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February 23, 2017
1942, after 70 days of fierce
fighting across the Malay
Peninsula, Allied forces in
Singapore laid down their arms. At that
moment 14,972 Australians became
prisoners of war; another 1789 had
already lost their lives.
Seventy-five years later, VCDF
VAdm Ray Griggs placed a wreath
at the foot of the Kranji Memorial in
Singapore to honour all whose lives
were irreparably changed that day.
Other attendees included guest
of honour and Singapore government
representative Vikram Nair, Australian
Head of Mission in Singapore Bruce
Gosper, Japanese Ambassador Kenji
Shinoda, and a Commonwealth War
Graves commissioner Lt-Gen Sir
William Rollo (retd).
VAdm Griggs said it was an honour
to join ADF members, veterans and their
families in remembering the fallen, the
captured, and all who served during the
Fall of Singapore.
“The Fall of Singapore is etched into
Australia’s collective memory, mostly
because of what followed the surrender,”
“The stories of suffering and loss
from those years are beyond the com-
prehension of many of us who weren’t
there. But stories of courage, persever-
ance and enduring mateship inspire us
all and ensure future generations will
never forget this sacrifice.
“However, the courage of the
Australian 8 Div is, I think, worthy of
a more prominent place in our military
history. The enduring lesson of the Fall
of Singapore is about the importance
of the joint fight. No matter how tena-
cious and courageous the soldiers were,
without sea and air control, Malaya
Command could not defend against the
The service at Kranji on February
15 was the first event of its kind, with
former Allied nations working together
with Japan in the spirit of reconcilia-
tion and healing. The commemoration
committee included representation
from Australia, Canada, India, Japan,
Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and
The catafalque party comprised
members of 1/19RNSWR, which traces
its heritage directly to 22 Inf Bde, which
formed part of the defence of the north-
western sector of Singapore.
The soldiers are on a three-month
deployment to Rifle Coy Butterworth
as part of Australia’s enduring com-
mitment to the Five Power Defence
The Kranji memorial service includ-
ed a plaque unveiling ceremony, formal
wreath and tsuru laying, and the ringing
of the Remembrance Bell.
Earlier in the day, VAdm Griggs
attended a history presentation and
wreath-laying ceremony at the remote
Sarimbun Beach Memorial, the area
where Japanese forces first launched
their Singapore offensive. It was here
that the Japanese came up against the
men of 22 Bde, who fought valiantly
against overwhelming odds.
Editor’s note: Coverage of the 75th anniversary
of the Bangka Island massacre will appear in the
March 9 edition of Army News.
Former enemies unite to remember the fallen in Singapore, Claudia Harrison reports.
THE Malayan Campaign, ending in
the Fall of Singapore, lasted from
December 8, 1941, to February
15, 1942, when Allied forces in
Singapore surrendered to the 25th
About 130,000 Allied troops
became prisoners of war, together
with hundreds of European civil-
ians who were interned through-
out the three-and-a-half years of
Japanese military occupation.
In London, Prime Minister
Winston Churchill described the
defeat as “the worst disaster
and largest capitulation in British
British and Australian prison-
ers of war captured at the Fall of
Singapore on their way to board a
Japanese prison ship.
Photo: Australian War Memorial
Cpl Max Bree
SEVENTY-five years after the Fall
of Singapore, flags of the Australian
services were slowly raised over
the Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial
in Ballarat to mark a dark day in
Commonwealth military history.
Veterans of the fighting were on
hand as hundreds of people gathered
to remember the disastrous Fall of
Singapore, considered at the time to be a
bastion of British imperial power.
Maj-Gen Simone Wilkie, whose
grandfather was captured when
Singapore fell, delivered the call to
“It took just 10 weeks for three
Japanese divisions to conquer Malaya,”
“There were weeks of retreat, confu-
sion and fear; punctuated by local victo-
ries and acts of astonishing bravery.”
By the end of January 1942, the last
retreating Commonwealth troops crossed
the causeway into Singapore. A massive
artillery barrage and Japanese landings
followed on February 8.
“The water supply began to give out
and the civilian population suffered
terrible causalities,” Maj-Gen Wilkie
said. “Lt-Gen Percival had no option but
Governor-General Gen Sir Peter
Cosgrove delivered the commemorative
“Singapore was supposed to be an
impenetrable fortress, the Gibraltar of
the east, the heart of British naval power
in Asia, the guarantor of Australia’s secu-
rity,” he said.
“Suddenly and sharply, Australians
realised our survival was now at stake.
Britain was no longer in a position to
defend its or Australia’s interests in
Aside from the blow to Britain’s
prestige, Australian POWs went on to
suffer blows of a different kind as they
were forced to work as slave labour on
places like the Thai-Burma railway and
“Tortured, degraded, starved and
beaten, marched and worked to the brink
of exhaustion – to the edge of death and
beyond,” the Governor-General said.
“But there was a form of slow-burn
courage, of daily sacrifice and determi-
nation not to give in and not to despair.”
Thousands of Australian troops cap-
tured with the Fall of Singapore would
never see home again.
“We will never forget those who
endured severe hardship to give us the
privilege of living in peace,” Maj-Gen
Cpl Max Bree
DEADLY two-pound shells made
short work of Japanese tanks fighting
their way down Malay Peninsula in
Guns of 4 Anti-Tank Regt destroyed
13 Japanese tanks in different actions to
halt the attacking forces, and with them
was 16-year-old Jim Kerr.
“We’re proud of the boast our regi-
ment makes that no Japanese tanks ever
passed our guns,” he said.
“The tanks the Japanese had were a
light tank, so two-pound guns were ideal
for destroying them.”
cious firing of the
wasted little time
finding a way
“Once they met
you head on and
met strong resist-
ance, they went
round the flanks,
the rear and encir-
cled you,” Mr Kerr
Mr Kerr and the
troops conducted a
to other soldiers attempting to reach
They continued withdrawing after
reaching their relieving force but were
blocked by a heavily fortified Japanese
“The colonel ordered every man for
himself and we had to break out,” Mr
“Unfortunately we had to leave all
our wounded; 110 Australian and 35
“We were hoping the Japanese would
treat them with compassion but they
shot, bayoneted and burnt them.”
Mr Kerr and five others planned to go
to the west coast, steal a boat and head
At age 15, Mr Kerr told the recruiter
he was 20 and spent his 17th birthday in
the jungle behind Japanese lines.
They wandered around for weeks try-
ing to get food off natives before meeting
a well-educated Indian who told them
they should surrender.
After a long discussion, they asked
the Indian to bring the Japanese out to
“We heard the truck come up, the
Japs came down with rifles and fixed
bayonets,” Mr Kerr said.
“We jumped over a small water
course with our
hands up in the
air, not knowing if
we’d be taken pris-
oner or shot on the
marched into cap-
tivity five days after
couldn’t believe it
fell,” he said.
moved down the
peninsula so quick-
ly, we still couldn’t
figure it out.”
Mr Kerr ended up in Changi and
joined survivors from his regiment.
He described conditions at Changi
as bearable and run like a regular Army
camp, but soldiers ate rice three times a
“Though when I got to Thailand I
never saw an electric light or running
water in the two-and-a-half years I was
there,” he said.
About 164 men of 4 Anti-Tank Regt
died as POWs, according to Mr Kerr.
“There were all these unnecessary
deaths due to a lack of medical facilities
and rice doesn’t have much nourishment
in it,” he said.
The reality of war
Cpl Max Bree
AN OLD woman made of bronze
stares downward, appearing forlorn
in a hat and coat.
Her weathered hands clutch a
framed picture of her son in uniform,
now perished on a foreign battlefield.
The statue features on a memo-
rial in Ballarat’s Garden of the
Grieving Mother, which was unveiled
by Governor-General Gen Sir Peter
Cosgrove and Victoria Cross recipient
Cpl Cameron Baird’s mother, Kaye, on
It provides a moving contrast to
Ballarat’s Arch of Victory located
“It represents a sadness that never
really goes away,” Mrs Baird said.
“Every day is a reminder for the
great love a mother has for a child.
“You never want it to happen but
with war the boys go away, they fight
for their country and you keep your fin-
gers crossed they’ll come safely home.
“When it doesn’t happen, that’s the
reality of war.”
Cpl Baird left behind his mother
and father, Doug, when he was killed
in Afghanistan on June 22, 2013, in
an action that earned him the Victoria
“The statue is so real, my picture of
a mother in the 1920s or 30s is exactly
that – an older lady hugging a picture
of her son. It’s a very powerful statue,”
Mr Baird said.
“It means so much to so many.
Anybody who wants to view this statue
can reflect right back to the Boer War
through to conflicts in Afghanistan and
Mrs Baird said parents of personnel
deployed today should keep a positive
“Just be proud of them; they’re doing
what they want to do,” she said. “They’re
doing what they think is necessary to
keep our nation free of terrorism.”
Governor-General Gen Sir Peter
Cosgrove and Kaye Baird, the
mother of posthumous Victoria
Cross recipient Cpl Cameron
Baird, after unveiling a new
memorial at the Garden of the
Grieving Mother in Ballarat.
Photo: Cpl Max Bree
A dark day in
a wreath at
mark the 75th
of the Fall of
Photo: Cpl Max Bree
‘We just couldn’t
believe it fell’
We jumped over a
small water course
with our hands up in
the air, not knowing
if we’d be taken
prisoner or shot on
– Jim Kerr,
WWII veteran Jim Kerr
in front of the Australian
Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial
in Ballarat following a national
commemorative service to
mark the 75th anniversary of
the Fall of Singapore.
Photo: Cpl Max Bree
Australian and Singaporean soldiers perform ceremonial duties at the Kranji War Cemetery during Fall of Singapore commemorations.
VCDF VAdm Ray
Griggs and Defence
Adviser to Singapore
and Brunei Col David
Hay pay their respects
at the Sarimbun
of 1/19RNSWR and
Rifle Coy Butterworth.
Photo: Flt-Lt Brittany Lovett
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