The British reinforce Singapore

The new British battleship HMS Prince of Wales in Singapore Harbour, 4th December 1941. She had arrived with HMS Repulse, together forming 'Force Z' - designed to deter Japanese aggression.

The British were aware of the growing Japanese threat in the Far East and had begun reinforcing its most important military base in the region, Singapore. The Naval base and garrison was protected by huge 15 inch guns capable of taking on any attacking naval force that came within their twenty-four mile range. During the last few months of 1941 thousands more troops were arriving from Britain, India and Australia.

Singapore was very much still part of the British Empire and there were long-standing attitudes to how military affairs should be conducted. Alastair Urquhart had arrived over a year earlier serving with the Gordon Highlanders, he completed his military training in Singapore:

Now that I was in the Army proper, spit and polish was the order of the evenings, with drill, manoeuvres, guard duties and PT during the day. Bizarrely each day between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. the whole camp came to a standstill for a compulsory Siesta. Every man had to be in his bunk during that period. I disagreed with this from the start. The enemy seemed unlikely to suspend hostilities to allow us time to rest during the hottest part of the day. One’s body gets accustomed to the habit of daily routine. It was hardly suitable training for jungle warfare but our superiors thought differently. This ridiculous routine, a hangover from the days of the Raj, was fairly typical of the complacency that served the British so badly in Singapore.

See Alistair Urquhart: The Forgotten Highlander

There were many official British publicity shots of the build up of troops on Singapore, demonstrating its strategic importance.

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