Today we commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore, one of the most significant military defeats in British and Commonwealth history.

More than 20,000 Australians served in the Malayan Campaign and the Battle for Singapore during the Second World War, with more than 1,700 killed and another 1,300 wounded.

Some 15,000 Australians were among the 130,000 Allied personnel taken as prisoners of war, with more than 7,000 perishing in captivity by the time the war was over.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel Andrew Gee said the Fall of Singapore sent shockwaves through Australia and the Commonwealth.

“After the Japanese forces crossed the Straits of Johore and landed on the north-western part of Singapore on 8 February 1942, it was just eight days before British and Commonwealth troops were forced to surrender,” Minister Gee said.

“Though there was some fierce fighting, the Allied defence was disorganised and the Japanese forces took many of Singapore’s key facilities, including the island’s water reservoirs and all but one airfield.

“With water running out, dwindling stocks of ammunition and fuel, and many civilian casualties, British commander General Arthur Percival unconditionally surrendered.

“But there was confusion among the Australian troops on the island, with some believing the Japanese had retreated, only to soon find it was the Allies who had surrendered and they were now prisoners of war.

“None of us can truly imagine the horrors faced by those taken prisoner, and as we remember the Fall of Singapore today, their suffering should be front of mind.

“The sinking of the SS Vyner Brooke and the terrible slaughter of civilians, soldiers and nurses who were evacuating Singapore, also stands out as one of the darkest chapters of the campaign.

“The fall of Singapore left Australia vulnerable, and just four days later, Japanese forces brought the war to the Australian mainland with the bombing of Darwin.

“Today we remember and honour all those who fought in the defence of Singapore, in the face of great adversity.

“We pay tribute to the immense sacrifice of those who lost their lives, and their families, and to those who endured harsh conditions and deprivations as prisoners of war during 1942-1945.”

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