Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

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

Post by Lightbob » 28 Apr 2011 18:19

Graham Says;
The British strategy never changed until after the December 41 landings. Sure, it was obvious (especially by 1941 due to the weak RAF) that the Army would carry almost the full burden of fighting - but this still did not change their strategy of defeating the invaders at sea.
Graham you should look on the net for this document published in the London Gazette in 1948 The report is written by Air Vice Marshal Maltby (who must be telling the truth after all he is senior to a Major) who was the Assistant Air Officer Commanding the RAF Jan ‘42 to Mar ‘42. In the Far east. This an official authorized document. It deals with the period from June 1941, but mentions preparations prior to this date

The most airfields were built in the north which could also indicate that they would have been used to attack Indo China and in Siam in support of the army. They could as you say attacked the Japanese fleet, but how effective?
The Man power to build the air fields. Apart from using civilian firms using civil labour the Allies had 7 companies of sappers and 5 Bns of Indian state troops detailed for airfield duties plus the were a lot of Lof C troops so I doubt if the fighting strength of the first line divisions and brigades would have been much weakened to build airfield. The problem of labour was eased when a New Zeeland Airfield construction company arrived to help.

Graham says
almost any book on the campaign tells you that the strategy, up until commencement of hostilities, was to defeat them at sea.
Graham its says Bisto on buses but they don’t sell it!

Graham goes on:
Most of the airfields in Malaya (built to support the 'defeat them at sea strategy') were not built until 1940/41 so that alone tells us that the strategy, even at that late stage (well after 1939), had not changed.
I cannot agree, unless the threat was overwhelmingly to the west coast, then your suggestion is sound. 16 airfields and landing grounds all situated along what was to be the main axis (west)of the IJA advance along the main north south highway, with only 4 on the other coast (east), most situated in the northern half of the Peninsular. An attack onto the east coast would have shorted the time over target for aircraft flying from the majority of airfields in the west. Strangely by accident or intent at the two areas were the allies met the IJA Jitra and Kota Baru have airfields reasonably close by. Your Apotheosis that they were built in the north to attack shipping, could just as easily be interpreted that the were built to support the army, more so that 4 squadrons stations were moved north to take part in any army operation like ‘matador’. The four objectives given the Air force were;

1. Reconnaissance
2. Attack the ships at sea
3. Attack enemy landing sites
4 Support the army on the ground

I suppose this order believes that the air force was not strong enough to stop them at sea, other wise orders 3 & 4 were not required. How on earth could the army support the air force in a sea battle.

Graham Said;
Apart from the two battalions of 12 Indian Brigade (which arrived in 1939), all of the Indian units in Malaya were newly raised. Besides, fighting tribal revolts in the NW Frontier was vastly different to the general warfare of WW2, and, at least according to Christopher Bayly in his Forgotten Armies book, those recruited in the NW frontier fought in north Africa, Italy and Burma.
Your remarks regarding the quality of the Indian troops is a little wide of the mark. The majority of the Indian battalions (and British for that matter) in the 9th and 11th Indian Divisions were the premier battalions of their respective regiments i.e.; the 1st , 2nd or 3rd battalions admittedly they had lost some of their Officers NCOs and Soldiers to the newly raised wartime battalions. The Frontier Force Rifles were all recruited from Pathans & Baluchs on NW Frontier, as were one company per battalion of the Punjab Regiment All these regiments had the battle honours ‘Afghanistan 1919- 20 and Waziristan‘. The only ‘war only. Battalions were the three State battalions, the Mysore Regiment, the Bahawalpur Regiment, the Hyderabad Regiment and the 6 battalions of 44 and 45 Brigade even these battalions had reservists, reenlisted Indian soldiers and regulars from their sister battalions of the same regiment

Your remarks regarding North west frontier the is also very wide of the mark. The operations in Waziristan 1936 -37 involved 61,100 Indian troops, co operating with tanks, heavy artillery and aircraft. I doubt if the AIF had training of such quality. In an earlier Waziristan Operation, despite deploying large numbers of men, modern aircraft, 3.7" pack howitzers, and Lewis light machine guns, by the end of the hostilities Waziristan Force had lost 366 dead, 1,683 wounded and a further 237 men missing. Very similar total to the AIF in Johor. No, war on the frontier was a serious affair. The Indian army fought in the Burmese revolt in 1931 and In the Iraq revolt of 1920.These type of Colonial war experience was the difference in 1914 between the British Old Contemptibles and the Germans and 70 years later between the British and the Argentineans in the Falklands.

See: Army in India & Frontier Warfare 1914-1939 by Tim Moreman who says;

In addition, about a third of our Army in India is presently stationed on the frontier and practically every unit takes a turn of duty there sooner or later .

http://www.khyber.org/publications/041- ... inda.shtml



Graham says;
I'm afraid that I would much rather believe a Major who was there than even the best of history bloggers (of whom I am sure you are one) making claims some seventy years after the event.

According to the school of military engineering, the party that blew the causeway was a combined Naval, Sappers and RAF bomb technicians under the command of a naval officer As the causeway was considered to be below the high water mark it was a Naval Responsibility. I think Wyatt’s account is just a grubby attempt to sell books The ‘great’ US historian Stephen Ambrose used the same ploy twice in his books about Normandy of course it was the cowardly British on both occasions.

Graham says regarding the JWS Singapore
No they had not. I think you might refer to the Special Ops school, a completely separate arrangement.
The British established no training centres in Malaya except for an officer school at Changi. This was despite urgent requests to the War Office in 1939 and in stark contrast to the elaborate training centres they established in the Middle East. To add to the paucity of training, Indian and AIF units were initially trained for desert warfare, believing they were destined for the Middle East. All arms training was nil due to the late arrival (late 1941) of British artillery in Malaya. Training was left to formation commanders who had an impossible task with their units widely dispersed and heavily occupied on labour tasks (defences, building works and the like). Making matters worse, training notes from the UK were written around the static warfare of 1914-18, not Malaya 1942. Yes, the UK training notes were eventually updated but those updates never made it through the (understaffed, inexperienced and generally incompetent) headquarters in Singapore.
Exceptions to the poor training were the AIF brigades and 12th Indian Bde. They were concentrated together (not dispersed) as formations and trained hard. 12 Brigade trained in jungle warfare near Mersing on the east coast. But no, there was no British jungle warfare school in Malaya, and the Australian training centre at Canungra was not established until late 1942. Read Woodburn Kirby, or numerous other accounts, for details of the training in Malaya. but you already knew much of this Lightbob, as you wrote in the Surprising fall of Singapore thread on this website on 11 Aug 2010 at 0130
Singapore were prepared for with 1918 in mind and not for the modern battles of the forties Malaya as with every colony had been stripped of their best men and equipment. The study of fighting in primary and secondary jungle had not been studied by either side nor the Americans


Yes - I agree, the Japanese were helped along the way, though that support would wane in time. But no, they did not gift them 18,000 bicycles. Masanobu Tsuji (in Singapore the Japanese Version) devotes a chapter (35) to bicycles, and he makes it quite clear that most came from Japan, but spares were readily available in Malaya (much like Toyota spares today).
I think if you check, Tsuji says that the bikes had come from (made in) Japan but were collected on their way south by the IJA. And what about the Malaya volunteers who collected the bikes when the IJA went into the attack and wheeled them forward, serviced them ready for the next IJA move forward

Graham says
The engineering feats of the Japanese army in Malaya are highly praised and acknowledged in almost every decent account of the campaign that's been written. No doubt they were helped, but I wouldn't over state it. It paled against the enormous help provided to the Japanese by retreating forces (British, Indian, Australian) in the way of stores and equipment (food, ammunition, vehicles, operating airfields, boats, radio transmitters etc).

The IJA plan was always to rely on abandoned British equipment based on the information provided by the Germans of their experience in France, Greece, Crete and the Desert. In fact the IJA would not have moved so fast down the Peninsular if they had to transport their own food and other equipment, Instead they depended on equipment etc salvaged from the British. However in Tsuji account he speaks of his engineers arriving with lorry loads of cut and treated timber almost at the time of the demolition, considering he would have to find this timber and load it. Indicates that he knew were the timber yards were and that there would be timber waiting

Graham says
]Yes, but what a ridiculous conclusion by intelligence circles who would have to ignore a very long list of reasons why their air force was destroyed to start putting Heenan at the top of their list. I'm afraid these 'intelligence circles' you refer to sound very much to me as though they are suffering from a long term chronic guilt about their own performance in Malaya and would happily point to Heenan and anyone else with a slightly bad odour as a scapegoat to hide their own most serious of failures.
I don’t rely on Elphic, the intelligence summary makes it quite plain that he had provided instant intelligence by means of a ground to air radio, has to the state of the respective airfields, units and aircraft. He was caught in the act of transmitting to Japanese aircraft. He also made statements before and after his court-martial boasting about the affect he had on the air force and how he would honoured by the IJA when they arrived. This caused his RMP escorts to carry out an impromptu execution. His escorts falling over one another to carry out the deed.

Graham Says
The same British soldiers that Wyatt criticises went on to defeat Rommel
No they didn't. They went on to be prisoners of war, many to be used as slave labour. Wyett, by the way, gives a very fair and balanced account of his experiences and in no way limits his criticisms (and praises) to the British. Circumstances in all of the other theatres you quote here were vastly different to those in Malaya. The Far East was Britain's lowest priority, and that was reflected in nearly every aspect of the campaign.
The men who were defeated in Malaya were the same genetically, recruited from the same areas, of the same type of men. Trained in the same system with the same ethics. As those defeated in other theatres. Prior in this war in Malaya, the British recovered from other debacles such as France 1940, Greece, Crete and at times in North Africa. After Singapore Churchill commented, referring to the British Army, ‘are they ever going to fight’ Men who escaped went on to fight with Chindits, Force 136, with Chinese Army in China, some even landed at Normandy. Remember that the majority of the British battalions were regular and the 18th Divisions Battalions were pre war territorial’s but they had over 50% regular reservists. No the problem with the Allied Infantry was simple the Indians were torn between loyalty to the Regiment and to Indian independence. The British did not think that the Empire was worth fighting for and only really prepared to fight to defend themselves and their homes. The Australians fought well in Johor but fell apart in Singapore The British and the Indians went on to redeem themselves in Burma. The Australians went in to a backwater and never achieved the Kudos given to the British and Indians in1945

Graham says
Gordon Bennett (GOC of the AIF in Malaya) wrote in his 1944 account Why Singapore Fell that in his opinion the single most important reason for failure was a rigid adherence to textbook tactical methods. He explains that those methods were outdated and, by inference, implies a total lack of local initiative. On fifth columnists Bennet says 'it appeared in spots (but) was very feeble ' and that 'the natives ... were more friendly to our side than the enemy'.
Of course Bennet is a contentious character and some disregard his word, but as a senior commander present his account should be given some weight. As an aside, I have read several accounts that claim Bennett blamed the Indians. Well, I have his book in front of me and that certainly is not the case. He describes unit leadership (generally) as poor.
Yes Bennett’s account has been very much discredited A recent document written on behalf of the FEPOW association based on official reports discredits him point by point
See;
http://www.britain-at-war.org.uk/WW2/Wa ... ndix_a.htm

I think you will find the report written By Air Vice Marshal Maltby is also included in the article, as is the report on the Malaya invasion written by a Staff Officer from GHQ Singapore under the signature of Gen Wavell. Yes the Chinese were friendly but the Malays were the back bone of the 5th Column

Graham says
I think you might refer to the Special Ops school, a completely separate arrangement.
The British established no training centres in Malaya except for an officer school at Changi.
Yes but both establishments took officer and NCOs who in turn act as instructors within the units. My CO at the JWS Malaya was an instructor there.

Graham says;
All arms training was nil
So are training areas for exercising troops above Battalion Level except Jungle training

Graham again;
Making matters worse, training notes from the UK were written around the static warfare of 1914-18, not Malaya 1942.
Not quite true the instructions you refer to was for a defensive battle and fighting in Defensive positions is not much different today to 1918. However the troops of 11 Indian had training instruction for advance to contact and attack to be use on matador or any other such operation. The best trained division in Malaya was the 18th British TA division however two of their brigades were late in arriving and never given time to acclimatize. The 2nd Cambridgeshire Regiment was the only battalion in Malaya who re captured a town from the Japanese, Batu Pahat. According to the official report the last troops still in coordinated units and still fighting at the end were A & S Highlanders and troops from 18th British Division

See;
http://www.britain-at-war.org.uk/WW2/Ca ... malaya.htm













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Lightbob
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Lightbob » 01 May 2011 12:53

Marcus says;
The situation in Europe was a lot better than a year before. The quality and quantity of UK air- and ground forces had increased, the Blitz was over, Barbarossa ensured the UK would be safe until the summer of 42 no matter how Barbarossa ended. The Med didn’t look good but I read the Far East used to have priority over the Med until Churchill changed that in 1940/41.
I think you forget that the battle of the Atlantic was at its height and a victory for the U Boats would have led to a possible defeat for Britain. 1941 and 42 time was a black period for the British E & C with a number of uncertainties, with no victories in sight and the Germans still sitting over the Channel 22 miles away. The Med was our main life line for Oil and many food stuffs and reinforcement from the Empire.

Marcus says;
Hardly! Fighter Command had 70+ squadrons and nothing useful to do with them, Malaya had 4.5, Burma 1 plus the AVG. The resources were there, just not in the right place. And it´s not like much would have been needed. The Japanese deployed ~7 division to take the entire Far East: PI, DEI, Malaya, Thailand, Burma. Their reserves amounted to one division. A similar picture in the air: 115 A6M, 68 Ki-43, ~200 Ki-27 were their entire fighter strength at the start of the campaign.
I doubt in 1941 the British would have risked sending their fighter squadrons to the far east when things were not so bright . The war in the desert was far from won. You have forgotten the British expeditionary force to Greece and the subsequent Crete operation. The Commonwealth sent 62,000 troops to Greece. The German’s initial invasion of Russia was an out standing success with the Axis divisions sweeping into the heart of Russia, capturing industrial, agricultural resources and perhaps millions of recruits . To every one at that time, including the British It would not be long before Hitler would return to England problem, stronger and better equipped. Its worth while remembering that after Pearl Harbour the Americans did not declare war on Germany. But, Hitler was so confident of success in Russia he declared war on America

Marcus says;
On the plus side they only defeated the Italians in Ethiopia. That freed three divisions right away and another two at the end of the year. One of the former could have compensated for the division lost to Iraq.
Oh yes the British routed the Italians in Eritrea, but the Italian main army was in Libya (14 Divisions) threatening Suez, with direct supply lines to Italy. One of the divisions you mention was an scratch division made up of African troops which later went on to become the 81st Division who served with distinction in Burma.

Once the fleet was withdrawn from Singapore it was no longer a military asset but remained a economic one. So we should perhaps not look at Malaya in isolation once the Japanese attacked. The most vulnerable Colony was Burma with its direct gateway to the jewel in the empire crown, India.

Marcus goes on
And what did the IJA need jungle guides for? IIRC there was very little actual jungle in Malaya, at least in the areas that saw fighting. Plantations were far more common
Where on earth did you get this information from? First we are told that the IJA and the Australians was good jungle fighters and the British were poor in the Jungle. Why did it matter if there was no jungle? Before WW2 there was 60% of Malaya was covered in rain forest, plus there were large areas of fresh water swamps and salt water Mangrove. In the 50s & 60s this had reduced to two thirds Jungle plus the Swamps and Mangros. From personal experience I can assure you there is Jungle along the main IJA axis of course there is many Rubber estates but all these are bordered by Jungle and of course there is also palm oil plantations which are worse to move through than jungle. If you look at Encyclopaedia Britannica it gives you the figures for today and the loss of rainforest since the war as 60% . During the Malay emergency the Government had the jungle cut back 100metres from the roads, it was such a threat for ambush

Regarding the 5th Column I suggest you read the following Google Book;

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=asf6 ... 41&f=false

Malay Nationalism Before Umno: The Memoirs of Mustapha Hussain
By Mustapha Hussain, Insun Sony Mustapha, Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Of course the author was ‘always’ a loyal Malaya and anti Japanese and of course the ‘misdemeanours’ of the Malays were over looked by the British after the war because of the Chinese Communist attempt to take over Malaya after the end of WW2, were the greater threat.

We have all mentioned Colonel Tiuji book about the Japanese side of the invasion, one must be cautious, the book was written in the period when the Japanese people were led to believe by their wartime generals that Japan was not the aggressor in the war and of course did not commit any atrocities. Therefore in his book does not mention the work of preparation by the IJA intelligence and reconnaissance services. He even produces evidence that the British invaded Thailand first. The 5th Column is not mentioned as such, but he does mention the Malays (not the Chinese mind you)rushing 'spontaneously' to help the IJA. Of course we have the INJ medical orderlies with tears in their eyes helping the British wounded, was this before or after they bayoneted them? He mentions Indian National Army as something that was an unprompted action after the surrender. When in reality Japanese intelligence had been in touch with disaffected Indians soldiers before the war and the first units were formed after the battle of Jitra. By the way Colonel Tiuji would have been tried as a war criminal if he had been caught for the murder of the Chinese in Singapore during the initial occupation.

Graham B
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Graham B » 03 May 2011 05:00

Lightbob,
Thanks for that reply. Given your obvious interest in this campaign, and your rather firmly held views, I strongly recommend that you broaden your reading on the subject.
The websites and book you quote are very selective and singular in outlook. Until you can quote several accounts with differing points of view, and by noted historians not by anonymous websites, then I'm afraid I can only disregard your view and encourage you to read more widely.
I don't wish to continue this 'you said', 'I said' conversation - it really is a waste of time when the best you can do is quote dubious websites.
I am very interested in your reference to 'the intelligence report' and would appreciate more detail (on the prime document so I can get a copy, not comment on it). I will order a copy of Moreman's book, though the title does indicate that it predates Malaya a bit.
Thanks for your input, and I wish you good reading.
Graham B

Graham B
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Graham B » 03 May 2011 12:27

I'm sorry Graeme Sydney, I didn't mean to offend Lightbob, nor you or anyone else for that matter.
I am here not to argue, but to learn.
If you feel I've missed something here, please let me know.

David Thompson
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by David Thompson » 03 May 2011 13:18

A post from Graeme Sydney, containing personal remarks about another poster, was removed by this moderator - DT.

Lightbob
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Lightbob » 03 May 2011 16:53

Graham said;
The websites and book you quote are very selective and singular in outlook. Until you can quote several accounts with differing points of view, and by noted historians not by anonymous websites, then I'm afraid I can only disregard your view and encourage you to read more widely.
I find this remark is little more than academic putdown It would seem that like a lot of so called Historians, you hide behind references when you cannot continue the argument. This attitude loses this forum more amateur historians and those who just want to take part but are put off by intellectual snobbery.

I find your attitude a little strange you mention, I should read more? Should I read Gordon Bennett’s account? Of course his account was written first, all the other main protagonists were either dead or in a POW camp. Perhaps I should read all the famous authors like Wyett. But looking through yours and other comments there have been other unreferenced remarks that did not attract a similar request.
How do you reference information you have picked up sifting through Museums in Singapore and Kaula Lumpur, like wise personal experiences of men who served in the invasion. Do you wish me to look back over 50 years of reading much of it done whilst on operations. A sum of hundreds of books which have been lost, destroyed, borrowed, and given away over many moves around the world, the MOD was never generous with the baggage allowance. Many of my statements are from web sites I agree, but are they necessarily less truthful than so called historians, especially when they carry references in their own right. I put this reference into the discussion on the 4th April 2011. Regarding the intelligence battle in Malaya

British Intelligence and the Japanese Challenge in Asia, 1914-1941, by Antony Best.

Antony Best is Lecturer in International History at the London School of Economics. He is also the author of Britain, Japan and Pearl Harbour: Avoiding War in East Asia, 1936-41.

I'm sorry that you consider the FEPOW association as a dubious website considering that it had more experience in the Malaya invasion than any organization in the world and is, although now thin on the ground, one o the most respected.

Regarding the Indian Army the references you give are way out, all you have to do is look at the history of the regiments concerned to get a proper view. But any one who knows any thing about the British or Indian could easily tell the status of a particular Regiments battalion, by looking at the number of its battalions the first second and third (sometimes 4th and 5th) were regular battalions. Finally do not believe everything you read use a little common sense.

Graham B
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Graham B » 04 May 2011 02:52

Again Lightbob, all I can say is that I am sorry to have offended you.
Please don't mistake my comments for intellectual snobbery, although perhaps I should consider that a compliment (but it's far from the truth - like you, I'm an ex serviceman, of 38 years).
The point is that you have continually picked my blogs, and others, and attacked them piece by piece. Your aggressive approach has naturally attracted an aggressive response. Your sources, when you have given them, have been vague (usually a website).
You have your view and me mine. What's the point in continuing?
But then Lightbob - you do have quite a colourful past on this website (read the Normandy Landing thread) so maybe I'm being too nice.

I do occasionally visit the FEPOW association website and was in Norwich November 2010 and attended their Remembrance Day service. I thought they were mostly Norfolk/Suffolk Regiments who arrived in Singapore in late January, but obviously (as you say) that is not the case. I was not aware that they ran the Brits at War website, which I find (like Australians at War website) runs to an agenda and is often quite biased.
The article you quoted on Bennett, by the way, is not about his book (it's about a report he apparently wrote, which differs a lot to his book - I can link you to his report if you're interested). I find your calling Wyett 'grubby' quite offensive and hypocritical. Wyett is one of those you refer to who carry references in their own right. His book is not spectacular (nor is Bennetts), didn't sell well or anything like that, but they were both there, in senior positions and thus (as I said earlier) deserve some credit. If you were consistent in your words and action, you would be quoting them (not knocking them). On the NZ ACS you mentioned earlier - they built airfields in Johore, not the north, and it must've been tough for them to see them destroyed. But you should also look at aircraft types, not just airfields, to see what the strategy was through the 1930s (there were torpedo bombers and flying boats, not army cooperation types).
When you do reply, picking this post apart piece by piece, at least you'll understand why I don't come back.

Lightbob
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Lightbob » 18 May 2011 17:48

Graham sorry I have taken so long to reply I have been away on Holiday.

Graham says;
The point is that you have continually picked my blogs, and others, and attacked them piece by piece. Your aggressive approach has naturally attracted an aggressive response. Your sources, when you have given them, have been vague.
I have produced a number of books that you chose to ignore, on the other hand you have used book references that are complete nonsense, proved by personal experience. I think you will find that modern Authors of Historical books rely very heavily on the internet, suggesting that they leave the reader with the same option of judging any information given by the same rules as to any information gained from more customary sources. I have just read ‘Afgansty’ by Sir Rodric Braithwaite, he uses internet sites from Britain, USA, Russia and Pakistan among others and in the bibliography does not apologise for using over a 100, pointing out that they all carry references and goes on to explain that many books and documents especially in Russia are now only published on line.

Graham goes on:
But then Lightbob - you do have quite a colourful past on this website (read the Normandy Landing thread) so maybe I'm being too nice.
Ah, I see you are referring to my spat with Rich. I suggest you read the thread before you express any opinion. During my written meetings with him, I was subject to disrespect, abuse and finally insults from a someone who was not the master of his subject. For instance he could quote the establishment of men and materials of a division and could not understand that this could differ from its actual strength on the ground. A number of other members wrote and complained about his attitude.

Graham continues:
I thought they were mostly Norfolk/Suffolk Regiments who arrived in Singapore in late January, but obviously (as you say) that is not the case.
You are in essence correct 53rd Brigade were the first to land in Singapore in January. It consisted of two battalions of the Norfolk regiment and the 2nd battalion of the Cambridgeshire Regiment, another TA unit but because Cambridgeshire did not have an affiliated regular regiment, the Cambridge Regiment was affiliated to the Suffolk Regiment. Two small points of interest, the Cams Regt. Won 4 battle honours in the Malaya campaign and the
Suffolk’s hold the record for the number of Communist Terrorists killed in the Malay emergency

Graham;
]I was not aware that they ran the Brits at War website, which I find (like Australians at War website) runs to an agenda and is often quite biased.
The FEPOWA does not run the Britain at War site, like all the main British WW2 associations they are just contributors. However in an reciprocal arrangement they are allowed to use articles etc from them. The Britain at War is a very well respected organisation. Its contributors among others are the BBC and the Imperial War museum.

Graham:
The article you quoted on Bennett, by the way, is not about his book (it's about a report he apparently wrote, which differs a lot to his book - I can link you to his report if you're interested). I find your calling Wyett 'grubby' quite offensive and hypocritical.


How can you accuse me of using discredited books etc when you use anything written by Bennet? You said your self he was discredited, more so anything he wrote would have to ensure that him and the AIF were shown in a good light. According to a note written by Lt Gen Heath, Commander of 3 Indian Corps, It was Bennet who first suggested to Percival that he surrender Singapore. Percival refused, but later both Heath and Bennet again suggested this course of action. The note I believe is among his papers in the Imperial war Museum. Wyett, why are my remarks offensive and hypocritical. Have you ever read an Australian book on any campaign of any war that as no disparaging remarks about Britain and its armed forces. Yes, they were both there, but perhaps like Bennet, Wyett as a few skeletons in the cupboard about the appalling conduct AIF in Singapore. But, I’ll give you something to reflect on, What if the British Sergeant (Naval responsibility - it would have been a Petty Officer) had been given orders to blow the causeway because there was A risk of the Japanese getting to it before the rear guard, has happened several times before in many wars, I bet your man Wyett would have blamed the Sergeant. By the way did Wyett ‘bug out’ with Bennet?

Graham:
On the NZ ACS you mentioned earlier - they built airfields in Johor, not the north.
Smart remark, but the NZACS would have relieved some one to move to the North, so they were helping the overall effort.

Graham:
But you should also look at aircraft types, not just airfields, to see what the strategy was through the 1930s (there were torpedo bombers and flying boats, not army cooperation types).
Don’t you think you have made my argument, all along you have insisted that the policy was to defeat the invaders at sea and that the army was to cooperate with the air force, indeed, I questioned how the army could co operate at sea.

As regard to unpicking your comments I thought that was one of reason for the forums existence

Best wishes





a

Fatboy Coxy
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 23 May 2011 17:48

Hi all

A question I still can't answer is how close (or far) was Britain to fielding a force that could/should have held Malaya
Attrition wrote:I don't think that the failure in the western desert after Compass was all that significant these days. The adventure in Greece may have ben hare-brained but Europe was where the war was going to be decided. Sorting out east Africa was strategically important since control of the coasts allowed Roosevelt to change the region's status from that of a war zone. Iran and Iraq perhaps seemed more vulnerable then to invasion from the north if the USSR folded so it seems to me that giving Malaya and Burma the scrag-end was the lesser evil. How much more than was already there to oppose Japan would have been necessary to hold Malaya?
Markus Becker wrote:
How much more than was already there to oppose Japan would have been necessary to hold Malaya?
How about one Australian machine gun battalion, one Indian infantry regiment, one light and one heavy AA-regiment, one territorial infantry division and ~100 Hurricanes? Fully trained and on the scene no later than three months before the outbreak of the hostilities. IOTL the units mentioned above were send to Malaya but after the war broke out.
Even two years into the war Britain still didn't have any spare resources, it was always a matter of priority. And I think the joint chiefs of staff got it about right with what they had. However if Churchill had told them to plan to face Japan alone, and not rely totally on the US entry into the war, they could have done more. It would have been hard decisions but further reinforcements could have been as follows

Reducing the Hong Kong Garrision to a token effort, taking the 3 battalion infantry brigade, the machine gun battalion, the four mobile artillery batterys, the 8 boat MTB flotilla, the destroyer HMS Thracian.

Reallocating the Australian 23rd Infantry Brigade, which had been allocated to defending Dutch island to the north of Australia, along with the 2/4 Australian machine gun battalion that Marcus mentions and the 2/14 Australian artillery regiment (battalion size)

Withdrawing the 2/15 Punjab infantry battalion from Sarwark

Drawing on a couple of the British infantry battalions in India eg 2nd Battalion Duke of Wellington

For bigger formations, it had to come from the middle east, and the obvious are one or more of the three Australian Infantry Divisions (6th, 7th and 9th). Again from the midle east a flotilla of submarines would have been very useful.

And finally we have the RAF, who supposedly were the main defenders. Well at the outbreak of war in 1939, the RAF built up a bomber force of four Blenheim sqns, only to later send two back home. These could have been retained, or replaced after the success of the BoB, even reinforced. Summer 1941 saw hundreds of Hurricans shipped to Russia, maybe the 100 plus that Marcus mentions could have come sooner. However the ship killer they wanted, the Beaufort, wasn't ready in sufficent numbers, and experienced a lot of teething problems, so I'm not sure if the two Vildebeest squdrons could have been replaced in time.

But this is all about numbers, what was really more important was quality. Quality need time, time to train, to exercise formations, to prepare. And a clear understanding of how Britain would fight this war, could they fire first, was Operation Matador going to be viable, was the invasion fleet to be attacked before and during landings, and who was going to co-ordinate this.

I do feel Japan hit hard in a wonderful (for them) window of opportunity, but at some stage, with the gradual build up and improvement in trained thast window would have closed. I wonder how close Britian was to closing that window.

Steve

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Attrition
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Attrition » 23 May 2011 21:10

I read Britain's War Machine: Weapons, Resources and Experts in the Second World War by David Edgerton recently, which offers a thesis that lack of equipment was a bit of a bogus excuse for the British, it was the way that they used it that was faulty. It's an intriguing idea that I haven't explored much. One point that he makes which seems indisputable though is that the defeats of 1941-early 1942 were much bigger and far more damaging than those of 1940.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Lightbob » 24 May 2011 15:58

Steve Says;
Even two years into the war Britain still didn't have any spare resources, it was always a matter of priority. And I think the joint chiefs of staff got it about right with what they had.
I must agree I think that stripping the other colonies of troops would have lost the British a lot colonial friends and would have created the wrong impression especially in the US who were against us going back to the same colonies after the war.

Steve goes on;
I do feel Japan hit hard in a wonderful (for them) window of opportunity, but at some stage, with the gradual build up and improvement in trained that window would have closed. I wonder how close Britain was to closing that window.
Steve the mistake was made when we allowed the US to encourage us to break our good relations with the Japanese in the twenties. If we look at the time scale from the invasion of Burma until the victory in 1945 almost 4 years. But, the 14th Army was armed with same range of weapons as they were in Malaya except that the 14th got what was obsolescent to the Armies in Europe. But, having said that, the British army was on the whole better armed and equipped that the Japanese in 1941 the difference was the will to use what they had.

Attrition, I must agree with Edgerton the problem as I have said before was simply that the British army did not want to fight. John Ellis in his book ‘The Sharp End’ mentions this lack of fighting spirit as a hang over from the depression of the 20s and 30s, only solved by the promise of the welfare state when the war was won. To persuade the troops a massive propaganda like policy of information was circulated around the units by thousands of young Education Sergeants many with left wing associations, Dennis Healy was one such. He later was decorated for his work on the beach at Anzio

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Peter H
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Peter H » 22 Jul 2011 08:01

I've cleaned this topic up.

Recent discussions on British "Fighting Spirit" can be found here:
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... &p=1592815

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Markus Becker
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Markus Becker » 18 Sep 2011 12:10

Hi,

I found some info on the alleged 5th colum in C. Smith´s "Singaopre Burning". The cut timber was placed near bridges by ... the local public works departments to ensure bridges damaged by air raids could be repaired quickly and wouldn´t delay the anticipated British offensive. The army wasn´t always informed and uniformed units saw this as evidence of a 5th column at work. Furthermore there seems to have been a very instense spy-phobia. Smith gives many examples of lethal overreactions to imagined 5th column activity. He even regards the execution of Captain Heenan as such a case. In his opinion the "evidence" against him wasn´t even circumstancial but more like hearsay. For example, the alleged transmitter that was found in one his his books could not have reached anyone who wasn´t in the close vicinity anyway. Even much larger transmitters had trouble with Malaya´s climate and geography. My guess it was a receiver aka. self made radio.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Zaf1 » 18 Sep 2011 15:33

In the Life magazine published in July 1941, 5 months before the Japanese attack, showed that the British in Singapore and Darwin and US navies in Manila (in white arrows) in the Far East would cut off the attacks if the Japanese (in black arrows) from French Indochina and Formosa attacking Asia to get the oil fields in Borneo and Dutch East Indies, the 'LAME DUCK LINE' near Sumatra is for any allied warship to shelter if damaged in sea battles. The US bombers in Guam would attack and destroy Tokyo in Japan. If this strategy had worked the British and US could have won easily very early on and the Japanese badly defeated and could not even invade anywhere, and WW2 in Asia would have a really different ending
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Zaf1 » 18 Sep 2011 15:38

It was often said that the British did not expect the Japanese attack Singapore from 'the back door' through Thailand, northern and east coast of Malaya at Kota Bharu but in the Life magazine published on 21 July 1941, around 5 month before the Japanese attack it already showed that it was most probable.

The Japanese 5 months later attacked almost this way, right down to the place with 'JAPANESE BOMBING BASE' caption in southern Thailand that the Japanese did established later at Singora and Pattani and on the west coast of Malaya.

Regards

Zaf
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