When Imperial Japan unleashed the Pacific War in December 1941, Australian forces went into action, as part of a larger British Empire force, to defend Malaya and Singapore. Australia's principal contribution to defending Malaya and Singapore was the 8th Division. Originally raised for service in the Mediterranean, the division was committed piecemeal to Malaya and its performance was bedevilled by poor command decisions in the face of an enemy better prepared on all counts for the campaign at hand. The 8th Division, however, also reflected some strengths of the AIF at large: stubbornness in positional defence, effective and flexible small unit tactics and leadership, and skill and determination in close quarter combat. Singapore was lost more in spite than because of Australian efforts, but its loss underlined Australia's strategic dependence on `great and powerful friends' during the Second World War.
Brian P. Farrell is Deputy Head of the Department of History at the National University of Singapore, where he has been teaching military history since 1993. Farrell’s research interest is the military history of the British Empire. He has published more extensively on the defence and fall of Singapore than any other scholar, his main work being The Defence and Fall of Singapore 1940-1942, for which he drew extensively on Australian primary sources. Farrell also uses the ground as a primary source, has toured the battlefields of Malaya and Singapore extensively, and provided many of the photos and travel notes for this project from his own work.