British Lieutenant-General Percival and his party carry the Union flag on their way to surrender Singapore to the Japanese.

The Story of Singapore

THE fall of Singapore undoubtedly marked a turning point in Far Eastern history. It showed that the position of western Powers in the Far East was no longer secure, and that consequently the whole relationship of eastern and western peoples had entered upon a new phase. What was at stake was the future of all western interests in the Pacific, since the Japanese attack threatened not only colonial territory and trade but also the life of independent states like Australia and New Zealand. It challenged not only the military strength but also the political principles and prestige of occidental peoples.

No doubt it was this aspect of the fall of Singapore, which gave it a far deeper significance than that of a retrievable military disaster, that caused public opinion to shrink from the wider issue and seek an explanation in purely local circumstances. It was perhaps natural that, in the consternation caused by the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Philippines, the failure in Malaya should have been ascribed to the shortcomings of its defenders rather than to the general position of inferiority of United Nations forces in the Pacific. Press and public, in the United States and also in Great Britain, charged the military commanders and the civil administration of Malaya with gross incompetence and neglect, while they overlooked the larger framework of world politics and world strategy of which events in Malaya were but a part.

Some of the accusations levelled against the military command can be disposed of out of hand. The most common of these is the statement that British plans for the defense of Singapore did not take into account the possibility of an attack from Thailand down the Malay peninsula. This is plain nonsense.

The strategic conception upon which Singapore was founded was that it was a protected naval base from which a powerful fleet could operate. It was therefore defended against attack from the sea by fixed coastal defenses. To say that "the guns

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