Eighty years ago the siege of Singapore begins but the fortress's big guns were conceived to fight attack from the sea
The Japanese conquest of the Malay peninsula was practically completed when the British withdrew across the narrow strait to the island of Singapore. A thirty meter breach was blown in the causeway linking Singapore to the mainland. The fortress was now unmistakeably under siege. The mighty artillery that the Royal Navy had fought so long and so bitterly to have installed was sited to defend against attack from the open sea and kitted with armour-piercing shot to engage the ships of the Imperial Japanese Navy. It could not be trained on land-based attackers coming from the East. The squabble over defending Fortress Singapore had been one of the rounds in the savage battle between Admiral Lord Beatty and Sir Hugh Trenchard of the RAF, which had scarred Briish military policy in the 1920s.
The US general "Vinegar Joe" Stillwell was appointed as Chief of Staff for US troops to the Chinese ruler Generalissimo (as he had been baptized) Chiang Kai-Shek. The job was an immense fudge. Chiang wanted a docile American who would subordinate US and other western troops to his ineffectual campaigns against the Japanese whilst obtaining the maximum support possible. Stillwell was given local and limited authority over Chinese troops. In part the position was designed to avoid a repetition of the clashes between the British general Wavell in his short-lived and largely theoretical job as C-in-C of all western forces in the South-West Asia region. Stillwell fell well short of Chiang's ideal; Stillwell held him in great contempt. Stillwell, though, was even-handed: he held a similarly low opinion of the British.
Hitler delivered a speech on the ninth annniversary of the Nazi accession to power. He spelled out publicly his intention to murder the Jews by making the demented claim that they were engaged in an existential struggle to destroy the German race and that Germany would fight back: "The result of this war will be the annihilation of the Jews." Other parts of the speech were reported in Britain but the remarks about Jews were omitted.