Thursday, 6 December 2012

The fall of Singapore 1942

A friend of mine Penny Stafford has a family heirloom a crystal bowl which is chipped. How it was broken is a story in itself. It was buried in the grounds of the family home in Singapore when the Japanese invaded in 1942 and the chip was caused by a bayonet prodding the ground in search of possessions. After the war the bowl was retrieved and now sits on a table in the family home in Surrey.

This year is the 70th anniversary of the fall of Singapore, according to Churchill the worst disaster ever to befall British military. About 80,000 Allied servicemen ended up in captivity. Many had just arrived and had not fired a bullet in anger.

The calamity was compounded by the loss of two capital ships the Prince of Wales and the Repulse sank by Japanese aircraft, Despite having numerical superiority the Allies were out manoeuvred by an enemy who were better trained and led. The British commander Arthur Percival and his staff underestimated the Japanese especially their ability to advance through the jungle. General Percival refused to accept the reports of the rapidity of the Imperial Army. His high handed attitude with subordinates and his willingness to reject new thinking on the need for adequate defences doomed his troops.

 My friend’s father was unusual in that he fought in both World Wars. He was a Second Lieutenant in the Australian Army on the Western Front and a Colonel in the Malay Infantry Brigade. He owned rubber plantations on the peninsula. His command fought bravery and he was captured and served 3 years in Changi Jail. He was 6 foot 2 inches and weighed 5and half stone on his release. He was treated terribly .Two Leek men died in the campaign Ordinary Seaman Horace Lovatt of 37Abbots Rd was killed when HMS Dragonfly was bombed during when evacuating troops and Private Ron Sheldon of the North Lancashire Regiment died in the fighting in Singapore. Another Leek man Leading Stoker Frederick Rogers of Mill St was captured when HMS Grasshopper was beached. He would later die the result of forced labour on the Burma Railway. The brutal treatment of Allied servicemen and civilians caused much bitterness. For many years later my parents refused to buy Japanese