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Saber and Scroll

Article Title

Back Me or Sack Me

Abstract

The fall of Singapore and the loss of 130,000 men were as shocking to the British as the death of General Charles George Gordon at Khartoum was to an earlier generation. In the years following the 1919 Treaty of Versailles and before the outbreak of World War II, the Fortress of Singapore, known as the “Gibraltar of the East,” stood as a symbol of the power, might, and stability of the British Empire and Commonwealth. Unfortunately, the “Gibraltar of the East” was not an impregnable fortress but a castle in the air. Responsibility for failing to mount an effective defense on the Muar River on the Malay Peninsula, which led directly to the siege and surrender of Singapore, belongs to General Archibald Wavell, at the time Supreme Commander of American, British, Dutch, and Australian forces. Wavell’s 9 January 1942 orders for the defense of Johore to Percival then commanding the army in Malaya, ensured the defeat of the troops on the Muar River line and led directly to the fall of Singapore.

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