Battle of Opium Hill


The Battle of Opium Hill on 14 February 1942 at Pasir Panjang was one of the fiercest battles that took place in Singapore in World War II. It pitted the invading Japanese Imperial Army against the brave but heavily out-numbered troops of the Malay Regiment. The battle is also remembered for the heroism of Lieutenant Adnan Saidi, a platoon commander of the 1st Battalion who, together with his men, fought the Japanese to their grisly deaths. Today, an interpretive centre, Reflections at Bukit Chandu, stands on the hill, commemorating the battle and the contributions of these men.1

Background
Opium Hill, or Bukit Chandu in Malay, constituted the British final defence parameter against the invading Japanese army. The Japanese campaign to invade Singapore had begun on 8 February 1942, with one strategic defensive position after another rapidly falling into Japanese hands. By 13 February, the Japanese Imperial Army (JIA) had shifted its attention to Pasir Panjang Ridge. The ridge was important because it offered a passage to the Alexandra area where the British Military Hospital and the main British ammunition and ordinance depots were located.


The task of defending the ridge was assigned to the Malay Regiment. It distinguished itself by fighting on despite heavy and continuous shelling by the Japanese army. Despite the regiment’s valiant resistance, the defence lines fell and the 18th Division of the JIA gained control of the western side of the ridge. Only the “C” Company of the 1st Malay Battalion was able to maintain its position at Pasir Panjang Village. Having suffered great losses, the Malay Regiment withdrew in the evening to establish a new defence position in the Buona Vista area. “C” Company, which included Adnan and his men in No. 7 Platoon, was sent to Point 226 (or Bukit Chandu) on the eastern end of the ridge.3 The hill was named after an opium-processing factory located on the hill.4

Description 
The Japanese continued their offensive on 14 February. In the early afternoon, Japanese troops were spotted advancing uphill on Bukit Chandu, disguised as Punjabi soldiers of the British Indian Army. Adnan’s suspicion was stirred when he noticed that the troops were moving in groups of four instead of the usual three, as was the norm for the British army. Realising that these were in fact enemy troops disguised as British Indian soldiers, Adnan ordered his men to open fire. 20 enemy men were mortally wounded, causing the Japanese to retreat. This victory for the Malay Regiment was however short-lived as two hours later, the Japanese launched an all-out attack with more soldiers, artillery, and air and mortar bombardment. Fierce fighting ensued on Opium Hill, and when ammunition ran short, Adnan and his men resorted to hand-to-hand combat using their bayonets. Heavily out-numbered, the men of “C” Company were completely overrun and fell to the Japanese. According to official and eye-witness accounts, Adnan was hung from a tree and repeatedly bayoneted until he died. By the afternoon of 14 February, the defence line at Pasir Panjang Ridge had been breached. The Japanese captured Alexandra Military Hospital and subsequently massacred its occupants, leaving only a few to escape.5

After the war
After the war, a book titled The Malay Regiment 1933–1947 was published by the Department of Public Relations of the Malay Peninsula in 1947, to chronicle the heroic deeds of the Malay Regiment.6 In 1956 and 1957, the British war department and the local government agreed to preserve the site of the battle at the Pasir Panjang Ridge as an open field.7



Authors

Nor-Afidah A Rahman & Nureza Ahmad




References
1. National Heritage Board. (2012). Singapore in World War II: A heritage trail. Singapore: Author, p. 18. (Call no.: RCLOS 940.5425957 SIN); Sheppard, M. (1947). The Malay Regiment 1933–1947. Kuala Lumpur: Department of Public Relations, Malay Peninsula, pp. 16–18, 20–21. (Call no.: RCLOS 355.31 SHE-[RFL])
2. Yap, S. Y., et al. (2011). Fortress Singapore: The battlefield guide. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 14, 64–67. (Call no.: RSING 959.5703 FOR-[HIS]); Tan, S. T. L. (2011). Battle for Singapore: Fall of the impregnable fortress. Singapore: National Archives of Singapore, p. 253. (Call no.: RSING 940.5425957 TAN-[WAR])
3. National Heritage Board. (2012). Singapore in World War II: A heritage trail. Singapore: Author, pp. 17–18. (Call no.: RCLOS 940.5425957 SIN); Sheppard, M. (1947). The Malay Regiment 1933–1947. Kuala Lumpur: Department of Public Relations, Malay Peninsula, pp. 15–16. (Call no.: RCLOS 355.31 SHE-[RFL]); Tan, S. (2011). Battle for Singapore: Fall of the impregnable fortress. Singapore: National Archives of Singapore, pp. 253, 255, 258. (Call no.: RSING 940.5425957 TAN-[WAR])
4. National Heritage Board. (2012). Singapore in World War II: A heritage trail. Singapore: Author, pp. 17–18. (Call no.: RCLOS 940.5425957 SIN)
5. Sheppard, M. (1947). The Malay Regiment 1933–1947. Kuala Lumpur: Department of Public Relations, Malay Peninsula, p. 18. (Call no.: RCLOS 355.31 SHE-[RFL]); Tan, S. (2011). Battle for Singapore: Fall of the impregnable fortress. Singapore: National Archives of Singapore, pp. 256, 258, 261–263. (Call no.: RSING 940.5425957 TAN-[WAR]); Haji Mubin Sheppard. (1967, February 13). The fire and death on ‘Opium Hill’. The Straits Times, p. 6; Death before dishonour. (1991, December 8). The Straits Times, p. 2; Man sees spot where his war hero brother was killed. (1995 September 11). The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Sheppard, M. (1947). The Malay Regiment 1933–1947. Kuala Lumpur: Department of Public Relations, Malay Peninsula. (Call no.: RCLOS 355.31 SHE-[RFL])
7. Battle for Marina Hill – 1956 style. (1956, June 22). The Straits Times, p. 9; Tregonning, K. G. (1956, June 26). Battle of Marina Hill. The Straits Times, p. 6; Sunset at Marina. (1956, June 29). The Straits Times, p. 8; Marina Hill ‘battle’ is over. (1956, July 12). The Straits Times, p. 1; That hill is still held by army. (1956, July 13). The Straits Times, p. 9; A historic hill may be turned into a park. (1957, April 8). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resources
Owen, F. (2001). The fall of Singapore. London: Penguin Books, pp. 192–203.
(Call no.: RSING 940.5425 OWE-[WAR])

Proud day for Malay Regiment. (1957, February 13). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Remember S’pore, Malay Regt. told. (1952, February 14). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

The Malays fought as well as the best Empire troops. (1947, May 6). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Warren, A. (2002). Singapore 1942: Britain’s greatest defeat. Singapore: Talisman, pp. 255–261.
(Call no.: RSING 940.5425 WAR-[WAR])



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.

Subject
Battle of Opium Hill, Singapore, 1942
Battles--Singapore
Singapore--History--Japanese occupation, 1942-1945
1942-1945 Japanese occupation
Events>>Historical Periods>>World War II and Japanese Occupation (1939-1945)
History>>Asia>>Southeast Asia>>Singapore