August 25, 2015

1851 SINGAPORE - The Battle Box under Fort Canning

Given its position in the western Pacific, Singapore had long been recognised as being strategically important for the Royal Navy to counter the growing influence of the Japanese, who were regarded as being the logical threat to Britain's interests in the Far East and the Pacific. To counter this, the Admiralty devised the Singapore strategy, which required a well equipped naval base. Thereby in 1942, Singapore was considered an impregnable fortress, being nicknamed the "Gibraltar of the East". When Japanese Army conquered it in only 8 days (8 to 15 February 1942), Winston Churchill considered this "the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history."

Fort Canning was used by the British army as their headquarters in Singapore, and the Battle Box was the underground command centre constructed under the fort, as an emergency, bomb-proof command centre during the Malayan campaign and the Battle of Singapore. The complex included a telephone exchange connected to all military and most civilian switchboards in Malaya, various signals and operations rooms, sleeping quarters and latrines. By 1941, the Battle Box was considered to be too small for its intended use, and a new Combined Operations Headquarters was build.

The Battle Box remained the Headquarters of Major General  Frank Keith Simmons, who as the Fortress Commander, Singapore, was responsible for the defence of Singapore Island. The decision to surrender Singapore was made by Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival, General Officer Commanding of the British land forces in Malaya and Singapore, in a meeting on the morning of 15 February 1942, which held in the Commander, Anti-Aircraft Defence Room of the Battle Box

The Battle Box, having remained empty and unused since the war, was sealed off in the late 1960s due to safety concerns. It was brought back into the public eye when it was "rediscovered" by a journalist in 1988, and was developed into a museum, depicting the final days of the battle of Singapore. The museum was formally opened on 15 February 1997, on the fifty-fifth anniversary of the surrender of Singapore. Through the use of audio-visual effects and high-quality animatronics visitors can relive the morning of 15 February 1942 when Singapore fell to the Japanese.

About the stamp
The stamp is part of the second set of the series Vanishing Trades, about which I wrote here.

The Battle Box - Wikipedia
The Battle Box - Singapore VR

Sent from Singapore, on 30.03.2015

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