Southern Asia 1942: Fall of Singapore

Political map of South & Southwest Asia on 15 Feb 1942 (World War II: The South-East Asian Theater: Fall of Singapore), showing the following events: Japanese invasion of Burma; ABDACOM; Anglo–Ethiopian Agreement; Fall of Singapore.

By February 1942 the Japanese forces invading Malaya had reached the perimeter of Singapore, Britain’s most important military base in Southeast Asia and the keystone of British defences in the region. Despite facing just 36,000 Japanese, the 85,000 troops in Singapore capitulated after only a week of fighting - a humiliating defeat and the largest surrender of British-led forces in history.


Changes to the map 10 December 1941–15 February 1942

Japanese invasion of Malaya: The Japanese have advanced down the Malay peninsula, capturing Singapore.

Japanese invasion of Thailand: Thailand has agreed to an alliance with the Japanese and declared war on Britain and the US.

Japanese invasion of Burma: Japan has moved into Burma from bases in Thailand, starting at Victoria Point in the far south and advancing up the Kra Isthmus to Thaton.

Anglo-Ethiopian Agreement: The British have agreed to restore Ethiopian independence but nonetheless continue to treat the country as a protectorate. They remain in occupation of Haud and the Ogaden, planning to transfer these ethnically Somali regions to the Somaliland colonies.

British Protectorates in the Persian Gulf

The British Residency of the Persian Gulf maintained British India’s influence in a number of Gulf states from the 19th Century until 1947. These states were nominally independent - and shown as such in most atlases from the period - but all signed treaties guaranteeing British control over their foreign affairs.

The Sultanate of Muscat and Oman was the only one of these states with significant international relations, having obtained trade agreements with the US and France before it signed its treaty with Britain. Maps of the time often show Trucial Oman and even Qatar as regions of Oman.

Trucial Oman was the region to the west of Oman which collectively signed treaties with Britain. The sheikhdoms of this region were often called the Trucial States, and later became the United Arab Emirates. However at this time they had little unity, with no regional council until 1952.

Indian Empire

The British Indian Empire, also known as the British Raj, was comprised of a complex of presidencies, provinces, protectorates, and agencies. Only the top level subdivisions are shown here.

The area under direct British rule was known as British India and made up of presidencies and provinces - a presidency simply being the name for an older province.

Outside British India, but often included within the sphere of the presidencies/provinces, were the hundreds of protectorates or ‘princely states’. These were indirectly ruled states, the largest being Hyderabad, Kashmir, and Mysore. The others were either collected into agencies - which might in turn contain other smaller agencies - or fell under the sway of the provinces.

Main Events

15 Dec 1941 Japanese invasion of Burma

Japanese troops cross from Thailand into the British colony of Burma, seizing Victoria Point at the southernmost tip of the country. On 15 January 1942, they begin a general offensive up the Kra Isthmus, capturing the British airfields around Tenasserim four days wikipedia

1 Jan 1942 ABDACOM

The United States of America, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the Commonwealth of Australia form ABDA (American-British-Dutch-Australian) Command in an attempt to halt the Japanese wikipedia

31 Jan 1942 Anglo–Ethiopian Agreement

Major General Sir Philip Mitchell of the United Kingdom signed an interim agreement with the government of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, confirming Ethiopia’s status as a sovereign state following the British conquest of Italian East Africa. However Britain still influenced Ethiopia through advisors and retained control of security, banking and finance. It also continued to administer the Ogaden from occupied Italian Somaliland, and Haud and the ‘Reserved Areas’ adjacent to French Somaliland from the Somaliland wikipedia

15 Feb 1942 Fall of Singapore

Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival, commanding officer in Malaya, surrenders the stronghold of Singapore—the most important British naval and military base in South-East Asia—to the invading Japanese after two months of British resistance in Malaya and 8 days fighting in Singapore itself. About 80,000 British, Indian, and Australian troops become prisoners of war—the largest surrender of British-led personnel in wikipedia