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The Fort Canning 'Battle Box'

During the Battle for Singapore, the British Army's underground command centre was based at Fort Canning located on Canning Rise in the centre of Singapore.

This underground operations and command centre became known as the 'Battle Box' and was used by Lieutenant General Arthur Percival, General Commanding Officer of Malaya from the commencement of the war in 1939 until the capitulation of Singapore on 15th February 1942.

The bomb-proof centre consisted of 22 rooms linked by a main corridor which led off to smaller sections. It had a recycling air supply in case all apertures had to be sealed off during a gas attack.

During the weeks and days leading up to the surrender it was here, at the 'Battle Box', that Lt. Gen. Percival followed the deteriorating situation of the war in Malaya and the subsequent arrival of the Japanese on Singapore.

At 9.00 am on the morning of the 15th February 1942, he called the fatal meeting of his senior officers following earlier reports that the situation couldn't be worse. One by one they had given the grim news of retreating troops and the lack of water, supplies and ammunition. Their unfavourable reports intensified the worsening situation and finally compelled Percival to surrender.

Later that same day a party of three, carrying a white flag, left the 'Battle Box' at Fort Canning to meet the Japanese at the Ford factory at Bukit Timah where Percival signed the surrender.

The Japanese soon took over the protected underground centre and it became the headquarters of Major General Kawamura, the new Commandant of Singapore.