Adnan Saidi

Born 1915 at Kampung Sungei Ramal, Kajang, Selangor, Lt. Adnan Saidi was the eldest in his family. His younger siblings, Ahmad Saidi and Amarullah Saidi were soldiers too. Ahmad Saidi was killed in action after he joined the navy in 1939. The Japanese sank his ship, the HMS Pelanduk, enroute to Australia. The younger Mr. Amarullah Saidi survived the war and is now retired and resides in Kajang, Selangor.

Lt. Adnan Saidi received his education in Pekan Sungei Ramal in the English medium. He was a diligent student and excelled in his studies. Upon graduation, Adnan Saidi was chosen to be a trainee teacher and taught at his alma mater for over a year. Fate however had other plans for him. A firm man who took discipline seriously, Adnan Saidi chose instead to pursue the military vocation.

In 1933, when he was 18 years old, Adnan Saidi joined the Malay Regiment. A year later, he was chosen as best recruit. In 1936, Adnan Saidi was promoted to the rank of Sergeant – a promotion that came fast for a bright young soldier. In 1937, he was chosen to represent his platoon in a military ceremonial parade in London to honour the ascension of King George VI to the throne. Shortly thereafter, Adnan Saidi was promoted yet again to Company-Sergeant-Major and headed for Singapore for an officers’ conversion course. Upon graduation as 2nd Lieutenant, Adnan Saidi became the leader of the 7th Platoon, ‘C’ Coy(Charlie Company) , part of the 1st and 2nd Malay regiment which made up the 1st Malay Infantry Brigade, the British 2nd Loyals Regiment and the 44th Indian Brigade. ‘C’ Coy was entrusted to defence Pasir Panjang Ridge.

On February 13 1942, the crack Chrysanthemum Division of the Japanese Imperial Army under Lieutenant General Renya Mutaguchi turned their attention to the southern coastal part of Singapore – Pasir Panjang Ridge. On that morning, the ridge was heavily bombarded with aerial support, heavy mortar and artillery fire. Lt. Adnan Saidi and his men had built a wall of defence for the Regiment in an area of highland, known as the Gap. Though greatly outnumbered, the Japanese troops under Major Kimura could not breach the Gap’s defence perimeter. The Japanese forces were forced to retreat in the face of stiff resistance from ‘C’ Coy.

At midnight, 14 February 1942, ‘C’ Company received instructions to move to a new defence position – Bukit Chandu. More soldiers were added to Adnan’s regiment, 42 in all. After a careful area survey, Lt. Adnan ordered his men to further strengthen their wall of defence with sandbags. The hill was surrounded with sandbags. In the early afternoon of 14 February, the Japanese launched a sneak attack. From Pepys Road leading uphill to Bukit Candu, Lt. Adnan Saidi observed a contingent of ‘Sikh soldiers’ from the British-Indian Army approaching. Distinguishing himself yet again, Lt. Adnan’s sharp eyes and quick mind noticed that something was amiss when he observed the troops in turbans, advancing in groups of fours instead the usual threes of the British Army. Seeing through the ruse, Lt. Adnan Saidi and his troops opened fire and mortally wounded about 20 soldiers at close range. The Japanese troops retreated.

Two hours later, the Japanese launched an all-out assault in great numbers. ‘C’ Coy greatly outnumbered and short on ammunition and supplies, they started fighting the Japanese just with rifles virtually. In many instances, the soldiers engaged in fierce hand-to-hand combat using their bayonets. Yet, they stood their ground frustrating their enemy. In the ensuing battle, men and officers fell.  Lt. Adnan Saidi was mortally wounded yet refused to retreat and instead emboldened his men to fight to the last. It was this disregard of danger that inspired the company to stand up gallantly, he was heavily outnumbered by the Japanese but he would have never surrendered under any circumstances. The Japanese continuously launch attack in great numbers, and the attack overwhelmed ‘C’ Coy. The triumphant Japanese captured Lt. Adnan Saidi, angered by his fierce battle resistance, the platoon leader was dragged and pushed into a gunnysack. The Japanese soldiers then hung him by his legs on a cherry tree. Angered by the death of their fellow comrades, the Japanese bayoneted him again and again. In some instances, his throat was slit repeatedly. In the aftermath of the battle, no one was allowed to bring down his body for burial. No one dared. Some sources claimed that Lt. Adnan Saidi’s mutilated body was burnt to ashes.

The nightmare did not end there. The Japanese began hunting down Lt. Adnan’s family out of vengeance by the death of their comrades . Worried that the Japanese would be able to track down his family, Mr. Amarullah Saidi had to give away his brother’s photographs and belongings. No one dared to keep Lt. Adnan’s belongings. Today, the only things of his father which Mokhtar Saidi has are three medals which were awarded to Adnan by the British.

Lieutenant Adnan Saidi and his 42-man contingent from the 1st and 2nd Battalion of the Malay Regiment fought fearlessly to defend Pasir Panjang Ridge. The ferocious fight put up by the Malay Regiment came for special mention in Lieutenant General A.E. Percival’s Despatch on the Operations of Malaya Command from 8th December 1941 to 15th February 1942.

Mentioned by Major General A.E. Percival (GOC Malaya 1941/42), from foreword to ‘The Malay Regiment of 1933-1947’ which was published in 1947 by Mubin C. Sheppard;- “When the war broke out in the Far East(Southeast Asia), the regiment was in process of expansion. In consequence, like many other units of our Imperial Force, (it) was not fully prepared for the ordeal which it was to face. Nevertheless, these young and untried soldiers acquitted themselves in the way which bore comparision with the very best troops in Malaya. In particular, by their stubborn defence of the Pasir Panjang Ridge at the height of the Battle of Singapore, they set an example of steadfastness and endurance which will become a great tradition in the Regiment and an inspiration for the future generations.”


About this entry