By Kevin Blackburn, Karl Hack
This booklet presents a cosmopolitan precis of latest wisdom at the Fall of Singapore, together with the serious tensions among Churchill and native commanders.
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Where pythons and cobras were common before, there were soon good roads, comfortable Royal Artillery messes and fine recreation grounds. Probert’s History of Changi simply states that In fifteen years a piece of virgin jungle had been transformed into one of the most modern and best equipped military bases in the world. The Royal Engineers in Kitchener Barracks, the Gordon Highlanders at Selarang stood ready, yet the chances of war ever coming to Singapore looked remote. There was to be an irony to all this.
This was fringed with mangrove swamps, intersected by creeks, and in some case backed onto jungle. The main break in this pattern of farm and forest was the massive British naval base, on the northern coast about three miles east of the Causeway. The base was built in the 1920s and 1930s, unfortunately as it was to turn out, barely more than a stone’s throw from the coast of Johore. The ‘Gibraltar of the East’ At first, the location of the naval base seems a puzzle. It faced the Johore coast, across a Johore Strait that ranged from 600 to 2,000 yards across.
For the new immigrants, rickshaw pullers, and harbour workers who inhabited the cubicles here, Singapore could be an unforgiving place. Even feeding an extra mouth could prove too great a challenge. 7 The narrow streets and houses around this area, today dubbed ‘Chinatown’, remained crowded with people and rickshaws, with Chinese signboards, washing stuck out of upper windows on bamboo poles, and street vendors making the area alive with clutter. The gvernment decided that the area was so crowded that it was better not to build air-raid shelters here, preferring to encourage residents to take shelter away from the city.