Sketch by Jack Chalker

Battle for Singapore

They were taken by lorries to a tented camp on the Tampines Road.  They were to provide medical treatment to the soldiers of the 54th Brigade who were now to be deployed in the North East sector of the island, next to 55th Brigade and the Singapore City troops.  The men of the Royal Army Medical Corps were not issued with any weapons, and relied on the fighting troops around them for protection, as much as the fighting troops relied on them for medical treatment.  This North East Coastal sector faced the Malay peninsula, where the Japanese had been steadily advancing, and were expected to attack from.

Austin K2 Ambulance

Austin K2 Ambulance

The rear body was built by Mann Egerton, could take 10 casualties sitting or 4 stretcher cases.

All of the 196’s equipment had been unloaded and delivered to them by the 31st January.  This equipment included 8 Austin K2  ambulances, 19, 3 tonne Bedford Lorries, 5 motorcycles and a water tank.  These vehicles were driven and maintained by members of the Royal Army Service Corps, who were attached to the 196 since they had been formed.

One Section established a dressing station behind the 5th Suffolks and another Section established a dressing station behind the 4th Suffolks.  These contained around 20 men of the 196 each.  A further Dressing station was established at the camp where the pool of Ambulances were kept, ready to take cases from Divisional HQ, Royal Artillery and reserve battalions.  A lot of the men’s time was taken digging trenches for themselves and for the tents to protect them from small arms and explosive rounds.

On 1st February 1942 the unit experienced the first enemy activity with Artillery fire and Air bombing.  By this time, the Japanese had almost complete air superiority, as the RAF had been evacuated from the Island.  20 more men of the unit formed a dressing station behind the 5th Beds & Herts, who were part of 55th Brigade, to the left of 54th Brigade.

Between 2nd and 5th February the unit maintained it’s position and treated the wounded from the Japanese fire.  The minor sick were treated and held in the dressing stations, with the major casualties evacuated in ambulances, to one of three hospitals in Singapore, as they were quite close to the dressing stations.

On 6th February the Dressing station of the 196 behind the 5th Suffolks area was shelled by the Japanese and Private Moffat was seriously injured by shrapnel and Private Goldthorpe was also slightly injured.  These were the first casualties of the war for the unit.  The day before the Japanese landed a small force on an island opposite 54th brigades position.

The Japanese landed on Singapore island late on 8th February 1942, in the North Western sector.  This was held by the 8th Australian division.  They quickly established a bridgehead and began to work their way inland towards Singapore City.  L/Col Huston noted that he was informed of this landing on 10th February.  In between this time he withdrew the Dressing station from behind the 4th Suffolks, due to an Indian Brigade taking over their position.

As the situation began to grow more desperate, 30 men from the Royal Army Service Corp were taken from the 196 and told to report as riflemen.  54th Brigade and forces in the North East now began the move to the West of Singapore, in an effort to contain the Japanese advance.  The dressing stations were called back to the main tented camp on the Tampines Road, except one, which remained in support of the 5th Suffolks.  The 13th of February now saw the 196 deployed in the Thompson Road/Bukit Timah Road area of the island, just north of Singapore City and almost exactly in the middle.  The unit was heavily shelled around Thompson Road, though and almost immediately they were ordered to move from that location.  The unit came under Japanese rifle fire as it prepared to move.
City High School

The site of the City High School

Photo shows the new building

The further withdrawal resulted in  the 196’s MDS being set up at the City High School around 1800hrs on the 13th.

Other men of the 196 where still in the thick of the action as Regimental Aid Posts and an ADS were still supporting the fighting men away from the MDS on the 14th.  At one of the RAP’s the Captain commanding two men from the was killed by heavy shelling.  This Captain was a member of the RAMC, but not attached to the 196.  This day was one of the busiest for the unit and they treated large amounts of casualties.  Private STEWART of the 196 was injured following the shelling of the Thompson Road and RAP’s and ADS’s were bravely assisting the troops where they could and evacuating many wounded men from the 5th Suffolks, 4th Norfolks and 1/5th Sherwood Forrester’s mainly.  Men of TOMFORCE had to surround and protect the 196 Field Ambulance as they attempted to withdraw casualties from the frontline to the MDS.

The morning  of 15th February saw large numbers of severe casualties received at the MDS, and L/Col Huston reports that 200 were being treated.  Only the cases requiring difficult surgery were withdrawn to local hospitals.   The MDS buildings at the City High school were being straddled and strafed by artillery and air attack and L/Col Huston ordered the evacuation of the wounded to the same hospitals as the morning wore on.  The 196 suffered more casualties as Major Read and Sgt Cain were wounded and Lieut. Cuthbert was severely wounded at the 4th Suffolks RAP.

It is difficult to tell where individuals of the 196 were at this stage, but the battle was coming to a close. There were many wounded being treated by the medical units, and many men survived due to their skill and care.   The War Diary of the unit shows records of 426 men treated between 12th-15th February and 11 of those treated that died.  The records are not fully complete and won’t ever be, due to the extremely trying conditions.

Goodwood Hotel

Goodwood Park Hotel on Scotts Road

Later occupied by Japanese officers

The early afternoon of the 15th saw the 196 set up an Aid Post at the Goodwood Park Hotel.  Around this time, the commander of the Allied forces in Singapore unconditionally surrended the Island and City to the Japanese.  The Japanese had complete air superiority and had captured the Islands water reservoirs, giving Percival no choice but to surrender.

 

Next

Captivity

 

 

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[196 Field Ambulance] [Training] [Liverpool - Halifax] [Halifax - Singapore] [Battle Singapore] [Captivity] [Roll of Honour] [Photo]

 

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