Loss of Singapore - Whose fault was it?

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by buffnut453, May 10, 2012.

  1. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    This is a continuation of some comments made about the Singapore 1942 debacle (in a WAAAAAY off-topic fashion) in a Mosquito thread - don't ask me how we got there but it was interesting. Since the mods couldn't separate the threads, the next few posts will summarise (hopefully in an understandable fashion) the key discussion points to-date:

    • 04-25-2012 09:14 PM #54
    parsifal
    If Britain the CW decided to put a responsible effort into the theater in 1941/1942, King has no authority or reason to dictate anything
    The british and CW response was a calculated risk that went horribly wrong. With two major powers to fight largely alone in the ETO, and having suffered a series of costly defeats, Britiain had no choice but to cut force levels in the Far east to dangerously low levels.

    I think the high point of bad decisions, however was the decision to deploy the PoW and Repulse so far forward and so badly protected. By late '41, it was very clear that Captital ships should not and could not operate in a hostile air environment where the enemy was effective in the aeronaval role. ive read that the British appraised the Japanese as being somewhere below the italians in terms of proficiency. Thats a totally unforgivable assumption IMO.

    With regard to airpower, my opinion is that the British should have invested in the aircraft producing infrastructure of Australia 9and perhaps india) in the period 1936-41 instead of doing their very best to stymie its development. if they had done that, Australia might well have been producing Merlins in 1942, and Double Wasps from 1940, which would have given us the capability to build Beaforts, Woomeras and Boomerangs from before the outbreak of hostilities. money spent on fielding the Buffaloes, manning obsolete types in malaya, could instead have been poured into establish an aero industry in the far east (India and Australia) That way we would have gone to war with more modern types, and more aircraft overall.

    The other thing that stands out for me is that having accepted the risk of undermanning their forward defences, why did the British continue to make assurances they could not keep, and knew they could not keep throughout 1940-41. If they had been honest about the situation, the nations affected, like Australia, could have made more realistic preprations for war.

    • 04-25-2012 09:35 PM #55
    buffnut453
    But force levels were INCREASED in the Far East, not cut during 1941. Indeed one of the biggest challenges was the milking of experienced personnel from established Indian Army units in order to create new units (ie to increase force levels). This problem hit home really hard in Malaya where Indian Army units lacked the experience, training and cohesion to cope against the Japanese attacks.

    Now it can be argued that force levels in the Far East weren't built up as much as the should have been and that the theatre received the arse-end of supplies and, in some respects, personnel, but they certainly weren't reduced.

    • 04-25-2012 09:40 PM #56
    buffnut453
    In response to Parsifal’s comment “ive read that the British appraised the Japanese as being somewhere below the italians in terms of proficiency. Thats a totally unforgivable assumption IMO.”
    Not an assumption but based on observations of Japanese air activities in China. The common racist view was that the Japanese ought to have beaten the Chinese very easily but they didn't, hence the Japanese would have real difficulties when confronted with a first-class adversary. Unfortunately, Allied forces in the Far East (ie Malaya/Singapore, Burma, the Philippines) weren't first-class by any means. They were under-resourced, poorly trained and often poorly led.

    • 04-25-2012 09:43 PM #57
    buffnut453
    Because they didn't know. Senior leaders believed their own twisted logic and failed to grasp just how woefully ill-prepared forces in the Far East were. My previous post touches on this, too.

    • 04-25-2012 10:49 PM #58
    parsifal
    In response to Buffnut453’s comment, “But force levels were INCREASED in the Far East, not cut during 1941. Indeed one of the biggest challenges was the milking of experienced personnel from established Indian Army units in order to create new units (ie to increase force levels). This problem hit home really hard in Malaya where Indian Army units lacked the experience, training and cohesion to cope against the Japanese attacks.

    Now it can be argued that force levels in the Far East weren't built up as much as the should have been and that the theatre received the arse-end of supplies and, in some respects, personnel, but they certainly weren't reduced.”

    True, but the way military resourcing was managed it ended up that britsain got less out of its military expenditures than it should have. The Brits steadfastly resisted, and mismanaged, their imperial resources in this theatre in the years leading up to the war.

    In the case of Australia, we entered the war in 1939 with 12 air squadrons, all obsolete. Plans weree wel underway to expand the force to 40 squadrons (from memnory) or about 1500 a/c, using locally produced and US imported aircraft. All of that was stymied by the british leadership. We were asked to scrap our local training initiatives and contribute to the EATS scheme instead. We were promised aircraft and production capability that in the end, the british worked as hard as they could to deny. We diverted highly trained troops....the best in the world at that time....out of the TO on the promise that the malay barrier could be adequately defended, a promise repeated well after the british High command knew was impossible.

    • 04-25-2012 10:56 PM #59
    buffnut453
    I don't think British High Command knew the defence of the Malay barrier was impossible until it was too late. I do, however, subscribe to the view that they hoped it was possible. Unfortunately, the Japanese proved them wrong. I can't comment on your other assertions because I don't know enough about the situation in Oz at the time. The one point I will make is that no sensible person would countenance building up forces in an area where there was no fighting when other theatres were under attack. Perhaps the hindsight goggles are clouding our view of the difficult decisions that had to be made, without foreknowledge, at the time?

    • 04-25-2012 10:56 PM #60
    Freebird
    I guess they should have stood up to the Brits after all they were a sovereign nation

    • 04-25-2012 10:59 PM #61
    parsifal
    In response to Buffnut453’s comment “Because they didn't know. Senior leaders believed their own twisted logic and failed to grasp just how woefully ill-prepared forces in the Far East were. My previous post touches on this, too.”

    They didnt know because they chose not to find out. There were ample reports and information on Japanese capability available to the british high command that were simply ignored....not because they were not believed, but because it was an inconvenient truth that they could not bear to face.

    Saying the Japanese were only ever comfronted by inferior troops is clearly an apology for a poorly thought out battle plan. The Japanese resisted effectively against the very best troops in the world, and the very best airforces as well long after the flush of their initial offensives. True, the initial offensives were the periods that Japan was mostly on the attack, but it is misleading, and wrong to suggest they were only ever resisted by second rate troops, or that they only ever defeated second rate troops. What defeated the Japanese, was not the poor qulaity of their troops or aircraft. It was a combination of numbers and poor logistics mostly



    • 04-25-2012 11:11 PM #62
    parsifal
    In response to Buffnut453’s comment “Because they didn't know. Senior leaders believed their own twisted logic and failed to grasp just how woefully ill-prepared forces in the Far East were. My previous post touches on this, too.”
    It is a well documented fact that military appraisals handed to the british high command by the Australians (at least, ther were many many others that did the same) clearly showed the Malayan barrier (and Singas) to be indefensible, and that it was at risk from a landward assault. The British response was completely unsatisfactory. they responded to this threat by sending an unbalanced, out gunned task group to defend the landward approaches by seaborne interdiction. The British suspected Singapore to be indefensible since at least 1921. They were openly worried about it from 1938, and knew they couldnt (or at least had information that conclusively showed it to be indefensible) from the middle of 1940. it is inexcusable that they ignored these appraisals and deliberately misled their allies
     
  2. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    • 04-25-2012 11:19 PM #64
    buffnut453
    Parsifal,

    We're way off topic here...but I'll continue just one more round.

    I'm making no apologies for the messy, poorly-implemented defence that was undertaken in Malaya and Singapore. Nor am I excusing the deplorable lack of leadership in certain quarters that failed to identify and practice correct tactics (the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were the only unit who truly trained for the defence of the road through Malaya, although Bennett did implement a cracking ambush...once), or to implement adequate denial measures. However, the fact remains that the majority of Commonwealth troops in the front line on 8 Dec 41 were, by any measure, sub-standard in terms of experience, training, morale and equipment. Putting green soldiers who can hardly shoot a rifle in the path of tanks (a machine they've never seen before) is a recipe for disaster. Should they have been better prepared? Absolutely.

    As to your other point about accurate intelligence being ignored by commanders, well there's ample proof of that occurring. Essentially there are 2 schools of thought, one that intelligence failed completely and the other that intelligence was accurate but commanders ignored it. To en extent, both are correct. The victor in battle takes the glory, the loser blames his intelligence officer. As I inferred earlier, the Far East in 1941 was often a dumping ground for less-able commanding officers who did not train or prepare their formations for the fight that took place...and we can clearly see now the result of that folly.

    Finally, where do you get the idea that I ever suggested the Japanese only faced inferior troops? I was referring specifically to the Indian troops in Malaya...and that's not because the troops themselves were poor but because of incredible dilution of experience due to massive and rapid force expansion. Those aren't just excuses - it was the reality in 1941. However, there were other issues including the political angle - Crosby's almost hysterical telegram on the eve of the Japanese invasion demanding that no British soldier should enter Thailand and Far East Command's focus on trying to locate the ships instead of looking for other intelligence indicators like the arrival of IJAAF fighter aircraft in French Indo-China are examples. There was no single issue that resulted in the rout that occurred in Malaya and Singapore - the causes were several and intertwined, many dating back years.

    • 04-25-2012 11:24 PM #65
    buffnut453
    In response to Post #62 (for some reason the quote function isn't working on my machine), Malaya was far from indefensible. As to the risk of landward assault, it was Percival serving under GOC Malaya, Dobbie, in the late-30s who first identified that threat and took measures to deal with it.

    Malaya was entirely defensible but the key to the whole region was the port at Singora. If that had been held or denied to the Japanese, there's no way they could have taken the rest of the Malay peninsula because there were no other ports capable of supporting the Japanese Army's logistics chain.

    Poorly thought-out strategy, an unwillingness to be seen as the aggressor into Thailand (and hence upsetting the Americans) all militated against the British defence of Singora.

    Per my last post...the reasons for failure were complex.

    • 04-25-2012 11:43 PM #66
    parsifal
    In response to Freebird’s comment “I guess they should have stood up to the Brits after all they were a sovereign nation”

    No, they were not. We gained theoretical control over our foreign policy in 1931, but that did not include indendance on national borrowings and finances. That remained under the control of the british treasury until 1942.

    Despite our theoretical independance in our foreign policy from 1931, in practice we had no real independance until Curtins declaration in march 1942. often attributed to the fall of Singapore, it was more complex than that, and stretched back to the repeated failures by the britis (in Australian eyes) to the multiple threats challenging the mpire at that time.

    Our break with the british began in 1918, and gradually picked up speed through the 30's. the final straw being the fall of Singapore.

    04-26-2012 10:43 AM #86
    Gixxerman
    In response to Buffnut453’s comment “I don't think British High Command knew the defence of the Malay barrier was impossible until it was too late.”

    The really sad truth is that in fact Singapore fell due to Japanese bluff.
    The Japanese forces were out of supplies (particularly ammunition, water foodstuffs) and the defending forces were unaware of this.
    It is also largely a myth that 'the guns all faced the wrong way could not be turned around to face the invasion force'.
    Thus Percival surrendered, completely unaware that the position of the besieging Japanese forces was at least as dire as his own and so Singapore entered the cruel murderous nightmare that was the Japanese wartime occupation.

    04-26-2012 11:16 AM #88
    parsifal
    Unfortunately this is a near total myth that has arisen post war as a sap to the worst defeat the British have ever experienced in 200 years. Its true the Japanese were short of supplies. it is not true that they were down to just a few days of supply. it is untrue that the Japanese were so short of supplies that they were incapable of initiating the assault. What in fact was happening was that they were so confident of success in the final assault that large amounts of aircraft, transport, and troops were being transferred out of the theatre to other fronts, particularly Burma, where some difficulties were being encountered.
    If the British had been showing any signs of life in their defence of Singapore, the Japanese would simply have slowed down or reversed the movement of supply, troops and aircraft away from this front for a while. they had complete command of the air, and complete command of the sea. The Singapore garrison was going nowhere except down, and fast.

    So much has been made in these last few pages about the poor quality of the troops defending in Malaya. But that was a relatively minor problem for the British. their command system was so poor, their planning for requirements so bad in this particular campaign that the quality of the troops would have made no difference.

    It would have been Australia's preferred option in 1939, when the AIF began to be raised was to send three of the four divisions planned to mkalaya in line with British defence thinking that had been in vogue since at least 1921. Instreead three of these divisions, the 6, 7 and 9th were sent to the Middle East, and two Brigades of the 8th sent to Malaya. If the three divs had been sent to malaya, under the british command that was in place historically, and with the logistic, naval and air support provided historically, we would have lost all three divisions. These ground troops were the equal of the Japanese, but they would have achieved very little more than the poor devils actually sent into that living hell. Malaya was lost for a multitude of reasons, but at the very top is the absolutely attrocious leadership displayed by the british in that campaign.

    I am normally very supportive of the british in most debates, and can see the logic and good military sense that the british displayed in most of their wartime campaigns. no such support can be given to the british effort in Malaya. it was an unmitigated, inexcusable disaster, that really did light the fuse that destroyed their empire. I am amazed that there are still people prepared to perpetuate a whole range of myths so that the british reputation can wriggle out of the mess they themselves caused. You will never get even one word of sympathy or support from me when it comes to the british effort in malaya. From before the war to the bitter end, it was one long unmitigated stuff up.

    04-29-2012 01:21 PM #97
    Gixxerman
    In response to Parsifal’s comment “Unfortunately this is a near total myth that has arisen post war as a sap to the worst defeat the British have ever experienced in 200 years ........................I am amazed that there are still people prepared to perpetuate a whole range of myths so that the british reputation can wriggle out of the mess they themselves caused.”

    Parsifal my friend you have entirely the wrong idea here.
    I knew little of the details of the fall of Sing, I was merely repeating what I had seen read on my almost month long visit there to the various museums historic sites back in 2009.
    Relax, I couldn't alter anyone or anythings rep even if I wanted to.
    Which I never had a moments intention of doing btw.

    04-29-2012 07:14 PM #99
    parsifal
    In response to Gixxerman’s comment “Parsifal my friend you have entirely the wrong idea here.
    I knew little of the details of the fall of Sing, I was merely repeating what I had seen read on my almost month long visit there to the various museums historic sites back in 2009.
    Relax, I couldn't alter anyone or anythings rep even if I wanted to.
    Which I never had a moments intention of doing btw.”

    I apologise for my completely over the top reaction. I do understand where you are coming from, and conceded there is some measure of truth to it. However, Singapore was a near unmitigated disaster, i think you would have to agree, and quitre possibly an avoidable unmitigated disaster. we played our part in that disaster, so not all blame should be levelled at the brits. Our child like tantrums must have driven the British command nuts at times.
     
  3. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    04-29-2012 08:01 PM #100
    Gixxerman
    In response to Parsifal’s comment “Hi GX. I apologise for my completely over the top reaction.”

    NP mate, it's 2d text on a screen my friend, it's sometimes way too easy to get our meanings intentions a bit skew-wiff.
    In response to Parsifal’s comment “and conceded there is some measure of truth to it.”

    Yes you did and thank you.
    In response to Parsifal’s comment “However, Singapore was a near unmitigated disaster, i think you would have to agree”

    I completely agree......and I have to admit my view of it previous to my visit was of it as a British military disaster (which of course it was) but I had almost no idea of what happened to the people of Sing under occupation, 'our' disaster pales enormously compared to theirs.
    In response to Parsifal’s comment “we played our part in that disaster, so not all blame should be levelled at the brits. Our child like tantrums must have driven the British command nuts at times.”

    I promise not to mention a certain Aussie General who departed the scene if you don't. ;¬)

    (I kid, I kid........ it's just one guy, not all Aussies I know there are at least 2 opposing distinct views of what he did)

    05-02-2012 02:29 AM #107
    freebird
    There is no need to withdraw British troops from the UK, or lower available forces, there was more than enough to work with.

    As for the war in the east eliminating the threat of a UK invasion, by the end September it was clear that the Soviets wouldn't be defeated before winter, when weather conditions made a cross channel invasion unworkable. There was still enough time to improve the defences in the Far East

    05-02-2012 02:30 AM #108
    freebird
    In response to Parsifal’s comment “It is a well documented fact that military appraisals handed to the british high command by the Australians (at least, ther were many many others that did the same) clearly showed the Malayan barrier (and Singas) to be indefensible, and that it was at risk from a landward assault.”

    Who had judged the Maylay barrier to be indefensible?
    I've havn't seen that assertion anywhere?

    The commanders in the Far East did know that the forces in Malaya (especially air) were not sufficient, but had the forces that had been recommended by the senior leaders (and agreed by the British Cabinet) actually been sent to Malaya, there is good reason to believe that the Maylay barrier defence could have worked.
    In response to Parsifal’s comment “The british and CW response was a calculated risk that went horribly wrong. With two major powers to fight largely alone in the ETO, and having suffered a series of costly defeats, Britiain had no choice but to cut force levels in the Far east to dangerously low levels.

    I think the high point of bad decisions, however was the decision to deploy the PoW and Repulse so far forward and so badly protected. By late '41, it was very clear that Captital ships should not and could not operate in a hostile air environment where the enemy was effective in the aeronaval role.”

    No, in my mind the high point of bad decisions was agreeing to back the US embargo (knowing that it would likely lead to war) and then not heeding the advice of the commanders in theater of what forces were needed, or otherwise properly preparing for war.

    If they didn't think they could send the forces required they never should have pulled the pin on the grenade, and agreed to support an embargo that would most certainly lead to war.

    05-02-2012 02:30 AM #109
    freebird
    The other thing that stands out for me is that having accepted the risk of undermanning their forward defences, why did the British continue to make assurances they could not keep, and knew they could not keep throughout 1940-41. If they had been honest about the situation, the nations affected, like Australia, could have made more realistic preprations for war.

    In response to Buffnut453’s comment “Because they didn't know. Senior leaders believed their own twisted logic and failed to grasp just how woefully ill-prepared forces in the Far East were. My previous post touches on this, too.”

    I don't see that they couldn't have kept their promises, or have known that there was a significant risk of war until July of 1941. They were reading the Japanese messages and so they knew that Japan was too engaged in China to pose a significant threat, until the embargo forced the Japanese to take desperate measures.

    Who are the senior leaders that you think failed to grasp the danger?
    Every one of the senior leaders in the Far East that are on record (Babington, Bond, Dobbie, Brooke-Popham Percival himself) pointed out the need for stronger defences (especially air), nor have I seen any racist angle either, as none them ever expressed the opinion that the meagre assortment of obsolete aircraft would be adequate against the Japanese.

    Let's not beat around the bush, the lion's share of the blame can be attributed to the Minister of Defence, (Winston Churchill) who disregarded the advice of the senior leaders in the Far East as regards to Japan.
    From what I've read, it seems that he
    A.) Believed that Japan would naver dare to attack the US, and
    B.) That even if they did, the mighty US military would make quick work of Japan

    Therefore the UK needn't worry or prepare for a long conflict, as the US would take care of the Pacific
    He also believed that sending the Prince of Wales Repulse would intimidate Japan.
    In response to Buffnut453’s comment “I The one point I will make is that no sensible person would countenance building up forces in an area where there was no fighting when other theatres were under attack. Perhaps the hindsight goggles are clouding our view of the difficult decisions that had to be made, without foreknowledge, at the time?”

    On the other hand, Chuchhill the War Cabinet recognised the danger in other territories under their control, and beefed up the defences in areas that the Nazis could possibly attack - like Gibraltar, Iceland, Cyprus etc, but that were not fighting at the time (other than a few air raids)

    Now, I would agree that there was no justification for expanding forces in the Far East from mid-1940 to mid-1941,
    at which time there was a critical shortage of troops, air forces guns during the French collapse, BoB, Sonnenblume, the expedition to Greece, Battle for Crete, revolt in Messopotamia, campaign in Levant the East Africa campaign.

    However by the end of July 1941, things have more or less stabilized in the ETO. (in a relative sense )
    With dispatch of the bulk of Axis forces to Barbarossa the danger of an immediate invasion of the UK has passed, and the defence of the UK is far stronger than the year before. The Italians have been defeated in East Africa, the Vichy ejected from the Levant, and the revolt in Messopotamia put down.

    At this point, the US asks the British to support the embargo, which will most likely lead to war.
    IMO They have 2 options:
    1.) if the don't think that they have enough forces to go to war with Japan, they shouldn't agree.
    2.) If they do agree, they should be fully prepared to beef up the air ground forces (at least) to what the 1940 conference recommended would be needed to resist a Japanese attack.
     
  4. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    • 05-02-2012 08:18 AM #110
    parsifal
    In response to Freebird’s comment “Who had judged the Maylay barrier to be indefensible?
    I've havn't seen that assertion anywhere?”

    The australian government and the australian high Command submitted repeated assessments to the effect that the defences for malaya, particularly the land defences were inadequate. According to DM Horner (Australia Allied Strategic Decision making 1939-45), referring to yet another situation report submitted by the Australians in April 1941 and (as usuall) ignored that stated all the deficiencies in the defensive arrangements, Horner states in his book "....the australian government was now placed in an invidious position. It was now faced with a british government that refused to accept the defences were hopelessly inadequate, and that as a result australias defences were now at risk (the deployment of the AIF was conditional to adequate defences being deployed forward into malaya). The australian government now knew that the British refused to provide adequate defences in the far east, that australia had been duped into sending the bulk of its trained forces to the middle east, against the advice of its own military (the Australian GHQ had recommended just one division be sent whilst Japans position remained unclear), and a refusal by the British to either provide arms, or allow Australia to raise the capital to build its own arms. The last refusal led to the deployment of 27th Bde, the only trained reseve left in australia, and forced menzies to seek alternatives for aircraft supply and manufacturing capability.
    In response to comment “The commanders in the Far East did know that the forces in Malaya (especially air) were not sufficient, but had the forces that had been recommended by the senior leaders (and agreed by the British Cabinet) actually been sent to Malaya, there is good reason to believe that the Maylay barrier defence could have worked.”

    Possibly, but the "ifs" are so remote from reality as to make the statement menaingless. the british were never going to defend the far east adequately whilst also at war with the European Axis, even though they knew the defences were completely inadequate Whatever resources they did commit were largely the result of repeated criticisms by countries like australia. If they had had their way, i am certain malaya in 1941 would have been defended by no more than the pace guard and the national goat.....
    In response to Freebird’s comment “If they didn't think they could send the forces required they never should have pulled the pin on the grenade, and agreed to support an embargo that would most certainly lead to war.”

    Britain was never going to go the path of appeasement, however inadequate the forces. they also needed to stand firm, to ensure US entry

    • 05-02-2012 09:27 AM #111
    Edgar Brooks
    In response to Freebird’s comment “Huh? ABDA command was in the early months of 1942, when the British, Australians Dutch were all being attacked. There was still enough time to improve the defences in the Far East”

    Sorry about that; I'd forgotten how quickly the Japanese launched their invasion forces.
    There was no chance to improve the Far East defences, once the decision had been taken to send hundreds of Hurricanes to Russia.

    In response to Parsifal’s comment “The big mistake with regard to Prince of Wales Repulse, was to continue with their sortie, without the aircraft carrier that was supposed to travel with them, but had run aground during an exercise. The force commander didn't help, when he decided that he could manage without informing the RAF, and getting air cover. It was now faced with a british government that refused to accept the defences were hopelessly inadequate, and that as a result australias defences were now at risk (the deployment of the AIF was conditional to adequate defences being deployed forward into malaya). The australian government now knew that the British refused to provide adequate defences in the far east, that australia had been duped into sending the bulk of its trained forces to the middle east, against the advice of its own military (the Australian GHQ had recommended just one division be sent whilst Japans position remained unclear), and a refusal by the British to either provide arms, or allow Australia to raise the capital to build its own arms. The last refusal led to the deployment of 27th Bde, the only trained reseve left in australia, and forced menzies to seek alternatives for aircraft supply and manufacturing capability.
    The commanders in the Far East did know that the forces in Malaya (especially air) were not sufficient, but had the forces that had been recommended by the senior leaders (and agreed by the British Cabinet) actually been sent to Malaya, there is good reason to believe that the Maylay barrier defence could have worked.
    Possibly, but the "ifs" are so remote from reality as to make the statement menaingless. the british were never going to defend the far east adequately whilst also at war with the European Axis, even though they knew the defences were completely inadequate Whatever resources they did commit were largely the result of repeated criticisms by countries like australia. If they had had their way, i am certain malaya in 1941 would have been defended by no more than the pace guard and the national goat..... “

    Emotive stuff, but not true; the British government (not just Churchill) had written to the Australians, pledging that, if the Japanese were so foolish as to attempt an invasion of Australia, they (we) would have cut their losses, abandoned the Mediterranean, and sent the lot to defend Australia (I found a copy of the message in our National Archives.) You can choose to disbelieve it, if you wish, of course, but that was the government's position.

    05-02-2012 08:07 PM #117
    buffnut453
    In response to Freebird’s comment “Who are the senior leaders that you think failed to grasp the danger? Every one of the senior leaders in the Far East that are on record (Babington, Bond, Dobbie, Brooke-Popham Percival himself) pointed out the need for stronger defences (especially air), nor have I seen any racist angle either, as none them ever expressed the opinion that the meagre assortment of obsolete aircraft would be adequate against the Japanese.”

    Yes, commanders on the spot did ask for more assets (I don't know of any commander who says he can complete his mission without fewer forces, the exception being Gideon of Old Testament fame). Irrespective, they were all were banking on Japan making a staged assault from French Indo-China through Thailand and not a full-blown seaborne invasion from modern Formosa. Major George Wards, Assistant Military Attaché in Tokyo, provided a briefing to senior British officers in April 1941 where the GOC, then General Bond, deliberately contradicted Wards’ evaluation that the Japanese Army maintained a high standard of efficiency (Source: Wards Papers at IWM). This would seem to contradict your assertion that all Far East commanders accepted the Japanese threat.

    To further reinforce the point, but with a different spin on the effectiveness of FECB's efficacy as an intelligence organisation, Lt Col Ashmore recalled a commanders’ conference on 21st October where the FECB representative ‘painted a fairly indecisive picture and seemed unable to tell the conference much about the latest Japanese moves and forces in Indo-China and elsewhere’ whereas the GHQ representative delivered a clear, logical critique and ‘left an impression…that the Japanese were in no position to attack Malaya at this time or in the near future’. (Source: ADM 223/494, UK National Archives). Brooke-Popham also blamed lack of adequate intelligence for the surprising performance of Japanese aircraft, although this has subsequently proven to be an inaccurate criticism - pretty accurate intel was available on all Japanese aircraft types except the Ki-43.

    Reports from military observers in China consistently placed the efficiency and effectiveness of Japanese forces as below that of Italy. These reports were taken to heart by senior staffs in London. Assessments about the military forces of Japan, China and Thailand clearly display a racial hierarchy at play in the thinking of many British intelligence staff and senior military leaders - often the threat was couched in terms of comparison against the Indian Army as if one could readily make such broad, sweeping assertions without factoring in local conditions, ability to concentrate force etc.
    In response to Freebird’s comment “However by the end of July 1941, things have more or less stabilized in the ETO. (in a relative sense ). With dispatch of the bulk of Axis forces to Barbarossa the danger of an immediate invasion of the UK has passed, and the defence of the UK is far stronger than the year before. The Italians have been defeated in East Africa, the Vichy ejected from the Levant, and the revolt in Messopotamia put down.”

    Apart from the fact that Rommel's Afrika Korps was barely getting spun up in North Africa. Rommel's forces started arriving in Feb 41 and the deployment finished that May. North Africa was the main theatre at that stage of the war. If it had fallen, it would have resulted in the loss of Egypt, probably the neutralization of Malta, and undoubtedly a second attempt on Iraq. I hardly think that's a stabilized situation.
     
  5. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    05-02-2012 08:27 PM #118
    freebird
    In response to Edgar Brooks’ comment “The big mistake with regard to Prince of Wales Repulse, was to continue with their sortie, without the aircraft carrier that was supposed to travel with them, but had run aground during an exercise.”

    The aircraft carrier you are referring to is the "HMS Indomitable", and it did indeed run arground in the Caribbean. There was an alternative however, they could have easily substituted HMS Hermes to provide cover for Force Z. The Japanese had no fighter escort for the bombers, so even with the limited capacity of the Hermes, a dozen Fulmar or Sea Hurricanes could have thwarted the waves of torpedo bombers. Ultimately though, since the intent was to use the ships as a "show of force" to intimidate Japan, they most likely should have been withdrawn after Japan attacked, rather than sent on a suicide mission.

    The Cabinet had in fact discussed this very thing Dec 8, with Churchill deciding to "sleep on it", by the time he woke up the next morning they were already sunk
    In response to Edgar Brooks’ comment “The force commander didn't help, when he decided that he could manage without informing the RAF, and getting air cover.”

    Admiral Phillips was put in a difficult position, and handicapped by several factors.
    The Admiralty policy was complete radio silence, to prevent the signals being used to locate the force.
    It was also most unfortunate that the first wave of bombers knocked out the radio on the PoW.
    I would agree though, it was a mistake not to call for help as soon as the Japanese strike force was sighted, this would have saved the two ships.
    05-02-2012 09:20 PM #120
    buffnut453
    In response to Freebird’s comment “The Japanese had no fighter escort for the bombers, so even with the limited capacity of the Hermes, a dozen Fulmar or Sea Hurricanes could have thwarted the waves of torpedo bombers.”

    Only for the first wave. There were Zeros based in the same part of French Indo-China so any thwarting would probably have been short-lived.
    In response to Freebird’s comment “Admiral Phillips was put in a difficult position, and handicapped by several factors. The Admiralty policy was complete radio silence, to prevent the signals being used to locate the force. It was also most unfortunate that the first wave of bombers knocked out the radio on the PoW. I would agree though, it was a mistake not to call for help as soon as the Japanese strike force was sighted, this would have saved the two ships.”

    But Phillips knew he was being shadowed by an aircraft several hours before the attack actually commenced. As soon as his lookouts spotted the aircraft, he would naturally assume that his position was known and so radio silence was immaterial. Had he done so, there's every likelihood that 453 Sqn at Sembawang, which was designated with the fleet protection role, could have seriously handicapped the initial attack, although my comments about the possibility of subsequent IJNAF attacks with A6M escort also apply.

    05-04-2012 02:59 PM #127
    freebird
    In response to Buffnut453’s comment “Only for the first wave. There were Zeros based in the same part of French Indo-China so any thwarting would probably have been short-lived.”

    Agreed, although due to the distances involved it would take several hours to set up, with all the difficulties involved with assembly, tracking the target over that time etc.
    The ship would probably survive the day, but if it wasn't withdrawn that night it would be pushing it.
    In response to Buffnut453’s comment “But Phillips knew he was being shadowed by an aircraft several hours before the attack actually commenced. As soon as his lookouts spotted the aircraft, he would naturally assume that his position was known and so radio silence was immaterial. Had he done so, there's every likelihood that 453 Sqn at Sembawang, which was designated with the fleet protection role, could have seriously handicapped the initial attack, although my comments about the possibility of subsequent IJNAF attacks with A6M escort also apply.”

    True, but the danger would be to call them out too early as they didn't have too much time on station over the ships. I don't really disagree with your points here, Phillips was indeed to slow to call out air support. An accompanying carrier would have been a much better option, however truthfully the whole mission was a mistake to begin with IMO.

    05-04-2012 04:37 PM #129
    freebird
    In response to Buffnut453’s comment “Apart from the fact that Rommel's Afrika Korps was barely getting spun up in North Africa. Rommel's forces started arriving in Feb 41 and the deployment finished that May. North Africa was the main theatre at that stage of the war. If it had fallen, it would have resulted in the loss of Egypt, probably the neutralization of Malta, and undoubtedly a second attempt on Iraq. I hardly think that's a stabilized situation.”

    The Desert campaign was not stabilized, more like stalemated.
    The British couldn't defeat DAK while the Germans were hampered by lack of supplies and couldn't exploit.
    Other than operation Skorpion to recapture Halfaya, the German actions between April November were aimed at Tobruk, which failed.
    Despite the Axis success in defeating Brevity Battleaxe, it was the British that took the initiative and launched the Crusader offensive.
    But the most important factor in my mind, that despite the need to defeat Rommel and push back the Axis, neither of the veteran Australian 6th or 7th divisions were deployed in Crusader, so I don't see that swapping an inexperienced Indian division for an AIF division on garrison duty would make much difference in the Middle East.

    In response to Parsifal’s comment “The australian government and the australian high Command submitted repeated assessments to the effect that the defences for malaya, particularly the land defences were inadequate. According to DM Horner (Australia Allied Strategic Decision making 1939-45), referring to yet another situation report submitted by the Australians in April 1941 and (as usuall) ignored that stated all the deficiencies in the defensive arrangements, Horner states in his book "....the australian government was now placed in an invidious position. It was now faced with a british government that refused to accept the defences were hopelessly inadequate, and that as a result australias defences were now at risk (the deployment of the AIF was conditional to adequate defences being deployed forward into malaya). The australian government now knew that the British refused to provide adequate defences in the far east, that australia had been duped into sending the bulk of its trained forces to the middle east, against the advice of its own military (the Australian GHQ had recommended just one division be sent whilst Japans position remained unclear), and a refusal by the British to either provide arms, or allow Australia to raise the capital to build its own arms. The last refusal led to the deployment of 27th Bde, the only trained reseve left in australia, and forced menzies to seek alternatives for aircraft supply and manufacturing capability.”

    My point was that the problem wasn't the Malaya barrier strategy, only that the defences in Malaya (by Dec 1941) were certainly inadequate.
    And again, it wasn't the British government that "refused to accept the defences were hopelessly inadequate", as the commanders in the Far East, the Chiefs of Staff the Cabinet had all agreed that there was a need to strengthen the defence of Malaya, and that it would be vulnerable to seaborne attack.

    They had agreed that the original 3 brigades in Malaya would need to be increased by 36 battlaions (ie - 4 more divisions) and the air assets boosted by a minimum of 336 modern aircraft.

    Truthfully, the Australian govenment should have been more pro-active in this regard.
    By late August or early Sept 1941, when it became clear that the British leadership (ie - Churchill) didn't intend to follow through with the agreements on force levels made earlier, they should have demanded an immediate withdrawl of AIF forces to Malaya to cover the difference, rather than wait until Jan 1942 to get this moving.

    05-08-2012 11:58 PM #130
    buffnut453
    But withdraw AIF forces from where? The Western Desert? Rather than being "stalemated" which infers an inability to act, North Africa was a pendulum with the front line making huge moves during major offensives. The point I was trying to make earlier was that no sensible theatre commander or central defence senior would recommend denuding the primary combat theatre (ie the Western Desert) of forces when there was a clear, and relatively new, threat in the form of the Afrika Korps. Moving them to Malaya in 1941 just doesn't make sense and anyone who suggests otherwise has clearly donned the hindsight goggles - it was not clear the Japanese would attack Malaya in 1941 until very late in the year, and British leaders didn't expect the sort of "blitzkrieg" tactics that were so successfully implemented by the IJA. Moving troops from Africa to Malaya when there wasn't a direct threat to the latter was a non-starter during 1941 and everyone expected the Japanese to take their time attacking through Thailand and hence affording opportunities to reinforce Singapore and Malaya. Sadly such optimism was misplaced.
     
  6. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Today 12:36 PM #135
    freebird
    In response to Buffnut453’s comment “But withdraw AIF forces from where? The Western Desert?”

    No, I don't propose removing any air or ground forces from the Western Desert.

    With the withdrawl of the bulk of the 9th Australian from Tobruk, there are NO Australian ground troops in the Western desert, other than a battalion or so left in Tobruk
    In response to Buffnut453’s comment “Rather than being "stalemated" which infers an inability to act, North Africa was a pendulum with the front line making huge moves during major offensives. The point I was trying to make earlier was that no sensible theatre commander or central defence senior would recommend denuding the primary combat theatre (ie the Western Desert) of forces when there was a clear, and relatively new, threat in the form of the Afrika Korps.”

    But again, no AIF forces were in the Western Desert in the second half of 1941, except for Morshead the 9th division, which were removed in Sept 1941 from Tobruk after serving 6 months.
    There were 3 AIF divisions on garrison duty in the Middle East.
    By removing 1 division, it still leaves a 2 division AIF corps in the MidEast in the fall of 1941, in addition to the Indian troops. (That would otherwise have been sent to Malaya)
    In response to Buffnut453’s comment “Moving them to Malaya in 1941 just doesn't make sense and anyone who suggests otherwise has clearly donned the hindsight goggles - it was not clear the Japanese would attack Malaya in 1941 until very late in the year,”

    It was however pretty obvious that Japan would be going to war to seize the oil reserves somewhere, (Borneo or Sumatra) and to do that they needed to eliminate Singapore as a major threat against their lines of supply.
    We were reading their naval diplomatic cables, so by Sept 1941 it became clear that they wouldn't back down, the US wouldn't agree to a political solution, so they would either run out of oil or else go to war.

    Today 01:00 PM #137
    freebird
    IN response to Buffnut 453’s comment “and British leaders didn't expect the sort of "blitzkrieg" tactics that were so successfully implemented by the IJA. Moving troops from Africa to Malaya when there wasn't a direct threat to the latter was a non-starter during 1941 and everyone expected the Japanese to take their time attacking through Thailand and hence affording opportunities to reinforce Singapore and Malaya. Sadly such optimism was misplaced.”

    The danger of a direct seaborne assault had been warned by Dobbie Percival himself, and with the availability of bases in Indochina, it became more of a danger.
    By the fall of 1941 there was a direct threat to the Far East, and they had recognised that by authorizing 4 divisions sent to Malaya, vs about 3 brigades a ordinary garrision

    In any event, the Cabinet DID approve sending additional troops - a second Indian division to Malaya - in the summer of '41, so it isn't a question of whether troops will be sent - it's a question of which troops.
    In response to Buffnut453’s comment “The point I was trying to make earlier was that no sensible theatre commander or central defence senior would recommend denuding the primary combat theatre (ie the Western Desert) of forces when there was a clear, and relatively new, threat in the form of the Afrika Korps.”

    No theater commander would ever want to lose troops.
    Frankly, Australia should have taken the choice away from the British, by insisiting in Sept or Oct '41 that at least 1 AIF division be withdrawn from the Middle east and sent to the Far East.

    IMO, Churchill unreasonably wanted to keep all 3 AIF divisions regardless of the cost to Australia, and let the Americans clean up the mess later.
    The Western Desert campaign would just have to make to with Australia contributing a single division. (Which is exactly what they ended up doing)

    In response to Buffnut453’s comment “Parsifal, Finally, where do you get the idea that I ever suggested the Japanese only faced inferior troops? I was referring specifically to the Indian troops in Malaya...and that's not because the troops themselves were poor but because of incredible dilution of experience due to massive and rapid force expansion. Those aren't just excuses - it was the reality in 1941. There was no single issue that resulted in the rout that occurred in Malaya and Singapore - the causes were several and intertwined, many dating back years.”

    Further to what Buffnut posted, the quality of the Indian troops in Malaya was a significant factor in the collapse of the defence, as it created a cascade failure.
    The fact that the battalions of the 28th (Indian) brigade shattered on the first day of combat, and the inexperienced 6th brigade lost most of it's artillery vehicles due to premature bridge demolition.
    The rapid collapse prevented the proper evacuation reduction of the Penang airbase ships

    If you look at the battles where the Britsh/CW were able to form a defensive line, the artillery advantage was something that the Japanese couldn't overcome, and were forced to outflank the position using the naval assets captured at Penang
     
  7. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Freebird,

    To pick up on a few of your comments in your last couple of posts....

    Re your comment about "stalemated vs stabilized", I was just picking up your phrase from an earlier post about things having stabilized in the ETO by mid-1941. I was simply stating that that was not the case. The deployment of the Afrika Korps was a major threat. Now the one area where I believe changes could have been made was in the provision of adequate air defences for Malaya. By mid-1941, Fighter Command was stronger than it had ever been. Sparing even just a few squadrons for Malaya could have made a signficant difference to the campaign...but they would have needed a better air warning network and radios that worked.

    It was Parsifal who was focussing on the Aussies in the Western Desert (or elsewhere). I was being more generic about removing any forces. The Indian Army reinforcements for Malaya were extremely raw and undertrained - I agree entirely with your comment about quality vs quantity of deployed forces.

    The threat of direct seaborne assault was noted by Percival but it was believed that during the northwest monsoon such landings would be highly problemmatic if not impossible. The landings were difficult but the Japanese succeeded. That has little to do with the fact that most senior military leaders on the British side expected the Japanese to take the long route overland.

    You say we were reading naval cables in 1941. Really? If so, why couldn't we predict the attack on Pearl Harbor? I think you're overstating our code-breaking capabilities at that stage of the war.
     
  8. Capt. Vick

    Capt. Vick Well-Known Member

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    Good job buffnut453
     
  9. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Well done Buff nut...I will cut and paste my last response on the other thread soon.

    Who's fault was it that Singapore was lost. Thats a slightly different topic to what weve been bickering over. Singapore was lost because it was inadequately defended. Two questions arise from that.....was it possible to adequately defend it, given the circumstances in Europe, and were the british optimizing the ability to prepre in the East. Were all the resources taken out of the TO prior to 1941 really necessary for that TO?
     
  10. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Fair enough. It was late when I created the thread - that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!! Ignore the thread title and just carry on the discussions we were having (which is what we were doing on the Mosquito thread in the first place!). :D
     
  11. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    The only reason I kind of pulled you up on that is that to me it suggests "who on the spot is to blame?" Certainbly not the troops themselves. The forces in Malaya fought hard, and as well as could be expected. The few squadrons of aircraft did about as good a job as one could expect. I never meant to suggest a criticism of the men on the spot. My cricism was why there were not other men better trained there also, and why was it necessary to seemingly thwart all efforts to provide the necessary arms from local sources. Maybe Im mistaken, but i dont believe so.

    The fall of singapore happened because a gamble taken by the Brits that the Japanese would not attack was wrong. They thought the deterrent of the forces at hand was enough to scare off the Japanese. Once that bluff was called, it was game over. The thing is however, the British were being urged to increase the deterrent on a repeated basis. Some will argue that they failed to act because they were flat out in the ETO. To a degree I agree, but I also think better management of the available resources was possible....they could have been better prepred than they were without seriously compromising the situation in Europe
     
  12. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    The Brits were defeated in Malaya even before the Japanese landed. The commonwealth troops were led by colonial policeman, not fighting generals. The general staff did not have the intellectual capacity to shift immediately from simple police duties to total war. And its inexcusable since they had been at war with Germany and Italy for two years and should have had some inkling of what was expected.
     
  13. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    Well "stabilized" as applied to the ETO, in that BoB had passed, the Greece debacle ended and the bulk of Axis forces were now engaged in the USSR. If we take MTO as a separate theater, the AK was indeed a major threat, but Barbarossa a very determined aggressive defence of Tobruk have taken the initiative away from Rommel. And as mentioned earlier, the winding down of the East Africa, and resolving of the Syrian Iraqi campaigns have reduced the # of crisis on Britain's plate.

    I'm not sure that we really disagree much, other than terminology. :)

    My point was this: up until July 1941, the Allies were in crisis mode, and I don't see how they could have sent anything to the Far East. After July '41 they are able to rest the 6th 7th AIF, and by Sept/Oct the 9th is pulled out.
    Things have "stabilized" enough that they can move some units around, and are still able to prevail in "Crusader" despite the 3 veteran AIF divisions being absent from the Western Desert.

    On this we agree as well. 8)

    It would help to have a competant, experienced commander to bring things up to snuff.
    What about sending Dowding to sort out the mess as AOC Far East?

    The uncertainty about Japanese strategy wasn't much of a factor, as Percival's deployments, with Kota Bharu, Kuantan Mersing all with a brigade stationed, and preparing the Matador plan, show that he was aware of the danger of seaward invasion, and prepared for it.
     
  14. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    My take on it is somewhat different, but the result is the same. Churchill was depending on the US to "deal with it", and any attacks or losses would quickly be rectified.
    He didn't understand how unprepared the US was, or how much time they would need to build up.

    Not nessasarily, they had the ability to reinforce for 8 weeks until Singapore port became unusable.
    But by sending the green units they did, it precluded the possibility to halt the Japanese in Johore

    I agree with that.
    Actually, how about "without compromising the situation in Europe at all"
     
  15. Tankworks

    Tankworks Member

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    Make no mistake, Churchill would have scarificed the entire 'Empire' if it meant saving Great Britain, that was his prime motivation and as far as his decision making processes go you could argue that he was better in the political arena but nobody is correct one hundred percent of the time.
    This thread has been very interesting reading. I have always thought that Percival should have been court-martialed after the war and nothing that I have read here has done anything to change my mind. I still can't get over the surrender of thousands of troops that had never even seen the enemy or thought themselves defeated by him. Even though there was a chain of events I think he was ultimatly responsible for just 'giving up'. If this is too harsh an assessment I am willing to be further enlightened.
     
  16. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    I disagree. Churchils prime motivation was the defeat of the Axis. He saw his best chance of achieving that as keeping Britiain in the war. He saw the prime strategy to keeping Britian in the war as the defeat of the European Axis first. He knew Britian was not strong enough to do that alone, so used every bone in his body to develop a series of alliances to defeat the germans. His most important achievement was his work with the Americanm, but he also managed to keep some rather puriloe and self intereste goverment on the narrow path.

    Where he did go wrong was in misreading the japanese



    What charge would you have put him up to face?


    Which formations had not seen combat. If you do some basic reading you will find no such fresh reserves existed. The troops were tired, and worn. At the end of it they were thirsty. And yes demoralised . But everyone fought as well and as long as was humanly possible. Percival did make mistakes, and he wasnt the best commander, but he didnt just "give up"


    Even though there was a chain of events I think he was ultimatly responsible for just 'giving up'. If this is too harsh an assessment I am willing to be further enlightened.[/QUOTE]
     
  17. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Percival was an excellent staff officer and was undoubtedly a very intelligent man...it was he, after all, who determined that Singapore's security depended on the defence of Malaya, scuppering the myth of the "impenetrable" jungle. Percival's most significant weakness was that he lacked combat experience and was in no way a "fighting" general.

    The Japanese could decide the "where" and "when" of the attack and hence could always enter the fray with local superiority. Percival's had 2 fundamental options:

    1. Try and defend everywhere, with the risk that his forces would be defeated piecemeal by more concentrated Japanese forces.
    2. Consolidate his forces to meet the adversary on numerically advantageous terms but risk being flanked (and on a peninsula like Malaya, one's flanks are always open unless one has maritime supremacy).

    His cause was not helped by the orders he'd been given to defend the RAF's airfields which, essentially, forced him to employ Option 1 in northern Malaya. That said, he didn't learn from his mistakes, and when he had an opportunity to try Option 2 in the defence of Singapore he again opted for "defence everywhere", even compounding the mistake by misjudging which side of the causeway would form the main axis of the Japanese offensive.

    The other valid criticism of Percival is that he failed to insist on implementation of measures to delay the advance of an enemy, including making roads less vulnerable to tank attack; Ivan Simson's book is most illuminating in this regard but, as with all writings on the subject of the Singapore debacle, it must be read with some skepticism simply because Simson was the officer in charge of defensive preparations and so he could well simply be offloading responsibility for his own failings. We see the same with Brooke-Popham who blamed his intelligence staff for not making him aware of the performance characteristics of Japanese fighters when it's now been proven that such intelligence was provided to front-line fighter squadrons as far away as Mingaladon, Burma, in late-1941.
     
  18. Tankworks

    Tankworks Member

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    Parsival: We disagree on Churchill's motivation, so be it, as for Singapore I can be rightfuly accused of not keeping up on later writings on the subject and may be able to find some time to delve into it more deeply.
     
  19. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    #19 freebird, May 12, 2012
    Last edited: May 13, 2012
    Syscom, I think that this charge of inept and inexperienced generalship is more of a post-war myth, and the facts don't bear this out.

    By the summer of 1941, the British have just over one year of "recent" combat experience. Most of the senior generals that had been in combat were in vital roles in ETO or MTO (Brooke, Montgomery, Alexander, Wavell, O'Conner) or else had been found wanting and been passed over (Barker, Gort etc)
    Considering the performance of Leslie Morshead, who had last seen combat in command of a battalion in WWI, and yet provided superb leadership in Tobruk, the requirement for "recent" combat is a bit of a red herring.

    Lt. Gen Percival (CinC Malaya) had seen combat in WWI, in Russia in 1919, and as anti-partisan in Ireland in the 1920's. He had a OBE, DSO, MC Croix de Guerre for gallantry in WWI.

    Considering the years of experience he had in Malaya and knowledge of the defensive preparations vulnerabilities, he was a natural choice. There's no guarantee that putting someone else in charge who had no experience in Malaya would do any better

    Lt. Gen Heath (III corps) KBE, DSO, MC - He had fought in WWI, but unlike most of the others, had recently commanded the 5th Indian division ("Ball of Fire") in the very successful East African campaign, where he showed initiative understanding of fluid warfare.
    He was one of the best officers available in the Indian army, and I can't fault his appointment to Malaya at all.

    East African Campaign (World War II) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Battle of Keren - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Maj.Gen. Bennett (8th Aust div) was also a decorated soldier from Gallipoli France in WWI. His aggressive ambush at Gemas inflicted some solid losses on the Japanese, but was flanked by the enemy when the extremely green Indian brigade withdrew and allowed the Japanese across the Muar river without even informing corps HQ. :rolleyes:

    Maj Gen Barstow (9th Ind div) Maj.Gen Key (8th Ind brig) were again both decorated WWI vets, and in WWII they defended the Eastern coast of Malaya, and inflicted some serious losses on the Japanese landing at Kota Bharu, before completing a fighting withdrawl down the peninsula.

    Maj Gen Murray-Lyon (11th Indian division) was sacked after the series of defeats of the division, but he was hardly responsible for the poor perfomance of the Indian troops that were lacking in both training equipment.

    I could fault the other General in Malaya (Maj Gen Simmons) of the Singapore Fortress garrison for refusing to authorize defensive measures, but on the whole the senior leadership were not incompetant or "Colonial Policeman"

    An interesting choice of Percival's, considering that he and Dobbie had originally proposed defensive measures for Johore.

    I wonder if morale among the inexperienced Indian troops was more of a concern than was widely known.
    Had the majority of the troops been British or Australian, I can't imagine that seeing defensive preparations would be cause for concern regarding morale.
     
  20. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    The highest rank Percival attained during WWI was Lt Col and had no real experience of combat command above the Battalion level. Commanding several Divisions is a completely different challenge. Heath at least had recent (ie WWII) experience commanding large forces in combat. This experience, and his knowledge that Percival hadn't commanded above the Battalion level, undoubtedly contributed to the well-publicised friction between the 2 officers. There can be few who would argue with my statement that Percival was not a fighting general. That said, he was brave, intelligent and capable as his experiences as a POW, and the respect he earned during that period from his men, indicate.
     
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