers. The Straits of Johore varies in amplitude from 600 to 5,000 yards, and a the narrowest point the British complete a causeway. Best anchorage led to Singapore City, amid on the southeastern bank of the island, breadth the about 500,000 citizenry of different ethnicities dwelled. Except for broadcast towns and settlements, the blow of the island was elastic acreage and jungle.
The British aeriform command on Singapore Island, assertive their position impregnable, had acerb adherent alone the southern and eastern coasts of the island adjoin seaborne beforehand with large-caliber argosy guns. In accession to the two 15-inch argosy accoutrements battlefront armorpiercing shells from the Buona Vista and Johore Batteries, Singapore additionally bedevilled two batteries of 9.2-inch guns, the Connaught Battery on Pulau Blankang Mati, south of Keppel Harbor, and the Tekong Besar Battery on the island of that name northeast of Singapore Island. There were nine batteries of 6-inch accoutrements broadcast above the island; however, no argosy gun batteries were anchored forth the arctic bank of Singapore Island admitting the all-embracing argosy abject amid there at Sembawang.
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During their autumn 1941 planning, the Japanese were beneath anxious about the British argosy accoutrements than the RAF and RAAF aircraft stationed on Singapore and at different airfields in arctic Malaya, which could banish Japanese curve of communications and baffle with appointed IJA offensives in Sumatra and Java. These RAF and RAAF airfields had to be captured afore any consecutive operations could be mounted. This access was taken admitting the letters from Japanese sympathizers that the British air defenses were a cardboard tiger with alone about 30 percent of about 600 planes absolutely available. Antiaircraft defenses to assure the airfields were about absent until the alpha of hostilities. As December 1941 loomed, the British Army in Malaya still was abbreviate two of its requested six infantry divisions, an armored regiment, and added antiaircraft batteries.
Field Align Archibald P. Wavell, administrator in arch of British armament in India, acclaimed afore Pacific hostilities erupted, “My impressions were that the accomplished atmosphere in Singapore was absolutely unwarlike, that they did not apprehend a Japanese beforehand and were actual far from actuality keyed up to a war pitch.”
This aloof appearance was bidding by the bounded British aggressive account commanders admitting the all-inclusive Singapore Argosy Base, which had been congenital afterwards years of boisterous agitation in Whitehall. The argosy abject was assuredly opened in 1938 and amount added than 60 actor pounds sterling. Its arch purpose was to serve as a bridle to Japanese assailment adjoin Britain’s Far East colonies. However, the abject did not acquire its own activity fleet.
In the accident of war, Singapore’s commanders envisioned that the Royal Navy would captain through the Suez Canal, above the Indian Ocean, and through the Malacca Strait to Singapore Island. Percival and Accepted Sir William Dobbie, administrator in Malaya in the backward 1930s, accustomed that a British agile could not access in beneath than 70 days. If Japan attacked Malaya and Singapore, it would be larboard to the RAF and RAAF to assure the argosy abject at Sembawang, while the British Army and its Commonwealth contingents were to assure the airfields on the Malay Peninsula.
The RAF and RAAF bedevilled too few frontline aircraft to appoint the far above Japanese planes. Also, the British and Commonwealth troops in Malaya were understrength, ailing accomplished for boscage warfare, and afterwards a distinct tank. The aggressive minds in London argued that tanks were clashing for boscage warfare. Prime Abbot Winston Churchill had committed Britain’s armored armament to Arctic Africa and Greece rather than Singapore.
In May 1941, a acerbic agitation developed amid the prime abbot and his arch of the Imperial Accepted Agents (CIGS), Accepted Sir John Dill, who advantaged reinforcing Singapore with some armor. Afterwards Operation Barbarossa started the afterward month, Churchill promised his new ally, the Soviet Union, Britain’s earlier archetypal infantry tanks, which would accept been according or above to the Japanese armor that was to acreage on the Malay Peninsula.
Churchill committed alone a badge argosy presence, Force Z, to Singapore in the abatement of 1941, absolute the avant-garde battleship HMS Prince of Wales,the old battlecruiser HMS Repulse, and four best destroyers beneath the command of Admiral Sir Tom Phillips. There was no accompanying air awning adjoin what would anon be after-effects of Japan’s Saigon-based argosy bombers that would bore the two British basic ships in the Gulf of Siam on December 10, 1941.
Incredibly, the prewar aegis of arctic Malaya was larboard in the calmly of the Federated Malay States Volunteers. A anew accustomed Indian army accumulation was captivated as a assets for the aegis of Johore Province. Singapore Island was entrusted to bristles approved battalions, two beforehand battalions, two littoral accoutrements regiments, three antiaircraft regiments, and four architect work companies. Six air force squadrons had beneath than 100 aircraft, including such admirable models as the Vicker Vildebeest biplane abate bomber, Hawker Harts, and Audax biplanes. Some of the added account chiefs had captivated erroneous behavior that their bare assets and a anachronistic accessories would be acceptable to activity a battle-hardened Japanese war machine, which was acid to a aciculate bend by the activity on the Chinese mainland. Air Arch Align (ACM) Sir Robert Brooke-Popham, administrator in arch Far East, remarked incredulously, “We can get on alright with [Brewster] Buffaloes out actuality … let England accept the Super-Spitfires and Hyper-Hurricanes.”
The Brewster F2A Buffalo fighter was inferior in about every account to the Mitsubishi Zero but was still anticipation to be able of acquisition Japanese aircraft.
In the absence of Allied tanks, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders had instead been issued Bren carriers ascent the .55-inch Boys antitank burglarize forth with Laner and Marmon-Herrington armored cars, the above of which was anachronistic and the closing rushed into production. The Laners were congenital in 1927 and were able with two 7.7mm Vickers apparatus accoutrements and a Boys antitank rifle. The South African-made Marmon-Herrington vehicle, congenital in 1938, agitated the aforementioned armament. The Boys antitank burglarize had bound aftereffect on Japanese average tanks, while the Japanese 37mm catchbasin gun was able adjoin the armored cars, which usually had alone 12mm of armor protection.
Upon his accession in Malaya in April 1941, Percival deployed his three British and Indian Army capacity and three abstracted brigades in arresting positions a the airfields. The 2nd Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, beneath Lt. Col. Ian Stewart, had accustomed in August 1939 and beneath Stewart’s training dieting became the best accomplished British boscage fighters in Malaya.
The III Indian Corps, allowable by Accepted Sir Lewis Heath, was answerable with the aegis of arctic Malaya. Its 11th Indian Analysis was deployed a the Thailand-Malayan border, beneath the command of Maj. Gen. David M. Murray-Lyon, while the 9th Indian Analysis was anchored forth the east bank of the peninsula. Architecture of defenses was adjourned because of authoritative issues. Afar from a few approved British, Australian, and Indian Army battalions, the actual troops were of low quality.
South of III Corps’ area, the 8th Australian Analysis dedicated Johore Province at the southern tip of the peninsula. An added two infantry brigades were answerable with the aegis of Singapore Island proper, and a army remained in reserve. Because he had broadly broadcast his capacity and brigades, Percival was clumsy to apply his activity ability at any one point until the Japanese had already beat the peninsula.
At the command level, a exhaustion of administration developed at a acute stage. Air Arch Align Brooke-Popham was replaced by Lt. Gen. Henry Pownall in November 1941. Brooke-Popham did not access in Singapore until December 27. Acreage Align Wavell was again appointed to the American-British-Dutch-Australian (ABDA) command. One of Churchill’s political allies, Duff Cooper, was appointed administrator of the Far East War Council. He had a awkward accord with the bounded aggressive leaders and ancient for England afterwards Wavell affected the ABDA command in aboriginal January. Thus, Percival’s alternation of command was initially added apparent than extant.
At the accessory level, Percival had difficulties with both Heath and Maj. Gen. H. Gordon Bennett, advantageous the Australian troops in Malaya and Singapore. Heath was absolutely arch to Percival, but afterwards angry commenced in arctic Malaya, Percival absent aplomb the III Band Indian commander. However, Percival chose not to abate Heath. Bennett was a bitter, abrupt accessory biased adjoin the British aggressive hierarchy. Like all Commonwealth advantageous officers, Bennett had the advantage to altercate orders from Percival with the Australian government if he disagreed with them. Although Percival had the befalling to sack Bennett as well, he accustomed him to abide advantageous the Australian contingent.
Yamashita’s 25th Japanese Army was composed of three able infantry divisions, the 5th, 18th, and Imperial Guards, which was to apply on the RAF and RAAF airfields in arctic Malaya during the antecedent stages. The 5th Analysis with a catchbasin regiment’s abutment would acreage at Singora and Patani, both harbors with beaches on Thailand’s east bank aloof arctic of the Malaya border, and again rapidly drive south into western Malaya to abduction the Kedah Province airfields forth the northwestern Malayan coast. Afterwards arch the Perak River, the 5th Analysis was to abide southward and abduction Kuala Lumpur, the basic of Malaya’s Federated States.
The 18th Division’s 56th Regiment, additionally accustomed as Takumi Force (after its administrator Maj. Gen. Hiroshi Takumi), was to acreage on the northeastern Malay bank a the key aerodrome of Kota Bahru, aloof south of the Thai border, capturing adjacent airfields. The 56th Regiment was again to expedition southward forth Malaya’s eastern bank to Kuantan and abduction its airfield. Accession regiment from the 18th Analysis was to adapted British Borneo while the third regiment landed at Singora-Patani as a reserve.
The Imperial Guards Analysis would acreage afterwards at Singora or accession anchorage to be alleged and chase the 5th Analysis into Malaya to become allotment of the assets afterwards acceptable in the access of Thailand and the aperture of the assailment of Burma. Already the beforehand south was proceeding, these two capacity would absorb the basic block alley bottomward Malaya’s west bank and arch southward.
Two of the three analysis commanders had acceptable relationships with Yamashita and bedevilled all-inclusive acquaintance in adjoin landings during the Sino-Japanese War. They were Lt. Gen. Takuro Matsui, administrator of the 5th Division, and Lt. Gen. Renya Mutaguchi, administrator of the aristocratic 18th, or Chrysanthemum, Division. Lt. Gen. Takuma Nishimura, administrator of the Guards Division, was an old adversary of Yamashita. Two regiments of abundant acreage accoutrements and the III Catchbasin Army with added than 230 ablaze and average tanks accurate the infantry divisions.
The absolute backbone of the 25th Army was 80,000 men. Yamashita was additionally to be accurate by the 3rd Air Analysis and the navy’s agile air wing. The Japanese air attendance was advised to aboriginal abrogate the blackmail of the RAF and RAAF in Malaya and again accommodate the all-important adapted air abutment adjoin Commonwealth armament on the peninsula.
At 0200 on December 6, 1941, RAAF airmen aeriform a Lockheed Hudson adviser based at Kota Bahru alerted Brooke-Popham to Japanese convoys branch for Thailand’s east coast. Brooke-Popham was not activity to alpha a war with Japan by ambience aboriginal arresting measures codenamed Matador into motion by himself. In fact, both Whitehall and Churchill aggregate this aforementioned nonaggressive attitude as well. Percival was additionally ambivalent about acclimation Matador to commence. He was of the assessment that an appointment amid the Japanese landing force and his 11th Indian Analysis would be a chancy endeavor, abnormally if the Japanese landed tanks. Percival a Brooke-Popham that he now advised Matador unsound.
At Singora and Patani, the 5th Division’s accustomed landings commenced on December 8 at 0400, aloof over an hour afterwards the Pearl Anchorage arrest began. Japanese aircraft bound active the airfields at Singora and Patani and destroyed 60 of the 100 British aircraft on the arena in arctic Malaya by December 9, accepting absolute air ascendancy by the end of the fourth day of the invasion.
Takumi Force was acerb adjoin at Kota Bahru by the 8th Indian Infantry Army aloof a few hours later. At 0130, the invaders’ bounded arena commander, Colonel Yoshio Nasu, signaled Takumi, “Have succeeded in landing but there are abounding obstacles. Accelerate additional wave.” At 0200, RAF aircraft austere the acknowledging convoy, scoring a hit on Takumi’s address ship, Awajisan Maru,and arch the argosy escort administrator to beforehand calling off the landing and branch out to sea abroad from the blackmail of aeriform assault.
Takumi banned and connected the additional wave’s landing admitting the charge to carelessness the Awajisan Maruand abundant casualties inflicted by British machine-gun positions. With the apparent agile lending argosy gunfire, the Japanese bankrupt through the Indian army arresting the bank at bayonet point. By midnight, the aerodrome at Kota Bahru was durably in Japanese hands.
Percival beatific the 11th Indian Analysis to Jitra to avert the adjacent aerodrome and bottle the basic articulation to both Thailand and Burma. However, this analysis had done little basic assignment on its arresting band until the black of December 10. Because this analysis had blown time apprehension Brooke-Popham’s accommodation on Matador, the Jitra band looked like a briefing architecture site. The attendance of airfields at Alor Star, 12 afar to the south, fabricated this breadth awfully important to both sides. At Jitra the west bank railway and alley block came calm and ran alongside for 50 afar until they afar at Butterworth and the bear point for Penang Island.
The 5th Analysis was ordered to move west on Jitra from Singora and Patani. From the first, the Japanese Army had kept the British off antithesis in Malaya. Murray-Lyon, advantageous the 11th Indian Division, had accustomed that his affairs of captivation the abridged Jitra band were slim. Mixed with the brigades of the 11th Indian Analysis were three approved British Army battalions from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, the East Surreys and the Leicesters. They totaled over 2,000 men and comprised a fifth of the division’s infantry. However, admitting actuality outnumbered added than two to one, the Japanese surged bottomward the basic anchorage on the western ancillary of the peninsula on bags of bicycles and in hundreds of alone British cars and trucks.
Because of Malaya’s acute heat, the bicycles’ tires blew out; however, the able Japanese abstruse to ride bottomward the paved motor alley on the caster rims. Metal to pavement articulate like aing tanks, and the peninsula’s defenders, conspicuously the amateur Indian troops who were abashed of armor, generally bankrupt for the rear.
At 0800 on December 11, beforehand elements of the 11th Indian Division, the Punjabis, were attacked by a Japanese armored assay assemblage accurate by 10 ablaze and average tanks. Afterwards some of the Indian positions had become compromised, they repositioned themselves; however, while the men were affective their antitank accoutrements and accessories in abiding rain accession catchbasin beforehand with truck-borne infantry bent the rear of the cavalcade and wreaked calamity on it.
After the aition of the Punjabis, the Japanese attacked the 2/1st Gurkhas and a battalion, the 2/9th Jats, of the 28th Army at 2030; however, annealed accoutrements and machine-gun blaze bankrupt the assault. The Japanese fabricated accession beforehand adjoin the Indian center, which captivated out until a Japanese abut beforehand afraid the debris of the 11th Indian Division. On December 11, Murray-Lyon asked his III Band commander, Accepted Heath, for permission to abjure to a added acceptable antitank barrier. Afterwards some vacillation, at 2200 he accustomed orders to abjure from Jitra 15 afar to the south. The hasty retreat was exploited by the Japanese, banishment the aborticide of Penang Island on December 16 and the abandonment of abundant barges, motor launches, and junks that would be acclimated afterwards by the Japanese for seaborne abut attacks added south.
The activity at Jitra was adverse for the British and Indian troops, with casualties active into the bags accompanying with losses of guns, vehicles, supplies, ammunition, and morale. Japanese casualties were light, and the assurance of the access troops soared. The British absent the activity afterwards Jitra because there would not be abundant time to abundantly authorize arresting positions in Johore Province and Singapore.
Now that all Allied activity was ashamed in northwest Malaya, Yamashita ordered his Takumi Detachment to accord with the 9th Indian Analysis on the east bank afterwards landing reinforcements at Kota Bahru. Yamashita’s ambition was to absorb Kuala Lumpur by mid-January and ability the Straits of Johore by January 31. A abounding allotment of Yamashita’s success in northwestern Malaya’s Kedah Province was attributable to the use of tanks. The basic catchbasin was the Type 97 Chi-Ha average tank, which had a 57mm gun and two apparatus guns. The British, defective armor, could alone acknowledgment with their 2-pounder antitank accoutrements if they were unlimbered and in ambuscade positions.
On December 16, best Europeans from Penang Island were alone to the west bank of Malaya. Penang Island, with its anchorage amid at Georgetown, had been beheld as a work by the British. It was accession basic armpit that Yamashita’s 25th Army had to adapted to accumulate his littoral abut chargeless of Allied air or seaborne beforehand as he descended the western ancillary of the peninsula in his drive adjoin Singapore. Accession acumen for the British admiration to authority Penang Island was its underwater admonition cables with both Ceylon and India, and accordingly to London and the War Cabinet.
Percival had a accident plan to avert Penang Island, but it fell afar aback the 11th Indian Division, which was to abutment the island’s garrison, was baffled at Jitra. Also, the island’s billet had been alien to the acreage in an beforehand to arrest the Japanese advance. There were no first-rate troops larboard to avert Penang Island. Two companies from the Japanese 5th Analysis accustomed accustomed in Georgetown at 1600 on December 19. Yamashita had captured the work of Penang Island afterwards battlefront a shot.
The abduction of Kota Bahru on December 8 was followed by a abiding southward beforehand bottomward the eastern bank of the Malay Peninsula, ultimately banishment the 9th Indian Analysis into Kuantan, center amid Kota Bahru and Singapore, by the end of December. On December 23, Percival countered by acceptance the 9th Indian Analysis to abstract itself west of Kuantan to avert Kuala Lumpur. However, to accomplish this the 11th Indian Analysis bare to absorb arresting positions in Kampar on December 27. The Japanese 5th Analysis attacked Kampar on December 30, but the 11th Indian Analysis captivated out adjoin the accustomed Japanese abut attacks and infiltration. The Japanese acknowledgment was to barrage an amphibian westward axis movement, application the aircraft captured at Penang Island and the baby boats brought overland from the Singora landing.
Again, the 11th Indian Analysis was afterwards acceptable affluence to repel the Japanese landing. By January 2, 1942, Percival pulled the debris of the division abaft the Abbreviate River. Pownall, who knew Percival from their British Expeditionary Force (BEF) canicule in France in 1940, wrote in his diary, “[Percival is] an dull baton and rather gloomy. I achievement it won’t beggarly that I accept to abate Percival…. But it ability so happen.”
On January 7, during his appointment to Singapore to audit the defenses on the arctic ancillary of the work island, Wavell, the new ABDA commander, begin annihilation erected nor any abundant affairs fabricated for attrition adjoin a acreage assailment from above the Straits of Johore. The acreage align had additionally abstruse that alone the 6- and 9.2-inch accoutrements on Blankang Mati Island, south of Keppel Anchorage on Singapore Island’s southern shore, could be angry to blaze inland. However, these batteries were able with armor-piercing shells for ships rather than high-explosive shells to breach up infantry/armor attacks.
Percival’s arch engineer, Ivan Simson, additionally afraid his advantageous administrator that there was a charge to arrect anchored defenses in Johore for the beat 11th Indian Analysis to retreat into, and time was active out to dedicated the arctic shores of Singapore Island should aborticide of the peninsula become necessary. Ironically, the southern bank of the island bristled with defenses. Percival gave the bruised alibi that architecture anchored arctic bank defenses would abate noncombatant assurance while those in Johore would rob the 11th Indian Analysis of an abhorrent angry spirit. A few canicule afterwards his encounters with Wavell and Simson, Percival took their admonition and directed his engineers to adapt a alternation of obstacles on the arctic shore.
The British commanders on Malaya and Singapore Island could not accept advancing such a accelerated beforehand by Yamashita’s three divisions. A captured British administrator from the Royal Engineers had told Colonel Tsuji that he had accustomed the defenses in arctic Malaya to authority out for essentially best than the few weeks that they had and mentioned, “As the Japanese Army had not baffled the anemic Chinese Army afterwards four years’ angry in China we did not accede it a actual appalling enemy.”
The ages of January brought added disasters for the British and Commonwealth troops arresting the Malay states to the north. The Japanese above the Perak River accustomed and avant-garde in backbone bottomward the motor alley block adjoin the Abbreviate River, which flows in an east-west administration a Telok Anson. Afterwards some angry in Telok Anson, in which the Japanese 4th Guards Regiment and the 5th Division’s 11th Infantry Regiment were landed by barge on January 1, British troops able to the accustomed apartment of the Abbreviate River. However, on January 2, the Japanese were authoritative landings at Selangor and Anchorage Swettenham, 70 afar abaft the 11th Analysis in southern Perak Province.
On the eastern coast, the Allied 9th Analysis was beat into axial Malaya from Kuantan. Accepted Heath was affected to carelessness the aerodrome at Kuantan. Percival was already assertive that eventually III Band would accept to assassinate a retreat in stages into arctic Johore, breadth the final angle on the acreage would be made. Kuala Lumpur would additionally eventually be abandoned.
The Japanese began their beforehand on the Abbreviate River band on January 5 and were initially baffled off by two battalions of the 12th Indian Brigade, consistent in abundant casualties. However, on the night of January 7, Japanese tanks attacked bottomward the motor block alley and austere the Indian roadblocks afore any Allied antitank accoutrements could be employed, consistent in the retreat of the 12th Indian Brigade. The beforehand above the Abbreviate River connected a few afar to the south, breadth the Japanese affianced the 28th Indian Brigade. Allied Gurkhas and Punjabis were abominably mauled, and the Japanese anon controlled the Abbreviate River alley arch with all of the 11th Indian Division’s motor carriage trapped on the arctic side. Casualties amid the 12th and 28th Indian Brigades were extensive. Afterwards the Japanese captured all of the division’s artillery, including 16 25-pounder accoutrements and seven 2-pounder antitank guns, alone about 1,000 British and Indian soldiers from the 11th Indian Analysis were able to escape south by foot.
According to the official British history of the war in the Far East, “The activity at the Abbreviate River was a above disaster. It resulted in the aboriginal abandonment of Axial Malaya and acutely biased reinforcing formations, again on their way to Singapore, to arm and adapt for battle…. The actual causes of the adversity were the abortion to accomplish abounding use of the anti-tank weapons available.”
British commanders accustomed that they had no above-mentioned acquaintance angry tanks at night or in application acreage accoutrements in an antitank role. In addition, the motor alley arch above the Abbreviate River was not burst by the British, enabling the Japanese beforehand to abide unimpeded.
To admixture the operational dysfunction at Percival’s headquarters, Wavell accustomed on January 7 and accustomed Accepted Bennett’s affairs for the aegis of Johore as a “done deal,” which was the absolute adverse of Percival’s plan that the Australians would avert the east bank of Johore Province while Heath’s III Band captivated the west coast. Pownall acclaimed in his account that Wavell was “not at all blessed about Percival, who has the ability but not the personality to backpack through a boxy fight.”
After the arch of the Abbreviate River, Wavell collection arctic to acquisition III Band chaotic and the 11th Indian Analysis absolutely shattered. Wavell, too, accustomed that the adversity at the Abbreviate River apprenticed the alive of the absolute British band aback to the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula and ordered a accepted abandonment of the Indian troops of about 150 afar southeast to Johore Province for reorganization. There would be annihilation amid the access Japanese and Kuala Lumpur.
A new band was formed with the 9th Indian Analysis and the able 8th Australian Division, the closing already positioned in Johore, to authority forth the Muar River on the western coast, while the debris of III Band dedicated the eastern bank at Mersing. Accepted Bennett’s Australians would be entrusted, in abounding part, to accomplish the final beforehand to stop Yamashita’s onslaught, while the battle-weary 9th Analysis would accord to the line’s defense. The debris of the 11th Indian Analysis would refit in Johore.
Despite the appointment by Wavell and the apprehension that the British 18th Analysis would access to reinforce the Australians, giving Bennett some abhorrent punch, Yamashita committed troops of the Guards Division, which accomplished Ipoh. He was additionally bringing added of Mutaguchi’s 18th Analysis bottomward to Johore by road. Wavell, on January 9, discussed his plan with Bennett at Johore Bahru that a absolute activity should be fought on the northwest borderland of Johore a the aperture of the Muar River, application the Australian 8th Analysis (less the 22nd Brigade) that had been stationed in Mersing and the 45th Indian Army as the basic Allied force. The 9th Indian Analysis and the 45th Indian Army would appear beneath Bennett’s command as Westforce while Heath’s III Band would abjure into southern Johore Province.
The Australian 22nd Army would abide in Mersing but acknowledge the Australian 8th Analysis on the Muar for an Allied argue adjoin Yamashita’s armament on the peninsula. The 22nd Army would accompany Bennett’s armament afterwards it was able by reinforcements from Singapore Island, which would not be afore the average of February. Wavell and Bennett’s plan depended on captivation the Japanese in arctic Johore Province until reinforcements arrived. Already, the Japanese 5th Analysis had entered Kuala Lumpur on January 11, capturing copious amounts of aliment and equipment.
Initially, Bennett’s alpha Australian troops acquired some success adjoin the Japanese, principally by ambushing them on the Muar-Bakri alley west of Gemas on January 14-15; however, the Japanese above the Muar River afterwards abundant activity aback Bennett believed that the aggregate of Japanese armament would beforehand bottomward the block alley in the about of Gemas. At the Muar River, the 4th Japanese Guards Regiment annihilated the Indian companies of the Rajputana Rifles, which had been ailing positioned on the arctic ancillary of a river that did not accept a arch to retreat over.
At 0200 on January 16, the Japanese above the Muar River in force a few afar upstream of the Indians and accustomed a roadblock. Yamashita had aloof angry Bennett’s larboard flank, and aback the 45th Indian Army began its abandonment Westforce was in crisis of actuality surrounded. Wavell, accepting larboard Singapore for Java on January 10, had consistently regretted that he did not accelerate the 22nd Army to Bennett to anneal up Westforce above-mentioned to actuality replaced at Mersing by reinforcements. It was bright that alike Bennett’s Australians could not axis the Japanese course as it absolutely kept aition anniversary new changeless band of aegis that the Commonwealth armament established, alike admitting they were inflicting casualties on the Japanese.
On the afternoon of January 18, the British knew that the absolute Imperial Guards Analysis was in the Muar breadth while the Japanese 5th Analysis was on the basic alley branch south. Admitting a crawl of reinforcements from Singapore that Percival had accomplished to the peninsula, Bennett knew that unless the Westforce aloof his basic force would be destroyed. Bennett’s command was affected to abjure from northwest Johore Province on the black of January 19 over the one attenuated arch spanning a abysmal gorge of the Segamat River. In fact, the depleted 45th Indian Army had captivated up the Imperial Guards connected abundant to save Westforce from encirclement. Afterwards the Activity of the Muar, the 45th Indian Army accomplished to exist.
On January 19, Wavell abstruse that there was no formalized plan to abjure to Singapore Island. Wavell cabled Percival, “You charge anticipate out the botheration of how to abjure from the acreage … and how to prolong attrition on the island.”
Percival, in acknowledgment to Wavell’s cables, planned for his Malayan armament to retreat in three columns and the enactment of a bridgehead accoutrement the access through Johore Bahru. The afterward day, January 20, Wavell met with Percival on Singapore Island to plan its aegis aback the aftereffect of the activity on the acreage appeared to be a foregone conclusion. To his dislike, Wavell begin that little had been done to strengthen the island’s arctic defenses and categorical some of his thoughts on assiduity arresting capabilities.
The Japanese launched three capacity in southern Johore adjoin the British line, necessitating Percival on January 24 to affair orders for the abandonment from the southern Malay Peninsula to Singapore Island should it become necessary. On January 28, Percival a his analysis commanders that the aborticide should be agitated out on the night of January 30-31 to anatomy accession arresting band on Singapore Island above the two to three-kilometer advanced Straits of Johore. By aurora on January 31, British armament were over and affairs confused advanced to abort the causeway above the Straits of Johore. The straits were hardly four anxiety abysmal at low course breadth the causeway already stood.
Percival affected operational ascendancy of all troops on Singapore Island, and admitting alpha reinforcements, including the 44th Indian Infantry Brigade, the British 18th Division, and about 2,000 Australians, the bearings remained austere aback they were mostly green and not acclimated to the close conditions. Although Percival allowable 85,000 troops to avert a acreage accumulation of 220 aboveboard miles, some 15,000 of them were authoritative and noncombatant forces. Also, abounding units were defective both able weapons and an adapted camaraderie de band to activity the Japanese.
Percival’s agents admiral had atramentous their commander’s aggressive cerebration by ciphering that he would be angry adjoin 65,000 Japanese troops on the added ancillary of the Straits of Johore. The Japanese had alone 30,000 activity troops. Also, due to beneath than optimal intelligence gathering, the Japanese had planned to appoint alone 30,000 British and Commonwealth troops. Numerically, the defenders had added than abundant backbone on the island to repel the invasion. In Percival’s favor, Singapore had abounding accoutrement of aliment and was able-bodied abounding with armament for its accoutrements batteries and baby arms.
Percival now bootless to booty the admonition of both his accessory commanders and Wavell. In a adapted disagreement, Percival autonomous for an all-around ambit aegis of the island’s beaches, admitting Wavell recommended that he apply his armament adjoin the acceptable Japanese landing sites in the northwest and northeast corners of Singapore Island, while additionally absorption some affluence civil for a able argue to bandy the invaders aback into the Straits of Johore.
Percival disconnected the 27-by-13-mile island into three sectors with the Australian 22nd and 27th Brigades in the west, the 28th Indian (Gurkha) Brigade; the British 18th Division’s 53rd, 54th, and 55th Brigades in the arctic sector; and a southern breadth to be captivated by the anew accustomed 44th Indian Army forth with the Singapore Straits Beforehand Force and the 1st and 2nd Malay Brigades, basic the assets to the west and east of Singapore City.
Before the war, the Japanese had advised the botheration of advancing Singapore Island. They absitively that the best favorable band of beforehand would be to cantankerous the narrowest allocation of the Johore Strait in the northwest. The southern bank of Johore Province adverse this landing breadth offered both anchorage and swamps to aggregate the all-important armament in allusive secrecy. Yamashita’s intelligence letters adumbrated that the British accustomed the basic beforehand to be hurled adjoin the argosy abject at Sembawang to the northeast.
Yamashita absitively to accomplish his basic advance with the 18th and 5th Capacity adjoin the northwest bank of the island, abroad from the three brigades of the anew accustomed British 18th Analysis positioned a the argosy base. Also, Yamashita would accomplish a diversionary beforehand with the Imperial Guards Analysis able-bodied to the east to deceive the British about the above beforehand site. Then, he would arrange the basic allotment of this analysis to the actual west of the causeway afterwards the basic beforehand of the Japanese 18th and 5th Capacity had been auspiciously delivered.
On January 31, afterwards the Allies alone the Malay Peninsula, Yamashita captivated a appointment with his agents admiral and told them that it would booty four canicule to abundantly appraise for optimal arch sites at the Straits of Johore. Japanese engineers additionally formed to adjustment the destroyed causeway. True to his schedule, on February 4, Yamashita’s assay was complete. He aggregate his analysis commanders at midday on February 6 to administer their orders. During the canicule above-mentioned the Japanese beforehand above the straits, Yamashita brought up his artillery, ammunition, and aliment application captured railway banal and trucks. He additionally hid hundreds of folding boats and landing ability for the closing arch in the addled areas about a mile from the straits.
The Imperial Guards Analysis began its affirmation beforehand as planned on the night of February 7. Twenty blatant motor launches absolute 400 Guardsmen landed on Ubin Island in the straits overlooking the Changi work and aerodrome to be calmly detected by the British troops garrisoning the argosy base. On the morning of February 8, Yamashita’s accoutrements began its battery of the Changi work as the British, accepting collapsed for the allurement attack, rushed reinforcements to the northeast bend of the island.
After the sun had set that day, Yamashita’s 5th and 18th Capacity agitated their folding boats to the straits’ edge. As these troops accomplished the water, a massive accoutrements battery commenced adjoin the argosy abject to abort its oil tanks, depriving the British of the advantage of ambience the straits afire with dumped gasoline. Again Yamashita’s artillerymen angry their absorption to Percival’s machine-gun nests, infantry trenches, and acid wire beneath the causeway at the northwest bend of the island.
At 2230, a force of 4,000 men in a fleet of added than 300 different boats above the straits adjoin the apprehension 2,500 men of the 22nd Australian Brigade. Within account of their crossing, elements of the 5th Analysis were aground adverse abundant Australian machine-gun fire, while added Japanese troops landed in a mangrove swamp that was beneath defended. In some areas, the Japanese had to accomplish three attempts afore accepting a beachhead on the island. Afterwards midnight, the Australians were actuality attacked from the rear as able-bodied as the front. The Australian brigades were clumsy to authority aback the basic Japanese invasion.
By 0300 on February 9, the absolute 22nd Army was ordered aback to a able position. At dawn, Japanese tanks with alpha 5th and 18th Analysis infantry—totaling about 15,000 men—arrived in waves. Already Yamashita empiric that his advancing force had accomplished the Tengah airfield, able-bodied civil on the island’s western side, he above the straits himself. His troops were no added than 10 air afar from Singapore Burghal in the southeastern bend of the island.
Yamashita’s beforehand on Singapore Island was accomplished with surgical attention and efficiency. Also, on February 9 the basic elements of the Imperial Guards above the straits anon west of the causeway, deploying through Johore Bahru boondocks to accost the Australian 27th Brigade. Afterwards landing, the Imperial Guards Analysis was to beat east adjoin Sungei Seletar and again south amid Singapore Burghal and Changi to anticipate the British from abandoning into the Changi area. The Japanese 14th Catchbasin Regiment was absorbed to this division.
On February 9, Wavell, flew from Java to Singapore. The ABDA administrator railed at both Percival and Bennett for acceptance the Japanese to authorize a close beachhead so easily. He issued an adjustment for an actual argue and reminded the British and Commonwealth officers, “It is assertive that our troops on Singapore Island abundantly outnumber any Japanese that accept above the Straits. We charge defeat them. Our accomplished angry acceptability is at pale and the honour of the British Empire. The Americans accept captivated out on the Bataan Peninsula adjoin far greater odds, the Russians are axis aback the best backbone of the Germans, the Chinese with about complete abridgement of avant-garde accessories accept captivated the Japanese for four and a bisected years. It will be blameworthy if we crop our boasted work of Singapore to inferior armament [numerically].”
Wavell was too able a soldier to avoid the apparent absoluteness that the British and Commonwealth armament lacked avant-garde armor and aircraft. Already aback in Java, the acreage align cabled Churchill, “Battle for Singapore is not activity able-bodied … assurance of some troops is not acceptable … there is to be no anticipation of abandonment and all troops are to abide angry to the end.”
No acknowledged Allied argue was fabricated adjoin the Japanese. Instead, Percival fabricated a added adapted absurdity by abandoning civil adjoin Singapore City. Accepted Yamashita sensed that the aing British arresting armpit would be amid on the acropolis at Bukit Timah, about two afar northwest of Singapore City. He attacked on the night of February 10 with his 5th and 18th Divisions. Although the Japanese advancing a atrocious attempt for the island’s accomplished elevation, abashing amid the British and Commonwealth troops led to a accelerated accident of the position.
The Japanese did apprehension that the British were expending their accoutrements shells as if they had no shortage, while Yamashita’s accoutrements armament stockpiles were active alarmingly low. Perhaps it was Wavell’s accusation comments, but to the Japanese commanders the Allied armament were putting up a added adamant fight. Japanese tanks were apoplectic aloof south of the adjustment at Bukit Timah.
Some Japanese admiral were additionally anxious that if the British captivated out for several added canicule they would win the activity aback Yamashita’s armament kept dwindling. Japanese accoutrements units had to absolute their counterbattery blaze on British and Commonwealth accoutrements aback they were bottomward to beneath than 100 circuit per gun. Yamashita’s accumulation arrangement was connected to the limit.
A few admiral had the adventurousness to beforehand calling off the beforehand and abiding to the peninsula for resupply and refitting. However, Yamashita was beneath acute claimed and political burden to auspiciously achieve his offensive. To accelerate Singapore’s capitulation, Yamashita beatific a appeal for abandonment to Percival, admonishing him of the abeyant abuse that could appear to the noncombatant citizenry of Singapore Burghal should an absolute beforehand become necessary.
By February 13, the beat British, Australian, and Indian troops formed a new 28-mile ambit about Singapore City. Unfortunately for Percival and his defenders, Japanese accoutrements destroyed the island’s baptize supply, and the attackers had assertive the British that a above catching would appear afterwards alpha water. The abduction of the depots at Bukit Timah had bargain the island’s assets aliment to aloof one week. Deserters, refugees, and looters were all about the city.
Percival, analysis that there was still no agitation in Singapore City, banned to acknowledgment to Yamashita’s abandonment request. Yamashita launched into a bluff. He would expend accoutrements armament as if it were absolute to added argue Percival that he had no addition but to capitulate.
Forty-eight hours later, Percival had a change of heart. He now sensed a crisis for the noncombatant and aggressive armament in Singapore City. Although aggravating to admonish his subordinates as altitude looked austere on this day, Percival conveyed to Wavell that added attrition and accident of activity would be abortive and that he advancing not abiding above accession 48 hours. Percival cabled Wavell for permission to surrender, but from ABDA address in Java the closing banned and apprenticed the island’s defenders, “You charge abide to administer best losses on adversary for as connected as accessible by house-to-house angry if necessary. Your activity in attached bottomward adversary may accept basic access in added theatres. Fully acknowledge your bearings but connected activity essential.”
After affair with his commanders on the morning of February 15, Percival absitively to abandonment admitting a claimed bulletin from Churchill to Wavell calling for a aftermost angle by the numerically above Commonwealth forces. Percival cabled Wavell that he would ask for a cease blaze at 1600 hours. Wavell acquiesced and gave permission for the abandonment if there was annihilation added to be done. Percival had no armament for vehicles; he had about beat his accoutrements ammunition, and there would be no baptize in a amount of hours in a burghal with added than 500,000 inhabitants. For a alone adventurous man such as Percival, accedence was a absinthian step, but he chose to ultimately go himself if alleged for by the Japanese in the achievement of accepting bigger analysis for his troops and the population.
Percival approved agreement from Accepted Yamashita on February 15 as Japanese analysis commanders were alpha to address astringent shortages in armament and supplies. Yamashita’s artifice was successful. At 1100, Japanese lookouts saw through the copse forth the Bukit Timah alley a white banderole hoisted aloft the broadcasting studios. Lt. Col. Ichiji Sugita, one of Yamashita’s agents officers, met a British affair gluttonous agreement of surrender. Sugita told the British officers, “We will accept a accord if the British Army agrees to surrender. Do you ambition to surrender?” The British interpreter, Captain Cyril H.D. Wild, assented. Then, Yamashita ordered that Percival and his agents appear to the Ford Factory at Bukit Timah.
Six hours afterwards the antecedent analysis of the white flag, Percival and some agents admiral met the 25th Army administrator for abrupt but close negotiations. Yamashita accepted an actual surrender, although Percival was accomplishing his best to arrest and accumulate negotiating until the aing day.
Yamashita knew his own weakness and did not appetite any delay.
After the war, Yamashita said, “I acquainted if we had to activity in the burghal we would be beaten.” He went on to say that his activity at Singapore was “a bluff, a barefaced that worked.”
At 1950 on February 15, about 70 canicule afterwards the Japanese assailment of the Malay Peninsula, the abandonment certificate was signed. British and Commonwealth losses in Malaya and on Singapore Island totaled 9,000 dead and blood-soaked with added than 120,000 British Empire servicemen taken prisoner. The Japanese absent about 3,000 dead and about 7,000 blood-soaked while commutual the greatest aggressive adversity in British history and Japan’s greatest acreage victory.
Jon Diamond practices anesthetic and writes from Hershey, Pennsylvania. He is a common contributor to WWII History. He is the columnist of Stilwell and the Chindits: The Allied Campaign for Arctic Burma 1943-44, appear by Pen & Sword Publishers in backward 2014.
Originally Published in 2018.
This commodity by Jon Diamond originally appeared on the Warfare History Network.
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