The 15th of February 1942 AD
It was an event dubbed by Winston Churchill as “the largest capitulation” in British history. Japanese troops, enormously outnumbered by the combined British, Indian and Australian forces on Singapore, took the island thanks to superior generalship, swift movement, and better planning.
Allied forces had already taken a severe beating from the effective and ruthless Japanese during their drive through Malaya. Many errors were made in the defence of Singapore: Lt-General Arthur Percival had tried to guard the entire coast, rather than monitoring it and having a large force ready to counter-attack; Percival and Major-General Gordon Bennett, the Australian commander, had a poor relationship; heavy artillery designed to repel warships lacked the high explosive ammunition to fight troops; key supplies were lost early in the fighting; Japanese airpower was superior and better organised. The list continues.
On February 15 1942 Percival had to surrender unconditionally to the Japanese commander Yamashita. Percival had led 85000 men; his opponent 36000.
Both as they took the island and afterwards Japanese troops carried out atrocities including the systematic murder of patients and staff at the Alexandra Hospital, and the protracted actions of extermination squads disposing of anyone deemed anti-Japanese or a potential threat to Japan. Thousands of POWs died in Changi Prison; on hell-ships bound for forced labour camps elsewhere; and in those camps.
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