Archive | May, 2013

Dark Days 1941

29 May

December 7th 1941 a date the late and great American President Roosevelt said “A day that will live in infamy.” This was day the Japanese not only attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbour, but started to attack British governed possessions in the Far East, particular Hong Kong and Malaysia. The Japanese troops from their military bases in Thailand invaded other nations in Southeast Asia and then proceeded overland across the Thai–Malayan border to attack Malaya. The Japanese began bombing strategic areas of Singapore, The air raids were consistent on Singapore from 29 December onwards, although The British anti-aircraft fire kept most of the Japanese bombers from totally devastating the island as long as ammunition was available.
Hope came to the Far East when the Battleship HMS Prince of Wales and the Battle-cruiser HMS Repulse and four Destroyers arrived at Malaya it was hoped they would be a strong deterrent to the Japanese forces. Unfortunately both Ships were attacked and sunk by Japanese aircraft on the 10th December while on the way to prevent the invasion of Malaya. This news came as a great shock not only for the British forces in Malaya but to everyone at home in Great Britain as well. The Japanese had invaded Malaya on December 8th 1941; they landed at the mouth of the Kelantan River, subsequently capturing Khota Bharu and its airfield. Nobody thought it possible particularly the British High command that an army could get through dense jungle and hills to capture Malaya and reach Singapore. All the big wigs thought the only invasion would be seaborne. The Japanese with light tanks and infantry, some using bikes, conquered Malaya within seven weeks
On January31st1942, after the last British Troops had been withdrawn to the Island of Singapore the Johore Causeway that connected Singapore with the mainland was breached. The battle for Singapore intensified with air raid attacks constant. The general attack began on 4th February when the naval base was raided and set on fire our big guns had been positioned for an attack coming from the sea not from the land. The British Forces and Allies were commanded by General Arthur Ernest Percival. No doubt he was a brave man during The First world War because he had been awarded a DSO and MC. History says he was the wrong man in the wrong place to be in charge of the defence of Singapore. One can only draw one’s own conclusion. I have not gone into the ins and outs too many writers have already written on this subject in great detail. That is why you the reader must draw your own conclusion.
The Japanese continued to make fresh landings; the Johore Causeway was soon fixed so that tanks were beginning to cross. After fierce fighting the reservoirs were lost to the enemy then the naval base. To the utter dismay to British troops on the ground General Percival surrendered unconditionally with 75,000 men to Lt General Yamashita. Singapore the jewel in the British Crown was lost one week after the initial Japanese attack on the Island.
The fall of Singapore was another low point for the British people during the early days of the war. All those captured troops both British, and Australian were sent to Prisoner of war camps and suffered horrendous brutality. There were 50,000 British Troops in Japanese captivity 12,433 died as POWs‎ .The Australians had 21000 in captivity of which 8031 died as POWs.
These were not old men they were young fit men who were broken bodily and mentally by the sheer cruelty of the Japanese military.
The men who survived the POW camps in the Far East suffered many health problems for the rest of their lives. Many died very young. It is very sad indeed for all of those unfortunate men. Their wives, girlfriends and parents must have had a hard time bringing some joy back to their lives, because those who did survive needed help that only loved ones can bring.
.My personal belief is, if General Percival could have for seen what would happen to the men under his command when he surrendered at Singapore and they went into Japanese captivity. I am sure he would have fought to the end. If he had, history would show him in a different light.
Both we the British and Americans were caught napping in 1941 and we paid a bigger price than anyone else for our negativity, because it was also the beginning of the end of our Empire.

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