74th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore
74 years ago today, Singapore fell to the Japanese after a bloody campaign lasting just over two months. On this day, Feb 15th 1942, 85,000 British, Australian and Indian troops were taken prisoner on the island, to join the 50,000 so who had already been taken prisoner during the Malaya campaign.
Selarang Barracks POW camp, Singapore, 1942
Winston Churchill called it the ‘worst disaster’ and ‘largest capitulation’ in British military history. Many of those prisoners were to suffer starvation, disease, brutal treatment and forced labour during their three-and-a-half year captivity.Tragically,thousands didn’t survive, and countless others carried the scars for the rest of their lives.
In writing my book, Bamboo Heart I tried to imagine what it must have been like to live through that final battle. I put myself in the shoes of an ordinary British soldier, Tom Ellis. Here is an extract from Chapter 21….
Bomb damage, Singapore Feb 1942
‘Tom had never seen a tank before. His mouth went dry, and he could not swallow. He tightened his finger on the trigger, but as he did so wondered what a rifle could do against the great guns on the tanks. The guns were blasting in every direction, at the buildings, into the rubber trees. They were soon upon them.
‘Fire for all you are worth, boys,’ yelled the Bull, and they all fired in unison at the first tank, but their bullets just pinged off the metal. The great gun swung round and faced them, blasting at them, round after round. The Japanese were also firing machine guns at them from inside the tank. The Bull went down with the first hit, then one by one the others were struck by bullets, screaming out in pain and falling back into the drain like rag dolls.
Japanese Tanks, Malaya Campaign
Tom felt his breath coming in uneven gulps. He gave up firing and crouched down low behind the Bull’s body, trying to hide himself from the enemy. A sob of fear rose in Tom’s throat. The tanks went rumbling past him on their great caterpillar tracks, churning up the tarmac, brushing obstacles aside, moving on relentlessly like great voracious insects. When the last of the tanks were gone, he could hear troops marching past. Wave after wave of feet pounded the road, only a few yards from his ear. He was shaking all over. It would take only one of them to notice he was alive.’
Here is a link to my website, with details of my research into my father’s experience of the Malaya campaign and as a POW, the inspiration for my trilogy, Bamboo Heart, Bamboo Island and Bamboo Road, published by Monsoon Books.
The first two books in the trilogy available from Monsoon at £8.99 each which includes paperback (free UK delivery) + FREE ebook at the following links–
With thanks to the Australian War Memorial Collection for the photographs I’ve included in this post.