On the night of 7/8 December 1941, Japanese units began to invade northern Malaya and southern Thailand, with the ultimate aim of taking the important British base at Singapore. Commonwealth forces were ill-equipped to prevent the advance, and Japanese troops swiftly moved through Malaya by land, through the jungle, and by seaborne landings. On 11 January 1942, Kuala Lumpur fell to the Japanese. By the end of the month, Commonwealth forces had withdrawn to Singapore.
The British colony of Singapore was a strategically vital base for command of the sea, and was intended to support the defence of India and Australia. Although it was intended to be a fortress, its fixed defences had been constructed mainly to guard against attack from the sea. By January 1942, many of those protecting the island had taken part in the demoralising retreat across Malaya. Several units were under strength or inadequately trained, with limited equipment and air cover.
After a few days of fighting, the garrison surrendered on 15 February 1942, and thousands of Australian, British and Indian troops were taken captive.
Japanese forces had advanced around 600 miles in only 54 days, with fewer than 50,000 casualties. British, Australian, Indian and other Commonwealth forces suffered over 138,000 casualties, of whom more than 130,000 were prisoners of war.
Some 24,000 of those who lost their lives in the region and have no known grave, many of whom died while in captivity, are commemorated by name on the CWGC Singapore Memorial. It stands in CWGC Kranji War Cemetery, where 4,500 service personnel are buried or commemorated.
As part of the commemorations for the 75th Anniversary of The Battle of Singapore, there will be an event at CWGC Kranji War Cemetery and Singapore Memorial which is open to the public. It will take place at 4.30pm on Wednesday, February 15.
Read and download the new CWGC Kranji War Cemetery Leaflet to help plan your journey to this site.