Daily Archives: 21 December, 2009

Portsmouth men at the fall of Singapore

Percival surrendering to the Japanese at Singapore

Percival surrendering to the Japanese at Singapore

The fall of Singapore on 15 February 1942 was perhaps the biggest and most terrible defeat that British forces have ever suffered.

Singapore, described as ‘the Gibraltar of the East’, had been identified as a crucial point in the British Empire that was vulnerable to Japanese attack as early as the 1930’s. But in the style of France’s Maginot line, the only defences built were some formidable gun emplacements built facing out to sea, to protect the Dockyard. It was thought impossible that the Japanese would come overland.

But come overland they did. The Japanese invaded further up the Malay peninsula on 8 December 1941, almost simultaneously with their attack on Pearl Harbour. Their 30,000 troops were easily outnumbered by the 50,000 British defenders, however the Japanese troops took well to fighting in the Jungle environment, and could call on strong air and naval support, particularly after HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse had been sunk off the coast. The few British aircraft in Singapore were obsolete.

Given these handicaps the British commander, Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival, could not have done much better. By 15 February 1942 the Japanese had broken through the last line of defence and the British forces were running out of food and ammunition. Percival opted to surrender.

2,000 men were killed in the fighting. From Portsmouth, Gunner Gordon Drew (20, Cosham), Sergeant Ernest Bacon (30, Portsmouth), Sergeant Victor Cole (27, Milton), Private Henry Aldridge (36, Landport), Private Frank Cockles (31, Southsea) and Lance Corporal Harold Bravington (23, Southsea) were killed. They have no known graves, and are remembered on the Singapore Memorial.

Almost 50,000 British servicemen were captured at Singapore. Their fight for survivial was only just beginning. The Japanese kept Prisoners of war in barbaric conditions, and many were used for slave labour.Gunner Arthur Denmead (22, Fratton) died in June 1943, and is buried in Thailand. He had been working on the infamous Burma Railway. Lieutenant Cecil Edwards (41, Southsea) died on 24 September 1943, in Singapore. Gunner Walter Cottrell (19, Southsea) died 22 October 1943, also in Thailand. As did Lance-Corporal Derek Foster (29, Southsea) who died on 27 November 1943). Gunner Stanley Bannier (31, Southsea), Gunner Eric Donachie (25, Southsea) and Corporal John Karmy (23, Southsea) died in Singapore in September 1944.

We cannot even begin to imagine the kind of suffering and brutality that these brave young men endured in their years of captivity.



Filed under Army, portsmouth heroes, Uncategorized, World War Two

Rage Xmas no. 1!

Rage against the Machine have made History and claimed the Christmas no.1 spot in the UK singles charts, after a succesful facebook campaign to prevent another X-factor single reaching number one.

‘Killing in the Name’ sold 500,000 donwloads, easily beating Joe Mcwho’s ‘The Climb’ by 50,000 copies.

Speaking on the Radio 1 chart show, Zack de la Rocha from Rage said: “We are very, very ecstatic about being number one. [it was] an incredible organic grassroots campaign. It says more about the spontaneous action taken by young people throughout the UK to topple this very sterile pop monopoly.”

The Los Angeles rock band’s hit also set another record: it has achieved the biggest download sales total in a first week ever in the UK charts.

The facebook campaign has already raised well over £70,000 for the Homeless charity shelter. Rage against the Machine have pledged to give all their income from sales of the single to Shelter too, and there are calls for Simon Cowell to match whatever is raised. God knows he can afford it more than anyone.

Rage against the Machine have also promised to play a huge victory show in the UK soon to celebrate this historic campaign.


So thats the News. But what do I think, personally?

I think its great that something that had become so stale, bland, monopolised, has been given a real shake-up.

I think its incredible that the whole thing was started by a bloke and his wife in their own home, and it caught the imagination of almost a million people who felt the same way. It was completely democratic – the band themselves didn’t even know about it until earlier this week.

There has been a lot of rubbish written about the campaign, and about Rage. They are a band who live what they preach. They live modestly, write and play their own music, and stand up for what they believe in. Even though I might not necessarily agree with all of their points of view – and they probably wouldnt with mine either – I applaud their courage for having points of view at all, and for standing up for them.

Simon Cowell, X-factor and the whole celebrity culture has really affected British society. It encourages people, especially younger people, to just accept what they are given, to like what they are told to like, because their is no other choice. All the time, somebody – Simon Cowell – is making a lot of money out of public humiliation and exploitation. It has strangled real music in Britain. Cowell might say that ‘nobody puts a gun to people’s heads and forces them to buy X-factor’, but it is more subtle than that.

Maybe it is unfortunate that Rage have to be on a record label to get their message heard, but if they weren’t, no-one would hear their music at all. Karl Marx’s books are sold in bookshops. If they weren’t, no-one would read them. Its a terrible system, but there is nothing wrong with working within it to expose it flaws. Sony have made money out of it, of course – but how can you do anything nowadays without somebody making money out of it?

I just hope that the underlying messages in all this arent lost. This is bigger than music, than Rage against the Machine, than Simon Cowell.

This is about almost a million people joining together in a common cause, against an established monopoly, and taking back ownership of something that belongs to everyone, not just the chosen few.

When was the last time something so huge happened in the UK? I’m not exactly sure, but theres a General Election in a few months time… if we won’t have Simon Cowell owning Christmas no.1, why should we let corrupt, out-of-touch MP’s get away with it?

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Filed under debate, Music, social history

Auschwitz sign found

The ‘Arbeit macht frei’ sign stolen from Auschwitz last week has been found, reports BBC news. 5 men, in their 20’s and 30’s, have been detailed in northern Poland. The metal sign from the main gate had been cut into three pieces.

Andrzej Rokita, the local police chief in Krakow – where the men were being questioned – said the theft had been financially motivated, and it remained unclear whether it was carried out to order.

“From the information we have, none of the five belong to a neo-Nazi group nor hold such ideas.”

Pawel Sawicki, a spokesman for Auschwitz museum, said the recovery of the sign was an “enormous relief”.

“We are extremely grateful to the police who have done fantastic work. This symbol, probably one of the most important of the past century, can be put back in its place.”

Investigators said at least two people would have been needed to steal the 40kg (90lb) sign.

It beats me how they ever expected to be able to sell the sign, whether it was stolen to order or not. It is so recognisable, and with heightened security around Polish borders it would have been no mean feat to smuggle it out.


Filed under crime, News, World War Two