The Battle of Singapore, Day 3: Jurong-Kranji Defence Line and the fatal miscommunication

The defence perimeter was neatly drawn, stretching from Kranji River to Jurong River was an arbitrary line that fenced the northwest of Singapore from the city.


It’s easterly counterpart was the Serangoon line.

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The perimeter defence was meant to cover the Kallang aerodrome, MacRitchie and Pierce Reservoirs and Bukit Timah arms depot.

Jurong-Kranji Defence Line 2Source

It was simple arithmetic. Hold the line and Singapore would be safe, breach it and Singapore would be conquered. Beyond this line was one more final line along Thomson and Novena. Lt Gen Percival gave a simple order, hold the Jurong-Kranji defence line at all cost and retreat only if the line could not be held.

With the destruction of communications systems the day before the message that Duncan Maxwell received was misread as an immediate retreat to the final defence line. The larger force fell back because of miscommunication.

Jurong-Kranji Defence Line 3Source

A chill went down General Archibald Wavell’s back when he received news of the retreat. The Supreme Commander of ABDACOM, the Allied Forces in the Pacific feared that the fall of the Jurong Kranji Line would mean a direct attack on Bukit Timah. If the Japanese took the hill, the Battle of Singapore would for all intents an purposes have been lost.

A telegraph was sent to Lt Gen Percival.

It is certain that our troops in Singapore Island heavily outnumber any Japanese who have crossed the Straits. We must destroy them. Our whole fighting reputation is at stake and the honour of the British Empire. The Americans have held out in the Bataan Peninsula against a far heavier odds, the Russians are turning back the picked strength of the Germans. The Chinese with an almost lack of modern equipment have held the Japanese for four and a half years. It will be disgraceful if we yield our boasted fortress of Singapore to inferior enemy forces.


He worst fears would be confirmed the next day.

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