"The Singapore SPY", aka "Kranji, The Singapore Spy"

Many of you reading this will have served in Singapore, whilst some of the younger readers may have visited the Island subsequent to the total withdrawal of the British - 90% had left by 1971 and the final 10% had left come 1976. Many more will know the traditional story of February 1942 and the fall of the Island to the Japanese invaders, just  weeks after the cowardly attack on the Americans at Pearl Harbour, in the Hawaiian Islands in December 1941.

The traditional story tells of the weakness of Command for British troops stationed there [in excess of 120,000 were surrendered up to the Japanese Commander] and how the brilliant, shrewd and hard fighting Japanese had out-manoeuvred the lack lustre British Commander and his less than enthusiastic fighting men.

Well, the purpose of my webpage is not to cast total doubt upon WW2 records, but to tell you of a story which is far from being common knowledge, wherein there is different approach to the reason for the British defeat, and a shocking one at that!

There are many versions of this shocking story, some freely available on the internet of course, but this one comes from a wholly British source, published under the title of "The British Empire - with the fall of Singapore the Empire began to break apart......."


Singapore, February 14, 1942. A group of British military policemen is huddled tensely over a shuffled deck of cards.  The 'pot' is unique.  The winner will have the pleasure of assassinating a British Army officer.  They each draw and reveal their cards.  A sergeant has the highest - a queen.  His whoop of triumph echoes down the prison corridor and reaches the cell of burly public school Army captain Patrick Heenan, 30.  He is awaiting his execution; a court martial has handed down the order for treason and espionage.  His information allowed the Japanese to obliterate the RAF in Malaya in two days.

His appeal procedure is far from exhausted, but there is a war on.  Such legal niceties are about to go by the board.  Heenan has foolishly provoked his jailers.  Tomorrow, he jeers, Singapore will fall - he will be free and they will be in the cells.  The MP's bundle him into a truck for the short ride to the harbour.  They ignore the panic around them, the looting, the breakdown of discipline.  Heenan is marched to the harbour's edge.  The sun is setting under black smoke from burning oil installations.  The sergeant says; 'That's the last sun you'll see,' puts a revolver into the back of the traitors head and fires.  The body topples into the slimy water.

The  following day - Sunday, February 15, 1942 - is recognised by many as the beginning of the end for the British Empire; the moment of surrender when the effortless superiority of the British Empire which once so awed by 'the lesser breeds' was blown apart. Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival marched out under a Union Jack to give up his force of 120,000 men, and Britain's 'impregnable fortress'  of Singapore to Lt-Gen Tomoyuki Yamashita, already being hailed back in Tokyo as The Tiger of Malaya.  In the cine film of the day's events, Colonel Cyril Wild, who had been ordered to carry the white flag, is seen throwing it down in disgust when he spots gleeful Japanese cameramen closing in to record Britain's greatest wartime humiliation.  In London, Churchill trembled for his own part in the fiasco.  Patrick Heenan would have enjoyed the spectacle; if only one man had to be held as responsible for the surrender of Singapore - and, by consequence, the end of an Empire - it would have to be him.

So what set New Zealand-born Heenan on his path of betrayal?  He was illegitimate, brought to England when his mother married another man. Old boys of his public school, Cheltenham College, recall Heenan as a coarse lad whose sports prowess should have made him popular but didn't.  He was a bully.  Nor was he academically bright; at 16, he had spent two years in a class of 14-year-olds.  It is easy to see how alienated he might have become from the old school tie network.

His trouble-making and sexual boastings in the peacetime Army caused fellow officers to dislike and fear him, especially after he became heavy-weight boxing champion of India.  They also envied him his popularity with women.  But Heenan was  only attached to the 16th Punjabs because no British regiment wanted him.  This must have deepened his bitterness.  He took a long leave in Japan which, it is believed, is when the Japanese secret service recruited him.  Later, a perceptive fellow officer, Second Lieutenant Ramsey Tainsh, was uneasy enough to go to his adjutant and say flatly that Heenan was an angry, bitter man and should be removed from the Army.  But nothing was done.  Incredibly, after the outbreak of war Heenan was sent to Malaya and made an Intelligence staff officer, liaising between the RAF and the Army.  A spy could hardly have been better planted.

He had much clandestine help in photographing military locations.  There were thousands of Japanese working in Malaya.  Every village had its Japanese operative; tactics included laying laundry in arrow shapes to guide Jap planes to targets.  But extraordinarily, Heenan was known to disappear regularly over the Thai border, where it is thought a contact passed his information to the Japanese embassy in Bangkok.  No one seemed to have enough on him to blow the whistle.  So he continued his activities, supplying current British recognition codes so that when approaching Japanese aircraft were challenged, they could radio the correct response and swoop on their targets unopposed.  It is little wonder that Japanese bombers had such uncanny success hitting airfields when our planes were on the ground.

The delay in placing Heenan under arrest is an abiding mystery.  They found his secret radio - still warm - hidden in an RAF chaplain's Communion set.  He was sentenced to death - and only failed to cheat his sentence when his jailers took the law into their own hands.

Today, Cheltenham College, a mighty Victorian school for boys, still has Heenan's name carved into its stone Roll of Honour.  Yet even now, much of the detail of Heenan's treachery is hidden.  There never was a post-war official enquiry into the fall of Singapore, and the inept conduct of the Malayan campaign after the Japanese invaded in 1942.  The answer may lie in political expediency.  Four days before the Japanese attack, Churchill authorised the gift of 300 aircraft and 300 tanks to Russia, sending them north instead of east to Singapore.  Eye-witnesses say much of this vital materiel, in crates marked Singapore, was still lying months later on the Murmansk quayside.

The ensuing cover-up of the military scandal let the disgrace of Heenan fall through the archival net.  His court martial papers are nowhere to be found in official files.  They were either destroyed, or fell into Japanese hands.

One bald fact could not be covered up.

After Singapore, the Empire was never the same again.  From the end of the war to the 1960's, British possessions were handed back around the globe.  What began in America ended in the Orient, with only one simple truth remaining: while the Empire lasted, never has one country been so strong, dominated so much or held influence over so many.

This is a picture taken of Heenan school class.  He is circled.