The Battle of Singapore was fought in South-East Asia during World War II, when the Japanese Army was severely underrated. Nobody could have predicted the outcome of the battle that commenced on the 31st of January 1941 and lasted til the 15th of February in 1942. Singapore was a great strategic naval base for the Allied Forces, and they anticipated an attack.

The British had the numbers, but it seems as though the Japanese had the luck. Let me start by telling you who the leaders of the battle were.Tomoyuki Yamashita was the general of the Japanese Imperial Army during Word War II. Born on November 8th 1885 and died on February 23rd 1946, Yamashita was placed in command of the Twenty Fifth Army. On the 8th of December he launched the invasion of Malaya, from Japanese bases in French Indochina. During the battle of Singapore, Yamashita’s front-line of 30,000 soldiers captured 130,000 British, Indian and Australian troops, becoming the largest surrender of British-led personnel in history.

Yamashita became famous for conquering the British Colonies of Malaya and Singapore and hence earnt the nickname “The Tiger of Malaya”. Arthur Percival was the Lieutenant-General for the British Expeditionary Force. Born on the 26th December 1887 and died on the 31st January 1996, Percival built a successful military career during the interwar period but was most accredited for his involvement in World War II, when he commanded the forces of the British Commonwealth during the Battle of Malaya and the subsequent Battle of Singapore. Prior to the battle, Percival had never commanded an army.

He had mixed feeling about his appointment, and claimed “In going to Malaya I realised that there was the double danger either of being left in an inactive command for some years if war did not break out in the East or, if it did, of finding myself involved in a pretty sticky business with the inadequate forces which are usually to be found in the distant parts of our empire in the early stages of a war. " Australian Gordon Bennett was also the Lieutenant-General along side Percival for the British Expeditionary Force during World War II.He acted as a commander of the Australian 8th Division but cowardly escaped while his men became prisoners of the Japanese. Bennett’s biographer commented “Because of his temperament, he was considered unsuitable for a semi-diplomatic command, and one that involved subordination to British generals. Bennett was as scathing of British officers as he was of Australian regulars. " Due to these allegations Bennett was instead given a command in the Volunteer Defence Corps until a General’s death upgraded him to a commander of the newly formed 8th Division.

Relations between Bennett and his superiors were not good. In December 1941 the Japanese invasion of Malaya began. Along with the rest of the Allied forces, Bennett's division was soon forced to withdraw to Singapore. Bennett decided that it was his duty to escape from Singapore rather than surrender.

Bennett decided that it was his duty to escape from Singapore rather than surrender. The Battle of Singapore began on the 15th of February 1941, and was considered by Winston Churchill as one of the worst disasters in British Military History.Singapore, an island at the southern end of the Malay Peninsula, was considered a vital part of the British Empire and supposedly as secure as a fortress. It was strategically important naval base for the British and Allied Forces in South East Asia and it was seen to them as the “Gibraltar in the Far East”.

Improvements to Singapore as a British military base had only been completed at great cost in 1938. Singapore characterized what the British Empire was all about – a strategically vital military base that protected Britain’s other Commonwealth possessions in the Far East.Australia announced its support of the British war efforts by posting the Australian 8th Division in Malaya to help protect the naval base during the war. Once the Japanese expanded throughout the region after Pearl Harbor, which occurred in December 1941, many in Britain felt that Singapore would become an obvious target for the Japanese.

However, the British military command in Singapore was confident that the power they could call on there would make any Japanese attack useless. A young Army officer complained about this issue and said “I do hope we are not getting too strong in Malaya because if o the Japanese may never attempt a landing. ”The Malayan Invasion began on the 10th of December 1941, on this day, on the east of Malaya, the British Royal Navy battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battle cruiser HMS Repulse were attacked by land-based bombers and torpedo bombers of the Imperial Japanese Navy. The sinking of these two ships severely weakened the Eastern Fleet in Singapore; this raised increasing concerns for Australia. This map shows Singapore from January to February of 1942.

The Australian 8th Division, led by Gordon Bennett, was stationed at Johore Bahru during the December of 1941.When the Japanese invaded Malaya, the Allied troops were forced to retreat to the Island of Singapore. The Allied troops subsequently bombed the Causeway that linked the Island Singapore with the rest of Malaya, in an attempt to slow down the Japanese attack. Yet the Japanese continued to invade with speed and brutality, pushing the Allied forces south to Singapore.

Japan’s attack consisted of Yamashita’s force of 65,000 men who were battle-hardened after fighting in the Manchurian and Chinese campaign.These men were separated into three divisions with a support of 600 aircrafts. On the other end, Percival fought with 90,000 men who had never seen combat. The British, Australian and Indian men were divided into two divisions and had the support of only 150 aircraft. The Japanese began their campaign by landing in the North of Malaya.

Japanese troops did not meet any opposition until they launched an attack on the northern coastal city, Kota Bharu and started advancing down the eastern coast of Malaya.During this assault, air attacks destroyed all but 50 British planes. The Japanese 5th Division then progressed South. The Australian defenders were pushed back gradually as the 5th and 18th Divisions progressed inland. Within 70 days, The Japanese troops, with a combination of superior force, speed and surprise overran all of Malaya, forcing Percival’s men onto the back foot and to surrender. This invasion saw the Japanese capturing around 85,000 Allied troops.

This included 15,000 Australians of 8th Division.Most of the captured troops became prisoners of war. These men suffered three years of appalling treatment for the Commonwealth POW’s who were caught in Singapore. The Japanese prisoner of war camps provided no source of nutrition or hygiene and living there, the men either died of starvation, ill treatment or both.

For all Australians, this was a major wake up call. People realised that Australia was in real danger of being attacked, and since mainly all the troops were out fighting for the Allied Forces, Australia was left alone and defenceless.Prime Minister John Curtin called on all Australians to focus their efforts on the war, and promised to make every effort to bring the diggers back home to defend the country. So in summary, The Fall of Singapore was a major loss for the Allied Forces, and the first time Japan really showed their strength. Lasting just 70 days, the battle saw the loss of a major naval base, along with 85,000 Allied troops.

It impacted Australia in two main ways; 15,000 men of the Australian 8th Division became prisoners of war, and it was the event that shook people into action to protect the country.