Rare footage of 1942 Japanese WWII invasion & victory parade in S’pore available
76 years ago today, Singapore fell to the Japanese.
By the 1940s, Singapore was the crown jewel in Britain’s Southeast Asian colonies.
They built a naval base here at Sembawang, trumpeting it as the Gibraltar of the East — an impregnable fortress representative of British might.
Spoiler alert: It was not.
The Singapore Strategy that failed
The idea of a fortified Singapore was basically an illusion.
Despite the presence of a naval base in Singapore, the Royal British fleet was never deployed here. It was stationed in North Atlantic and needed 15 weeks to travel to Singapore.
Japanese forces took seven-and-a-half weeks combing through the entire Malayan Peninsula to arrive at Singapore’s doorstep. On bicycles.
British forces thought (incorrectly) that the Japanese would invade via sea.
Hence, their coastal guns were pointed sea-ward. While the British also had a plan that anticipated land-attack from Malaya, the plan was not carried out.
On Jan. 31, 1942, the Allied soldiers withdrew to Singapore and blew a 21-metre gap in the Causeway as a last minute act of desperation to hold back the Japanese.
Unfortunately, that did not hold them back for long.
On Feb. 8, 1942, the Japanese forces landed in Singapore, at Sarimbun Beach.
When you encounter the enemy after landing, think of yourself as an avenger coming face to face at last with his father’s murderer. Here is a man whose death will lighten your heart.
– Japanese manual to soldiers.
From Sarimbun Beach, the Japanese went on to attack Bukit Timah Hill which offered a wide view of Singapore city and was where the British petrol, oil and supply depots were located.
The Japanese knew this because of information passed on via spies.
On Bukit Timah Hill, the Japanese had a great vantage point from which to fire at Singapore targets.
By Feb. 15, 1942, Singapore had fallen to the Japanese.
The Japanese marched their prisoners of war along the streets and conducted victory parades, beginning the horror that was the Japanese Occupation.
To find out more about the Singapore Strategy and the Fall of Singapore, check out the National Heritage Board’s four-part series here:
- The Singapore Strategy
- The Battle for Singapore
- British Surrender & Japanese Occupation
- Japanese Surrender and Victory Celebrations