In photos: Feb 15, the day Singapore fell to the Japanese

In photos: Feb 15, the day Singapore fell to the Japanese
PHOTO: Imperial War Museum

On this day 75 years ago, the British surrendered to Japan, paving the way to what would become almost a four-year long occupation of the island by the Japanese.

In the evening of Feb 15, 1942, Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival signed the unconditional surrender of Singapore after one week of intense fighting. Till today, many consider this as the the British Army's greatest ever defeat, and Winston Churchill called it the "worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history".

It had taken the Japanese soldiers just one week to take control. On Feb 8, about 13,000 Japanese troops from the 5th and 18th Divisions crossed the Johor Straits into Singapore in collapsible boats. The next day, Japanese Imperial Guards crossed a repaired Causeway into Kranji.

Japanese soldiers in SingaporePhoto: Handout

Their first target? The Bukit Timah area, with its reservoirs, food depots and ammunition stocks. Japanese forces took the Bukit Timah area on Feb 11, and General Tomoyuki Yamashita set up his headquarters at the Ford Factory.

Just three days later, the Japanese won the Battle of Pasir Panjang, despite the brave resistance of Lieutenant Adnan Saidi and his men in the Malay Regiment. Japanese troops also massacred 280 patients and staff at the Alexandra Barracks Hospital over two days.

Lieutenant Adnan led the Malay Regiment in the Battle of Pasir Panjang.
Photo: Library

By Feb 15, with the situation looking dire for the Allied Forces, Lieutenant Percival and his surrender party met General Yamashita at the Ford Factory in Bukit Timah to officially surrender Singapore to the Japanese forces.

The British surrender delegation, Major Cyril Wild (with the white flag), Brigadier T.K. Newbigging (with the Union Jack flag), Brigadier K. S. Torrance, and Lieutenant-General A. E. Percival, marching towards Ford Factory to surrender to the JapanesePhoto: ST File

The Japanese subsequently renamed Singapore as "Syonan-to", which means "Light of the South". During the Japanese occupation, tens of thousands of people suffered at the hands of the Japanese, with an estimated 40,000 people killed during the Sook Ching Massacre from Feb 21 to Mar 4, 1942.

Feb 15 is now commemorated every year as Total Defence Day in Singapore. On the day, the Singapore Civil Defence Force will sound the "Important Message" signal islandwide via the network of Public Warning System sirens at 6.20pm, the time when the British surrendered to the Japanese.


Feb 8 1942: First Japanese troops land in Singapore.

Feb 11 1942: Japanese troops capture Bukit Timah.

Feb 13-14 1942: Battle of Pasir Panjang.

Feb 14-15 1942: Massacre of 280 patients and staff at Alexandra Military Hospital.

Feb 15 1942: British surrender to the Japanese at Ford Factory in Bukit Timah.

Source: Singapore Infopedia

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