Battle of Pasir Panjang

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Battle of Pasir Panjang
Part of the Battle of Singapore in the Pacific theatre of World War II
Pasir Panjang Machine-Gun Pillbox 8, Nov 06.JPG
Pasir Panjang Pillbox
Date12 – 15 February 1942
Location
Pasir Panjang, Singapore
Result Overall Japanese victory
Belligerents

Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom

Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg  Japan
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Lt. Col. J.R.G. Andre
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Cpt. H.R. Rix  
Flag of the Federated Malay States (1895 - 1946).svg 2nd Lt. Adnan Saidi  
Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg Lt. Gen. Renya Mutaguchi
Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg Col. Yoshio Nasu
Units involved
Flag of the Federated Malay States (1895 - 1946).svg 1st Malaya Brigade
British Raj Red Ensign.svg 44th Indian Brigade
Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg 56th Infantry Regiment, 18th Division
Strength
1,400 infantry 13,000 infantry
Casualties and losses
159 killed Unknown

The Battle of Pasir Panjang, which took place between 12 and 15 February 1942, was part of the final stage of the Empire of Japan's invasion of Singapore during World War II. The battle was initiated upon the advancement of elite Imperial Japanese Army forces towards Pasir Panjang Ridge on 13 February.

Empire of Japan Empire in the Asia-Pacific region between 1868–1947

The Empire of Japan was the historical nation-state and great power that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 to the enactment of the 1947 constitution of modern Japan.

Battle of Singapore World War II battle

The Battle of Singapore, also known as the Fall of Singapore, was fought in the South-East Asian theatre of World War II when the Empire of Japan invaded the British stronghold of Singapore—nicknamed the "Gibraltar of the East". Singapore was the major British military base in South-East Asia and was the key to British imperial interwar defence planning for South-East Asia and the South-West Pacific. The fighting in Singapore lasted from 8 to 15 February 1942, after the two months during which Japanese forces had advanced down the Malayan Peninsula.

Singapore Republic in Southeast Asia

Singapore, officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign city-state in Southeast Asia. It lies one degree north of the equator, at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, with Indonesia's Riau Islands to the south and Peninsular Malaysia to the north. Singapore's territory consists of one main island along with 62 other islets. Since independence, extensive land reclamation has increased its total size by 23%.

Contents

13,000 Japanese troops had made an amphibious landing in northwestern Singapore near Sarimbun (see Battle of Sarimbun Beach) and had started to advance south towards Pasir Panjang. They had already captured Tengah Airfield en route. The 13,000 soldiers [1] constituted a significant part of the total strength of 36,000 Japanese troops deployed in the invasion of Singapore.

Amphibious warfare is a type of offensive military operation that today uses naval ships to project ground and air power onto a hostile or potentially hostile shore at a designated landing beach. Through history the operations were conducted using ship's boats as the primary method of delivering troops to shore. Since the Gallipoli Campaign, specialised watercraft were increasingly designed for landing troops, materiel and vehicles, including by landing craft and for insertion of commandos, by fast patrol boats, zodiacs and from mini-submersibles.

Battle of Sarimbun Beach

The Battle of Sarimbun Beach was the first stage of the Japanese assault on Singapore in February 1942 during World War II. Sarimbun Beach, located in the northwestern corner of mainland Singapore, was the area in which Japanese troops, under the overall direction of Lieutenant-General Tomoyuki Yamashita, first attacked Allied forces in Singapore. The overall commander of all Allied forces in Singapore, Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival, did not expect the Japanese to make their main attack on the island from the northwest and subsequently failed to reinforce the later-beleaguered Australian 22nd Brigade, which took the brunt of the Japanese assault. The main Japanese objective to be attained following their landing at Sarimbun Beach was the capture of Tengah Airfield.

Preparations

The 1st Malaya Infantry Brigade, comprising the British 2nd Loyal Regiment under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Mordaunt Elrington, together with the 1st Malaya Regiment commanded by Lieutenant Colonel J.R.G. Andre, consisted of less than three sections of the Mortar Platoon, Anti-Aircraft Platoon along with the Bren Gun Carrier Platoon under Captain R.R.C. Carter, all of which were held in reserve. These units were tasked with defending the approach to Pasir Panjang Ridge, also known as "The Gap". [2] The 44th Indian Brigade were positioned on their right flank.

1st Malaya Infantry Brigade

The 1st Malaya Infantry Brigade was a regular infantry brigade formed in 1939 with its headquarters in Singapore immediately after the outbreak of hostilities in Europe. The Brigade participated in the Battle of Singapore against the Japanese until the surrender of the garrison in February 1942.

Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire)

The Loyal Regiment was a line infantry regiment of the British Army that was in existence from 1881 to 1970. In 1970, the regiment was amalgamated with the Lancashire Regiment to form the Queen's Lancashire Regiment which was, in 2006, amalgamated with the King's Own Royal Border Regiment and the King's Regiment to form the Duke of Lancaster Regiment.

Universal Carrier armored personnel carrier

The Universal Carrier, also known as the Bren Gun Carrier from the light machine gun armament, is a common name describing a family of light armoured tracked vehicles built by Vickers-Armstrongs and other companies.

A Malay platoon, consisting of 42 soldiers and their officers, commanded by Second Lieutenant Adnan Saidi, was holding a critical part of the British defences at Bukit Chandu. Adnan and his men would take the brunt of the Japanese assault shortly after.

Adnan Saidi Malayan soldier

Adnan bin Saidi was a Malayan military officer of the 1st Infantry Brigade who fought the Japanese at the Battle of Pasir Panjang in Singapore during World War II. He is considered a national hero in Singapore and Malaysia for his actions during the battle. His name is also the namesake for the Malaysian Infantry Fighting Vehicle (MIFV).

Bukit Chandu is a hill located in Kent Ridge in Singapore where the Battle of Bukit Chandu took place on 14 February 1942 during the Battle of Singapore in World War II.

Battle

Contemporary Map for the Battle of Pasir Panjang, circa 1945 Singapore - Buona Vista map 1945.jpg
Contemporary Map for the Battle of Pasir Panjang, circa 1945

The first battle between the Malay Regiment and Japanese soldiers occurred on 13 February at around 1400 hours. The Japanese 18th Division started to attack the southwestern coast along Pasir Panjang Ridge and astride Ayer Rajah Road. The Japanese 56th Infantry Regiment under Colonel Yoshio Nasu, supported by a considerable force of artillery, attacked the ridge during the morning.

18th Division (Imperial Japanese Army) division

The 18th Division was an infantry division of the Imperial Japanese Army. Its tsūshōgō code name was the Chrysanthemum Division. The 18th Division was one of two infantry divisions newly raised by the Imperial Japanese Army immediately after the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905) as part of the post war expansion of the standing Japanese military. The division received its colors on 13 November 1907. Its original headquarters was in a suburb of the city of Kurume in Fukuoka Prefecture.

One of the units defending the line was B Company of the Malay Regiment. Under heavy fire from the Japanese, who had artillery and tank support, B Company was forced to retreat to the rear. However, before the retreat could be completed, the Japanese succeeded in breaking through B Company's position. In the battle, the troops fought hand-to-hand combat using bayonets against the Japanese. A few from B Company managed to save themselves while others were captured as prisoners-of-war. This penetration led to the withdrawal after dark, of both the 44th Indian and 1st Malay Brigade, to the general line at Mount Echo (junction of Ayer Rajah and Depot Road, around present-day Buona Vista).

Buona Vista is a housing estate located in the subzones of one-north and Holland Drive in the residential township of Queenstown in Singapore. The housing estate is served by the Buona Vista MRT Station which links it up with the MRT system. It also has a bus terminal.

Bukit Chandu

The Malay mortar crew on display at Bukit Chandu In Memory of the Malay regiment at Bukit Chandu.jpg
The Malay mortar crew on display at Bukit Chandu

On 14 February, the eve of Chinese New Year, the Japanese again launched a large-scale attack at 0830 hours with heavy support by intense mortar bombardment and artillery gunfire, on the battlefront held by the 1st Malay Brigade. [3] The defenders managed to beat this off and a number of other attacks despite suffering considerable casualties. The fighting also included bitter hand-to-hand combat and losses on the Japanese side were as heavy as their Malay foes. At 1600 hours, another attack, this time also supported by tanks, eventually succeeded in penetrating the left flank and the defenders on this side were forced back to a line running from the junction of Ayer Rajah Road to Depot Road through to Alexandra Brickworks and along the canal leading to Bukit Chermin further southeast. Owing to the failure of units on both of its flanks to hold their ground, the 1st Malay Brigade had to withdraw at 1430 hours the following day. It was at this point that C Company of the Malay Regiment received instructions to move to a new defence position sited at Bukit Chandu.

Bukit Chandu (meaning "Opium Hill" in Malay) was so named after an opium-processing factory located at the foot of the hill. This was also where C Company of the Malay Regiment made their final stand against the imminent Japanese attack. Bukit Chandu was a key strategic defence position for two important reasons. Firstly, it was situated on high ground overlooking the island to the northwest and secondly, if the Japanese gained control of the ridge, it gave them direct passage to the Alexandra area just behind. The British military in Singapore had its main ammunition bases and supply depots, one of their military hospitals (Alexandra Hospital) and other key installations (such as the Normanton Oil Depot) located right next to Alexandra.

C Company's position was separated from D Company by a big canal. Oil was burning in the canal, which flowed from the bombed-out and severely-destroyed Normanton Oil Depot. The burning oil in the canal prevented C Company's soldiers from retreating further back. The company was under the command of Second Lieutenant Adnan Bin Saidi. He encouraged his men to defend Bukit Chandu down to the last soldier and was killed [4] [5] together with many of his fellow soldiers in the last desperate defensive battle at Pasir Panjang.

The Japanese military pressed on their attack on Bukit Chandu in the afternoon, but this time they did so under the guise of a deception attempt. They sent a group of their soldiers, dressed in captured British Indian troops' uniforms (with their faces and skin smeared with dirt and soot and the wearing of turbans to pass off as Punjabis), to present themselves as allied Indian soldiers in the British Indian Army. C Company saw through this trick as they knew that soldiers of the British Army typically marched in a line of three columns while the supposed Punjabi soldiers in front of their lines were moving in a line of four columns. When they reached the Malay Regiment's defensive line, C Company's troops opened fire, killing many disguised Japanese soldiers. Those who survived escaped downhill back to friendly lines.

Last stand

Two hours later, the Japanese forces launched an all-out banzai charge in great numbers in an attempt to wipe out the Malay troops ahead through sheer numbers and over-arching strength. The attack, conducted again with artillery shelling and tank support, overwhelmed the Malay Regiment and the defence line eventually broke. Despite being greatly outnumbered and short of ammunition (with only a few grenades at hand and not many rounds for their machine guns and rifles left) and much-needed combat supplies (including medication and bandages), the Malay Regiment continued to resist the Japanese. Both sides engaged in fierce hand-to-hand combat as well as using bayonets. Adnan was seriously wounded but refused to retreat or surrender and instead encouraged his men to fight to the end. [6] [7]

Soon after, with the whole area of Pasir Panjang falling under Japanese control, Adnan, who was badly wounded and unable to fight, was captured. Instead of taking him prisoner, the Japanese continuously kicked, punched and beat him before tying him to a tree and stabbing him to death with their bayonets (some sources claim that Adnan was brutally beaten up before being thrown into a tied-up gunny sack, which was then stabbed repeatedly by his Japanese captors, while others indicate that they stabbed him to death before hanging him upside down from a tree). [8]

Casualties

During the entire Malayan Campaign, but mostly from 12 to 15 February 1942 in Singapore, the Malay Regiment suffered a total of 159 killed. Six of them were British officers, seven Malay officers, 146 other ranks and a large but unspecified number wounded. About 600 surviving Malay Regiment soldiers reassembled in the Keppel Golf Link area. Here, they were separated from their British officers. They later joined prisoners-of-war from the British Indian Army battalions at the Farrer Park concentration area. It remains unclear as to how many casualties the Japanese suffered.

Aftermath

The battle of Pasir Panjang had little strategic significance. From a purely military operational perspective, the Battle of Pasir Panjang could not change the outcome of the fate of Singapore and it was a matter of time before the British would surrender to the Japanese 25th Army. The Allied units stationed there were simply tasked with defending the approach to the ridge, but instead had to resist the main invasion force. Bukit Chandu itself is situated on high ground overlooking the island to the north, and it controlled the direct passage to the Alexandra area where the British army had its main ammunition and supply depots, military hospital and other key installations. The fall of Bukit Chandu allowed Japan access to the Alexandra area, indirectly contributing to the Alexandra Hospital massacre.

Adnan Saidi is described by many Singaporeans and Malaysians today as a hero for his actions on Bukit Chandu – he encouraged his men not to surrender and instead fight to the death. In Singaporean and Malaysian school textbooks, he is also credited as the soldier who noticed the error in the marching style of the Japanese soldiers disguised as Indian troops.

Fighting continued after his death and the subsequent British signing of surrender of Singapore to the Empire of Japan at 1810 hours on 15 February 1942 in the area around Alexandra Hospital, Tanjong Pagar and Pulau Belakang Mati (Sentosa) where some of the Malay Regiments regrouped.

See also

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References

  1. Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei By Simon Richmond
  2. The Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire): (The 47th and 81st Regiments of Foot), Michael Langley, Cooper, 1 January, 1976 - 118 pages
  3. Final Hours in the Pacific: The Allied Surrenders of Wake Island, Bataan . . . By Donald J. Young. Books.google.co.uk. 7 December 1941. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  4. The Battle of Pasir Panjang Revisited – Ministry of Defence, Singapore, Article from MINDEF Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  5. The Royal Malay Regiment.
  6. The Defence and Fall of Singapore 1940–1942, Brian P. Farrell
  7. Ridzwan Dzafir: from pondok boy to Singapore's 'Mr ASEAN' : an autobiography, Ridzwan Dzafir
  8. "The Malay regiment". Web.singnet.com.sg. Archived from the original on 12 November 2012. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  9. War Memory and the Making of Modern Malaysia and Singapore.
    By Karl Hack, Kevin Blackburn.
  10. Final Hours in the Pacific: The Allied Surrenders of Wake Island, Bataan ... , By Donald J. Young. Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  11. Poor bloody infantry, Charles Whiting, Stanley Paul, 1 November 1987 - History - 278 pages

Coordinates: 1°17′N103°46′E / 1.283°N 103.767°E / 1.283; 103.767