Fall of Singapore 1942

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by LanceBombardEars, Jan 4, 2009.

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  1. I am looking to verify of get further details of a piece of family history. Can anyone help?
    My grandfather on my mothers side served as a scaley in the RAF during WW2. He didn't ever talk much about his war, but was quite bitter about his experience. For years it was thought that he was posted in India, and Nan didn't do anything to dispel that thought.
    Anyway Grandad died 25+ years ago and Nan followed him about three years ago. After her death, a cousin wrote to my mum, and basically filled in a load of gaps.
    So the story goes, Grandad was sent to Singapore and was there when it fell to the Japs in 1942 (I think). Mum's cousin tells us that all the officers and their hangers on got onto ships and bugged out sharpish, leaving the ORs with a ratpack and machete each with which to get on with it.
    By all accounts, having been listed MIA, he then escape and evaded through the South Pacific, island hopping and ending up in Australia, having linked up with soldiers from the Black Watch on the way. He then came back on a troop ship via Suez (explains some Egypt photos in his effects)
    Some time in '44 or '45 he walks through the door at Nan's house, which was the first anyone had seen or heard of him since being listed MIA.
    I do know he never applied for any of his medals and was never keen to talk about his war.
    This all sounds very far fetched, but then alot of people had fearsome stories to tell from that war.
    So, can anyone verify that this could be a true story.

  2. Tucked away somewhere I have the book, "You'll Die in Singapore"

    In it, it details the escape led by a RAF (Sgt, I believe then but later commissioned) guy call Charles McCormack and a number of others.
    They island hopped through Indonesia meeting up with Dutch agents and then finally ended up in Australia.

    Great story
    If this seems likely, I can dig the book out and look further.
  3. My friends dad, now passed on, was a merchant seaman captured in Singapore. The Nips being short of guards took the group, grabbed one, lopped off his nut with a sword and said 'Behave yourselves or you are next, and don't try to escape'.

    Saying 'Fcuk that!' he and a group of shipmates took a boat and headed Ozwards with no food supplies at all. They eventually arrived and spent the war in the pacific.

    So no it is not an impossible story that you tell as it happened to others.
  4. The "island hopping" bit sounds a bit far-fetched, to be honest.

    The battle for Singapore was quite complex and involved about 250,000 Commonwealth service personnel. During the lead up to the surrender, quite a lot of deemed non-essential staff were evacuated to Australia and Ceylon - albeit with casualties due to air attacks. In the last few days that the port remained open, there was substantial desertion - mainly from certain units which had particularly bad morale - with a number of deserters fighting their way onto departing ships. The vast majority of units remained in Singapore and were duly surrendered. A number of servicemen did attempt to escape in small boats after the surrender, but the overwhelming majority were captured before getting very far. Only a tiny handful of people succeeded in "island-hopping" to Australia, as the Japanese advanced through the islands far faster than the escapees could travel.

    I would think that your grandfather was probably one of the surplus RAF ground personnel (the RAF aircraft having been more or less wiped out) who were shipped to Australia before the surrender, and thence back to UK via the middle east. You may be able to trace some of his official service records, which might detail his movements.
  5. The fall of singapore is well documented by Singaporeans themselves,a couple of weeks before xmas we stumbled across a small permanent exhibition of the Britih occupation of singapore, 1000,s of photo,s all sorts of camp and barrack records ,of british troops families and civilians , who lived and some who died in singapore, sorry I dont know the xact Location only that it is couple of 100 yards north of the Fragrance Hotel Selegie, maybe they can help you in your quest
  6. Charles Mccormacks wife was Malay (although she was pregnant at the fall of Singapore and escaped) - unless LanceBombardEars is mixed race (and I do not know), you are probably on the wrong tack. In any case, of Charles Mccormacks party, only one other (Australian) survived.
  7. Speaking of escapes from disaster, a book I read years ago had a dedication to a certain US officer who, with a few other soldiers, escaped Bataan shortly after the surrender. They found a sailboat and despite coming close to death, managed to sail their way to Indochina. Upon getting ashore, they were met by a Vichy French captain, who saluted his fellow officer, and promptly turned the Americans over to the Japanese.

    According to the dedication, the American in question wouldn't eat French food to this day....
  8. Yes you are quite right, I've just had the book out and flicked through it having read it yonks ago. McCormac actually refers to his wife as Eurasian but your point is still valid. Well worth the read.
  9. seaweed

    seaweed LE Book Reviewer

    Well worth reading the fictional, but by no means incredible account of the Fall, and the chaos within it, in J G Farrell's 'The Singapore Grip'. Also recommended, Brigadier Simpson's account of the hash that was made of setting up defences.

    My wife's cousin (then aged 3) and her mother got out in the last ship to get away. Her father was in 1st Bn Manchester Regt who were deployed on Singapore island. He was never heard of again. Bn had gone to Singapore from Palestine in late 1938. Some of the Bn ended up in Yokohama CWGC cemetery.

    I think there must have been many who didn't claim their medals, after both wars; I can understand men just wanting to go home, chuck their boots on the bonfire, and try and put their lives back together. I read just lately how post-war Govt saved money by cutting back the minting of medals based on a projection of likely takeup.
  10. I accept that the story sounds quite far fetched, which is why I am seeking some clarification. The sad fact is we just don't know as he never, ever spoke about it, and neither did my Nan. The cousin who brought the story up claims to have been at the house when grandfather returned.

    Having looked at a number of accounts of the fall, it does seem unlikely as most were captured, but I feel sure we would know if he had been a POW.
    4(T)s suggestion above would make sense, but doesn't account for the couple of years listed as MIA.
    But then I guess it was a confusing time.
    There is also the specific detail of linking up with soldiers of the Black Watch.
    Thanks for your replies so far, but I'm still not sure either way.
  11. I think it's a possibility and certainly worth following up. I'm sure that whatever the story turns out to be, it will be an interesting one.

    As far as I'm aware the Black Watch weren't involved in the Fall of Malaya/Singapore but rather than that casting doubt, they may well have been mistaken by a RAF type, for Argylls. I don't know if any Argylls escaped apart from Capt Rose who was one of those ordered to escape from Singapore in order I believe that his experience in fighting the Japanese could be passed onto others.

    There was a cross island escape route of sorts which may well have been successfully used by the RAF which meant getting across the straits to Sumatra and going overland to one of the ports on the western side of the island and getting picked up by ships until that route was closed by the Japanese advance.
  12. lots got away.
    some by the routes mentioned.
    old neighbour of mine got on a rowboat that was picked up by a freighter.
    all married men were put on the boats-an engineer he was.
    3 ships left the straits-2 sunk.
    as for senior officers bunking off-singapore was one of the biggest bag of field and general ranks ever.
    changi is a good book and tv series-from the oz perspective.
    I live near one of the many defence lines.
    kranji ditch is famous.
    some units had only landed and had to fight.
    likewise some were gin and grin reservists who hadnt a clue.
    I used to think they surrendered too soon,but the battlebox exibition here is good.
    explains they were down to about a day of water when they jacked it in.
    thats a day for the island!
    the japanese captured the water supply and turned the water off.
    no navy worth a shot,no aircraft,hence no sir support for the cruisers that were supposed to protect the penninsular.
    bloody disaster.
    and we outnumbered them.
    look at todays Republic of singapore armed forces to see they have learned.
    1-superb coastal navy with anti aircraft capability.
    2-ditto airforce-heavy duty stuff.
    3-national service,plus strong army base.
    and a nice parade every national day to trundel out the kit to scare the indos and the malays.
    and the thais and anyone watching.
  13. Here's a starting point for you,

    Look's like the AWM has film of what is termed escapers but also might have been evacuees

    RAF Escapers in Australia

    Might be worth an email to the AWM who may be able to give further details including names.

    Hope it helps
  14. Another starting point for you as well:


    Quick reference suggests the only Scottish regts in Singapore at that time were 2 Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders and 2 Gordon Highlanders.

    Reference to http://www.cofepow.org.uk/pages/armedforces_raf1.htm is more suited to your question. Unfortunately it doesn't list out the RAF units in Singapore as per the Army section. I'm sure I've come across something on the RAF presence in the past though in one of the books I've bought locally - let me check at home tonight.

    In the interim have you tried obtaining a copy of your Grandfather's service record from the MOD? It's doable - I'm in the process of doing the same for both of my late Grandfather's and my late father.