75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FALL OF SINGAPORE,
At 5.00pm ON FEBRUARY 15th AT THE SANDAKAN MEMORIAL, ANZAC PARK, BRISBANE STREET, TAMWORTH
In 1942, Singapore was seen as Britain's foothold in South East Asia. It was a succesful trading post at the tip of the Malayan Peninsula. British and Commonwealth forces stationed on the Malayan Peninsula and Singapore numbered 130,000 troops.
The British comander, General Percival had 266 field guns and over 80,000 troops, including 17 Indian, 14 British, seven Australian, two Malay, and two volunteer battalions. In contrast, the Japanese commander Yamashita had only three divisions. The naval guns defending the harbour were facing the ocean, anticipating that any invasion of Singapore would come from the sea. The Japanese rendered these weapons useless by invading Singapore not from the sea but from the land. They crossed the strait and invaded Singapore on the evening of 8 February 1942.
Surprisingly, there was little alarm in Singapore on the night of the invasion. There were 8,000 ex-patriots (Europeans working and living in Singapore), and over 600,000 Malays and Chinese Singapore residents. The British exercised censorship over the media in Singapore - few people had a clear understanding of what had happened in Malaya only days and weeks before. The British Command continued to put their faith in the massive fortifications and their superior numbers of troops. A sense of complacency replaced the very real danger posed by the invading Japanese troops. Within two days, the Japanese had seized one-third of Singapore. Bombing raids were frequent, the city was covered with smoke and dust.
In January 1942, the Japanese had seized Malaya. By 15 February, the British surrendered Singapore after only a week of fighting. The defence of Singapore had been a debacle. Panic occured among the civilian population. Hundreds of civilians and soldiers flocked to the waterfront and attempted to force their way on board ships docked in the harbour. A few Europeans did board ships leaving Singapore harbour. The SS Vyner Brooke carried many women, children, and Australian nurses but it was pursued by Japanese ships. On 14 February, while heading for Sumatra via Banka Strait, the Vyner Brooke was sunk by Japanese bombers. Sister Vivian Bullwinkel was with a group of 22 survivors on Banka Island when a Japanese patrol arrived and ordered the women in the group to walk into the sea. They were machine-gunned from behind. All except Sister Bullwinkel were killed.
As Singapore burned, war was brought to Australia's doorstep. The inadequate defence of Singapore proved to the Australian government that Britain no longer provided Australia with the defence she needed. Being a dominion of Britain did not automatically entail protection. When Singapore fell, over 130,000 Allied troops were taken prisoner, including 15,000 Australians.
Important dates to remember
Sandakan Memorial Service, ANZAC Park, Brisbane Street - 5pm Wednesday 15th February 2017
75th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore - Wednesday 15th February 2017
ANZAC Day Commemoration Service, Tamworth Town Hall - Tuesday 25th April 2017
Vietnam Veteran's Day (Long Tan Day) Railway Park, Marius Street - 5pm Friday 18th August 2017
Centenary of the Battle of Beersheba - Tuesday 31st October 2017
Remembrance Day Commemoration Service, Tamworth Town Hall - Saturday 11th November 2017