The Fall of Malaya and Singapore: Rare Photographs from Wartime Archives

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A total of 60 Allied aircraft were lost on the first day, primarily on the ground. However, the appearance of ever greater numbers of Japanese fighters, including markedly superior types such as the Nakajima Ki "Oscar" soon overwhelmed the Buffalo pilots, both in the air and on the ground. While contesting the Japanese landings on Malaya , Hudsons from No. The bombers were intercepted on take-off by a Japanese raid which disabled or shot down all but one.

Malayan campaign - Wikipedia

No Squadron had been sent to protect Force Z on 10 December, but arrived after the warships were sinking. On 15 December both Squadrons were pulled back to Kuala Lumpur, receiving replacement aircraft for those shot down or destroyed. Within the first week of the campaign the Japanese had established air superiority.

On 19 December the bombers were moved to Singapore, with No 62 Squadron being re-equipped with Hudsons. Continued Japanese dominance eventually forced both Squadrons back to Singapore on 24 December, where they were merged until more replacement aircraft could be obtained. No 64 Squadron had run out of aircraft and its surviving ground-crew and airmen were shipped to Burma. This left the Allied ground troops and shipping completely open to air attack and further weakened the defensive position.

Several Dutch pilots—including Jacob van Helsdingen and August Deibel —responded to a number of air raids over Singapore while stationed at Kallang Airport. They claimed a total of six aircraft, particularly the Nakajima Ki Nate, which fared poorly in Malaya. On 3 January , 51 disassembled Hurricane Mk IIBs arrived in Singapore along with 24 pilots many of whom were veterans of the Battle of Britain who had been transferred to there with the intention of forming the nucleus of five squadrons.

National Archives of Singapore

The Hurricanes were fitted with bulky 'Vokes' dust filters under the nose and were armed with 12, rather than eight, machine guns. The additional weight and drag made them slow to climb and unwieldy to maneuver at altitude, although they were more effective bomber killers. The recently arrived pilots were formed into Squadron. On 18 January, the two squadrons formed the basis of Group. All the Martins and one of the Wirraways were lost. Aircraft from 36 , 62 , and Squadrons unsuccessfully attacked the Japanese invasion fleet at Endau on 26 January, suffering heavy losses.

The surviving aircraft were evacuated to Sumatra on 31 January. It is not entirely clear how many Japanese aircraft the Buffalo squadrons shot down, although RAAF pilots alone managed to shoot down at least Additionally, most of the Japanese aircraft shot down by the Buffalos were bombers. The defeat of Allied troops at the Battle of Jitra by Japanese forces, supported by tanks moving south from Thailand on 11 December and the rapid advance of the Japanese inland from their Kota Bharu beachhead on the north-east coast of Malaya overwhelmed the northern defences. Without any real naval presence, the British were unable to challenge Japanese naval operations off the Malayan coast, which proved invaluable to the invaders.


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With virtually no remaining Allied planes, the Japanese also had mastery of the skies, leaving the Allied ground troops and civilian population exposed to air attack. The Malayan island of Penang was bombed daily by the Japanese from 8 December and abandoned on 17 December. Arms, boats, supplies and a working radio station were left in haste to the Japanese.

The evacuation of Europeans from Penang, with local inhabitants being left to the mercy of the Japanese, caused much embarrassment for the British and alienated them from the local population. Historians judge that "the moral collapse of British rule in Southeast Asia came not at Singapore, but at Penang".

It was a response to an order from British High Command which had come to the conclusion that Penang should be abandoned as it had no tactical or strategic value in the rapidly changing military scheme of things at that time. By the end of the first week in January, the entire northern region of Malaya had been lost to the Japanese.

At the same time, Thailand officially signed a Treaty of Friendship with Imperial Japan, which completed the formation of their loose military alliance. Thailand was then allowed by the Japanese to resume sovereignty over several sultanates in northern Malaya, thus consolidating their occupation. It did not take long for the Japanese army's next objective, the city of Kuala Lumpur , to fall. The Japanese entered and occupied the city unopposed on 11 January The 11th Indian Division managed to delay the Japanese advance at Kampar for a few days, in which the Japanese suffered severe casualties in terrain that did not allow them to use their tanks or their air superiority to defeat the British.

The 11th Indian Division was forced to retreat when the Japanese landed troops by sea south of the Kampar position. The British retreated to prepared positions at Slim River. At the Battle of Slim River , in which two Indian brigades were practically annihilated, the Japanese used surprise and tanks to devastating effect in a risky night attack.

The success of this attack forced Percival into replacing the 11th Indian Division with the 8th Australian Division. By mid-January, the Japanese had reached the southern Malayan state of Johore where, on 14 January, they encountered troops from the Australian 8th Division , commanded by Major-General Gordon Bennett , for the first time in the campaign.

Malayan Campaign

During engagements with the Australians, the Japanese experienced their first major tactical setback, due to the stubborn resistance put up by the Australians at Gemas. The battle —centred around the Gemencheh Bridge —proved costly for the Japanese, who suffered up to casualties. However, the bridge itself which had been demolished during the fighting was repaired within six hours. As the Japanese attempted to outflank the Australians to the west of Gemas, [57] one of the bloodiest battles of the campaign began on 15 January on the peninsula's West coast near the Muar River.

Bennett allocated the 45th Indian Brigade—a new and half-trained formation—to defend the river's South bank but the unit was outflanked by Japanese units landing from the sea and the Brigade was effectively destroyed with its commander, Brigadier H. Duncan , and all three of his battalion commanders killed. During the fighting at Bakri Australian anti-tank gunners had destroyed nine Japanese tanks, [56] slowing the Japanese advance long enough for the surviving elements of the five battalions to attempt an escape from the Muar area.

enter site Led by Australian Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Anderson , the surviving Indian and Australian troops formed the "Muar Force" and fought a desperate four-day withdrawal, [56] allowing remnants of the Commonwealth troops withdrawing from northern Malaya to avoid being cut off and to push past the Japanese to safety. When the Muar Force reached the bridge at Parit Sulong and found it to be firmly in enemy hands, Anderson, with mounting numbers of dead and wounded, ordered "every man for himself". Those who could took to the jungles, swamps and rubber plantations in search of their division headquarters at Yong Peng.

The wounded were left to the mercy of the Japanese, and all but two out of were tortured and killed in the Parit Sulong Massacre. Anderson was awarded a Victoria Cross for his fighting withdrawal. On 20 January, further Japanese landings took place at Endau , in spite of an air attack by Vildebeest bombers. The final Commonwealth defensive line in Johore of Batu Pahat — Kluang — Mersing was now being attacked along its full length. In the face of repeated requests from his Chief Engineer, Brigadier Ivan Simson , Percival had resisted the construction of fixed defences in Johore, as on the North shore of Singapore, dismissing them with the comment, "Defences are bad for morale.

Japanese raiders and infiltrators, often disguised as Singaporean civilians, began to cross the Straits of Johor in inflatable boats soon afterwards. In less than two months, the Battle for Malaya had ended in comprehensive defeat for the Commonwealth forces and their retreat from the Malay Peninsula to the fortress of Singapore. Nearly 50, Commonwealth troops had been captured or killed during the battle. The Japanese Army invaded the island of Singapore on 7 February and completed their conquest of the island on 15 February, capturing 80, more prisoners out of the 85, allied defenders.

By the end of January, Heenan had been court-martialled for spying for the Japanese and sentenced to death. On 13 February, five days after the invasion of Singapore Island, and with Japanese forces approaching the city centre, he was taken by military police to the waterside and was hastily executed.


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