This day in history – 8 December 1941

On 8 December 1941, war broke out in the Pacific when Japan landed troops on the beaches of Kota Bharu, in the north of the Malayan Peninsula.

This attack was meant to coincide with the bombing of the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor which was going on simultaneously, on the other side of the International Date Line, but instead commenced over an hour earlier.

At about 1.00am, beneath the full moon and monsoon rain, Japanese soldiers from the 56th Regiment of the 18th Division comprising of nearly 5300 men clambered ashore amidst a barrage of machine-gun and mortar fire, fired from Allied pillboxes and other fixed defence positions along beaches of Sabak and Badang.

As the Japanese troops swarmed the beaches of Kota Bharu in the north, the population of Singapore found themselves rudely awakened and greeted to this new state of war by the thunderous blasts and shockwaves from bombs dropped by Japanese twin-engined Nell bombers that flew overhead.

As there were no orders for a blackout, the street lights of Singapore were not switched off and thus carelessly providing the Japanese bombers with a convenient, shining beacon beneath the night sky.

Requests to scramble and intercept these enemy bombers were turned down out of fears of friendly fighter planes being caught in the crossfire from defending anti-aircraft guns. This was despite experienced pilots such as Flight Lieutenant Tim Vigors, a veteran of the Battle of Britain, being the one who made the request.

By daybreak, the bombing raid had left the population of Singapore reeling with over 60 dead and more than 700 injured.

To learn more about what happened in Singapore during WWII, join the Battlebox Tour: A Story of Strategy & Surrender ™. Not only that you get to explore a former WWII underground command centre, but this is also your chance to discover the tactics that were used by both the Allied and the Japanese forces which ultimately led to the Fall of Singapore in 1942. There can be no better way to learn about this important part of Singapore history than inside the very place where the momentous decision to surrender Singapore was made more than 70 years ago!