Friday, 19 November 2010

Stanley Saddington Ex RAF, Tien Kwang Survivor & former POW

While I was in the UK recently I had the good fortune to meet up with 90 year old Stanley Saddington. What an amazing man! Stanley was 21 when in Singapore in 1941 working for the RAF with the early and classified new radar technology that had been set up in Southern Malaya and later moved near Changi before being destroyed to avoid falling into enemy hands before the fall of Singapore. Stanley recalled how the radar picked up two large shadows over the ocean and when he and his colleagues went to a vantage point to investigate they saw the HMS Prince of Wales and the Repulse sailing Northwards. These two capital ships were sunk during that voyage of course and the rest is history. Stanley and his RAF colleagues were evavcuated on the HMS Tien Kwang on Friday the 13th 1942 two days before the fall of Singapore. After sailing overnight the Tien Kwang sought refuge with a second ship the Kuala off Pompong Island. However both ships sank as a result of a japanese air raid with a large loss of life. Stanley and a number of his RAF colleagues eventually made it to Padang Indonesia only to be captured by the Japanese after the Dutch declared it a open city. Stanley then saw out the war on the Thai Burma Railway. Of his many stories one of the most poignant was his description of how just before the end of the war when friendly fire dropped a large bomb on the prison camp that killed 18 of his colleagues ironically not long before surrender and certain freedom. For his age Stanley is incredibly sharp, well read and it was an honor to have spent several hours with him and his family. I was an experience I will never forget. Thank you Stanley.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Remembrance Day Singapore 2010

It was a wet 11th of Nov 2010 but a special service at the Singapore Cenotaph with approximately 50 people in attendance and a special tribute by Jeya the Director of the Changi Chapel Museum. The service was made special by the attendance of 93 year old D. M Lea veteran of the fall of Singapore (3rd Corps Royal Signals) who had made his first trip back to Singapore since 1945 when he was released after being a POW in both Singapore and on the Thai Burma Railway. I had a fascinating chat with him after the service where he spoke about being on the Thai border during the invasion (Project Matador) but the folly of not being ordered to proceed with the plan until it was too late. He also spoke about the mix up in communications that left them stranded in Malaya at one point and how at Ipoh he caught Malaria and was transferred to the Alexandra Hospital in Singapore. Just prior to the fall he was working in the Fort Canning vicinity keeping communications lines open. He described one moment when he and a colleague started at a telegraph pole and walked in opposite directions with cable only to return to find the pole gone and a large bomb crater in its place as a result of the Japanese artillery shelling. Upon the surrender he was placed in the River Valley POW camp before being railed up to the Thai/Burma Railway. He said he got through it because he always knew that they would win in the end. Of gentle disposition but looking so well for his age he was an inspiring and amazing man and I feel honoured I had the chance to meet him.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Deadly Secrets - the Singapore Raids 1942-45

In February 1942, when Australian Bill Reynolds escaped from Singapore in a battered Japanese fishing boat, he had no idea that his nondescript vessel would be the catalyst for Operation Jaywick, one of the most daring missions taken behind enemy lines in WW2 - this is is the amazing story captured by historian Lynette Silver in her new book. One of my photos taken on Merapas island in the Rhiau Archipelago is on page 260 which shows one of two stone forts where Riggs and Cameron made their last stand against the attacking Japanese soldiers. It was taken during a memorable trip to the island in 2007.

Monday, 8 November 2010

British 18th Division in Singapore

Due to problems with the guest book attached to the website I have only just been able to recover some old posts and apologies for delayed replies to your entries where applicable!

David William UK writes....

Researching the British 18th Division at Singapore 1942
An excellent site with a lot of valuable information. I am currently preparing a dissertation on the Fall of Singapore in 1942. The focus is on the men of the British 18th Division who were captured and interned in Japanese camps and working on the Thai-Burma Railway.

I am particularly interested in knowing how these men coped with being pitched into a hopeless military situation and how they were able to continue with their lives after the end of the war. Many were troubled with illnesses and diseases that were contracted during captivity and after the war, many of them were treated at Queen Mary Hospital, Roehampton and studied by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

Only last week I attended a conference in Liverpool - the 68th anniversary of the fall of Singapore in 1942 - to meet some of the veterans and hear about some of the pioneering work carried on at this Institute over the past 45 years.

I have also met and interviewed several veterans during the past 20 years and only this weekend was speaking to the sister of a man who was rescued from the Empress of Asia. Some of these interviews were on camera.

If you're wondering about the dissertation then here's the answer. I am just completing the fourth year of a BA history degree at the University of London (Birkbeck). I should have done it years ago. I am now 71.

I would like to hear from anyone who has any links with the British 18th Division and the regiments of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.

Thank you for giving your time to read this story.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Maurice O'Connell from Ireland writes

My mother, baby brother and I were put on a ship by my father VERY EARLY in December 1941 after the Japanese invasion. Possibly 10th December. Possibly 'Empress of India'. Most lists seem to deal with 1942 when the evacuation got moving. The word from the high-ups was that Europeans were to stay put to 'show the flag'. My father, Basil (BMB), O'Connell, (1900-1971), a police officer who had been following events for years, and had served in most parts of the Peninsula did NOT agree with their optimistic assessment. He had to stay behind and was in Changi (civilian internee) 1942-1945. We went to Colombo, ( then Ceylon). Thence to Durban. Eventually got back to Ireland. Being only five years old, I did not keep a diary!

The Malayan Volunteers Group

There were many Malayan volunteers who played a critical role in Singapore's defence prior to the fall and who were killed or captured as a result. There is a Malayan Volunteers Group (MVG) that developed from an informal gathering of a few British Malayans who were Volunteer Veterans. They used to meet for an annual lunch-time get-together, to talk about times past and to enjoy each other's company. As their numbers gradually decreased over the years, the tradition was carried on by their children and families. Now the lunch-time meetings every October are growing in numbers, as new members join the Group.

In January 2005, there seemed to be a need to keep British Malayan families in touch with each other more frequently than once a year, and so the Malayan Volunteers Group was formed, with a quarterly newsletter called "Apa Khabar" in which news and views are exchanged by members around the world. MVG's website is

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Amazing story related to the HMS Kuala sinking off Pompong Island

I came across this amazing story about HMS Kuala sinking survivor Patsy Li that was published in the Australian Hobart Mercury newspaper after the war. By clinging to a suitcase at the time of the sinking the child Patsy Li was separated from her mother and was eventually found some 4000 miles from where the sinking occurred some years later. It appears to be a an incredible story related to the sinking off Pompong Island and if any one can help add any further to this story I would be keen to hear from you. If the full article can not be read from this page contact me and I can send you a copy via email.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

End of the British Empire

Dr Duncan Anderson talks about how he fall of Singapore was disasterous for British prestige in the Far East and represented the end of the British Empire. Source History Channel

Prof Richard Overy on the fall of Singapore

Prof Richard Overy talks about how the rapid Japanese conquests in early 1942 were in part made possible because European powers were preoccupied with the war against Germany. Source : History Channel

After the Surrender 1942

Interview with Lance-Corporal John Wyatt on his internment after the Singapore surrender. Interesting footage of 1000s of POWs in a large group just after the surrender.

Singapore Evacuation Video Footage

Interesting footage found on the History Channel that shows some of the orderly evacuation of civilians I am guessing approximately one month before Singapore fell. These scenes are in stark contrast to the chaos and mayhem that met the evacueese in the final two weeks before the surrender.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Footage of the attack on Malaya

This footage shows interesting scenes of some of the civilians evacuated from Malaya and also footage of Japanese air raids and a downed Japanese aircraft. It appears to have been produced not long before the actual fall of Singapore.

Old Ford Factory display of the surrender room

The original table where Percival signed the Singapore surrender documents with Yamashita now sits in the AWM Canberra (refer post below) but the original room remains in what is now a museum display and well worth a visit. This is how the original room now looks today as part of the display housed in the old Ford factory on Bukit Timah road.

15th February 1942 Surrender Table

The original table that was used at the Singapore Ford factory for the Feb 1942 surrender meeting is now located in the Australian War Memorial (AWM) Canberra. The Ford Factory that is now an interesting museum has some of the chairs that were used in their display. I have a friend in Singapore who also has one of the original chairs as his old office was in the Ford Factory post war. On this table the British Empire's worst ever defeat was sealed in writing.

Sinking of the Empress of Asia

The Empress of Asia was requisitioned by the British Admiralty in January 1941, and sailed for Liverpool via the Panama Canal to the River Clyde for refitting as a troopship. For armament she received a 6 inch gun, a 3 inch gun HA, 6 20 mm Oerlikons, 8 Hotchkiss, Bofors guns, 4 PAC rockets and depth charges. In September 1941, the Empress of Asia sailed with the first convoy from North America to England which was escorted by ships of the United States Navy. The final voyage of the Empress of Asia began in November 1941, when she sailed from Liverpool carrying troops and supplies bound for Africa, Bombay and Singapore. She was one of five CPR ships that were taking men and materiel to reinforce Singapore in the face of the Japanese advance. On 5 February 1942, the convoy in which the Empress of Asia was sailing encountered Japanese air attacks near Singapore. Nine Japanese dive bombers focused their attack on the ship and she was extensively damaged and sank near the island of Sultan Shoal in the Western Anchorage of Singapore about 8 kilometres (5 miles) south of the western tip of Singapore Island. Escort vessels HMAS Wollongong, HMS Dana, HMIS Sutlej stood by while the bow of HMAS Yarra was positioned alongside the liner's stern and took off 1804 survivors. There were 16 deaths. Despite rescue efforts organized by Robert Rankin, and in another blow to the island defenders all the military equipment and other supplies were lost. Singapore would fall to the Japanese only ten days later (15 February 1942), which makes it hard to speculate about what difference it could have made if the Empress of Asia had not been sunk. The last convoy of evacuees leaving Singapore included the SS Sing Kheng Seng of the Straits Shipping Company, carrying 45 crewmen from the Empress of Asia along with an unknown number of other. Source - Wikipedia

Friday, 22 October 2010

First bombing raids on Singapore

Some amazing video footage of the early bombing raids on Singapore and in particular footage from Raffles Place. Video also shows Japanese nationals being interned after the initial attacks on Malaya. The voiceover is from a time well past.

Australian troops arriving in Singapore

Original footage of Australian troops arriving in Singapore pre war complete with a Kangaroo mascot. Looks like an exciting adventure under the facade of Singapore invincibility at the time

Malayan police in Singapore engage in military practise

I came across this interesting video on the history channel website that shows some footage of the Malayan police in pre war drills and some footage of Bennett and Australian troops

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The Tiger of Malaya General Yamashita

From a military point of view the "tiger of Malaya" General Yamashita waged a very aggressive effective, sometimes risky but well planned and ultimately successful invasion campaign achieving the ultimate goal of capturing Singapore. After the war he was hung as part of the war crime tribunals. I recently came across this photograph that reputedly shows him somewhere in Malaya during the invasion campaign.

Headlines related to the fall of Singapore

I have come across some interesting newspapers of the day related to the fall of Singapore and I will share some of the headlines as another way creating a picture of how some of the news was being reported at the time. In many cases the press outside of Singapore was far more accurate re the status of the invasion then the Singapore press that was subject to heavy censorship at the time. In many cases creating a very real false sense of security that Singapore would never fall! Would the evacuation been better managed and more lives saved if the civilian population knew the truth of progress and speed of the Japanese invasion down Malaya?

Final Invasion of Singapore Island

This diagram by Cl M Tsuji of the IJA shows the key points of attack on the besieged island of Singapore. The brunt of the attacks came on the North West Coast of Singapore island

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Allen Delf, RNR

His Daughter writes - My father, Allen Delf, skipper lieutenant RNR, wrote a brief journal of his experiences in the war and described his arrival at Singapore in September 1939 where his first job was in command of HMS Ludgate. By the 7th December 1941 he was 1st lieutenant of HMS Barricade but for the evacuation of civilians out of Singapore he was transferred to the command of HMS Barlane. He was slow getting up steam and when he reached the straits the other ships had been bombed by Japanese aircraft which were then forced to give up flying because of a sudden mist that fell. He picked up survivors and took them all safely to Batavia in Java.

Jim Hutton PWD on the Kuala

Major Andrew Duncan, late 2nd KEO Gurkha Rifles writes....

My grandfather, A. J. S. "Jim" Hutton was Chief Architect with the PWD in Singapore at the time of the Japanese invasion of WWII. He lived with my grandmother and their three daughters, Barbara, the eldest (my mother) Joan and Marigold at No. 160 Mt. Pleasant Road. My grandfather had seen action in the trenches in France during the First World War as an officer (Captain) of the Royal Engineers. His civilian occupation as an architect led, after the war was over, to his appointment to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to design cemeteries and memorials in France. It was whilst he was living there at Longuenesse, Pas de Calais, that my mother was born.

After a spell with the PWD in Kenya he was posted to Singapore. When the Japanese invasion was imminent his previous military experience led to an Emergency Commission in the army as Lieutenant Colonel. It was his job to organise the civilian evacuation. He sent his family to safety in Australia on one of the early boats to depart Singapore. There my mother joined the WAAAF with who she served as a radio operator, leaving at the end of the war as a Corporal.

My grandfather stayed tio the bitter end, finally boarding the S.S. Kuala on 14 February 1942. Following the sinking of Kuala and with the permission of the other survivors, he and a couple of companions made for Sumatra. Landing on the East coast, they made their way through the jungle, avoiding the advancing Japanese to the West coast of the island where they acquired a fishing boat from a local kampong, planning to sail to Australia. After 3 days at sea they were fortunate to be picked up by an Australian Navy Destroyer and taken to Ceylon. From there my grandfather was at last able to inform his family that he was still alive and had successfully escaped from Singapore.

His adventures did not end there, nor was he able to travel to Australia to rejoin the family. Instead he was ordered to England where he underwent Special Operations training prior to being parachuted into Malaya behind Japanese lines to join Force 136. He was on hand to re-start the civilian government of Singapore after the Japanese surrender and must have been one of the first members of the Singapore government to report for work after the Japanese surrender.

I hope to be in further contact with Andrew in relation to this background and please do contact me directly at Thank you

Singapore 1942 on Twitter

Firstly thank you for taking time to view this research website and thank you for the many emails letters and contributions that I have received on the topic from around the globe. As of October 2010 this site has had over 18,000 hits so it highlights the interest about this incredible time in history. I apologise to many of you who have sent me emails of which many I am behind in my follow up due to the shear volume of mail that I have received in relation to Singapore Evacuation 1942 and the fact that despite my interest I am very much a part time historian. In order to support communication and collaboration on the topic I have set up a twitter account so as to help facilitate and share information and updates on the the topic of the fall of Singapore. Twitter is a useful medium for short information 'tweets' and for quick sharing with a broader group of 'followers' and in this regards I encourage you to take a look at the site and if interested in receiving updates then become a 'follower'. Hopefully this will help speed up the sharing of information. Thank you ....@singapore1942

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Tien Kwang Gunnery Officer R.W Heale

On a recent trip to Hong Kong I was fortunate to have met up with John Heale the son of Reginald Heale who was the gunnery officer aboard the Tien Kwang. John's father survived the bombing and the war after ending up as a Japanese POW on that Thai Burma railway. The Malay Volunteers database managed by Jonathan Moffatt contains the following listing - HEALE R.W. [Reginald William] b.2.7.1913 Brislington, Bristol. To Singapore 1937. Mercantile Assistant. Sub-Lt SS RNVR 1930s. Lt MRNVR HMS Sultan [Singapore Naval Base]. POW Padang, Sumatra. Returned to Changi, Singapore then to Chungkai, Thailand. John is now starting to research his father's history and should anyone have any further specific background about R.W Heale please let me know. The photo shows John Heale on the left and myself in Hong Kong May 2010

Rest in Peace Jim Hall

Rest in peace Jim Hall of Sunderland who passed away recently. Jim was serving in Singapore with the mobile radar unit (250 MRU) before evacuating Singapore on the Tien Kwang. Jim survived the bombing and after being standed on Pompong Island for 10 days was taken to Sumatra and eventually ended the war as a POW. Stanley Pyke met up with Jim in October 2009 where Jim was able to share his recollections about Stan's father who was killed during the bombing of the Tien Kwang. This was a special moment for Stan who was able to hear about his father directly from someone who was on the Tien Kwang with his father at the time. The photo shows Jim Hall on the left with Stan Pyke at their meeting in October 2009.