Lieutenant Adnan Saidi
Adnan Saidi (b. 1915, Selangor, Malaysia - d. 1942, Singapore), a lieutenant of the Malay Regiment's 1st Battalion, died fighting the Japanese in one of the fiercest battles in Singapore during WW II. A war hero, he led his men in the Battle of Opium Hill (Bukit Chandu), off Pasir Panjang, giving the Japanese a bitter taste of real combat so much so that when they captured him, they tortured him as revenge before killing him and burning his body. Adnan received medals posthumously for his courage while a memorial plaque was erected at Kent Ridge to commemorate the bravery of Adnan and his men. The memory of this brave soldier also lives on at Kranji War Memorial where his name is etched on the main memorial column wall of the Kranji War Cemetery.
Adnan Saidi was the eldest of six children and was one of three male siblings to join the military. He studied at Pekan Sungei Ramal School in the English medium and was said to be bright and diligent. Upon graduating, he became a trainee teacher and taught at his old school for over a year. However, the military calling was stronger and he left teaching for the Malay Regiment in 1933 at the young age of 18. Within four years, he rose through the ranks to become 2nd Lieutenant and leader of the 7th Platoon, 'C' Coy, of the Malay Regiment. His rapid promotions were indicative of a highly dedicated and disciplined soldier.
World War II
When he was 23 years old, Adnan married Sophia Pakih Muda, a school teacher from his village. The couple had three children, two sons and a daughter. Adnan did not live to see his daughter being born and she died at infancy shortly after the fall of Singapore in 1942. Combining the hectic life of a career soldier and that of a father, Adnan was remembered by one of his son, Mokhtar, as "serious and fierce...yet had a good heart". Time with his sons was spent on walks or rugged games as he wanted them to grow up tough.
In late 1941, Adnan was posted to Singapore. He brought his family with him and they lived in a big house off Pasir Panjang, an area reserved for officers in the Malay Regiment. When war became imminent, Adnan sent his family back to their hometown in Kajang, Selangor, in December 1941. It was a trying time for him as his wife was pregnant with their third child. When they bade him goodbye, it was the last time that his family set eyes on him.
Adnan was entrusted with the defence of Pasir Panjang Ridge, the last British bastion before Alexandra, where their main ammunition and supplies, military hospital and other key installations were located. In an epic battle, the Battle for Pasir Panjang (13 to 14 February 1942) or the "Battle of Opium Hill" as it is better known, Adnan's leadership qualities - patriotism, bravery, courage, incisiveness - took his troop's fighting spirit to its highest fervour, fending off the Japanese though the Malay Regiment's troops were grossly outnumbered and undersupplied. They frustrated the Japanese efforts to take over the ridge and had to yield the ridge only in the late evening of 13 February because the fighting by then had strained Adnan's troops. As they retreated to Opium Hill, they rose to the occasion again against the persistent and heightened assault of the Japanese, even taking up hand-to-hand combat with the enemy when their ammunition ran out. But the sheer force of Japanese attack on the second and final afternoon of fighting overpowered Adnan and his men, leading them to their grisly death.
Adnan's gruesome death
Adnan's fierce resistance and refusal to surrender even after being mortally wounded proved damaging to his ending at Japanese hands. Not satisfied with capturing him, the Japanese, angered over the casualties they suffered, dragged Adnan and hung him by his legs to a tree and repeatedly bayoneted him. The brutal torture, which also included repeatedly slitting his throat and leaving his mutilated body to hang and some said eventually burning it, was witnessed by one survivor of the Opium Hill battle, Corporal Yaakob. He escaped death by laying motionless amongst the layer of dead bodies.
In his passing, Adnan's undying valour exemplified his strong belief in the Malay motto: "Biar putih tulang, jangan putih mata" - death before dishonour. Adnan's body was never found. The Japanese continued to hunt down the rest of his family. To foil their attempts, Adnan's brother gave away his belongings and photographs. No one wanted or dared to keep Adnan's belongings for fear of being killed by the Japanese. Today, the fiery spirit of Adnan and his men is remembered by a war memorial plaque in Kent Ridge Park erected in their honour, and the etching on the main memorial column wall of the Kranji War Cemetery No. 385 bearing the words "Lt. Adnan Saidi". A telemovie about his life and the battle at Opium Hill, titled Bukit Candu, was also made.
1933 : Joined the Malay Regiment
1934 : Best recruit of the Malay Regiment
1936 : Promoted to rank of Sergeant
1937 : Chosen to represent his platoon in a military ceremonial parade in London to honour the ascension of King George IV to the throne
1937 : Married to Sophia Pakih Muda, a teacher
1937 : Promoted to Company-sergeant-major and left for Singapore for an officer's conversion course
193? : Graduated as 2nd Lieutenant, leader of the 7th Platoon, 'C' Coy, Malay Regiment
1941 : Posted to Singapore
14 Feb 1942 : Killed by Japanese Army in Battle of Opium Hill, off Pasir Panjang, Singapore
1995 : War memorial plaque at Vigilante Drive, Kent Ridge Park, erected in honour of Adnan and his Malay Brigade
17 Feb 2002 : Reflections at Bukit Chandu, World War II Interpretative Centre opened at Pasir Panjang Ridge
Posthumous Awards (by the British Government)
Eldest of six siblings.
Two younger brothers : Amarullah Saidi and the late Ahmad Saidi, also officers in the British military forces.
Wife : Madam.Sophia Pakih Muda, a.k.a. Sophia Pakir (d. 1949), school teacher.
Children : Sons, Mokhtar and Zainudin, and a daughter who died at infancy.
Nureza Ahmad & Nor-Afidah A Rahman
Bhalla, S. T. (1991, December 8). Death before dishonour. The Straits Times, Sunday Plus, p. 2.
Brave warrior. (2003, December 21). The Sunday Mail.
Chan, K. S. (1998, July 11). Lt. Adnan Saidi, hero of Malay Regiment. The Straits Times.
Goh, C. L. (2001, December 27). Stories of duty, honour, courage. The Straits Times.
He fell in Battle for Bukit Candu. (1996, February 14). The Straits Times, Life, p.5.
Liza Sahid. (1999). Adnan Saidi. Retrieved June 14, 2004, from Knowledge Net Web site: www.knowledgenet.com.sg/singapore/SG/BI/BIADS001.asp?next=0
Man sees spot where his war hero brother was killed. (1995, September 11). The Straits Times.
National posthumous gallantry award likely for World War II hero. (1999, November 12). The New Straits Times.
Singapore opens center to commemorate key WWII battle. (2002, February 6). Kyodo News International.
WWII hero died fighting the Japanese. (1996, February 14). The Straits Times, Life, p.5.
Abdul Latip Talib. (2008). Leftenan Adnan, wira bangsa. Batu Caves, Selangor : PTS Publications & Distributors.
(Call no.: RSING 899.283 ABD)
Saat A Rahman (Ed.). (2002?). In quest of excellence : a story of Singapore Malays (pp. 114-115). Singapore : Yayasan Mendaki.
(Call no.: RSING 305.8992805957 IN)
The information in this article is valid as at 2009 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
Singapore--History--Japanese occupation, 1942-1945
Personalities>>Biographies>>War Personalities>>War Heroes
People and communities>>Social groups and communities
Adnan Saidi, 1915-1942