Caldecott Hill - Percival drives to the British Malaya Broadcasting Corporation studios at Caldecoit Hill. He tells a now frightened island how the combat thus far has been dominated by Japan’s superiority in the air and her ‘considerable freedom of movement” at sea. ‘Today we stand beleaguered in our island fortress,” he says. “Our task is to hold this fortress until help can come — as assuredly it will come.”

Sime Road Camp - Preparing for the battle, Percival has moved his HQ up from Fort Canning to the more geographically centralised position of the Sime Road military camp. Here he holds a conference with Heath, his Northern Sector commander, Bennett, his Western Sector commander, and Simmons, his Southern Sector commander. Generals Key and Smith from the British 18th Division are also present. Discussions centre on Percival’s defence plan for the island. The chosen sector commanders first saw this only four days earlier.

The meeting highlights the appalling lack of prepared defences throughout the northern coastal areas. Bennett expresses surprise and concern when he learns the Naval Base is already virtually abandoned. Demolition work in the Base is continuing and already the giant floating dock has been destroyed and sunk.

Bennett writes in his diary:

‘We are here to defend the Naval Base rather than the city of Singapore. This demolition of the docks, even before we withdrew from the mainland, reflects a lack of confidence in our cause. The morale of the men is undoubtedly affected when they find demolitions going on behind them. It is an admission of defeat.’

As the generals grapple with the depressing “big picture” problems, Australian, British and Indian troops along Singapore’s northern front-line move to their allotted positions. They are stunned by the lack of prepared defences. Battling against time and a dearth of materials they struggle to fabricate fortifications, dig in, and reinforce with anything they can scrounge from abandoned farmhouses, plantations and factories.

Kluang, Johore - Yamashita moves his HQ to a deserted plantation bungalow outside Kluang where he summons his senior commanders. It is an emotion-charged meeting. Those in attendance believe the spirits of the 1,793 Japanese troops killed in the campaign thus far are present and listening.

Yamashita, reading from prepared notes, reveals general details of his soon-to-be-launched assault on Singapore. The initial thrust will be against the island’s north-western shoreline. He names the 5th and 18th Divisions for the job.

The Imperial Guards will create a diversion to the east in an effort to fool the Malaya High Command into believing that Changi is the chosen venue for the initial attack.

Japanese artillery will direct a preparatory heavy bombardment along the entire northern sector of Singapore in another ruse to conceal the real assault area. Shortly before the scheduled launch of the invasion across the Straits of Johore, a concentrated bombardment will be directed west of the Causeway to “soften-up” the designated landing areas.

Yamashita indicates that the first task for the invasion force on Singapore is the capture of Tengah airfield. Following this will be a drive to Bukit Panjang village. In the second phase of the assault the Imperial Guards will take Mandai village and cut eastwards to Nee Soon to isolate any British forces in and around the Naval Base at Sembawang.

The next target will be the Bukit Timah high ground; then on to the Seletar, Peirce and MacRitchie reservoirs. With the pipeline across the Causeway ruptured, the reservoirs are now the only sources of water on the island Yamashita reasons that once the reservoirs are captured, the British will have to capitulate. If they don’t, downtown Singapore becomes the final target.

General Nishimura, commanding officer of the Imperial Guards, is incensed. He views Yamashita’s plan to relegate the Imperial Guards to the second phase of the operation as a grave insult to the unit as well as an unacceptable personal loss of face. At the conclusion of the meeting, Yamashita pours sake for his commanders to drink a toast to victory. Nishimura shuns the moment.


North Western Coast Defences - General Gordon Bennett, commanding officer of the Australian forces, spends most of the day inspecting the shoreline defence positions of his troops. For two days now he has been pushing his field officers to comply with Malaya Command’s hastily prepared orders. Percival’s plan is to halt the Japanese invasion at the beaches, rather than to hold back his primary punch for a series of heavy counter attacks further inland. The British commander believes there is insufficient depth on the island for such tactics as the battle would inevitably overflow into the town area.

To his dismay, Bennett finds that all his original fears of a far too extended front being defended by far too few troops are fully justified. Adding to the defence problems are the mangrove swamps that fringe the island’s north-western coastline. Further inland creeks and heavy jungle prohibit construction of defence obstacles and reduce fields of fire. Battalion posts are necessarily hundreds of yards apart and the terrain is ideal for infiltration.

Bennett visits his 2/20th Battalion forward HQ on the Namazie Rubber estate at the northern end of Lim Chu Kang Road. The battalion, numbering some 750 men, is responsible for a 4.5 mile (7.2 kin) segment of the front-line from the Kranji River westwards to the Sarimbun River. Bennett walks to the shoreline where he chats to the troops preparing defences. One asks him:

‘What are you going to do about the Japs on the other side ?’

Replies the general, confidently:

‘We will blow them off tomorrow.’

But later, describing the situation there in his diary, Bennett writes:

‘The men are cheerful but the posts are lonely. The gaps between the posts are wide. The position is extremely weak.’

At the 2/26th Battalion HQ near the Kranji River mouth, he peers through binoculars across the Straits to the Japanese front-line on the opposite shore. He spots a Japanese staff car driving along the waterfront road west of Johore Bahru township. The vehicle pulls up and a senior officer alights. Then, from the concealment of a clump of shrubs on the waterside, the Japanese begins peering back at Bennett through his own binoculars.

The Naval Base, Sembawang - Japanese pilots direct a total of eight air raids throughout the day on the Royal Navy’s huge oil storage tanks. Exploding bombs ignite fuel fires which, in turn, belch dense black smoke high into the air where it hangs over the Straits of Johore and northern Singapore like some ghastly omen of impending doom.

Keppel Harbour Area - Other Japanese aircraft drop incendiary bombs on Singapore’s main Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. The attack also hits the nearby wharves where civilian families, mainly women and children, are scrambling for berths on departing evacuation vessels.


Australian Military HQ - Situated on the Hillview Estate, near the Bukit Timah Road Police Station, Bennett’s HQ becomes the venue for a conference of Australian brigade commanders to review progress of defence preparations. All in attendance concur that their respective units are grossly undermanned for the tasks allotted them.

Keppel Harbour - Governor, Sir Shenton Thomas, accompanied by Percival, drives to the harbour area to inspect damage caused by a Japanese air raid earlier in the day. They learn of the difficulties harbour authorities are encountering retaining local labour to load and unload vessels.

Australian Front-line - Front-line commanders tell their men to write letters home whenever they get a spare moment. There is a widespread feeling that the Japanese invasion is imminent.

Johore Bahru - As they prepare for their assault on Singapore, the Japanese begin evacuating all civilians living within a 12-mile (20 kin) deep ribbon fringing the northern shoreline of the Straits of Johore. At the same time Japanese artillery crews construct multiple positions for their guns. Transport units ready over 3,000 vehicles and landing craft detachments make vital final adjustments to engines and equipment.

Kluang - At Yamashita’s HQ, staff officers consider the danger imposed by the massive oil storage facilities at the Naval Base. It is estimated that these are capable of keeping the entire British Navy at sea for six months. Intelligence assessments are submitted to Yamashita suggesting that, at any moment, the British could release the fuel on an incoming tide and turn the Straits into a waterway of fire. Yamashita orders his artillery to destroy the fuel tanks.

Johore Front-line - Japanese intelligence units despatch two teams of swimmers across the Straits to gather information on Australian artillery and troop positions. They spend three days behind Australian lines and manage to produce highly accurate maps before swimming back to the Johore side.


Singapore’s Northern Airfields - Japanese gunners range their artillery onto the airfields and installations at Tengah, Seletar and Sembawang. Within 36 hours the three fields are abandoned and still serviceable aircraft have moved south to Kallang Airfield. Acting on latest instructions from Yamashita, Japanese artillery crews also target the Naval Base’s fuel storage facilities setting at least one tank ablaze in the initial barrage.

Johore - Japanese observation posts in the prominent Government Offices building in the heart of Johore Bahru, atop the Sultan’s palace tower to the west, and suspended beneath one-man balloons floating above the Straits of Johore, provide constant information on Singapore defence preparations.

These positions enable the Japanese to direct highly effective daylight bombing and artillery harassment onto British and Australian units along the entire northern coast of the island. The dog-tired defenders are by now restricted to night movement for defence preparations.

Singapore’s North Western Front - General Bennett visits positions along Singapore’s north-western coastline held by the 2/18th and the 2/19th Battalions. In his diary he notes:

‘This part of the island is thickly covered with timber, mostly rubber, with thick mangrove growing right down to the waters edge. The posts, which are many hundreds of yards apart, have a field of fire of only 200 yards. The gaps are patrolled regularly. I am beginning to worry about the extreme weakness.’

Malaya Command HQ, Sime Road - Percival, Heath, Simmons and Bennett hold an afternoon conference. Singapore’s civil administration under Governor Sir Shenton Thomas comes in for severe criticism. Bennett argues that the mixed population of Singapore, Chinese, Malays, Indians, Eurasians and Europeans, presents special difficulties requiring special administrative talents. The Australian commander suggests a Military Advisor be appointed to the Governor who would in effect be the “strong man behind the throne, one who would force the civil administration out of its peacetime groove.” The suggestion is noted but later forgotten.


Klang, Malaya - Nishimura sends a note to Yamashita demanding the Imperial Guards be assigned to lead the attack against Singapore. Nishimura argues that he and his troops must be given the chance to demonstrate their bravery. Yamashita ignores the demand and continues last minute planning within the outline revealed at the February 1 conference.

Downtown Singapore - Japanese long range guns near Johore Bahru open fire on downtown Singapore blasting Government House (now the Istana), Orchard Road, Clemenceau Avenue, Dhoby Ghaut, Middle Road, Cairnhill Road and Newton Road. Shorter range Japanese guns across the Straits of Johore strike Australian positions in the north and north-western sections of the island. Malaya Command issues orders to its artillery crews to restrict counter fire to 20 rounds per gun per day. Percival is optimistically looking to a three-month siege culminating in a major British relief of the beleaguered island.

Singapore Harbour - At Keppel Docks three of four vessels in the last reinforcement convoy to reach Singapore begin setting ashore the remaining troops of the British 18th Division. The men are disoriented, unaclimatised and unfit after being at sea for several weeks. The fourth vessel in the convoy, the slow, coal-burning Empress of Asia, has dropped behind and is caught by Japanese dive-bombers as she enters the Straits of Singapore. Direct hits set her aflame from stem to stern. Eventually she sinks off Raffles Lighthouse. Prompt action by Royal Navy patrol boats ensures a minimal loss of lives. Vital weapons and ammunition go down with the ship


Kluang Malay - Yamashita calls another full meeting of his senior commanders at 11 am and hands over final orders for the attack on Singapore. This is to begin at 10 pm on February 8. Those representing the 5th and 18th Divisions demonstrate their full support. But Nishimura and his officer colleagues with the Imperial Guards clearly indicate their lack of faith in Yamashita’s strategy.

Worried by such reaction at this late stage, Yamashita, seeks out his chief of staff, General Sosaku Suzuki, a friend of Nishimura. He asks Suzuki to intercede on his behalf and try to settle the problem with the Imperial Guards. Suzuki attempts to open discussions with Nishimura and Imperial Guards’ chief of staff, General Imaye. He fails to achieve any approachment.

Johore Bahru - Late in the afternoon Yamashita moves his HQ to the Sultan of Johore’s Palace at Bukit Serene. From the palaces position on a hill, overlooking the western reaches of the Straits of Johore, Yamashita is a mile away from the Australian front-line just across the water. The 25th Army Commander is at first cautioned by his subordinates. They believe the palace, with its five-storey high tower, is too obvious a target. But Yamashita is sure that the British will never target the ancestral home of their old friend, Sultan Sir Ibrahim. He is proved right. From his operations room atop the palaces tower Yamashita gets an unrestricted grandstand view of virtually every key target in the northern sector of Singapore.

Singapore’s North East Coastline - Japanese artillery fire intensifies, particularly along the north-eastern front towards Changi. This is part of Yamashita’s deception to mislead Percival.

Australian Frontline, North West Sector - Two five-man intelligence gathering patrols, one from the 2/19th and the other from the 2/20th, cross the Straits in small boats under cover of darkness to report back on Japanese troop concentrations. They are due to return the following night.


Australian Forces HQ - Bennett is concerned about hospital facilities for his troops. He inspects the heavily over crowded 2/10th Australian General Hospital, located at Manor House, and attempts to commandeer large civilian homes adjacent to it. He wants back-up battle casualty wards for when the fighting starts. Civilian owners lodge objections with the Colonial Secretary. An angry Bennett bluntly complains to Percival. Later in the day, 15 Japanese artillery shells slam into the 2/10th hospital killing one patient and wounding many others. At the time Bennett is visiting the 2/13th Australian General Hospital located in St. Patrick’s School, Siglap.

Australian Front-line, North West Sector - All front-line units in the 2/20th area are alerted to look out for the expected return of the intelligence patrol sent across the Straits 24 hours earlier. By 10 pm orders are given to send over a second patrol.

As men are drawing lots with playing cards to decide who will go, the first patrol returns. Its members provide a detailed description of the well camouflaged Japanese gun emplacements and their positions inland in the rubber plantations. They speak of the large kitchens ready to serve battalions of front-line troops and other indications that the Japanese are in the final stages of their invasion preparations.

A senior officer at Australian 22nd Brigade HQ phones Malaya Command and attempts to convince them that a Japanese attack against the Austraiian line may take place at any moment. However Malaya Command is more concerned with what has been reported as a “considerable movement” of Japanese forces against Pulau Ubin at the eastern end of the Straits.

Pulan Ubin - Soon after nightfall Japanese infantrymen carry 20 collapsible boats through jungle and swamp to the Johore water’s edge opposite Pulau Uhin. There they crank the high-revving engines and make a first crossing to the granite island overlooking Changi a few hundred yards to the south. It is the first move of the Singapore invasion. But it is a feint designed to throw Malaya Command off-balance. Before midnight 400 officers and men of the Imperial Guards, together with two mountain guns, have been safely transferred to Pulau Ubin which is occupied with only minor resistance.


Singapore - After a comparative lull in the artillery bombardment of Singapore during the early morning hours, Japanese gun crews begin intensive firing once again at 10 am. Some 440 artillery pieces are called into action. At the same time Japanese pilots, with targets selected from extremely accurate ground intelligence, begin blasting military headquarters within the Australian defence areas.

A heavy bombing and strafing raid on Bennett’s Command HQ near the Bukit Timah Road Police Station is followed up by an hour-long artillery barrage. The bombardment destroys telegraph and telephone communications.  The Australian commander decides to move his HQ.

Later in the morning Bennett drives to the Australian 22nd Brigade HQ located just south of Ama Keng village. He is delayed enroute at nearby Tengah Airfield by a heavy artillery bombardment. The HQ is also hit while Bennett is conferring with the Brigade commander, Brig H. B. Taylor. Bennett is briefed on reports of Japanese troop deployments gathered by the freshly returned intelligence patrols. He immediately orders an artillery bombardment of troop concentrations in the Skudal River and Malayu River areas of Johore where final preparations for the assault on Singapore are being made by the Japanese 5th Division.

Japanese artillery fire intensifies as the day progresses. It begins to concentrate along Singapore’s north-western shoreline, specially on areas held by the Australian 2/20th, 2/18th, and 2/19th Battalions. The bombardment reaches a crescendo at 7 pm. By then communications throughout the north-western defence areas are a shambles with a complete breakdown between forward and rear command HQs.

Johore Shoreline - Troops of the 5th and 18th Japanese Divisions assemble along well camouflaged plantation roads some distance back from their designated embarkation points. On the given order crews begin carrying their assault craft from where they have been hidden to the water’s edge. Each division has been allotted 15 motor launches and 100 collapsible landing craft. At 7 pm the craft are launched in the Skudai, Danga, and Maiayu River backwaters. Engines are started. There are 4,000 men in the first wave of the attack. At 8 pm the first assault boats, packed with troops, nose their way out of the river mouths and slowly, cautiously, head for the Singapore shoreline. The 5th Division is commanded by Lt-Gen Takuro Matsui, and the 18th Division by Lt-Gen Renya Mutaguchi.

Northern End of Lim Chu Kang Road - At 8.30 pm an Australian observation post just west of the Lim Chu Kang Road dead-end with the Straits of Johore, reports sounds of approaching motor craft. Orders are given to hold fire until the invaders are within 50 yards of the shore.

Seconds later Australian machine gunners open fire Several barges sink, others overturn, hurling their occupants into the water, there they are sprayed with automatic weapons fire. The first Japanese thrust is repelled, but other craft move west seeking gaps in the Australian defences.

These are quickly exploited. Within half an hour the invaders are infiltrating large numbers of assault troops into the gaps. Fighting is furious with both sides taking heavy casualties. Soon the Japanese are pressing on the defending flanks. The Australian forward units withdraw. By midnight the Japanese 5th Division has driven a wedge between the Australian 27th and 22nd Brigades.

Further west along the coast other Japanese 5th Division units are securing beach-heads and driving back front-line defenders. Meanwhile just north of the Berih River mouth, Japanese 18th Division troops are landing in strength and preparing to thrust inland towards their key target, Tengah Airfield.

Sultan of Johore’s Palace - The atmosphere is taut on the top floor of the palace’s observation tower. Yamashita and his senior staff have gathered to watch the invasion of Singapore unfold beneath them.

There is no communication whatever with their front-line units. It is impossible to judge the progress of the battle from the frantic pyrotechnics that punctuate the night or from the roar of gunfire and staccato chatter of machine-guns that fill the air.

Around midnight a red star shell bursts over the Straits in front of the palace. It is the prearranged signal confirming that the 5th Division is firmly established on Singapore soil. A few moments later a white star shell lights up the sky south west of the observation tower.

Yamashita now knows that the 18th Division has also gained a strong footing on the island and is pressing the attack. The Japanese commander and his companions press forward to the tower windows. Choked with emotion, they are unable to speak as tears run down their cheeks.


Sultan of Johore’s Palace - At l2.3oamYamashita and several of his senior staff walk down to the Straits of Johore in front of the Palace. They want a closer look at the 5th Division invasion boats still shuttling men from the Skudai River to Singapore. By 4 am the Japanese Commander feels confident enough in his invasions progress to retire to bed.

Bennett’s HQ, Bukit Timah Village - The relentless Japanese artillery bombardment has delayed the scheduled move of Bennett’s HQ. Direct communication lines to forward posts are still severed. As a result the Australian HQ is denied front-line information until sometime after midnight. Bennett, restless and sleepless, arrives at his operations room just as garbled initial reports of the Japanese attack are coming in.

At 1 am messages begin telling of Japanese troops landing in force on segments of the front-line occupied by Australia’s 2/18th and 2/20th Battalions. Immediately Bennett orders his only reserve, the Australian 2/29th Battalion, to reinforce his north-western sector where it ultimately goes into position near Tengah Airfield shortly before dawn.

Australian 22nd Brigade HQ, just South of Ama Keng Village - Brigade commander, Brig Taylor, plans a dawn counter attack to contain the Japanese two-pronged thrust towards Tengab Airfield. One prong is advancing from the Berih River area to the west, heading for the Choa Chu Kang Road.

The other is coming generally from the north down the Lim Chu Kang Road. By daylight, however, Taylor realises the chaotic condition of his front-line where both the 2/18th, 2/20th and parts of the 2/19th Battalions have been infiltrated, outflanked and overrun. The Japanese have reached Ama Keng village, 200 yards north, where heavy street fighting is in progress.

Taylor quickly moves his HQ back behind Bulim village and scraps all ideas of a counter attack. Instead he endeavours to form a defence line, protecting first the northern approaches of Tengah Airfield, then running down the Lim Chu Kang Road to its junction with the Choa Chu Kang Road, and on westwards to Choa Chu Kang village.

Around 7 am ten Hurricane fighters from Kallang airfield fly in to challenge the 84 Japanese aircraft dominating the skies over the battered Australian units. Six Japanese warplanes and one Hurricane are shot down before the British pilots return to Kallang for refuelling. After two further missions against the Japanese, the Hurricanes are ordered to Sumatra. This is the final appearance of British aircraft in the Malaya-Singapore campaign.

Malaya Command HQ, Sime Road - By dawn Percival is convinced that the Japanese have launched their main attack, and not just another feint. At 8.30 am he orders the 12th Indian Brigade to reinforce the Bukit Panjang, Keat Hong road. After its heavy mauling in Malaya this badly under strength brigade now consists of 400 Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 150 Royal Marines, survivors of the Prince of Wales and Repulse, and 440 newly arrived, untrained 4/19th Hyderabad Infantrymen.

Their position is on the right hand segment of what is known as the Kranji-Jurong Line,  a natural narrow ridge line which runs roughly north-south between the sources of the Jurong and Kranji rivers. Militarily speaking, this is the last natural defence line guarding the north-western approaches to Singapore City. The 12th Brigade troops begin arriving at Keat Hong, one and a half miles east of Bulim, around midday.

Bennett’s HQ, Bukit Timah Village - Percival, taking advantage of a midday lull in the Japanese air and artillery bombardment, drives to Bennett’s HQ. Together the two generals make several critical decisions.

The Australian 27th Brigade will remain holding the Causeway sector of the frontline. The shattered but reinforced Australian 22nd Brigade will try to stabilise the Kranji-Jurong Line. The Indian 44th Brigade, in danger of being isolated in the far west of the island, will withdraw to the left of the KranjiJurong Line. Finally, the Indian 6/15th Brigade will move to the Bukit Timah Racecourse area to protect the island’s vital food and petrol dumps.

At the conclusion of the conference, Bennett moves his HQ back to Holland Road.

Tengah Airfield - A battle rages all morning in and around Tengah Airfield. Furiously, Japanese 5th Division forces press the ground attack. Artillery and warplanes pound the hapless defenders which include parties of the Australian 2/18th and 2/20th Battalions, the 2/29th Australian Battalion, and the Jind Indian Infantry Battalion, the airfields garrison force. At 1 pm, with his Lim Chu Kang Road defence line collapsing, Taylor orders a withdrawal to the Jurong Line. By late afternoon Tengab Airfield falls to the Japanese.

Malaya Command HQ, Sime Road - Percival now foresees the distinct possibility of Japanese forces breaching the Jurong Line and thrusting rapidly down the Bukit Timah Road. At midnight he issues secret and personal instructions to Bennett, Simmons and Heath. He fears events might move too swiftly for him to give effective counter orders. Percival is, in fact, making preparations for a last ditch stand. His plan is to hold a perimeter including Kallang airfield, the MacRitchie and Peirce reservoirs and the Bukit Timah supply depot area.


Kranji Front - The obstinate Nishimura delays ordering his Imperial Guards across the Straits of Johore to battle the Australian 27th Brigade forces between the Causeway and the Kranji River.

Finally moving up the Kranji River, shortly after midnight, assault boats carrying Imperial Guards get stranded on a low tide. Some get lost in tributaries. Many unload attack troops into mangrove swamps and deep mud. There they get bogged and drown on the incoming tide, made more horrifying by flaming oil gushing onto the water from nearby fuel tanks demolished earlier. Many burn to death in this freak accident, precisely as the Japanese High Command had feared the British would purposely organise. Australian machine-gun and mortar fire tears into the bungled invasion.

Shortly after 4 am, Nishimura panics and sends a message to Yamashita seeking permission to call off the attack. It is a critical moment for the 25th Army commander. If the Australian 27th Brigade line holds the Kranji-Causeway front, Yamashita’s entire battle strategy for Singapore is in jeopardy. Disgusted and angry, Yamashita orders Nishimura:

‘Do your duty!’

Half an hour later, through a misunderstanding in orders, the defending Australians, to the amazement of the Imperial Guards, begin withdrawing.

By dawn large numbers of invaders are ashore on the Kranji peninsula and are in hot pursuit of the Australians moving back down the Woodlands Road. In their retreat the Australians abandon the vital Woodlands high ground which overlooks the Causeway and is the key to northern defences.

Japanese Beach Head, Lim Chu Kang Road  - In the pre-dawn darkness Yamashita and his staff officers clamber into an assault barge and cross the Straits, coming ashore near the Lim Chu Kang Road head. Struggling up the bank, Yamashita and his officers stumble over groups of trussed-up Australian prisoners lying on the ground. The Japanese commanding officer sets up his HQ in a tent on a rubber plantation just north of Tengah Airfield. As the slate-grey of first light creeps across the eastern sky, Yamashita takes an early breakfast, a single slice of dry bread.

Bennett’s HQ, Holland Road - Early in the morning Wavell flies to Singapore from his Java command base and drives with Percival to Bennett’s newly established HQ near the intersection of Holland and Ulu Pandan roads. As Bennett briefs his two visitors on the overnight battle situation, 27 Japanese warplanes, flying in formation, pattern bomb the HQ complex. They score direct hits on the operations room building.

Wavell and Percival dive for cover under a table as the blast wrecks the room. Bennett, covered in plaster dust and glass fragments, remains standing and completes his briefing. Miraculously the three officers escape injury. The two staff cars belonging to the British generals are badly damaged in the raid. Percival’s binoculars are smashed. The raid is further evidence of the stunningly accurate intelligence information being provided by Japan’s Fifth Column on the island.

The Kranji to Jurong Line - While the generals arc meeting at Holland Road, Brig Taylor, whose troops are still holding the Kranji to Jurong Line, misreads Percival’s secret emergency orders of the previous night. These have been adapted and passed on to him by Bennett. He mistakes them for instructions to move immediately to the prescribed Singapore perimeter defence positions. This costly error sets in motion a series of related withdrawals from the northern sector of the Kranji to Jurong Line where the Japanese swiftly capitalise and take control of the Woodlands Road.

Then at 1.30 pm, at the southern extremity of the Kranji-Jurong Line, forward patrols of the Indian 44th Brigade, following heavy air and artillery bombardment, clash with Japanese infantry units along the Jurong Road. Suddenly the Indians are in full retreat. Officers fail to control their men.

Later in the afternoon Indian 44th Brigade troops are reported in Pasir Panjang village on the south coast, four miles below their correct position. Here their commanding officer, Brig G. C. Ballentine, finally regains control and returns his men to the Ulu Pandan Road area. But by mid-afternoon the Kranji-Jurong Line has in effect, through a series of disastrous miscalculations, been given away to the Japanese.

Bukit Panjang Village -  A number of Japanese tanks, floated across the Straits to the Lim Chu Kang road-head earlier in the day, make their Singapore battle debut as dusk approaches. They blast away any hope Malaya Command have of launching a counter attack to regain the critical Kranji-Jurong Line.

Rumbling eastwards along the Choa Chu Kang Road, the mastodons demolish defence positions manned by the 4/19th Hyderabads just a mile from the Bukit Panjang village junction with the Bukit Timah Road. Similar attempts to halt the tank drive have Australian 2/29th Battalion and Argyll defenders reeling back to the hills east of Bukit Panjang village The tanks wheel right at the junction and appear headed south for Singapore city. But then they stop of their own accord. Having achieved their assigned objectives for the day, the crews prepare to await the arrival of ammunition supplies and supporting artillery.

Government House - Late in the evening a distraught Wavell calls at Government House to say farewell to Sir Shenton and Lady Thomas before flying back to Java. The Governor’s wife is confined to bed with dysentery. The two men talk alone. Slumped in a chair, Wavell thumps his knees with his fists and mutters repeatedly:

‘It shouldn’t have happened.’

The Governor remarks:

‘We lacked leaders.’

Wavell agrees and confides that during his previous visit he had considered relieving Percival. But he adds:

‘It’s not easy to get leaders nowadays.’


Yamashita’s HQ, Tengah Airfield - It is ‘Kigensetsu”,  National Day, highly auspicious for Japan. For three months Yamashita has been planning to capture Singapore on this day. Now that it has arrived he is apprehensive. Ammunition supplies,  specifically for field rifles and machine-guns are dangerously low. He signs 20 copies of a personal letter addressed to Percival calling on him to:

‘Give up this meaningless and desperate resistance.’

These are dropped in red and white ribboned communication tubes over command HQ areas.

The Battlefield - Overnight Japanese 5th Division troops have advanced eastwards along the Jurong Road and southwards down the Bukit Timah Road. By dawn the Japanese are in control of Bukit Timah village. Their advance has resulted in the routing of defensive positions held by the Indian 6/15th Brigade to the west of Bukit Timah village where there has been fearsome hand to hand fighting and bayonet charges. Troops of the Australian 22nd Brigade have been hurled back with heavy casualties. They now hold a defensive arc from the junction of the railway and Holland Road on the right to the junction of Ulu Pandan and Reformatory Road (now Clementi Road) on the left.

Percival’s HQ, Sime Road - Percival wakes up at 6 am in his office to the sound of heavy machine-gun fire nearby on the golf course (now Singapore’s Island Country Club). He leaves Sime Road and retreats to his underground bunker at Fort Canning.

The Kranji to Juong Line - The Japanese are quickly taking advantage of the series of devastating withdrawals from the Kranji-Jurong Line on the previous day. Imperial Guards are pushing through the gap between the Australian 27th Brigade and what is left of the Kranji-Jurong Line defenders. Their target, the Pierce and MacRitchie reservoirs. Simultaneously 5th Division troops with tank reinforcements are pressing down the Choa Chu Kang Road to the Bukit Panjang village crossroads. There they turn right and either run south to reinforce the Bukit Timah front, or south-east to infiltrate into the racecourse area where lie the massive British food dumps.

Bennett’s HQ, Holland Road - One of Yamashita’s letters to Percival drops into the Australian area. It is immediately conveyed to the Fort Canning bunker. After a Japanese mortar attack and indications that the nearby junction of Holland and Ulu Pandan Roads is held by the invaders, Bennett orders his HQ to withdraw to Tanglin Barracks. Attempts by Bennett during the day to organise counter attacks against Japanese positions collapse.

Unit cohesion is becoming a major problem. Thousands of exhausted, frightened stragglers, British, Australian, and Indian, are leaving the fighting to seek shelter from the constant air and artillery bombardment in downtown Singapore’s larger commercial buildings.

The Northern Front - The retreating Australian 27th Brigade, now in the Mandal Hills, east of the Woodlands Road, has badly exposed Heath’s Naval Base defence lines. Meanwhile the Imperial Guards have repaired the Causeway and are moving men and equipment across it at will. After ordering final demolition work, Heath pulls his troops from the Naval Base area and begins a retreat south down the Sembawang Road towards Singapore. By nightfall they are at the Sembawang Airfield (now the Sembawang Air Base).

Tyersall - Japanese pilots drop incendiary bombs onto the thatched huts that comprise the Indian Military Base Hospital at Tyersall (now Tyersall Park). Fires rage through the flimsy structures. Seven hundred wounded Indian soldiers perish in the inferno.

Tanjong Pager Docks - The cargo steamer, Empire Star, with accommodation for 16, sails crammed with 1,254 passengers, mostly military nurses. They have been ordered to leave by Malaya Command following reports of Japanese atrocities against nurses caught in the Xmas Day fall of Hong Kong, 48 days earlier.


The Battlefield - By first light the Japanese forces are approaching the outskirts of the city. Stubborn defence efforts on four separate fronts blunt the invasion’s progress for a while. An infantry-supported tank charge at dawn down the Bukit Timah Road towards Singapore is halted just before Racecourse village by British antitank gunners.

South of Bukit Timab village the Australian 22nd Brigade, in the Pandan area, withstands relentless air and artillery bombardment to repel repeated Japanese ground attacks. At Nec Soon village to the north, British and Indian units confront Imperial Guards, backed by tanks, attempting to overrun the road junction position with a drive down Mandai Road from the west. Finally, in the Pasir Panjang area of the island’s south-western coastline, troops of the 1st Malay Regiment and the Indian 44th Brigade clash with Japanese 18th Division forces thrusting along the coast, determined to capture the Alexandra military complex. In all these actions the Japanese suffer heavy casualties.

Fort Canning Bunker - After a swift tour of the front and a conference with Heath, Percival concludes that his only option now is to withdraw all his forces behind a final city defence perimeter. On his map he marks Singapore’s final protective cordon. It is a 28-mile long perimeter enclosing Kallang Airfield, Thomson Village, the MacRitchie Reservoir, Adam, Farrer, Holland and Buona Vista Roads to the south coast. Percival prepares orders to destroy the broadcasting station at Caldecott Hill, now less than a mile from the front line.

Bennett’s HQ, Tanglin Barracks - Longstanding animosity between Bennett and his 22nd Brigade commander now comes to a head with the ever increasing Japanese military pressure. Taylor, who has been without sleep for four days, sends for Lt-Col A. L. Varley, one of his battalion commanders, and asks him to take command of the brigade temporarily. Taylor explains his brain is refusing to work and requests a brief respite. He then collapses and is driven to hospital. Bennett is furious. He immediately promotes Varley to brigadier, and orders that the new commander be permanently in charge of the brigade. In an extraordinarily irrational final rebuke, given the hopelessness of the situation, Bennett even tries, unsuccessfully as it happens, to have Taylor sent back to Australia.

Government House - A British gun emplacement in the Government House gardens attracts intense Japanese mortar and artillery fire. A direct hit demolishes a back verandah where many of the staff are sheltering. The Governor crawls beneath the blasted debris and discovers 12 bodies including three Gurkha soldiers, an amah and his personal valet. Lady Thomas, still ill in the upstairs master bedroom, is carried down to a bed placed behind the reception room. The Governor and the remainder of his staff prepare makeshift beds on the ground floor. 


Yamashita’s HQ, Bukit Timah - Before dawn Yamashita moves his HQ forward to the bomb-damaged Ford motor factory on Bukit Timah Road, a short distance north of the village. His intelligence officers report the British, Australians, Indians, and local forces digging-in on a contracted defence perimeter.

Yamashita believes his worst fears are taking shape. Percival seems prepared to embark on protracted street fighting and is probably awaiting reinforcements. Yamashita knows he has neither men nor ammunition supplies to be drawn into such tactics. He warns the Japanese Navy and Air Force to search all sea approaches to Singapore for a British relief convoy.

The Japanese commander’s final plan is for a two-pronged drive against the city before the British defence perimeter has time to solidify. One drive, spearheaded by the Japanese 18th Division and already underway, is along the island’s south coast to capture the Alexandra Barracks. The other, employing the Imperial Guards, is to envelope the MacRitchie Reservoir and punch through from the north.

Once again the Imperial Guards’ commander Nishimura, is petulant. At the penultimate moment he refuses to move his men for the final battle. Yamashita despatches curt written instructions to Nishimura. Only then do the Imperial Guards go into action.

Pasir Panjang Ridge - On Bukit Chandu (Opium Hill), a segment of the natural ridge line running behind Pasir Panjang fishing village, C Comnany of the 1st Battalion Malay Regiment begins what is to become an epic 48 hour stand. Named after the site of a government opium factory, the hill is held by the Malays while other positions along the defence line are toppling. Only when its garrison is wiped out, almost to a man, does it fall.

The Fort Canning Bunker - At 2 pm Percival convenes a crisis conference with his senior area commanders, Bennett, Heath, and Simmons and a number of Malaya Command Staff officers. Percival opens discussions with the opinion that, irrespective of the collapsing situation, the fight must go on. He announces his intention to launch a counter attack against Japanese positions. He is unanimously opposed. His commanders argue that the defending units are too exhausted, demoralised and disorganised to continue holding defence positions, let alone launch counter attacks, Heath urges Percival to surrender immediately, Bennett supports Heath. Senior officers point out that the already horrifying civilian toll will become even more horrendous unless hostilities quickly cease.

Percival over-rules his commanders and orders the fight to go on. However, he agrees to signal Wavell in Java seeking “greater discretionary powers” for deciding when resistance should stop. Wavell’s reply, received a short while later, orders the battle to continue in the “wider interests” of the war against Japan.

Fullerton Building - After another day of heavy shelling, Government House becomes uninhabitable. As darkness falls, the Governor, and a still ailing Lady Thomas, drive through the bomb cratered streets to the Singapore Club. This is located at the top floor of Fullerton Building on the waterfront. Two rooms have been reserved for the Governor and his wife. Enroute, the couple pass by shattered stores, blasted homes and smouldering debris. Their car threads its way around charred corpses of civilian victims littering the streets in such numbers that they are now too numerous to bury. The Governor sees for himself the appalling straggler problem. Gangs of armed deserters prowl alleyways and arcades seeking food and drink, and shelter from the endless shelling.


The Battlefield - The day opens with ferocious Japanese action on Yamashita’s two prescribed lines of attack. The 18th Division concentrates its thrust along the south coast, through Pasir Panjang and along the Ayer Raja Road toward Alexandra Barracks.

The Imperial Guards, backed by tanks, swarm out of the MacRitchie Reservoir area to battle the British 53rd, 54th, and 55th Brigades endeavouring to hold the northern perimeter defences along Lornie, Adam and Farrer Roads.

A Japanese tank drive down Sime Road, past Percival’s old HQ, reaches the gardens of Singapore’s exclusive Mount Pleasant homes before British anti-tank gunners bring it to a halt. Throughout the day Japanese pilots and artillery crews intensify their terror raids against civilian targets in the densely populated areas.

Municipal Building (City Hall) - During a morning tour of the city and its defences, Percival arrives at the Municipal Offices and is told by the Chief Engineer that water failure is imminent.

Singapore Club, Fullerton Building - Following his tour, Percival calls on the Governor and tells him that as long as there is water the fight will continue. The Governor, horrified by what he saw during his drive from Government House the previous night, speaks of his fear that an epidemic will break out. Shortly after these talks the Governor cables the Colonial Office in London:

‘There are now one million people within the radius of three miles. Water supplies unlikely to last more than 24 hours. Many dead lying in the streets and burials impossible. We are faced with total deprivation of water, which must result in pestilence.’

At about the same time Percival despatches a signal to Wavell in Java outlining the water crisis.. In his reply, Wavell insists the resistance must go on:

‘Your gallant stand is serving a purpose and must be continued to the limit of endurance.’

Alexandra Barracks Hospital - Pressing hard on an Indian retreat down the Ayer Rajab Road, Japanese troops arrive at 2 pm at the rear of the Alexandra Hospital which is overflowing with war wounded. Rushing the hospital building, the invaders begin bayoneting doctors, hospital staff, patients waiting in line for surgery and even a British corporal actually lying on an operating table. Some 200 desperately ill patients are roped together and herded into servants’ quarters, 70 to a room. During the night the Japanese take small groups of the incarcerated patients outside into the hospital grounds and bayonet them to death. Just on 200 die in this massacre.

Bennett’s HQ, Tanglin Barracks - The Australians receive precise details and maps for Yamashita’s final assault when two Japanese motorcycle scouts are shot dead while operating along Holland Road. A Japanese-speaking Australian officer, explaining the captured documents to Bennett and his staff later in the day feels there is only “academic interest” in what he is saying.


Fort Canning - Percival attends an early morning communion service at Fort Canning military chapel. He then walks to his bunker to hear the overnight battle reports.

Japanese troops have broken through north of the city and defending troops along the south coast are retreating. Food stocks will cease within 48 hours. Anti-aircraft ammunition is exhausted. Field gun ammunition may last a few more hours. While there continues to be a reasonable supply of small arms ammunition, the only available fuel is that remaining in the tanks of the vehicles. Worst of all considerations, water supplies are on the point of total collapse.

At a 9.30 am conference with his field commanders Percival poses two alternatives: an immediate counter attack to secure the MacRitchie Reservoir water supply and recapture military food depots at Bukit Timah, or capitulation.

All present rule out the possibility of a counter attack. Percival, head bowed, tells his generals:

‘Then we will surrender.’

Yamashita’s HQ, Ford Motor Factory, Bukit Timah - After touring his 18th Division front line on the Bukit Timah Road, close to the Adam Road intersection, Yamashita returns to his headquarters around 10 am. There he hears first reports of a white flag flying over the broadcasting studios at Caldecott Hill.

Shortly after 2 pm his chief information officer, LtCol Ichiji Sugita, reports the arrival within the Japanese lines of a three-man truce delegation. Yamashita, suspecting that the British might he stalling for time until reinforcements arrive, refuses to see the delegation and stipulates he will deal only with Percival. As an extra precaution Yamashita orders an armed guard of one thousand troops to be stationed in the immediate vicinity.

Percival, two British staff officers and an interpreter, arrive at the Ford Factory at 5.15 pm. The defeated commander shakes hands with Yamashita across a prepared conference table at which six other senior Japanese sit. The four British officers take their places on the opposite side of the table. Japanese war correspondents and photographers jostle noisily for positions.

Through an interpreter, Yamashita opens the discussions:

‘Do you wish to surrender unconditionally?’


‘Yes, we do.’


‘Have you any Japanese prisoners of  war?’


‘None at all.’


‘Have you any Japanese civilians?’


‘No. They have all been sent to India.’


‘Very well. Will you please sign this document of surrender?’

Percival proceeds to read the document. At approximately the halfway point he pauses and asks:

‘Would you wait until tomorrow morning?’

Yamashita becomes obviously angry:

‘All I want to know is, do you surrender unconditionally, or do you not?’

Percival shifts nervously in his seat, turns noticeably pale and begins a brief dialogue with Yamashita’s interpreter. A livid Yamashita shakes his finger and shouts:

‘Yes, or no!’

Percival, looking at the interpreter, quietly replies:




[Malaya] [Cause] [Japs Prepare] [British Prepare] [Malaya Attack] [Singapore] [Chronology] [Malaya] [Singapore] [Military Units Deployed]

Part of






Britain at War



Honorary Life Member




East Anglia Network Picture ron@britain-at-war.org.uk

Best Viewed with:

Designed by Ron Taylor

Copyright © Britain at War 1997