When the US Blue Ridge recently visited Singapore the US Navy Sailors who went ashore were eager to enjoy all the city-states has to offer including lush tropical gardens, incredible shopping, globally-inspired dining available, beaches, dance clubs, live music, etc. For members of Blue Ridge’s YCAPS Afloat chapter, it was also a chance to learn about the island’s military history and the critical World War II Battle of Singapore. For them, this meant investing their Saturday in an opportunity to learn from some of Singapore’s leading military historians.
On 11 May 2019, 22 YCAPS members assembled at in historic Fort Canning to start the day with a lecture delivered Mr. Jeyathurai Ayadurai, a veteran lecturer from the Department of Strategic Studies at the Singapore Armed Forces Command & Staff College. The lecture provided a rich overview of the Battle of Singapore and the strategic considerations that underpinned what Prime Minister Winston Churchill would call the "worst disaster" and "largest capitulation" in British military history. The lecture set the stage for a lively discussion in which Sailors contemplated the decisions made by the British and Japanese leaders, their possible mistakes, and the impacts of the battle’s outcome.
After the lecture, the group toured both the Battle Box, the bunker that served as the British command center in the late stages of the battle, as well at Fort Canning, a location that served at Singapore’s military center for centuries. They then board buses for travel to Sentosa Island. Visitors to Singapore frequently associate Sentosa with its Universal Studios theme park and integrated resorts, but the YCAPS member focused their time visiting the bunkers and batteries at Fort Siloso, the British fortification that defend Singapore’s harbor.
The YCAPS members’ final stop was the Kranji War Memorial and Commonwealth graves. Laying a wreath of poppies at the base of the memorial, the Sailors paid their respects to the more than 4000 Commonweath casualties who fell fighting in conflicts from World War I through to the Vietnam War, as well as an unknown number of civilians who died during the Japanese occupation of Singapore. Certainly, the visit to Kranji was the most sobering part of the day.
At the end of the Battle of Singapore staff ride, many of the participants were pretty worn out. Luckily, we were now in the heart of Singapore, so there were plenty of options to recharge and then have a bit more fun!