Bart Richardson - Singapore: Rearguard

Running time
3 min 41 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


So we finished up back as rearguard for crossing the causeway and that was all quiet, nothing happened there. Got over all right and got across to the other side.

The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, there was a few of them got left and had a battle with Japanese further up north, one of the first to meet them, and those who were left piped themselves across the causeway in the middle of the night. And of course, when we got out to Singapore Island there was no defensive work of any sort.

Now it had been said to the commanding general twice as we were coming back down the peninsula, that it would be a good idea to set up some sort of defensive equipment on Singapore Island. And the answer was, no, we won't do that. That would be bad for the morale of the people.

When we got back on Singapore Island, there was not a strand of barbwire erected, there was not a trench dug, there was nothing. Singapore was never, never, ever, ever an impregnable fortress. And two big guns on the south of Singapore Island, big, big ones, nine-inch gun. They were mounted to fire seaward there was one at Changi, big one mounted to fire north. And nothing else.

Now we were given a piece of ground to cover by our battalion that should have been covered by the whole division. When you've got a man here, a man there, a man ... that's not defence. And of course, the Japs knew this. They hammered us all one day and night, the eighth, ninth of February.

The artillery did a good job. All our mob did a good job and the Japanese were surprised at the reception they received. They lost heavily, very heavily. But we couldn't stay there, we had to move back anyway. That's just the way it went.

Eventually, the Japanese captured the only two water reservoirs on Singapore, turned off the taps and there was no water going in Singapore City. There was no water to wash, to drink, toilets, anything. And Percival, the DOC, was wondering whether he might counterattack. That was one of the silliest things he did, not the only silly thing, but most. He was incompetent. I'll say it straight out, he was incompetent. He couldn't handle the job. He had no idea. Made a mess of everything he touched. And he told his men to surrender, so surrender it was.

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