EwenS wrote:Well first you have to change the entire British policy sooner to prioritise the IO over the Med in 1941.
I've explicitly bitten that bullet all the way to losing Malta.
Caveat: only after Barbarossa. Britain/Allies should have fundamentally reevaluated global strategy after June 22. That's when it's clear that Germany can't get far via Egypt - they simply lack the resources for exploitation to Abadan while fighting Russia. Holding Nile/Suez is at that point no longer of decisive strategic consequence because even if Rommel takes Alexandria or (farther-fetched) Suez, what next? Axis can only drive on critical strategic points (Abadan) if they can focus on the Med, which they can't until/unless months after SU collapses. If they send a few more divisions to North Africa then they lose them as in OTL when Allies do Gymnast/Torch (already urged/accepted in 1941 between FDR and Churchill as a good first move in Europe).
The Empire didn't expect SU to survive but here's the thing: if SU falls Britain isn't winning the war regardless of what they do. Best they can hope for is a peace that preserves some part of the British Empire, the Eastern part of which Japan is about to demolish. OTOH, if SU might survive then helping it is paramount (the only means to victory), which means containing the Eastern damage (therefore containing long term coalition commitment) so you can help the SU survive (which the Allies barely did when it really counted in '41-'42).
Am I assuming it's a Transatlantic coalition and not The Empire vs. Germany, Italy, and Japan? Yes, Britain is screwed unless it's a coalition; there's not the faintest hope absent US belligerency. So it's IMO pointless to consider contingency planning absent US participation in war against Japan (and that reflects the actual planning output by '41, IMJ).
EwenS wrote:which timescale I'm really not clear about as it seems to move about between late 1941 (just how late?) and about April 1942
Avoiding hindsight that the shooting starts on Dec. 7/8, 1941 means that Britain/US (the latter being the more important target of criticism here, btw) are prepared to contest Southeast Asia by Fall '41, with contingency plans to surge fleet assets including CV's. That means variable numbers of available ships at different times. But certainly more than the 3 (4?) CV's between Suez and Panama on Dec. 7. 5-6 from US alone, which is (again) the main target of criticism here.
EwenS wrote:Then you need to take into account the RN's ability to switch assets relatively quickly from one theatre to another in the event of a crisis (UK to Ceylon takes about a month).
I gave them 2 months...
Timeline for a switch between Eastern Med and Ceylon - mooted extensively for emergency Malta forces diverted from Somerville in Spring '42 - is probably ~10 days with proper contingency planning/prep.
EwenS wrote:See Boyd p340 onwards in the section "The Admiralty's strategic response to the loss of Force Z" and the related notes from p483.
One bone I'd pick with Boyd is that, while he amply justifies the decision to hold a forward position in Egypt/Libya between France and Barbarossa, he doesn't adequately address whether, in the second half of 1941, that strategic calculus still held despite increasing Japanese bellicosity and the fact of the Eastern Front.
Another bone I'd pick is he doesn't at all address one my central args here: That the foreseeable consequence of disaster in Southeast Asia was effectively "Germany Second" in 1942 for the U.S., which opened the very real possibility of German victory in WW2 (taking seriously the Allies' belief that SU's endurance was not a given). Boyd acknowledges the possibility of Soviet defeat via his emphasis on Indian Ocean control and the Persia Corridor. He's too smart to accept the AHF line that the SU could never have been defeated; given that live possibility I wish he talked about the Asia-Ostfront interplay more than he does.
EwenS wrote:Boyd notes that even before the loss of Force Z Pound (FSL) was in discussions (10 Dec) with Cunningham (CinC Med Fleet) about redeploying capital ships and carriers from the Mediterranean to reinforce the Indian Ocean. That discussion turned into a decision within the following week. That would have seen QE, Valiant, Warspite, Illustrious and Formidable all reallocated from the Med (see the proposed Aug 1941 allocation above) and being sent to the IO.
Unfortunately the Italians then intervened to damage QE and Valiant at Alexandria on the 19 Dec. Valiant was repaired at Alexandria and then Durban and returned to service in July 1942 as part of the Eastern Fleet. QE was much more heavly damaged and was out of action for 20 months.
Far, far too late. Not necessarily Pound's fault; the tough choices about Med-Japan had to be made higher up the chain.
Re damage to QE and Valiant (and sinking of Barham, Ark Royal in Fall '41), this is all a foreseeable consequence of committing critical strategic resources to the strategically non-critical goal of holding a big sandbox in Libya that was only the forefield of core strategic interests. You lost some of the assets that you chose stupidly to risk? Of course you did.
Indeed the suddenness and alacrity with which RN stripped (or planned to strip) its Mediterranean and Atlantic assets in early '42 and sent them to the Indian Ocean is the best proof of my thesis: Why not do this earlier? (there are answers of course but I think they're bad answers)
EwenS wrote:Indomitable was reallocated from Force H to the IO as planned
Boyd demonstrates decisively that the "plan" for Indomitable in the IO was a post-hoc rationalization by the Admiralty, who never planned such a thing except on emergency basis. I can go back and grab the cites but I'm guessing you'd concede this minor point that was perhaps forgotten from reading Boyd a while ago.
EwenS wrote:You say "On that timeline, the scheduled refits still allow for Allied naval superiority before Japan conquers all Southeast Asia and begins to threaten Indian Ocean communications and Australia.". You do realise the length of time it would take to get those ships back from the IO to begin their refits as planned? So Eagle and Furious would have to be leaving the IO around the beginning of Sept. Ark would have to be heading for the USA around the end of Nov. So again I ask exactly when do you want this massive fleet to be in the IO?
I'll have to ask your indulgence because this is a thread that started by pointing out strategic incoherence (I'm absolutely convinced of that) then segued into a "What If" that I have explicitly framed as a "weak hypothesis." For most online personality types, the psychological rewards from debunking greatly exceed those from thinking, so that's all most want to do.
As is clear in the OP, I blame the US most here for over-committing USN to the Atlantic and failing either to (1) reinforce the Barrier directly [ideal strategy about whose practicality from a mid-'41 PoD I'm not certain] or (2) do something in the Pacific to prevent a disaster befalling their allies.
The UK can have as few as 2 carriers operating along the Barrier if the USN has 5-6 CV's provoking IJN's main body into a battle in the Pacific. See Boyd's discussion of Somerville nearly getting a Midway-style victory.
And remember, we haven't even talked about ground/air reinforcement of Malaya, which is possible absent the Cyrenaica obsession. That's the real nub. If The Empire can hold Malaya for 3-4 months, the exact timing of refits etc. doesn't really matter because there's time for relief.
The refit timelines could have been adjusted once Barbarossa happens. Britain now knows it's not being invaded any time soon, it knows that Axis cannot achieve decisive strategic success in North Africa either (taking some sand from 8th Army not qualifying as decisive strategic success). RN can therefore start allocating units for surely-foreseen maintenance as soon as the existential danger disappears (for at least a while) on June 22, 1941.
EwenS wrote:As for bases and logistics, the only viable option for a fleet base apart from Singapore is Trincomalee.
As I've advocated throughout this thread, IIRC.
Fleet base and "advanced operating bases" are different, however. A fleet based in Trincomalee can sortie into the critical theater and retire to and/or top-up at other places like Surabaya, Balikpapan, Singapore, and Darwin - just as Somerville retreated to Port T during the Indian Ocean Raid despite basing at Trincomalee.
I have to reiterate that I don't have a set "What If" here in the sense of the detailed narratives I've presented elsewhere. As the OP states and as I'm ready to defend, I judge Allied strategy as incoherent. As I'm also ready to defend, it seems dumb to take for granted that the Allies could not have stopped Japan in Southeast Asia during 1942. Many other factors come into play, including Bomber Command, the US's irrational (and cognitively-motivated) B-17 cultism, and maybe even an argument that FDR didn't really want to deter Japan.