After landing in Thailand and Malaya on December 8, 1941, the Japanese moved swiftly southwards and on January the causeway linking Singapore island with the mainland was blown by British engineers. On the night of February 8, the Japanese crossed the Johore Strait, and made good progress against a disorganized defense. Although Churchill had ordered that the battle should be fought “to the bitter end,” the loss of much of the city’s water supply persuaded Lieutenant General Arthur Percival to surrender. Churchill called the surrender, of some 85,000 men, “the worst disaster… in British military history.”
Singapore’s coast defense guns, like this one, became the topic of ill-informed postwar criticism. They were designed to engage warships, and so they naturally pointed out to sea — though some could also fire inland. From 1937, British planners recognized that the main threat to Singapore came from landings to it’s North.
Some women, children, and key specialists were evacuated. The decision as to whether wives and children should be evacuated was an agonizing one, and for many families this grim parting in Singapore’s bomb-ravaged docks was the last.
Surrender negotiations began at 11:30 on the morning of Sunday, February 15th, when a ceasefire was arranged. There was a surrender ceremony in the Ford factory at Bukit Timah that afternoon: the British delegation was kept waiting outside before it began.