• Si Biggs

Plymouth Argyll Royal Marines - Fall of Singapore


Unit/ Formation: Royal Marines


Location: Singapore


Period/ Conflict: World War II


Year: 1941


On December 10th 1941 HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse were sunk by Japanese fire. A few days later, the 210 Royal Marines who were rescued, were formed into a Naval Battalion under Captain R.G.S. (Bob) Lang RM.


The crew of HMS PRINCE OF WALES abandoning ship, after torpedo attacks by Japanese aircraft in the South China Sea. (© IWM HU 2675)

They were deployed to guard the Naval Base, Royal Navy Wireless Transmission Station at Kranji and the Royal Navy Armaments Depot. Five other rescued officers were included, Captain Claude Derek Aylwin, Lts Charles Verdon, Jim Davis, Tom Sherdan and Geoffrey Hulton. On December 24th 1941, forty of the force were sent up-country into Malaya to join Major Angus Rose 2A and SH of Roseforce. They were to be involved in special operations behind the Japanese lines but the speed of the Japanese advance saw them employed in demolition work. The forty marines fought a gallant delaying action in the North of Malaya before action at Slim River on January 7th 1942 saw them out monuvered by the Japanese, leaving the allied troops to find their own way back in the long retreat to Singapore Island where they acted as a rearguard during the crossing of the Causeway.


In the mean time the remainder of the marines had been moved to Tyersall Park Camp to be amalgamated into a battalion known as the Plymouth Argylls, the marines formed two companies, each with an armoured car and a Bren carrier, and the fellowship they created with the gallant 93rd will be an abiding memory in both Corps. On the night of February 8th 1942 the Japanese successfully crossed the Straits of Johore and gained a foothold on Singapore’s north western shore, held by the Australians who were forced back.


On February 9th the Plymouth Argylls were ordered to advance northwards up the Bukit Timah Road then westward along the Choa Chu Kang Road towards Tengah airfield where they came under air attack and suffered casualties.


On February 11th the Plymouth Argylls engaged the Japanese between Tengah and the Dairy Farm that lay east of the Upper Bukit Timah Road and were cut off by enemy tanks who demolished two Plymouth Argyll roadblocks. The main body of the marines escaped carrying an officer, through the dairy farm using a pipeline to the golf course back to Tyersall Park. Soon after the camp and the neighbouring Indian Military Hospital were destroyed in an air attack.


The marines stayed in their trenches untill the surrender on February 15th 1942. Some marines escaped captivity on board HMS Tapah but were later captured, HMS Grasshopper which was sunk and Mata Hari which was captured, others escaped using small craft. Most of those who survived entered captivity in Sumatra at Palembang and Padang.



22 Plymouth Marines made it to Ceylon with 52 Argylls including Maurice Pink a member of HMS Repulse's band.


31 Royal Marines were killed-in-action, died of wounds at Singapore or were lost at sea assisting in the evacuation of civilians to Sumatra.


On February 17th those Argylls and Marines at Tyersall Park, with Charles Stuart playing the pipes marched out of the camp to Changi.

We never want better companions Colonel Stewart


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