Japanese Occupation (1941-1945)

Japanese Occupation (1941-1945)
July 23, 2020 Editor

Adapted from Syonan: Singapore Under the Japanese 1942-1945, Singapore Heritage Society, 1992

Following the Marco Polo Bridge incident and the start of open hostilities between China and Japan, the Chinese in Singapore led by millionaire philanthropist Tan Kah Kee who heads the China Relief Fund begin fund-raising for China’s war effort as well as a trade boycott of Japanese goods.


6 November
The Asama Maru evacuates about 450 Japanese men and women from Singapore. The Japanese Consul-General is at the harbour to wave them good-bye.

19 November
The Straits Times reports Japanese troops movements southwards in Indochina and the arrival of more troops in Indochina.

1 December
A state of emergency is declared. The army and volunteer defence troops are mobilised.

7-8 December
The first Japanese bombs fall on Singapore in the early hours of the morning.

Japanese troops of the 25th Army led by Tomoyuki Yamashita land at Kota Bahru, Kelantan, and Singora and Patani, south Thailand. Governor Shenton Thomas makes his most infamous statement when awakened at 1 a.m. in the morning to be informed on the Japanese landing: “Well, I suppose you’ll just have to shove these little men off (sic)…” Across the Pacific, Pearl Harbour is bombed in a surprise raid, bringing the United States into the Second World War. Japanese bombing raids continue throughout December and January.

10 December
The Prince of Wales and the Repulse are sunk off the coast of Kuantan.

15 December
The Japanese take Penang.

25 December
Dalforce, a special group made up of mostly communist Chinese volunteers, is formed led by J.D. Dalley. Some of the survivors go on to join the British-led resistance group, Force 136, and the communist-led Malayan Anti-Japanese Army.

30 December
Governor Shenton Thomas invites Chinese leader Tan Kah Kee to form the Chinese Mobilisation Council to supply labour to help build defences.

11 January
The Japanese take Kuala Lumpur.

28 January
The British Navy evacuates the Naval Base unexpectedly.

31 January
The Causeway is partially destroyed to keep out the Japanese troops. The Japanese enter Johore Bahru.

1 February
The Japanese begin shelling Singapore from their newly set-up batteries in Johore Bahru.

7 February
The crack Konoe Imperial Guards occupies Pulau Ubin.

Sunday 8 February
Some 20,000 troops of the 5th and 18th Divisions land on the northwest coast of Singapore.

9 February
The breached Causeway is repaired and Japanese troops begin crossing into Singapore. By evening, they have taken Tengah airfield.

10 February
The Jurong Line and Bukit Panjang Village fall.

11 February
Yamashita drops Percival a letter asking Percival to surrender, and detailing the steps to take. The surrender party should carry a large white flag and the Union Jack. The reservoirs fall behind Japanese lines.

13 February
Remnants of 1st Malay Regiment battle it out with Japanese troops at Opium Hill, Pasir Panjang. In an heroic 48 hours fight, Lt. Adnan Saidi and his 42 men contingent frustrate the Japanese advance. The British generals of Malaya Command hold a war council on Fort Canning. The water pipes are reported to be badly damaged and the available supply is not likely to last 24 hours.

14 February
Opium Hill falls. Lt. Adnan Saidi is captured and killed brutally. The Japanese enter Alexandra Hospital and massacre the patients, doctors and nurses.

Sunday 15 February
The first day of the Lunar New Year of the Horse.

8.00 am
The British commander, Percival starts the day attending a service. It is his daughter’s 12th birthday.

11.15 am
The decision to surrender is taken at the Battle Box, Fort Canning.

11.30 am
The surrender party without Percival sets out from Fort Canning.

1.30 pm
Fraser and Newbigging meet their Japanese counterparts.

2 pm
They meet the senior officer and Yamashita demands that Percival surrenders immediately. The surrender party heads back to convey the message to Percival.

Late 4 pm
The second surrender party, this time with Percival, sets out for the Ford Factory in Bukit Timah where the surrender is to take place.

Late 5 pm
Percival and Yamashita meet across a white-covered table. Yamashita demands an immediate surrender by 10 pm Nippon time
(8.30 pm Singapore time then, now 9.30 pm) or fighting will resume immediately.

Through an interpreter, Percival reluctantly agrees. He signs the surrender document. (One account says the time was 6.10 pm, another that it was 7 pm.
And a third that it was 7.50 pm.)

8.30 pm
The guns fall silent throughout the island.

16 February
Left picture shows victorious Japanese soldiers. Later the Japanese hold a victory parade at the Padang.

17 February
The British assemble at the Padang for the march to internment at Changi Prison and Selarang Barracks.

18 February
The Japanese order all Chinese to assemble at various centres for screening – the start of Sook Ching, the notorious purging of anti-Japanese elements in the Chinese population in which an estimated 50,000 died at the hands of the Japanese.


Japanese Military Administration or Gunseikanbu set up. Its offices are at Fullerton Building. Rationing begins. Japanese banana money replaces the Straits dollar. The early Japanese notes are numbered but by September, they are no longer serialised. The tram-line resumes service. The water pipes are repaired by local waterproofing contractor. Overseas Chinese Association formed to collect a “donation” of $50 million from the Chinese in Malaya and Singapore towards the Japanese war effort.


Police register all occupants and issue them a “Peace Living Certificate” or “Ankyosho”. A “Census Taking List” is later introduced in 1943. Police stations kept copies of this list and all changes in households had to be reported and recorded. Primary schools are re-opened. Indian Independence League formed.

15 April
Syonan Broadcasting Station begins Nippon-go classes.

The first POW groups begin heading for the Siamese Death Railway work camps.

The Overseas Chinese Association presents the Japanese with a cheque for $50 million raised through compulsory donations topped with $22 million loaned from Yokohama Specie Bank.

30 August
Selarang Barracks Square Incident. The POWs are ordered to sign a pledge not to try and escape. When they refuse, the Japanese execute the four POWs who had been caught trying to escape.

Formation of the Indian National Army. An auxiliary police system or neighbourhood police watch is introduced.

10 September
The Bukit Batok War memorial built by POWs to commemorate the fallen Japanese soldiers. Behind it was the memorial to the British dead.

The Eurasian Welfare Association under Dr C.J. Paglar formed.

Formation of the Indian National Army under Captain Mohan Singh to support India’s independence struggle.

The General Headquarters of the Southern Expeditionary Force moves from Saigon to Singapore and is located at the Governor’s Residence (now the Istana).

The Heiho also known as the Gunpo or auxiliary servicemen is introduced. Teenagers were recruited and given basic training in return for food and lodging. They serve under the military doing various duties.

To ease the food shortages, the Japanese encourage people to move out to farming settlements. The Eurasian Welfare Association begin organising Bahau for the Eurasians and Catholics. The Overseas Chinese Association organise Endau. In mid-1945, a small settlement is set up in Pulau Bintan in the Riau Archipelago for the Indians. There is a general campaign throughout Singapore to grow more food on every available bit of land.

Lim Bo Seng and other recruits arrive by submarine off the coast of Perak to join Force 136 led by John Davis and Richard Broome.

The Giyu-gun or Voluntary Army and the Giyu-tai or Voluntary Corps introduced.

28 December
The first settlers begin to move out of Singapore to Bahau, known as Fuji Village.

Lim Bo Seng and four other members of Force 136 are captured and tortured by the Kempeitai.

1 May
All civilian POWs interned in Changi are moved to Sime Road Camp

29 June
Lim Bo Seng dies in Batu Gajah prison.

Allied bombing raids begin on Japanese-occupied Singapore.

6 August
The Enola Gay drops the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

15 August
Emperor Hirohito speaks to the Japanese nation in a taped broadcast about the coming peace without using the word “surrender”.

20 August
A report of the Japanese Emperor’s speech appears in Syonan Times and other papers in Singapore.

2 September
The Japanese surrender formally to General Douglas MacArthur on board the USS Missouri in a ceremony witnessed by representatives of the Allied Powers, among them Lieut-Gen. A.E. Percival.

5 September
British troops return to Singapore.

7 September
British Military Administration is declared and among its first actions is to demonetize Japanese banana money, making it worthless.

12 September
The Japanese led by General Itagaki Seishiro surrender to Supreme Allied Commander in South-east Asia Lord Louis Mountbatten at City Hall.

Repatriation of Japanese troops to Japan begins. A long slow process because of shipping problems. A special court is announced to try Japanese collaborators — civilians who were alleged to have helped the Japanese during the Occupation.

22 January
Japanese war crimes trials begin.

British Military Administration ends. Singapore returns to civilian rule as Crown Colony.