The Last Phase of the Campaign

After a surprisingly quiet night, the enemy launched a series of attacks towards Singapor:: on 12th February, and the battle raged all day around the British Battalion which was not itself heavily engaged; but at midnight the Brigade was forced to withdraw again. By this time the troops were exhausted and much discouraged by the course of events.

Friday the 13th was comparatively uneventful for the British Battalion apart from bombing and shelling, but the formation on the left flank was pushed back during the night and 44 Brigade had to withdraw further into the town, reaching the Alexandra Hospital area at 2230 hours.

The whole day, in the words of the Leicesters' History 'had been one of complete chaos, and no one had any idea of what was happening'. On that day parties from all battalions were sent off by sea to form cadres of new units in India. At 0100 hours 14th February, the Battalion made its last move - to Mount Echo, a hill in a residential area overlooking the town of Singapore. Here they dug in and waited for the end.

The position was now critical. The naval and air forces were based on Java and could afford no effective support. Only two days reserve of food was left and the reservoirs supplying the city were in enemy hands. The Japanese penetrated into the city; and, to their eternal discredit, attacked the staff and patients on the ground floor of the Alexandra Hospital. Many soldiers were shot and bayonetted, including Private Beckiss and Private Minihane.

On Sunday 15th February there was heavy mortaring and shelling on the Battalion's position, and there were more casualties. At 1630 hours the firing stopped, and for the next four hours there were orders and counter-orders about laying down of arms. At 2040 hours the GOC Southern Area issued the final order. This stated that Singapore had surrendered; arms were to be stacked and all troops to remain where they were. The fighting was over.

The strength of the British Battalion was 265 all ranks, a loss of 521 men since its formation on 20th December 1941. During that time the Battalion did not withdraw from any position without orders to do so from Brigade Headquarters.

The spirit of comradeship forged in war between The East Surrey Regiment and The Royal Leicestershire Regiment is still preserved. The courage and fortitude of the British Battalion is commemorated on 20th December each year.


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