There is no shortage of wartime reporting in our historic newspapers about any major conflict throughout history, with some newspapers even releasing special wartime issues to further cover military and naval news. February 1942 was no exception as newspapers printed articles on the Battle of Singapore, the Western Desert Campaign, and the rationing on the home front caused by the ongoing world war.
The Battle and Fall of Singapore
Perhaps the most significant event of February 1942 was the battle, and subsequent fall, of Singapore. This February marks 75th anniversary of the battle, which resulted in a decisive Japanese victory and the ‘worst disaster’ in British military history. After an intense siege from Japanese forces, over 80,000 Allied soldiers surrendered to capture, half of whom would never return home.
Singapore was strategically important for naval movements between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean during the Second World War. Japanese forces had been advancing southwards through the jungles of the Malaya peninsula since December 1941. The number of soldiers under the command of Lieutenant-General Tomoyuki Yamashita was heavily overestimated, or over reported, by the Allied Forces. It was reported that Yamashita had 100,000 Imperial troops poised for operations in Singapore, but the actual number of troops was closer to 35,000.
The British-led Allied Forces in Singapore were under the command of Lieutenant-General Percival, and fought bitterly until they were forced to surrender unconditionally on the 15th of February. Winston Churchill later called the fall of Singapore ‘the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history’. Check back in on the 15th February for a more in-depth look at the coverage of the Fall of Singapore.
The Western Desert Campaign
By the end of February 1942, Axis Forces in Libya under the command of General Rommel had almost reached El Gazala, where they would hold the line until the Battle of Gazala began the following May.
The R.A.F. in particular would continue to harass Rommel’s troops throughout February, causing him to have to spread his forces thin across his front line.
News at Home
Soap rationing began in February 1942, making it the first non-food commodity to be rationed in Britain. Rations booklets would now include one coupon a week for all kinds of soap.
Some of the newspapers on The British Newspaper Archive have been scanned from bound books, so some pages might have stories tucked away at the curved edge of the newspaper. In this example, the Derby Knitting Fund reported that it had sent over 5,000 parcels to the Forces.