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General Wavell's Letter

In his book 'WHAT PRICE BUSHIDO' * author and ex Far East Prisoner of War, Alf Baker writes of his experiences during captivity in Singapore and later on the Island of Rabaul - being one of only 18 men out of 600 to survive. In this book Alf includes an extract of a letter that General Archibald Wavell sent to the troops fighting in Singapore while under heavy attack from the Japanese.

(N.B. In early January 1942, General Wavell had taken up the post as the new Supreme British Commander for the South-West Pacific Region and just after the battle at Slim River he had advised the withdrawal to the northern boundary of the state of Johore; this meant the abandonment of another large expanse of territory, including the towns of Kuala Lumpar, then the Federal State capital and a major communications centre, Kuala Pilah and Seremban).

Alf Baker is an Associate Member of COFEPOW and has kindly given us permission to use extracts from his book including the following letter from General Wavell, which was dated 10th FEBRUARY 1942.

"It is certain that our troops in Singapore heavily outnumber any Japanese who have crossed the Straits. We must destroy them, our whole fighting reputation is at stake, and the honour of the B.E.F. It will be disgraceful if we yield our boasted fortress of Singapore to inferior forces.

There must be no question of surrender. Every unit must fight it out to the end in close contact with the enemy. Please see that the above is brought to the notice of our senior officers and to our troops. I look to you and your men to fight it out to the end to prove the fighting spirit that won the empire, and still insists to defend it. There must be no thought of sparing troops, or the civilian population, and no mercy must be shown in shape or form. Commanders and senior officers must lead their men, and if necessary die with them"

Late on that fateful afternoon, General Wavell, author of the above letter, left the Island and its defenders to their fate. He returned to the safety of his headquarters in Java. In his hurry to leave the island the General insured himself, falling down the quay steps as he went to board a launch which was to take him to his flying boat.

Later on when the General's headquarters in Java were threatened he, with his staff, made good their escape to India.

* Details of Alf Baker's book 'WHAT PRICE BUSHIDO'can be found in our section entitled "Books"