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Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Discussions on WW2 in the Pacific and the Sino-Japanese War.
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Postby Two Litre on 18 May 2005 20:37

Thanks David i'll check them out.
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Postby Andy H on 19 May 2005 13:54

This site gives information regarding re-inforcements sent to Singapore

http://www.netherlandsnavy.nl/Singapore.html

Gives the vessel's name, nationality,weight and content/cargo

BM 9A

This convoy transported the first large troop reinforcement to the island. It left Bombay on December 21 1941 and arrived in Singapore on the 3rd of January without much delay or difficulty. Aboard was the 45th Indian infantry brigade. It departed Bombay on December 21 1941, and arrived in Singapore on January 3 1942. The order of battle for the convoy was as follows:

Merchants
Devonshire British, 11.275 tons 1599 troops
Lancashire British, 9.542 tons 1337 troops
Ethiopia British, 5.574 tons 897 troops
Varsova British, 4.691 tons 978 troops
Rajula British, 8.478 tons 1166 troops


Escort
CL HMS Glasgow Between December 21 and 25
CL HMAS Hobart from December 25 to Singapore
CL HMS Dragon from December 30 to Singapore
CL HMS Durban from December 30 to Singapore
CL De Ruyter RNN, between January 1 and 2 through Sunda Strait
CL Tromp RNN, between January 1 and 2 through Sunda Strait
DD HMAS Vampire from December 30 to Singapore
DD HMS Jupiter from January 2 1942 to Singapore
DD HMS Encounter from January 2 1942 to Singapore
DD Banckert RNN, between 1 and 2 January through Sunda Strait
DD Piet Hein RNN, between 1 and 2 January through Sunda Strait
PB HMIS Sonavati between 21 and 27 December
PB Falmouth between 25 and 27 December


BM 9B

This was the follow-up convoy for BM-9A, and the ships of this formation carried the vehicles and stores for the 45th Indian infantry brigade. It departed Bombay on December 22 1941 and arrived in Singapore on January 6 1942.

Merchants
Medina British, 3.962 tons 387 troops
Risalder British, 5,.407 tons ) Motor transport
Rajput British, 5.497 tons Motor transport
Jalajaran British, 5.102 tons Motor transport
Madura British, 8.975 tons Joined convoy with HMS Glasgow at sea
Talma British, 10.000 tons 600 troops, detached with Greek CL Georgios Averoff for Colombo December 27 1941 as planned


Escort
CL Georgios Averoff ( Greek ) Between December 22 and 27
CL HMS Glasgow Between December 27 and 31
CL HMS Danae from December 31 1941 to Singapore
CL De Ruyter ( RNN, joined January 4, detached before arrival )
CL Tromp ( RNN, joined January 4, detached before arrival )
CL Java ( RNN, joined 31/12/41 but has to break off because of damage to one of the propellors )
DD HMS Electra from January 3 to Singapore
DD HMS Express from January 3 to Singapore
DD HMS Stronghold from January 4 to Singapore
DD Banckert ( RNN, joined January 4, detached before arrival )
DD Piet Hein ( RNN, joined January 4, detached before arrival )
AM HMAS Burnie from January 5 to Singapore
AM HMAS Goulburn from January 5 to Singapore


DM1 ( Ex- WS 12 ZM)

This convoy had quite an impressive cargo, as it not only transported the 53rd Infantry Brigade Group, 232 squadron RAF, 6th Heavy and 35th Light AA regiments and the 85th Anti-tank regiment, but also had fifty crated Hawker Hurricane fighters on board of 17, 135, 136 and 232 squadron RAF. The convoy departed Durban on December 24 as part of WS 12Z, and the Singapore-bound ships detached at sea. The American trooper Mount Vernon departed Mombasa with HMS Emerald on December 29, and joined at sea. The ships, now known as DM-1, departed the Addu Atoll on January 5 and arrived in Singapore on the 13th.

Merchants
Narkunda British, 16.632 tons 1773 troops
Aorangi British, 17.491 tons 2194 troops
Sussex British, 11.063 tons 52 Hurricane fighters, 3.7-inch AA-guns and 14 troops
Abbekerk Dutch, 7.906 tons Ammunition and 16 troops
Mount Vernon American, 22.559 tons 221 officers and 4882 men of the 18th division


Escorts
CA HMS Cornwall Until Colombo area
CA HMS Exeter From January 5 to Singapore
CL HMS Durban From January 9, but arrived ahead of convoy
CL HMS Emerald ( F ) From January 29 to Singapore
CL De Ruyter ( RNN, between January 10 and 12 )
CL Tromp ( RNN, between January 10 and 12 )
PB HMIS Jumna from January 5 to Singapore
DD HMS Jupiter from January 10, but arrived ahead of convoy
DD HMS Encounter from January 10 to Singapore
DD HMAS Vampire from January 10 to Singapore
DD Banckert ( RNN, between January 10 and 12 )
DD Piet Hein ( RNN, between January 10 and 12 )


BM 10

BM-10 arrived in Singapore on January 25 1942 with the 44th Indian Infantry brigadegroup ( 6000 men ), vehicles and stores for the 18th division and carriers for the reconregiment. It had departed Bombay on January 8 1942.

Merchants
Cap St. Jacques French, 8009 tons 716 troops and stores
Talthybius British, 10.254 tons stores
Islami British, 5.879 tons 964 troops and stores
Rohna British, 8.602 tons 1188 troops and stores
Ekma British, 5.108 tons 897 troops
Takliwa British, 7.936 tons 980 troops and stores
Jalakrishna British, 4.991 tons motor transport and stores
Subadar British, 5.425 tons motor transport and stores
Jalavihar British, 5.330 tons motor transport and stores
Brittany British, 4.772 tons general cargo
Loch Ranza British, 4.958 tons motor transport and stores
Jalaratna British, 3.942 tons stores, departed Colombo 12/1/42 and joined at sea
Silverlarch British, 5.064 tons stores, departed Colombo 12/1/42 and joined at sea
Hosang British, 5.698 tons Joined January 20, carrying stores.
Yuen Sang British, 3.229 tons Joined January 20, carrying stores
Rochussen Dutch, 2.363 tons Joined January 22, detached Doerian Strait
Hermelin Norwegian, 1.683 tons Joined January 22
Collingswood American, 5.101 tons Joined January 22


Escorts
CA HMS Exeter From January 18 to Singapore
CL HMS Caledon Between January 8 and 13
CL HMS Enterprise From January 13 to Singapore
CL HMS Glasgow Between January 13 and 18
CL HMS Danae From January 18 to Singapore
CL De Ruyter Between January 22 until Doerian Strait
CL Tromp Between January 22 until Doerian Strait
DD HMS Electra Between January 20 and 22
DD Stronghold Between January 20 and 22
PB HMIS Sutlej From January 14 to Singapore
PB HMAS Yarra From January 20 to Singapore


MS 1

This convoy departed Melbourne on January 10, but it is currently unknown which units were transported to Singapore aboard the ships of this convoy. The ships marked with an * arrived in Singapore on February 1st.

Merchants
City of Manchester * British, 8.917 tons
Derrymore * British, 4.799 tons
Java Dutch, 9.250 tons
Enggano Dutch, 5.412 tons
Gorgon * British, 3.533 tons
Pan Europe * Norwegian, 9.468 tons
Peisander British, 6.225 tons
Phrontis * Dutch, 6.181 tons
Tjikandi Dutch, 7.970 tons
Tjikarang Dutch, 9.505 tons
War Sirdar * British, 5.647 tons


Escorts
AMC HMAS Kanimbla Between January 10 and 28
CL HMAS Hobart Between January 26 and 31
DD HMS Stronghold Between January 28 and 31
DD HMS Tenedos Between January 28 and 31


MS 2 and MS 2A

This convoy originally consisted of the large liner Aquitania, which transported 3500 Australian troops ( 2/4th MG batallion, reinforcements for the 8th division ) to Singapore. However, by this time, the Japanese had complete control of the air over Singapore and the approaches to this port, and the naval authorities therefore found it to be wiser to transfer the troops aboard to smaller vessels. The Aquitania with her ocean escort, HMAS Canberra arrived in Ratai Bay on Sumatra on January 20. The troops were transferred to smaller KPM-steamers and a British ship, and the convoy departed Ratai Bay on January 21, now as MS 2A. The ships arrived unscathed in Singapore on January 24.

Until Ratai Bay

Merchants
Aquitania British, 45.647 tons 3500 troops


Escorts
CA HMAS Canberra Ocean escort
CL Java ( RNN ) From January 18
DD Evertsen ( RNN ) From January 18
DD Van Nes ( RNN ) From January 18


Transfer in Ratai Bay to smaller ships

Cover force
CA HMAS Canberra
CL HMS Dragon
DD HMAS Vampire
DD HMS Express
DD USS Stewart
DD USS Barker
DD Van Nes ( RNN )
PB USS Isabel
PB Soemba ( RNN )


Ratai Bay to Singapore

Merchants
Both Dutch, 2.660 tons
Reael Dutch, 2.561 tons
Reynst Dutch, 2.462 tons
Van der Lijn Dutch, 2.464 tons
Van Swoll Dutch, 2.156 tons
Sloet van de Beele Dutch, 2.977 tons
Taishan British, 3.174 tons


Escorts
CA HMAS Canberra Detached north of Banka
CL Java ( RNN )* From 21 to 24 January
DD HMAS Vampire* From 21 to 24 January
DD HMS Thanet* From 21 to 24 January
DD Evertsen ( RNN ) Detached north of Banka
DD Van Nes Detached north of Banka
PB HMIS Jumna* From 21 to 24 January
* These ships arrived with the convoy in Singapore


BM 11

BM-11 carried 5 light AA-batteries, 1 light tanksquadron and the 18th Division ( except the 53rd Brigade Group ), a total of 17.000 troops to Singapore. It had departed Bombay on January 19 1942 and arrived in Singapore on January 29 1942.

Merchants
Empire Star British, 11.093 tons Motor transport
Duchess of Bedford British, 20.123 tons 1955 troops
Empress of Japan British, 26.032 tons 1981 troops
USS Wakefield American, 22.559 tons 4479 troops
USS West Point American, 23.179 tons 3250 troops


Escorts
CA HMS Exeter From January 26 to Singapore
CL HMS Dragon Between January 26 and 28
CL HMS Durban Between January 26 and 28
CL HMS Glasgow Between January 22 and 26
CL HMS Caledon Between January 19 and 22
DD HMS Thanet ??, arrived Singapore January 24
DD HMS Tenedos From January 24
DD HMS Express From January 24
DD HMS Electra From January 24
DD HMS Encounter From January 26


BM 12

BM-12 carried drafts for the 9th and 11th Divisions ( 3800 men ) and stores for the 18th Division to Singapore. The convoy departed Bombay on January 23 and arrived in Singapore on the 5th of the following month. It was also the first to lose a ship: the trooptransport Empress of Asia was hit by bombs from divebombers and had to be abandoned. Most troops aboard were picked up by escorting vessels ( HMAS Yarra especially distinguished herself ), but most of the equipment was unfortunately lost.

Merchants
Empress of Asia British, 16.909 tons 2235 troops and stores
Félix Roussèl French, 17.084 tons 157 troops and stores
Plancius Dutch, 5.955 tons 987 troops and stores
Devonshire British, 11.275 tons 1673 troops and stores
City of Canterbury British, 8.331 tons 1053 troops


Escorts
CA HMS Exeter Joined February 2, detached north of Banka
CL HMS Danae Joined January 31, detached north of Banka
CL HMS Emerald Between January 27 and 31
CL Java ( RNN ) Between January 31 and February 4, detached because of fuel shortage.
DD HMS Encounter Joined ??, detached north of Banka
DD HMAS Vampire Joined February 2
PB HMAS Yarra Joined February 1
PB HMIS Sutlej Joined February 1
PB HMS Falmouth Between January 26 and 27
AM HMAS Bendigo Joined north of Banka Strait
AM HMAS Woolongong Joined north of Banka Strait


DM 2 ( Ex - WS 14 B )

DM-2 ( which departed Durban on January 13 ) was originally WS 14B, but the name was changed off Mombasa on January 19. It made rendez-vous with BM-12, after which the convoys merged at 01.05 N, 91.28 E. The ships of this convoy were rerouted to Batavia with one exception, the City of Canterbury joined BM-12 and arrived in Singapore. Aboard the ships were the Wing Headquarters and groundstaff for 3 fightersquadrons, the 77th heavy and 21st light AA regiments with their equipment, vehicles and stores for the 48th Light AA-regiment. The rerouted ships arrived in Batavia on February 3.

Merchants
Warwick Castle British, 20.119 tons N/A
Empress of Australia British, 21.860 tons N/A
City of Pretoria British, 8.049 tons Motor transport
Triolus British, 7.422 tons N/A
Malancha British, 8.124 tons Motor transport
City of Canterbury British, 8.331 tons 1053 troops
Dunera British, 11.197 tons 1884 troops


Escorts*
BB HMS Royal Sovereign Until January 26 (1100 hours)
AMC HMS Ranchi Joined January 26 (1100 hours), detached January 28 (1300 hours)
CA HMS Exeter From February 2
CL HMS Emerald Between January 28 and 31
CL Java ( RNN ) Between January 31 and February 4, detached because of fuel shortage.
CL HMS Danae Joined January 31
DD HMAS Vampire Joined February 2
DD HMS Jupiter Joined February 2
PB HMAS Yarra Joined February 1
PB HMIS Sutlej Joined February 1


BM-13

The last of the Singapore convoys. Departed Bombay on February 13, but was recalled on February 17. I don't list her here as it never came close to reaching her destination. In addition, the convoys JS 1, JS 2 and MS 3 were apparently also originally bound for Singapore but also never reached their destination.

Some abbrevations:

CA = Heavy cruiser
CL = Light Cruiser
DD = Destroyer
PB = Sloop or anti-submarinevessel
AM = Minesweeper
AMC = Armed Merchant Cruiser

All tonnages for the merchants are in gross weight
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Postby Peter H on 19 May 2005 14:14

Two Litre wrote:The Japanese War Memorial at Tebong remembers 30,000 men who died in the Malaya campaign and 25,000 who died in Singapore.

So what was the total strength of Axis and Allied during these two battles? It seems to conflict with Churchill's statement that 30,000 Japanese (or whatever he said) were fighting at Singpaore.


I doubt the accuracy of the source:

http://www.powtaiwan.org/singapore.html
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Postby Two Litre on 19 May 2005 14:27

Also taken from that source:

All of the above figures are verified by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and also in Sir Basil Liddle’s ‘History of the Second World War’.

Sounds good to me.
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Postby Simon Gunson on 19 May 2005 15:07

Prior to Japan entering the war the Merchant Raider Orion (from memory) siezed the british Tanker Automedon near Sumatra. It had locked in it's radio room a top secret appraisal of weaknesses in British defences of the Far East. It virtually told the Japanese British plans for defence of Malaya and Singapore.

A parallel was Japanese spies who read US Navy's battle plan Orange. In 1928 the US Navy held exercises in which USN virtually foretold the method of air attack against Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941. the Japanese followed a US blueprint.

As for Malaya, the British plan called for defence of roads leading south to Singapore. The British plan anticipated that nobody would be foolish enough to advance through the jungle but that is precisely what the Japanese did to outflank British roadblocks.

My father was at Singapore just before it fell as a crewmember on either the MS Royal Tiger or Peisander. My records of which ship are confused. He was aboard Peisander in April 1942 when she was torpedoed in the Atlantic.

In any regard he was there at the time in question. He always said people blamed the fact that big harbour defence guns pointed to sea and not inland. He also said that this was not the real reason however. He said the real reason Singapore fell was that the Australians pulled their troops out of prepared defensive positions north of Singapore and shipped their troops back to Australia for the defence of their homeland, abandoning British and Indian troops. My father's ship was one of those which evacuated Australian troops from Singapore. He always felt that the British were betrayed and abandoned by the Australians.

I always think the views of those who were there are most telling.
Last edited by Simon Gunson on 19 May 2005 15:24, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Peter H on 19 May 2005 15:13

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission's role as per its Charter is

... to mark and maintain the graves of the members of the forces of the Commonwealth who died in the two world wars, to build and maintain memorials to the dead whose graves are unknown, and to keep records and registers. The Commission’s work is founded upon principles which have remained unaltered: that each of the dead should be commemorated individually by name either on the headstone on the grave or by an inscription on a memorial; that the headstones should be uniform; and that there should be no distinction made on account of military or civil rank, race or creed.


It does not concern itself with verifiying enemy campaign losses,especially those over a diverse area of operations as well.

My copy of Liddell Hart's book gives 9,000 Japanese killed,missing,wounded in the whole campaign.

This here is a more exact figure:

Japanese Casualties

Killed in action: 3,507 [including 1,715 on Singapore]

Wounded: 6,150 [including 3,378 on Singapore]

Total: 9,824


http://orbat.com/site/history/historica ... n1941.html

A cynic could suggest that someone has incorrectly translated the Tebong memorial from Japanese and added an extra zero to the figures.
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Postby Peter H on 19 May 2005 15:17

The 1942 Singapore disaster: assessing recent claims,Parliament of Australia Report 1993.

http://parlinfoweb.aph.gov.au/piweb/vie ... BLE=PRSPUB

The fall of Singapore was one of the most traumatic defeats ever to befall British and Australian forces. It is not surprising that even half a century later it can still stimulate controversy.

The following points can be made in conclusion:

The charge attributed by the media to General Wavell, that the Australians were responsible for the loss of Singapore, was never made by him; certainly not in the terms quoted. The media have misinterpreted the recently- released report. In fact, its charges against Australians are of indiscipline, desertion and failure to carry out patrols of the enemy- held shore opposite the Australian positions.

Britain, not Australia, was responsible for the design, construction, defensive works and administration of Singapore. Prewar neglect of fortifications, especially on the landward side and despite representations from officers on the

spot, made the island excessively vulnerable. It was the British who, to paraphrase Churchill, built the battleship 'without a bottom'. Small wonder, then, that the 'battleship' was lost.

British prewar counter- intelligence against the Japanese, like that of the Americans at Pearl Harbor, was ineffective; Japan had significant intelligence advantages in the Malayan and Singapore battles.

The British commander Percival aggravated the prewar neglect (which, to his credit, he had tried to remedy at the time) by adopting in wartime the view that fixed defences 'were bad for morale' and hindering the construction of defences until far too late.

Demolition of the causeway connecting Singapore to the mainland was not properly carried out by British units despite ample time for preparation.

Japanese air superiority, in part created by the withdrawal of Allied aircraft (something criticised by Liddell- Hart), greatly increased the difficulty of effective defence.

Though at least some of Singapore's famous naval guns could (contrary to popular belief) fire to the north and not just out to sea, there was a serious shortage of ammunition designed for use against land targets.

Percival incorrectly assessed the point at which the Japanese would attack Singapore and disregarded Wavell's suggestion that the British 18th Division should be placed in the vulnerable northwest sector. But Percival placed the weakened 8th Australian Division in this sector because he incorrectly assessed the point of greatest risk as being elsewhere.

The 8th Division's effectiveness was further undermined by the poor quality of its reinforcements, many of whom were incompletely trained. At this time, most of Australia's fully- trained troops were in the Middle East or North Africa fighting with the British against the Nazis.

A significant number of Australian troops, many of them poorly trained reinforcements, apparently broke and ran under heavy Japanese attack. This is not uncharacteristic conduct, even for better- trained troops, when trapped in a completely hopeless position. Nor were Australian troops the sole deserters at Singapore.

The charge that requested Australian patrols were not sent across the Straits is conclusively refuted by the Australian Official History.

British writer Anthony Bevins makes a pertinent point. In the UK newspaper The Independent, he suggests that: '...British efforts to scapegoat Australian forces and the Governor of the Straits Settlement for [the Singapore disaster] could well have been motivated by a wish to deflect attention from Whitehall's far greater dereliction of duty'. 36

Interestingly, other recently released British wartime documents level similar charges against Canadian troops during the fighting for Hong Kong in December 1941. The Canadians are alleged to have been drunk and to have lost their nerve. Significantly, these Canadians were also raw and incompletely trained recruits. 37 These allegations were also made in a classified paper written by a British officer (in this case General Christopher Maltby, commander of the Hong Kong garrison) months - a year, in Maltby's case - after the event.

The fundamental conclusion which can be drawn about the loss of Singapore is that it was lost as a result of fundamental strategic blun ders. To dispute endlessly about the immediate tactical responsibility for the successful Japanese landing on 8/9 February is to neglect the basic truth: Singapore, lacking adequate landward defences, was lost when Malaya was lost. Australian troops did as well in Malaya as any, as evidenced by the successful ambush of 26/7 January.

If it is truly necessary to assign responsibility for the disaster of the Malaya/Singapore campaign, then that responsibility must lie with the British Government, its military establishment in London, and its field commanders. At different times, all of these made errors which proved cumulatively fatal. Singapore was a strategic, not a tactical, defeat. Allied troops on the ground, of whatever nationality, could do little to save the base given the impossible situation into which they were thrust by inadequate British political and military leadership.
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Postby Two Litre on 19 May 2005 17:42

Much appreciated Peter. Thanks for taking the time. I'll have to read all that.
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Postby The Argus on 19 May 2005 17:47

I note someone mentioned a lack of 'spirited defense,' that rather depends on exactly what level y9ou're looking at. Many CW units both defended and counter attacked as hard as any soldiers ever have.

The biggest problem on the land war side for CW all down the Maoayan peninsulia was tactical, in that they simply didn't apreciate the nature of jungle warfare. The Jungle battlefield was seen as the road and a few hundred yards to each side. So they attempted to fight a 'roadblock' type war, which ment in effect you'd get a battalion or a couple of companies dug in across a road. The Japanese would hit the road block and BE STOPPED, for all the ink spilt over poor quality and lack of training, the troops in malaya were well up to manning a dug in position and holding it like hell, we're talking WWI levels of technique here. Then the Japanese would simply send a coloum to swing out wide and outflank the bloking position, so leaveing the CW out and forceing them to retreat.

What ever sized unit was holding the position, it was never enough to extend out far enough beyond the road.

The problem was that Malaya Command thought jungles imposed new rules on war, simple ones, without the complexity of haveing to worry about flanks because they were anchored in 'impenitrable' jungle. When infact all jungle did was make the game harder, but the essential rules still remained.

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Postby Gustav_SC on 31 May 2005 06:45

This is a very interesting topic to me, since I've lived and worked in Singapore for several years now. I agree with many of the posts above. Main reasons were:

-British preoccupation with European and North African theaters led to lack of effective strength in Malaya, particularly in air power. Numbers of men alone do not equal strength.
-This lack of control of the air limited Commonwealth troop movements, supply, recon, etc.
-Underestimating the skill and fighting capability of the enemy (ie the rapid Japanese jungle flanking movements through difficult terrain)

Some other points/notes/trivia.

-When it was obvious that the retreat down the Malay Peninsula wasn't going to stop until it reached Singapore, fortifications and fixed defences were not built on the northern part of the island. The reason was that it would negatively affect civilian morale. Some general or other responded that having the Japanese capture Singapore would have a much worse effect on civilian morale! Thus, the Straits of Johore, a mile-wide water obstacle, was not utilized effectively to defend Singapore.

-There is NO SOURCE of fresh water on the island of Singapore. Even if Singapore itself was an impregnable fortress, water supplies for the military and civilian personnel would have lasted about two weeks. Even today, 2005, most water is bought from Malaysia and comes via a pipeline. So, once the Commonwealth forces retreated to Singapore, it was just a matter of time until they were forced to surrender due to lack of water.

-An RAF officer, born in New Zealand of Irish parentage, was caught spying for the Japanese. He was executed by pistol shot to the head and his body thrown into Singapore's harbor one day before the surrender of Singapore. This is covered in a book called "Odd Man Out", very interesting.

-There were many heavy guns incorporated into the defense of Singapore. True, they were oriented towards the sea/south, but most were on 360 degree mounts. Many were used in support of the land battles, though (as mentioned above somewhere) a shortage of HE ammo was the problem. For instance, the Labrador Battery's guns (6 inch, I believe) had an ammo compliment of 40 or 50 rounds HE and several hundred rounds of AP each. In some cases, the fixed works around the guns had to be destroyed in order for the guns to rotate to the rear. On one battery, the officer in charge refused to do this without permission since he didn't want to destroy government property. Those particular guns were not used in the land fight.

-I saw a copy of the Straits Times (the Singapore Newspaper) dated late January or early February 1942. Headlines were all about the bad war news. Near the bottom, a big advertisement for the usual Saturday night dinner / dance at the Raffles Hotel - two or three weeks before the fall of Singapore! At least they could still throw a party...
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Postby Brian Ross on 31 May 2005 07:04

The Argus wrote:The problem was that Malaya Command thought jungles imposed new rules on war, simple ones, without the complexity of haveing to worry about flanks because they were anchored in 'impenitrable' jungle. When infact all jungle did was make the game harder, but the essential rules still remained.

shane


Actually, the really ironic thing is, even in 1941, the Malayan landscape had been along the coastal plains, pretty well radically altered by European development. In large areas there was no longer "impenetrable jungle" - it had been largely cut down to make way for rubber plantation development.

Perhaps the real reason why the British were defeated in Malaya was because of this sort of contradiction between reality and belief at the highest levels of their high command. They believed Malaya was best defended by airforces but failed to provide sufficient aircraft to do it. They believed the Indian units they had, were as good as the pre-war Indian Army, without realising that army no long existed because of the massive expansion that they, themselves had imposed on it. Wavel in particular had a hard time grasping that last point and could not understand why his believed Indian units broke and ran so often in Malaya. The problem was, they were poorly trained and equipped, being little more than peasants in uniform.
Last edited by Brian Ross on 01 Jun 2005 09:45, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Peter H on 31 May 2005 14:53

A good article on The British army and the Malayan Campaign:

http://www.mindef.gov.sg/safti/pointer/ ... 29_1/3.htm

Of interest too:

Based on unit-to-unit comparison, the Japanese battalion commander had more firepower assets at his disposal compared to his British counterpart. The Japanese battalion could use its machine-gun company to pin down the British defenders, send infantry down the flanks and envelope the British position. Japanese infantry sections were equipped with 50 mm mortars to provide additional firepower. These section mortars outnumbered and outranged the single British 2-inch platoon mortar. The two Japanese 70 mm battalion guns also outranged the British 3-inch mortars and were more versatile since the guns were capable of either an indirect fire or direct fire role. The Japanese regiment commander could also rely on his four organic regimental guns to provide additional fire-support in both offence and defence.
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Postby Michael Tapner on 02 Jun 2005 13:11

Constant mention has been made of the Japanese bypassing Allied strongpoints by using Jungle pathways. It should also be pointed out that the Japanese made extensive use of captured Allied shipping to leapfrog down the south western coast of Malaya - landing company to battalion sized units in a series of leaps down the coast.

The Japanese advance in this sense was quite spectacular - roughly 500 miles in just over 6 weeks.
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Postby Peter H on 02 Jun 2005 14:10

Some casualty figures from Alan Warren's Singapore:

Japanese

5th Division

Malayan mainland--695 killed,1292 wounded
Singapore island--541 killed,1166 wounded

Total=1236 killed,2458 wounded

18th Division

Malayan mainland--400 killed,600 wounded(est)
Singapore island--938 killed,1708 wounded

Total=1338 killed,2308 wounded

Guards Division

Malayan mainland--300 killed,600 wounded(est)
Singapore island--211 killed,468 wounded

Total=511 killed,1068 wounded

Other 25th Army Units

Malayan mainland--30 killed,70 wounded(est)
Singapore island--23 killed,36 wounded

Total=53 killed,106 wounded

Australian

Malayan mainland--462 killed,died of wounds
Singapore island--883 killed,died of wounds

Total Australian casualties=1789 killed,died of wounds,missing,1306 wounded.

...the low ratio of killed to wounded reflects the fierce nature of fighting at close quarters in broken terrain,and the poor chances of survival of seriously wounded men left behind to fall into Japanese hands--the ratios of killed to wounded typical on European battlefields had no relevance to Malaya...[total British/Indian/Commonwealth losses]...7500 killed,10,000 wounded in this author's estimate.



I think Warren's figures also demonstrate that the Singapore battle,in its casualties,was more fierce than is generally accepted.
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Peter H
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Postby Peter H on 02 Jun 2005 14:22

Some observations from December 1941..from Chief of Staff:The Diaries of Lt-General Sir Henry Pownall,Brian Bond 1974.

Pownall flew into Singapore in late December 1941.

30th December
It's strange country to fight in....the mangrove swamps along the coast can be taken as pretty well impossible.Apart from that none of the country need stop good,lightly equipped infantry.The jungle covered hills could only be traversed by very small parties and with great difficulty.But the jungle of the foothills and plains is no impediment at all to light footed infantry,the rubber is ideal country for infiltration and outflanking tactics.The paddy is mighty wet and sticky in mud but much of it gives good cover.
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