Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Discussions on WW2 in the Pacific and the Sino-Japanese War.
daveshoup2MD
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 21 Jun 2020 07:33

Attrition wrote:
16 Jun 2020 14:33
That's imperialism for you; by not defending Malaya and Singapore, the British Empire would have had a hard time claiming them back after the war.
Didn't stop the French in Indochina, however.

And going down fighting in 1942 didn't do much for the Dutch in what became Indonesia in 1945 and afterwards...

aghart
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by aghart » 21 Jun 2020 12:42

Fatboy Coxy wrote:
27 Apr 2020 16:06
aghart wrote:
25 Apr 2020 10:23
In my opinion the one factor that did the most to doom Malaya was the abandonment of the Dobbie defence line. I understand the change in concept to a "whole of Malaya" forward defence rather than a "hold Johore" defence. However, A fully prepared last line of defence (in case plan A fails) where the reteating forces could make a determined stand and keep the Naval base out of artillery range seems (with hindsight) a basic requirement, especially when the defenders were in insufficient numbers to have any real chance of holding all of Malaya. This especially as the line had been started and funds in place to continue it.
If it had existed, the Dobbie or Kota Tinggi line could have been a disaster when Percival was at the stage of withdrawing to the Island. The troops used to defend it would have been well spread out along the line, and the defensive line was just some pill boxes that would have been augmented with earthworks, lacked depth. Once the Japanese pieced the line it would have been a race back to the causeway, with many more cut off. A failing of the Japanese in this campaign was they didn't stop the retreat onto the island, this line would have given them that chance.

The other thing about the Kota Tinggi line is it lacked strategic depth, the captured airfields at Kluang and Kahang were only 60-70 miles away from Singapore City, giving the RAF no time to respond to any air attacks. At best, the line might have given the British another two weeks respite.
Good points, A completed Kota Tinggi line would I hope have been accompanied by a previously planned fighting withdrawal with choke points etc prepared in advance, and no Matador. The outcome I envisage would be a slower Japanese advance, a delay at Kota Tinggi, allowing 18th Div. 7th Armoured Bde, 6th& 7th Australian Div's to arrive. As I have indicated a completed Kota Tinggi line alone would lead to the possible outcome you have mentioned.

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Attrition
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Attrition » 22 Jun 2020 10:11

[quote=daveshoup2MD post_id=2275648 time=1592721200 user_id=85831]
[quote=Attrition post_id=2274763 time=1592314432 user_id=33401]
That's imperialism for you; by not defending Malaya and Singapore, the British Empire would have had a hard time claiming them back after the war.
[/quote]

Didn't stop the French in Indochina, however.

And going down fighting in 1942 didn't do much for the Dutch in what became Indonesia in 1945 and afterwards...
[/quote]

Yes, the French and Dutch tried a comeback and failed because of indigenous revolt. The British were rather better at picking the right time to scuttle and left quite a few time bombs behind.

Fatboy Coxy
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 16 Sep 2020 20:35

Surely a major factor in the European nations failing to regain their colonial empires after WW2 was the USA's attitude to empires. They had made it quite clear just before entering WW2, with the Atlantic Charter, declaring the right of a peoples self determination, that empires were, in their eyes, a thing of the past. An American attitude of supporting those empires would have made a big difference.

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Attrition
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Attrition » 22 Sep 2020 21:52

True but the US attitude to its new empire was rather more influential.... The US did provide a modicum of support for proxy regimes like its creations, South Vietnam, South Korea and Taiwan. Superseding the European slave empires seems a better explanation than a specious ideology of freedom.

ljadw
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by ljadw » 23 Sep 2020 10:56

daveshoup2MD wrote:
21 Jun 2020 07:33
Attrition wrote:
16 Jun 2020 14:33
That's imperialism for you; by not defending Malaya and Singapore, the British Empire would have had a hard time claiming them back after the war.
Didn't stop the French in Indochina, however.

And going down fighting in 1942 didn't do much for the Dutch in what became Indonesia in 1945 and afterwards...
Indonesia did not become Indonesia in 1945 but in 1949 .

EwenS
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by EwenS » 23 Sep 2020 12:01

The Indonesians took advantage of the Japanese surrender and on 17th August 1945 and declared independence. With British help in 1945/46 Dutch rule was reimposed. There was then a nasty guerilla war that lasted until Dec 1949, with significant loss of life. At that point the Dutch finally recognised Indonesian sovereignty in the face of a lot of diplomatic pressure from the international community including the UN.

The US attitude towards the various colonial powers only began to change from 1947 when they began to see communism as the greater threat. You can see it in a lot of the military equipment with which France and the Netherlands received after the end of WW2 (not legacy equip supplied under Lend lease). For example British aircraft in 1946/47 but then a flow of US types from about 1949, especially in relation to France.

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Attrition
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Attrition » 23 Sep 2020 19:18

Communism? Post-1945s imperialism's deus ex machina? A pretext methinks.

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Sheldrake
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Sheldrake » 23 Sep 2020 20:45

Here is my 2p.

The biggest issue is that Britain did not have the capability to take on the Germans in Europe, the Italians in the Mediterranean and Africa and the Japanese in the Far East at the same time. WW2 was a perfect storm and the defences of the far east were weakened. The best troops from Australia, New Zealand and India were in the Middle East. The soldiers and airmen in Malaya were second rate and under trained and under equipped.

Percival, much maligned after the fall fo Singapore, was an expert in the area. He carried out the study pre war about how to best defend Singapore and Malaya. One conclusions was that airpower mattered, which perhaps is why and RAF Officer Brookes Popham was in overall command at some point. The finger could and should be pointed at the RAF which spent 1941 carrying out nugatory or counter productive tasks. Bomber command tried to carry out a strategic bombing campaign without the means of finding or hitting targets. Fighter Command, basking in the success of the Battle of Britain carried out a counter productive campaign of leaning into France which repeated all the mistakes of the Luftwaffe. If half of the C 300-400 spitfire and hurricane fighters lost in raids over France in 1941 had been sent to Singapore with a copy of the Dowding C3I then the Japanese could never have achieved air superiority over Malaya, Force Z would have been famous as the bait for massacre of the Japanese bomber force Singapore might have been the Midway of the Japanese war.

The British Army woefully underestimated the capabilities of the Japanese. FSR 1935 dismissed fighting in jungle as a problem of dealing with un-civilised enemies (natives) and suggested that a European foe would suffer similar problems...

The mentality of the colonial government and the local Brits was complacent in the extreme. If they had known what the Japanese would do when they won they would probably all have fought harder. The Chinese population knew what was coming. Compare the siege of Sevastapol 1941-42 with the fall of Malaya and Singapore.

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Attrition
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Attrition » 23 Sep 2020 22:42

Perhaps it wasn't just the military establishment that was third rate.

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