Brigadier E.W. Goodman, D.S.O., M.C.


Singapore Map

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30th January 1942

Some of Corps HQ moved across to Singapore to a Chinese school on the Serangoon road near Paya Lebar and I moved too after a day’s reconnoitring. I had some difficulty in finding the place and, whilst looking for it, came across HQ 18 Div who were in Paya Lebar and first met their CRA – Servaes, a Territorial whose BM, Skey, had been one of my YOs at Larkhill. It was about this time that we started to build up a counter-battery organisation for spotting and fixing enemy batteries. Curtis produced an officer – Madden – from the fixed defences and also a few men. It was never a great success as the communications were never satisfactory.


31st January - 1st February 1942

I spent the night with the Corps Commander, who had a battle HQ at the Island end of the Causeway. Actually all the troops got across without any interference at all, but it was a rather anxious night to start with and everybody heaved a sigh of relief when the last troops of the bridgehead party crossed over at dawn. When the last parties were over – it was by then full daylight – and not a shot had been fired and no enemy aeroplanes were visible, the Causeway was blown up. There were 13 tons of explosive which appeared to have surprisingly little effect, though of course the Causeway was a very massive thing carrying a broad road and the railway on a bridge right alongside. And so home to breakfast.

Meantime in the withdrawal from Rengam 22 Bde had been cut off and their fate was not known on the 31st January. A few were brought across by the Navy on the next two nights but the majority were taken prisoner, including Painter, who had a bad time and eventually turned up in Changi in July 1942 via Kuala Lumpur where he was in the gaol.

On the 31st January I was ordered to Malaya Command HQ as BRA but that was cancelled almost immediately. But the order was repeated again on the 1st February, so accordingly I moved with all my HQ down to Sima Road where Malaya Command had their Ops HQ – the GOC, BGS and Signals, and now RA. It was elaborately camouflaged and consisted of rows of wooden huts arranged on opposite sides of a small valley, all the huts being connected by covered passages. Though camouflaged I think it must have been pretty obvious from the air. It was right alongside the Bukit Timah Golf Club, which looked, and I believe was, a lovely course. The RAF had their HQ nearby and also the RN. We were given quarters in huts and lived in a mess run by Command. It was an odd show altogether. The Mess consisted almost entirely of junior officers or bachelor or grass-widower majors. The great majority of the senior officers – in fact all I think – lived in their own bungalows or hotels. Some still had their wives though most of them had left by 31st January. It was a great mistake for officers to continue to live in their own bungalows under these conditions as they would have been far more war-minded if they’d been pitched out into a camp some way out of Singapore. Thank goodness you had not been able to get out to Singapore in January. Some wives did come, Mrs Mitchell (wife of Kohat MO) was one who arrived at the end of December and had to go back without his being able to get down to see her. I think some of the people in Singapore took a long time to wake up to the fact that the war arrived on the Island.

Once the CRAs had arrived on the Island my job boiled down to seeing that they got what they wanted in the way of ammunition, spare parts, equipment, etc. But I always felt that I wasn’t really pulling my weight, especially as the job was never properly organised, nor was it possible to do so in the time I was in it, nor under the existing circumstances. It would have been far better if they had put in Curtis who knew the Island well, and incidentally was some years senior to me. Had the operations gone on as a prolonged siege it would have been awkward for me as BRA with two other brigadiers – Curtis and Wildey – both much senior to me. I had to try to get the officers’ question of the field regiments sorted out as, due to casualties, there were several acting majors very much junior to some who were still captains. But I never got very far with that as it was almost impossible to get the information out of regiments while the battle was on.


1 - 9th February 1942

Well we moved to Sima Road and I occupied myself as I’ve said. I can’t say I look back to that time with any pleasure. I think we must have realised that things were nearing the end, certainly I had no doubts myself once the Japs had landed on the Island. In fact I think I thoroughly disliked the whole time. Of course I didn’t know the staff, though they were all very pleasant in the senior ranks, but the atmosphere of the place was all wrong and depressing. One felt that there was no commander there with a grip of the show who knew what he wanted to do and would see that it was done regardless of any considerations other than military ones. It was a fearful job for anybody to have but I’m sure that more could have been done. At the top there were two first class staff officers when what was wanted was a first class commander and a first class staff officer.

All the time we were in Sima Road they were going on with the building of a new mess-hut which we moved into on 1st February and moved out of back to Fort Canning on 10th February. It was, I heard, set on fire by trench mortar bombs the day we left it.

On the night of 7th February the Japs attacked and effected a landing on the west side of the causeway on the Australian front. Something very wrong happened that night which I’ve never got to the bottom of and I’m afraid the Australian gunners came out of it badly. Anyhow the Japs got across and drove in the Australian infantry, who later withdrew still further without telling 11 Division on their right, who in their turn had to come back.

The method of holding the Island had been 18 Div from Fairy Point, Changi to Sungei Seletar; then 11 Div to just west of the causeway; then the Australians to somewhere north of Paya Lebar; 44 Bde (Ballantine) a short stretch further south; Fortess right round the south shore to Changi. 9 Div had been broken up on the loss of 22 Bde, 8 Bde being sent to 11 Div.

After the landing the whole threat to Singapore came from west of the Bukit Timah Road and down that road. There were considerable bombing formations of 27 coming over in daylight and our air being very seldom in evidence at all. They never bombed Sima Road – the cynical saying that they knew which side their bread was buttered! The whole 27 used to let their bombs off together which made a great noise and did considerable damage. The Chinese quarter came in for it fairly badly and certain road junctions. The naval base came in for a lot of shelling as did the area round Bukit Timah village. To counter the attack 18 Div was moved across from the right to Bukit Timah and just right of it. There was much unavoidable confusion and 18 Div as a formation more or less ceased to exist. Convoys were still arriving and came in for a good deal of bombing. The Empress of Asia was burnt out and it was a sad sight to see her burning away on the horizon. The docks were fairly heavily bombed.


10th February 1942

On 10th February (or it may have been 11th February, but I think not) Command Advanced HQ moved back to Fort Canning from Sima Road. We were given an office on the first floor with a verandah looking north towards the battle. My recollection of the last few day is hazy. Nelson and Co. spent their days chasing ammunition which was not always easy to find as depots got overrun. The battery area had become very restricted and all round Government House and east and south of it guns were in action firing in all directions. There was nothing much for me to do. Rifle and sandbags were issued to put Fort Canning in a state of defence, a proceeding which I’m afraid I did not take very seriously.


13th February 1942

Certain selected people were sent away to get to India or wherever they could manage to reach, but none of the heads were allowed to go. As a matter of fact I was never told anything about it or I think I would have tried to get Anna away, a kindness he might not have appreciated in the long run as, as far as we know, not very many got away safely.

About this day a demand for surrender came in from the Japanese saying, as far as I remember, that if we did we should be treated in accordance with the spirit of Bushido or Japanese chivalry (we’ve heard a good deal about Bushido since) but that if we didn’t there would be relentless pressure and great loss of life.

The water supply – from Johore via two reservoirs, one and a half of which were now in Japanese hands – began to fail. Ammunition, through losses by capture and air action, was getting short. There were of course masses of Chinese and natives in Singapore and also a fairly large number of European civilians. On one of my journeys I went into a chemist’s shop to get some soap or something like that and was served by a girl, English I think. A good many women, including nurses, were sent away on 13th February and numbers lost their lives through bombing. Mrs Curtis was one who went away late and it was many months before he learnt that she had only got as far as Sumatra where she was taken prisoner. 


15th February 1942

On the morning of Sunday, February 15th I attended a conference in the ‘battle box’ – a large air-conditioned dugout – in which it was decided that it was useless to continue the fight as water and ammunition were failing and food too was running short due to losses by capture. I think too that conditions in the native part of the city were a great anxiety – the numbers of unburied dead lying about. So the DAG (Newbigging) was sent out about 10.30am with a white flag down the Bukit Timah Road to arrange details of surrender, returning about 3.30pm. But the Japanese would have no dealings with him and said that the Army Commander must go himself. So they went out again in the afternoon or late morning and details were fixed up. It was eventually settled that firing should cease at 8.30pm, after which everybody was to stand fast where they were. 

On the 13th and 14th there had been a lot of shelling all round Fort Canning and in the town. The HQ building was never hit but shells went uncomfortably close. The noise was fairly great as there was a lot of echo for the shells bursting amongst houses. So when ceasefire did go the quiet seemed almost oppressive.

And so ended 70 days of a most inglorious campaign. Personally I couldn’t have had a more unsatisfactory one – only in my proper job for about ten days and for the rest of the time with no command at all and a not very clearly defined position. But I suppose I should be thankful that I came through safe and sound. The Indian troops, considering how much they had been diluted with recruits before the war started and how many of their British officers had left before or became casualties during the war, did wonders. They retired nearly 600 miles, fighting most of the way. The gunners from what I heard did well though the Anti-tank regiments were disappointing. The Australians did badly and 18 Div as well as could be expected.


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