About the book (from jacket flap):
For the West, Singapore was the gateway to the East; for the Westerner (especially after the introduction of air-conditioning) the gateway to paradise. For about all that normal Western man, especially the English variety, ordinarily desired was to be found there: the opportunity to make money usefully and honestly, a pleasant community life with sports clubs, agreeable companions, surroundings of beauty. The mistake was to believe, as the inhabitants believed, that an angel with a flaming sword, in the form of the Imperial Power, guarded this paradise.
It is through these inhabitants that Mr Barber tells his tragic and heroic story: of their peace-time lives, their occupations, their illusions, their rising so sturdily to the bombing, the irresistible approach of the Japanese across the narrow waters of Johore, or the various horrors of defeat and occupation. There were many blunders, especially by some in high places, but no cowardice anywhere. People carried on and continued to carry on, through it all and after it all, back in London or in Singapore itself, and it is this tale of endurance and revival that gives a lift to the human spirit when Singapore emerges again, no longer the old European outpost but the transformed Asiatic capital, Asia’s gateway now to the West.
Nearly two years of ‘detective work’ preceded the writing of Noel Barber’s new book on the fall of Singapore, which contains a great deal of hitherto unpublished material from official sources…Mr Barber got it when he discovered within a stone’s throw of Trafalgar Square a dozen deed-boxes crammed with unofficial sources: papers, day-to-day diaries, and notes often written in prison camp, which had been gathered together in the late 1940s – and had lain there ever since. The papers opened up new horizons – a starting-point from which the author was able to make contact all over the world with survivors who in many cases had kept meticulous diaries.