Singapore's white flag

Jun 2008
784
Catalonia
My mother wants to know -

why did Singapore give up so easily to the Japanese?

(I'm really sorry for so little information - but that's her question - I'd appreciate any comments - keep them simple - for both our sakes)
 

Belisarius

Forum Staff
Jun 2006
10,359
U.K.
The Japanese attacked from the less well fortified landward side where the heavy guns could not be turned against them. The commander lost his nerve and surrendered to a huge Japanese bluff [The Japanese were almost out of ammunition and had the General commanding, whose name I forget, told them where to get off, the Japanese would have been forced to retreat and singapore would have held.]
 
Jul 2008
81
the continent of Asia, Planet Earth
I'm Singaporean... and I so I learned a lot about my country's history.

The British had under-estimated the Japanese, and had stationed only outdated WWI-era aircraft and weaponry in Singapore. The British had their guns pointed towards the sea, and in the south, and not the north, where the Japanese came from. Further tactical errors during the Battle of Singapore, resulted in Japanese advances and the Japanese trapped the British in the city itself.

The British could fight on, but only at the cost of many, many lives, both civilian and military.

PS: Contrary to what Belisarius said, the guns could be pointed at the enemy, they were aimed at a 360 degree angle, but to do so, would result in the British firing also at their own troops, which was why the guns were never turned against the Japanese.
 
Jun 2008
784
Catalonia
Thank you! I will copy, paste and print for her edification.

Any comments that come from this thread - from me - are hers... (I will not be held responsible!!)
 

Belisarius

Forum Staff
Jun 2006
10,359
U.K.
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]The full text of the British version of events is available here[/FONT]

http://www.defence.gov.au/army/ahu/history/Battles/Singapore.htm

[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Defence of Singapore[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif] Surprisingly, the British authorities had done nothing to improve the landward defences of the Island. While the claim that the guns could not be turned to face the landward approaches is a myth, both the trajectory and the ammunition type for weapons intended to engage ships limited their value. While Percival had relatively plenty of troops available, Singapore was still a large Island to defend and he did not have sufficient numbers to be strong everywhere. He split the island up into areas, assigning specific formations to the defence of each. Defying what even then was conventional military doctrine, he deployed the majority of his strength in forward areas rather than adopting a screen of troops with a strong defence in depth. [/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]The Japanese could attack from the north east, the north or the north west. Percival predicted that the attack would come from the north east, and positioned his best force, the new and fresh British 18th Division in this sector. The north west area was held by the Australian 8th Division, now severely depleted in numbers and equipment and very tired after the intensive fighting on the mainland. The Johore Strait was at its narrowest opposite the Australian positions. The northern corridor between these two formations was held by the 11th Indian Division. Percival guessed wrong, and the Japanese assault fell on the 22nd Australian Brigade.[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif] The 22nd Brigade was defending the extreme north west corner of Singapore Island. With manning levels at almost half strength, it was expected to hold a 15 kilometre frontage, composed of mangrove swamp, creeks and tidal inlets. Consequently, no reserve could be maintained. The Japanese, who had carefully observed the defensive positions, were well aware of the available entry points between the defenders’ positions. At 10.30 p.m., on the 8th of February, preceded by a heavy bombardment, the Japanese 5th and 18th Divisions launched the attack. The Australians put up a stiff resistance, causing many casualties, but limited numbers and the lack of a reserve enabled the Japanese to infiltrate through their forward positions and forced them to pull back towards the airfield at Tengah. [/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]The next night, the Japanese Imperial Guards Division attacked the 11th Indian Division in the causeway area and, despite a gallant defence forced them to withdraw from the coastal defensive line. Percival’s failure to keep strong reserves available meant he had no forces available to recover from these setbacks. Defending units were defeated piecemeal while others were left unengaged. (The 18th Division remained uncommitted throughout the first, critical 48 hours.) [/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Behind the defensive crust, preparations were even worse. While commanders created defensive lines on paper, they were seldom properly prepared with barbed wire or minefields. Confusion in the high command compounded the problems. General Bennett prematurely issued an order to withdraw from the Jurong Line, one of the established defensive lines on the western side of the island. The civil leadership also made basic errors. The growing numbers of refugees caught in the shrinking perimeter added to pressures on medical facilities, clogged roads and put additional pressure on food and water resources. The Governor could have evacuated many of these in the ships bringing in reinforcements but failed to do so. [/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]As the advancing Japanese captured all the airfields but for Kallang and all the water storage reservoirs, the problems compounded for the defenders. By the 11th, when the supreme Allied commander in the theatre, General Wavell, left Singapore, there was no hope. The defenders had mostly continued to resist bravely, some such as the 1st Malaya Brigade had made heroic stands, but continual withdrawals left other defensive positions exposed which in turn were evacuated. The Japanese began to overrun more vital points and infrastructure, including ammunition depots. Ammunition, especially artillery and anti-aircraft artillery ammunition, began to run out. Japanese aircraft attacked defensive positions at will. [/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Despite Churchill’s instructions to ‘fight on among the ruins of Singapore City’, the leadership became concerned over the potential for huge loss of civilian life if the fighting entered the city proper. As it was, artillery and air bombardment were causing horrific casualties among the trapped civil population. By the 14th, the failure of the water supply had the high command considering escape. By early the next morning, Percival was planning a deputation to talk terms with the enemy. The Japanese were in no mood to compromise and demanded unconditional surrender. With no alternative, it was accepted and at 10.30 that night, the fighting stopped. For many, the real suffering was just beginning.[/FONT]
 

Belisarius

Forum Staff
Jun 2006
10,359
U.K.
PS: Contrary to what Belisarius said, the guns could be pointed at the enemy, they were aimed at a 360 degree angle, but to do so, would result in the British firing also at their own troops, which was why the guns were never turned against the Japanese.
Fair point. I expressed myself badly. :eek:
 

avon

Forum Staff
May 2008
14,253
Thanks for posting that Belisarius.

The opening line: "Surprisingly, the British authorities had done nothing to improve the landward defences of the Island."

'Surprisingly'? Nothing surprising about it in the least. Singapore, regardless of its commercial or strategic value, was the least important of Britain's worries. The defence of the home islands was of tantamount importance, the defence of allies came next. Given the value of keeping the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal open and navagable came next. Look at how badly equiped the British forces in Egypt were. Singapore? Well, that was the least of their worries!!