Sketch by Jack Chalker

No One Will Believe You

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The 2/3rd MAC in Singapore



The 2/3rd MAC in Singapore

It was from the 8th of February 1942 that the Australian units combined and fought together in Singapore. Elements of the 2/3rd MAC were the last units that crossed the causeway to Singapore island after treating soldiers and civilians alike, but had to leave many behind which was very difficult for them to do due to numerous massacres on the part of the Japanese.

Hospitals Singapore

As well as supporting these Australian units directly, a CCS was established at Bukit Panjang, and hospitals at St. Andrews cathedral (which Alf said he was based at before the capitulation), the Cathy building and the Adelphi hotel in southern Singapore. Other casualties were taken to Changi.


The 26th Battalion AIF

The 26th crossed the Strait on the 30th of January 1942 and along with the rest of the 27th Brigade, took up positions in the defence of the Causeway in anticipation of the Japanese assault which came a week later on the 8th of February 1942. After being subjected to heavy aerial and artillery bombardment, the following day the battalion's commanding officer, Arthur Boyes, handed over command to Lieutenant Colonel Roland Oakes, formerly the second in command of the 2/19th Battalion. Boyes was called away to help organise the island's rear area defence and was subsequently given command of 'X' Battalion, a composite unit made up of reinforcements that had been separated from their units, which included the 2/3rd MAC. Shortly after taking up this appointment however, Boyes was killed along with a number of his men when the battalion was ambushed while attempting to fill a gap in the lines that had resulted from a Japanese breakthrough. On the 10th of February, the 2/26th battalion moved into position on 3700 metre frontage between Bukit Mandai and Bukit Panjang, with each of its companies on top of a high feature, separated by 910 metre gaps of dense bush. Over the course of the next week, the 2/26th fought to defend the island, however, by the 15th of February, the total Allied defence had crumbled and Lieutenant General Arthur Percival, the general officer in command of British Empire troops in Malaya, announced that the garrison would surrender. Following this, men from the 2/26th Battalion were detained at Changi until May 1942 when they were dispersed to different locations throughout the Pacific.


The 29th Battalion AIF

The 29th battalion assumed a position west of the Causeway. When the Japanese assault came on the 8th of February, the main thrust was initially on the 22nd Brigade's positions further west, but as the situation worsened the 2/29th was sent to Tengah airfield to bolster the 22nd Brigade's defence of the north-west sector. Plans were made to launch a counter-attack to re-capture the village of Ama Keng, but these were cancelled when further Japanese advances made this impossible.

Throughout February, the battalion fought to hold Tengah airfield against growing Japanese attacks before the defenders were forced to withdraw further back to the Bulim line, positioned on the Choa Chu Kang Road in between the 2/18th Battalion and a composite unit. There, the battalion turned back a Japanese attack on the 10th of February, but after neighboring units withdrew amidst the confusion, the 2/29th were also forced back. Withdrawing in contact, elements of the battalion became separated until they were regrouped at Bukit Panjang.

Over the course of the week, further fighting pushed them back to the Kranji–Jurong line where the 2/29th experienced the main force of a further Japanese thrust after the 12th Indian Infantry Brigade was pushed back by two Japanese divisions. Lacking supporting fire following obfuscation from headquarters, the battalion was nearly split in half as it withdrew in contact again towards high ground around Bukit Timah. In the process of the withdrawal, individual platoons were forced to fight their way back to Allied lines.

At Bukit Timah, the battalion again regrouped minus one company which found itself detached and subsequently fought alongside the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Further fighting saw the Allied forces withdraw towards Singapore City's suburbs, where elements of the 2/29th were used to shore up the line along the Reformatory Road along with part of the 2/20th Battalion and the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion. The Australian forces subsequently formed a perimeter around Tanglin Barracks where they were making preparations for a counter-attack by the time the garrison surrendered on 15 February following the loss of the city's main water reservoirs


The 30th Battalion AIF

The 2/30th Battalion took up a defensive position near the Causeway, to the north-west sector of the island. Within this area, the 27th Brigade adopted a position east of the Kranji River, with the 22nd battalion on its left. When the Japanese attack came on early in the morning on 8 February, the main thrust fell on the 22nd Brigade's position and they were steadily forced back. On 10 February, the Japanese launched a second wave against the 27th Brigade's sector, and after a brief but futile fight the 2/30th was forced to withdraw from the Causeway back towards Bukit Mandai as its flanks became exposed. The fighting continued for another week, during which the Commonwealth forces were pushed back south through Bukit Timah towards the urban area on the island's south-east coast. The Australians, under the command of Major General Gordon Bennett, formed a defensive perimeter about 8 kilometres from the centre of the city, in preparation to make a stand with the 2/30th establishing itself near the French consulate; but their fate was the same all their other comrades.

It is safe to say that in Singapore chaos reigned, with many civilian and military casualties rapidly accumulating in hospitals, clearing stations and any buildings considered relatively safe. Medical staff were thin on the ground also, but ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ sections of the 2/3rd MAC were in Singapore. The Japanese would seem to have made no distinction between civilian and military targets and strafed, bombed and mortared casualties and facilities on a regular basis. Briefly mentioned previously, the 2/3rd was part of the ad-hoc ‘X force’ which was formed from AIF soldiers to stop the advance of the Japanese around the 10th of February, but any resistance was short lived due to miscommunications and chaotic conditions. There was one massacre on the 14th of February at the British hospital at Alexandra, which Alf would have delivered casualties to where marauding Japanese soldiers from the 18th Japanese division coldly massacred doctors, orderlies, civilians and wounded; and even bayoneted patients in the middle of operations. The Japanese apologised but by the end of a two-day ordeal over 200 lives were gone.

Part of the fighting withdrawal for the 2/3rd MAC in Malaya and Singapore was also to scavenge and secrete any supplies of value, especially in the latter stages to Changi and other areas, which they did with great efficiency. During early to mid-February, there were literally no front lines as such; with horrendous Japanese field artillery barrages and aircraft that bombed and strafed everything; travelling along roads was suicidal. Much time was used digging hasty bunkers and slit trenches for soldier and civilian alike. Due to poor communications due to bungling and units being cut off, the biggest clue that surrender was pending was that the British supplies and water supply had been cut off. Without water and due to the rapidly escalating casualties with a concurrent increase in malaria and dysentery, a cease fire and surrender was the natural cause of action; and not primarily based on military power as morale was still good even with insurmountable difficulties insofar as ground forces that were not supported by enough air, sea or artillery strength.


On the 15th of February 1942, the surrender was enforced at 10pm of the same date. It is a major miracle that anyone survived the campaign if compared to the stark casualty figures alone; Allied casualties being 130,000 of all nationalities (not including civilians) versus 9824 Japanese. A complete rout in anyone’s terms.





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[No One Will Believe] [Introduction] [Alfs Enlistment Record] [Overview 2/3rd MAC] [With The Indians] [2/3rd MAC under AIF] [2/3rd MAC in Singapore] [The Aftermath] [Alf in 'K' Force] [Toward The End] [Alfs Demob Record] [Alf's Photo Album] [Thai-Burma Trip 2019] [References]


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