Any viable alternative for Malaya/Singapore

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Kurt_Steiner
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Post by Kurt_Steiner » 08 Jan 2005 17:49

Having more modern fighters and bombers, avoiding the loss of the PoW and the Repulse and some tanks -the light M3, or even the M3 Lee/Grant if possible- would have changed things a bit?

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fredleander
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Post by fredleander » 09 Jan 2005 19:20

Kurt_Steiner wrote:Having more modern fighters and bombers, avoiding the loss of the PoW and the Repulse and some tanks -the light M3, or even the M3 Lee/Grant if possible- would have changed things a bit?
I don't think this would have helped the Brits a bit. Without knowing too much of this campaign - with the terrain in question I believe air power was of little importance to the ground fighting.

The British tactics, or lack of them, seem to be much like what was seen in Norway, France and Greece. A general reluctance of will to sacrify. Which isn't too strange, as all these scenarios were "a long way from home". You seldom saw a British unit letting itself be bypassed, for fear of being cut off. Always trying to have his back on the sea where the ever-present RN could help him out. Maybe a simplistic opinion but in Norway local Norwegian commanders, more often than not, became disappointed by the British units' eagerness to cater for their own safety first. The difference with German units, in this respect, is stunning. A german unit on the Eastern Front, when over-run, knew that, if possible, the Army would try to come back to them. I have pondered on this somewhat and think maybe it has something to do with the British regimental system. While a German regiment or division was a whole, any Britsh combat team or brigade-sized units were composed of different batallions from different regiments/branches. The numbers of batallions were increased and decreased according to need and - maybe - your commitment was more to the regiment than the brigade/division or army.

As it turned out in Singapore, the city and Island became packed with all sorts of personell and units, most of which couldn't be designated as "fighting". A retreat, such as this, cannot be countered unless you have resources for intermediate offensives of your own. Much the same as a fortress line cannot be held if you do not have independent forces to use in-between. If your are being outflanked, and you fear to be cut off, you must yourself outflank the outflankerer. This is movement warfare, the capacity for which often go overboard first when you start retreating. Counting numbers and men is also often misleading as long as the attacker has the initiative - because he can concentrate at will.

Finally, it must be said that the Japanese infantry and, not the least, officers - were formidable opponents during these conditions. Maybe that is the simple conclusion - they were better - simply!

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Baltasar
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Post by Baltasar » 09 Jan 2005 23:55

Slightly offtopic, but the German forces developed the "Kampfgruppen" (Task Force) doctrin, where any and every available unit could be mixed with literally any other unit for special purposes. In this light, I don't know if the identification with individual divisions was any better than in the British Army.

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Post by Ostkatze » 10 Jan 2005 00:58

Shrek's point about the bicycles is well put, the Japanese continually outflanked the CW positions with them. It's funny how we focus on the Tigers and Me262's when the bicycle was so much used by the Wehrmacht as well. Also Lkefct ( please keep the snow, plenty here already ), good point on underestimating the Japanese. The racist assumptions of the white lords in the 3rd world served them badly. But overall I think that GB had no hope at all of doing much more than putting a small show on in Egypt. The insistance on maintaining a thread to the Anzacs was part bluff, part hanging on in typical myopic British fashion but largely as an emasculated display, for the benefit of US-USSR, that GB was still a world power to be remembered postwar. Churchill was lucky to survive the losses of Tobruk and Singapore. np.

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fredleander
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Post by fredleander » 10 Jan 2005 02:15

Ostkatze wrote:The insistance on maintaining a thread to the Anzacs was part bluff, part hanging on in typical myopic British fashion but largely as an emasculated display, for the benefit of US-USSR, that GB was still a world power to be remembered postwar.
Well, there still was India to consider.

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Post by Jon G. » 11 Jan 2005 04:23

leandros wrote:The British tactics, or lack of them, seem to be much like what was seen in Norway, France and Greece. A general reluctance of will to sacrify. Which isn't too strange, as all these scenarios were "a long way from home".
I beg to differ here. Save for a handful of civil wars, English/British armies have always fought far away from home ever since 1066. If you add that Commonwealth units from different continents fought in the Malaya campaign, just how far away from home a unit might be would be highly relative in any case and not likely reflected in a unit's combat value.
You seldom saw a British unit letting itself be bypassed, for fear of being cut off.
Yes, here I agree. I think that this single lesson was what Slim's greatest single accomplishment - Imphal of course being the best example. British air superiority did make being surrounded a more realistic proposal, irrespective of terrain.
Always trying to have his back on the sea where the ever-present RN could help him out(...)
Maybe this was true to a degree for British and Commonwealth units fighting in Europe, but not when they were fighting in British overseas territories. After the sinking of Force Z there was no Royal Navy presence near Malaya whatsoever.
Finally, it must be said that the Japanese infantry and, not the least, officers - were formidable opponents during these conditions. Maybe that is the simple conclusion - they were better - simply!
The Japanese Kwantung Army was soundly defeated by the Soviets in Mongolia in both 1938 and 1939. How does that reflect on the British/Commonwealth performance in the Malayan campaign? I think it comes down to something as simple as seeing jungle terrain as an opportunity rather than as an obstacle.

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Liang Jieming
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Post by Liang Jieming » 11 Jan 2005 11:09

Shrek wrote:
leandros wrote:Japanese Kwantung Army was soundly defeated by the Soviets in Mongolia in both 1938 and 1939. How does that reflect on the British/Commonwealth performance in the Malayan campaign? I think it comes down to something as simple as seeing jungle terrain as an opportunity rather than as an obstacle.
The Japanese army was a "light" army. They were defeated by the Soviets because they lacked the tactics or the heavy tanks needed in the 1938 & 1939 tank battles in northeast asia against the Soviets.

In Malaya, they were in their element because the terrain in Malaya is not tank terrain. Battles needed to be fought by mainly infantry of which, there were a few things in Japan's favour.

1. British consistently underestimated the Japanese soldier. ie. short-sighted, poorly trained, poor equipment etc. etc.
2. Japanese did have help from a significant percentage of the locals who gave intelligence and guides to the invasion army though many of those soon learned the truth about Japanese overlordship.
3. Japanese supply lines were shorter since Thailand (Siam) was already pretty much in Japanese hands having declared neutrality but firmly leaning towards Japan
4. The Japanese propaganda of the Asian Co-prosperity Sphere made believers out of many locals in Malaya
5. The main threat was always seen as coming from the South and hence the major guns in Singapore mainly facing southward
6. Japanese were and are still great proponents of Sunzi's Art of War and they showed it in their campaigns in SEA
7. The British believed the jungles of Malaya to be inpenetrable probably because British troops rarely ventured into the deep jungles. The Japanese had experiences fighting in Indo-China and used the bicycle to great effect, bypassing strong points and fixed defences.
8. British moral too a big hit when the Prince of Wales and Repulse were sunk ending the supposed belief in British superiority
9. British were distracted by the war in Europe.

Lots of reasons really, but these are just off the top of my head.

Jieming
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Kurt_Steiner
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Post by Kurt_Steiner » 11 Jan 2005 11:18

Welcome to the forum, Liam Jeming!

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Post by zstar » 11 Jan 2005 11:53

[img]The%20Japanese%20Kwantung%20Army%20was%20soundly%20defeated%20by%20the%20Soviets%20in%20Mongolia%20in%20both%201938%20and%201939.%20How%20does%20that%20reflect%20on%20the%20British/Commonwealth%20performance%20in%20the%20Malayan%20campaign?%20I%20think%20it%20comes%20down%20to%20something%20as%20simple%20as%20seeing%20jungle%20terrain%20as%20an%20opportunity%20rather%20than%20as%20an%20obstacle.[/img]

The Kwantung army was defeated by the Soviets because basically they were worn out from putting all there efforts into the China campaign and south east asian and pcific campaign.

In other words by the time the soviets defeated them the Kwantung was really a shadow of its former self and was worn out and overstretched and the army began recruiting consripts.

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Liang Jieming
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Post by Liang Jieming » 12 Jan 2005 08:04

Kurt_Steiner wrote:Welcome to the forum, Liam Jeming!
Hi Kurt and everyone else. Thanks!

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Post by Tony Williams » 12 Jan 2005 08:50

I think that both Singapore and Malaya could have been held indefinitely, but it would have taken a series of different decisions and command changes, some well in advance.

The British command in the area was weak and poor. The three services co-operated very little, particularly over intelligence. General Percival was actually a highly intelligent man and had a brilliant reputation as a staff officer, but when put to the test he 'froze' and lacked any kind of decisiveness or leadership ability. This can happen to anyone, you only find out the hard way.

The general British attitude was complacent and casual. They simply didn't take the Japanese threat seriously and didn't prepare for it. While Singapore was desperate for modern aircraft, the RAF kept dozens of squadrons of Spitfires sitting doing nothing in England, long after any threat of invasion had passed.

The preparations in Malaya and Singapore were poor. Defensive airfields were built in Malaya, but right by the coast where they were easily seized by Japanese attacks. No serious thought was given to how the area might be defended. Vehicles could in fact move within the rubber plantations which covered much of the flatter land, because the trees were spaced out in neat rows. And has been mentioned, the combat performance of British troops was often poor - this is usually put down to a reaction to WW1 when the generals were severely criticised for ignoring casualties; the Army afterwards became too casualty-conscious.

More intelligent and thoughtful advanced planning and preparations, coupled with knocking the service chiefs' heads together and putting somebody good in overall command, would have transformed the conflict. After all, Yamashita was just about at the end of his supplies and capability when Singapore surrendered.

Anyway, it's all very different in my novel 'The Foresight War' :D

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