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Singapore falls to the Japanese 15th Feb 1942

On 15 February 1942, which was the first day of the Lunar New Year, Lieutenant General Arthur E. Percival, who was then the General Officer Commanding (Malaya), signed the surrender documents before Lieutenant General Tomoyuki Yamashita, Commander of the Japanese 25th Army that invaded Malaya on 8 December 1941. The meeting took place at the Ford Motor Factory, which had been made Yamashita’s headquarters, located in Upper Bukit Timah Road.[1]

Upon convening at the Ford Motor Factory on the evening of 15 February with three other military officers, Percival tried to negotiate with Yamashita on some of the conditions for the surrender of Singapore.[2] Percival wished to delay the ceasefire so as to ensure that all of his men received their orders on time. He also wished to keep 1,000 men armed as he was afraid that the Japanese would retaliate against the local population.[3]

Yamashita, who later described his attack on Singapore as “a bluff that worked”,[4] feared the British were trying to buy time for more reinforcements to arrive.[5] He was particularly worried that the British might discover the truth about the actual situation of his troops, in particular their numerical inferiority compared to the British and their shortage of supplies and ammunition.[6] Hence, Yamashita threatened to carry on with the attack planned for that night if Percival did not acquiesce to his demands. Faced with no other choice, Percival signed the surrender documents, thereby sealing the fate of Singapore and subjecting the island to three-and-a-half years of Japanese occupation.[7]

1. National Library Board. (2001). The British surrender team of 1942 written by Cornelius-Takahama, Vernon. Retrieved December 19, 2013, from Singapore Infopedia; National Library Board. (2013, July 19). Battle of Singapore written by Ho, Stephanie. Retrieved December 19, 2013, from Singapore Infopedia.
2. Tsuji, M. (1988). Singapore 1941–1942: The Japanese version of the Malayan campaign of World War II (pp. 266–267). (M. E. Lake, Trans.). Singapore: Oxford University Press. Call no.: RSING 940. 5425 TSU.
3. Kinvig, C. (1996). Scapegoat: General Percival of Singapore (pp. 218–219). London: Brassey's UK. Call no.: RSING 940.5425 KIN.
4. Potter, J. D. (1963). A soldier must hang: The biography of an oriental general (p. 81). London: Muller. Call no.: RCLOS 940.541352 POT.
5. Potter, 1963, p. 91.
6. Potter, 1963, p. 92.
7. Kinvig, 1996, p. 219; Allen, L. (1993). Singapore, 1941–1942 (pp. 180–183). London: Frank Cass. Call no.: RSING 940.5425 ALL.


The information in this article is valid as at 2014 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.

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