#OnThisDay (8 Dec 1941) World War II came to Singapore from the air
📷: Raffles Place just after the Japanese bombing raid on Singapore on 8 December 1941; Lim Kheng Chye Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore
#OnThisDay (8 December) in 1941 at around 4.30am, World War II came to Singapore from the air.
17 bombers from the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force flew from southern Indochina and attacked the city and airbases here — another 48 bombers had abandoned their attack due to bad weather. The first air raid on Singapore, it left 61 dead and 133 injured.
In 1936, the British colonial government’s Air Raids and Bombardment Precautions, Sub-committee had issued a statement to warn civilians to take cover when warning sirens sounded. Subsequently, air raid demonstrations, including decontamination and rescue drills, lectures, distribution of pamphlets, and blackout exercises were carried out.
However, the measures were inadequate — on 8 December 1941, many people ran out to the streets in panic after hearing the explosions, and some thought it was only an air raid exercise. A number of people who had alerted the local authorities were told that the raid was only a practice. By January 1942, there were two to three air raids daily, killing more than 1,000 people that month.
On 8 February 1942, the land invasion was launched as Japanese assualt troops crossed over from Malaya to the coastline between Lim Chu Kang Road and Sarimbun Beach. One week later, on 15 February, Singapore fell. Only on 12 September 1945 did the often brutal Japanese Occupation end.