Arthur E. Percival



Arthur Ernest Percival (Lieutenant-General) (b. 26 December 1887, Aspenden, Hertfordshire, England1–d. 31 January 1966, London, England) was the British commander who surrendered Singapore to the Japanese on 15 February 1942 during World War II.

Early life
Despite graduating from Rugby, which was famed as an army preparatory school, Percival initially chose a civilian life, working at a London iron ore firm after he left school in 1906. With the advent of World War I, he volunteered for the British Army in August 1914. By 12 September 1914, he had become a commissioned officer with the 7th Bedfordshire battalion. Percival saw action on the Western Front and distinguished himself by earning numerous military honours including the Distinguished Service Order and the Croix de Guerre, and achieving the rank of lieutenant-colonel. Percival remained in the army after the war, attending both the Army and Naval Staff Colleges and serving in Russia, Ireland, Nigeria and Malta.2


Accomplishments
In 1936, Percival was posted to Malaya as the general staff officer (first grade).3 Almost two years later in December 1937, he returned to the United Kingdom to join the Aldershot Command. There, Percival became concerned about Singapore’s security if war were to break out in the Far East. He drew up a possible Japanese attack plan on Singapore, which was in fact similar to that used by the Japanese during its invasion.4 However, his 1937 plan was rejected by the British War Office,5 which favoured a defence based on the Singapore’s naval fortifications, supplemented if necessary by a relief naval force from Europe.6

On 16 May 1941, he was posted again to Malaya, this time as the temporary lieutenant-general and the General Officer Commanding (Malaya). Hampered by the lack of support from both the War Office and the colonial government, his efforts to hold Malaya and Singapore in the face of the Japanese invasion seemed doomed from the start.7 The rapidity and audacity of the Japanese advance in Malaya8 left troops unprepared, which resulted in the Allied troops’ retreat to Singapore on 31 January 1942. A fierce battle to hold Singapore ensued,9 but on 15 February, as conditions within the city grew desperate, Percival decided to surrender Singapore. The surrender took place at the Japanese headquarters at the Ford Factory off Bukit Timah Road.10

Percival spent the next three years as a prisoner-of-war during the Japanese Occupation, first at Changi Camp, then in Formosa (Taiwan) and finally in Manchuria. On 2 September 1945, Percival was invited by General Douglas MacArthur of the United States to witness the formal surrender of Japan. Percival was also called to witness on the following day the formal surrender of General Tomoyuki Yamashita of the Japanese Army.11

Retirement
Percival retired from the army in 1946 with the honorary rank of lieutenant-general. He died at the age of 78 at the King Edward VII Hospital in London on 31 January 1966.12

Criticism
Percival has been criticised for his handling of the Singapore campaign. Differing views abound; some asserted that Percival was less than inspirational and had made the grave mistake in not using the engineers who were at his disposal to build fixed defences, while others argued that he had been the convenient scapegoat the military disaster.13



Author

Michele Wee



References
1. Kinvig, C. (1996). Scapegoat: General Percival of Singapore. London: Brassey’s UK, p. 5. (Call no.: RSING 940.5425 KIN-[WAR])
2. Kinvig, C. (1996). Scapegoat: General Percival of Singapore. London: Brassey’s UK, pp. 3, 5–7, 15, 36–43, 47–87, 92–95, 250–251. (Call no.: RSING 940.5425 KIN-[WAR]); Percival, A. E. (1949). The war in Malaya (pp. 13, 25) [Microfilm no.: NL 25785]. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode.
3. Percival, A. E. (1949). The war in Malaya (p. 13) [Microfilm no.: NL 25785]. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode.
4. Kinvig, C. (1996). Scapegoat: General Percival of Singapore. London: Brassey’s UK, pp. 106–108. (Call no.: RSING 940.5425 KIN-[WAR]); Percival, A. E. (1949). The war in Malaya (pp. 17–21, 23) [Microfilm no.: NL 25785]. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode.
5. Kinvig, C. (1996). Scapegoat: General Percival of Singapore. London: Brassey’s UK, pp. 108–109, 129. (Call no.: RSING 940.5425 KIN-[WAR])
6. Farrel, B. P. (2015). The defence and fall of Singapore 1940–1942. Singapore: Monsoon Books, pp. 25–29. (Call no.: RSING 940.5425957 FAR-[WAR]); Warren, A. (2002). Singapore 1942: Britain’s greatest defeat. Singapore: Talisman, pp. 26–27. (Call no.: RSING 940.5425 WAR-[WAR]); Wigmore, L. (1957). The Japanese thrust. Canberra: Australia War Memorial, pp. 6–7. (Call no.: RCLOS 940.5425 WIG)
7. Kinvig, C. (1996). Scapegoat: General Percival of Singapore. London: Brassey’s UK, p. 115. (Call no.: RSING 940.5425 KIN-[WAR]); Percival, A. E. (1949). The war in Malaya (pp. 25, 27–28, 106–110) [Microfilm no.: NL 25785]. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode.
8. Kinvig, C. (1996). Scapegoat: General Percival of Singapore. London: Brassey’s UK, p. 133. (Call no.: RSING 940.5425 KIN-[WAR]); Percival, A. E. (1949). The war in Malaya (pp. 110–115) [Microfilm no.: NL 25785]. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode.
9. Percival, A. E. (1949). The war in Malaya (pp. 136–164, 198–280) [Microfilm no.: NL 25785]. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode; Wigmore, L. (1957). The Japanese thrust. Canberra: Australia War Memorial, pp. 288–291. (Call no.: RCLOS 940.5425 WIG)
10. Compilation of World War II footage, 1941–1945. (Tape 2 of 3) [Accession no.: 2005004596]. (1941–45). Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline; Percival, A. E. (1949). The war in Malaya (pp. 281–293) [Microfilm no.: NL 25785]. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode.
11. Percival, A. E. (1949). The war in Malaya (pp. 312, 317–318, 321–326) [Microfilm no.: NL 25785]. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode.
12. Kinvig, C. (1996). Scapegoat: General Percival of Singapore. London: Brassey’s UK, p. 251. (Call no.: RSING 940.5425 KIN-[WAR]) 
13. Farrel, B. P. (2015). The defence and fall of Singapore 1940–1942. Singapore: Monsoon Books. pp. 427–436, 448–463. (Call no.: RSING 940.5425957 FAR-[WAR]); Kinvig, C. (1996). Scapegoat: General Percival of Singapore. London: Brassey’s UK., pp. 195-197. (Call no.: RSING 940.5425 KIN-[WAR]); Thompson, P. (2005). The battle for Singapore: The true story of the greatest catastrophe of World War Two. London: Portrait, pp. 182–183, 356, 423–425. (Call no.: RSING 940.5425 THO-[WAR])



Further resources
Smyth, J. (1971). Percival and the tragedy of Singapore. London: Macdonald and Co.
(Call no.: RCLOS 940.5425 PER.S)

Tan, P. K. S. (1982). General Percival and the fall of Malaya, 1941–1942: A reassessment.
(Call no.: RSING 940.54259 TAN-[WAR])



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we can 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
Military history--Singapore
Singapore--History--Japanese occupation, 1942-1945
History>>Asia>>Southeast Asia>>Singapore
Personalities>>Biographies>>War Personalities>>War Heroes
War personalities
Percival, Arthur Ernest, 1887-1966