The Issue of Surrender in the Malayan Campaign, 1941–2

Mark Connelly

in How Fighting Ends

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199693627
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741258 | DOI:
The Issue of Surrender in the Malayan Campaign, 1941–2

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The fall of Singapore in February 1942 witnessed the surrender of some 130,000 British, Imperial and Commonwealth soldiers. The event was a disaster for the British Empire in the Far East and constituted the largest surrender in British military history. At the time, it created a crisis of confidence in the fighting quality of the ordinary British soldier. Since 1945 historians have explored the reasons behind the collapse highlighting inefficient command structures, confused strategic thinking, poor training regimes and deficient equipment compounded by a sense of racial superiority. These macro-views have tended to support the idea that British, Imperial and Commonwealth troops lacked the essential fighting spirit required to counter the highly aggressive Japanese assault. This chapter argues that surrender does not necessarily reflect a lack of morale or fighting spirit. By looking in detail at the experiences of individual units a more complex picture is created which challenges the assertion that the disaster can be attributed to this simple root cause. Most men viewed surrender as shameful and as a last resort to be contemplated only once all other viable military options had been exhausted.

Keywords: attitude towards combat; attitude towards surrender; leadership and command; racial attitudes; Indian Army; training; military planning; British Army; Commonwealth soldiers; regular soldiers; auxiliary forces

Chapter.  6121 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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