#OnThisDay (31 Jan) in 1942: Allied military engineers blew a 21 metre gap on Causeway
#OnThisDay in 1942 (31 January) during World War II, Allied military engineers blew a 70-foot (or 21 metre) gap on Causeway in an attempt to slow down the Japanese troops’ advance into Singapore. This was after the last Allied military unit had crossed and withdrawn to Singapore — the Malayan mainland was lost to the Japanese.
In less than two months, the Japanese had eliminated British air and naval capabilities and captured Malaya. With the help of bicycles and motor vehicles, the Japanese troops moved swiftly down the western flank of the Malayan Peninsula. The Allied troops were not able to hold their positions and had to retreat — they were poorly trained, and lacking in experience and equipment. After the loss of Malaya, the Causeway became a critical part of Singapore’s northern defences.
But on 9 February, after the 27th Australian brigade that was defending the Causeway and the northern coast withdrew after repelling the initial wave of attack, the Japanese managed to repair the damage to the Causeway, and crossed with more troops and their equipment into Singapore.
When the Causeway was officially completed on 11 June 1924, it marked an important milestone in regional transporatation and communication. It established, for the first time, direct rail communications from Singapore through the Malayan Peninsula to Bangkok, Siam (now Thailand). Since its opening, as a critical lifeline, movement across the Causeway did not stop — except 80 years ago, in the lead up to the battle for Singapore, and more recently, for a period during the COVID-19 pandemic. #NeverForgetSG #TotalDefence
📷: Japanese troops crossing the Causeway into Singapore after constructing a girder bridge over the gap; Lim Kheng Chye Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore