The minute-long signal was being sounded all over Singapore at 12.05pm today to mark the Total Defence Day, and this year is a special one.
It is the 70th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore. On the 15th of February 1942, the British surrendered their crown colony, dubbed as the “Impregnable Fortress”, to the Japanese after only seven days of resistance. Hong Kong, Britain’s other crown colony of the East, had also fallen on 25 December 1941.
With the last line of defence broken and the Allies short of food supplies and ammunition, Lieutenant-General Arthur Ernest Percival (1887 – 1996) led his officers in an unconditional surrender to the Japanese military commander Lieutenant-General Tomoyuki Yamashita. The Japanese Occupation officially began, as the people of Singapore lived in horror and suffering for the next three years and eight months.
The Battle of Pasir Panjang was one of the important events before the Fall of Singapore. The 1st and 2nd Battalion of the Malay Regiment (Askar Melayu) were tasked to defend the western and southern parts of the island. The Japanese invaders advanced quickly to Jurong after their landings at Kranji and Sarimbun. By 13 February 1942, the Japanese started attacking Pasir Panjang Ridge, forcing the defenders to retreat to Bukit Chandu.
Bukit Chandu was then an important strategic location for the Allies, as the loss of the hill would provide a direct route for the invaders to Alexandra, where the British had ammunition storage, military hospital and other key installations.
One fifth of the Malay Regiment perished in the fierce battle. Heroic Second Lieutenant Adnan bin Saidi (1915 – 1942) urged his troops not to surrender and fight to the last man despite heavily outnumbered. When Bukit Chandu was eventually captured two days later, Adnan bin Saidi was caught and brutally killed by the Japanese.
Bukit Chandu means opium hill in Malay, after a British-owned opium-processing factory that was established at the foot of the hill in 1910.
The Reflections at Bukit Chandu located at the peak of the hill (via Pepys Road) was formerly a black and white bungalow built by the colonial government for the senior officers. More than 100 years old, it was designed with strong “Mock Tudor” British architectural style. During the Second World War, the house was being used to store military and food supplies. In the past, there were also two similar bungalows on the hill but they were demolished in 1987.
In 2002, the bungalow was restored and officially reopened as a small interesting museum which showcases the details of how the Malay Regiment defended Bukit Chandu against the Japanese invasion. It will be opened to the public for free from 15th to 18th February 2012. Do pay a visit if you are interested in knowing more about the darkest period of Singapore’s history.
Published: 15 February 2012