North African strategy if Britain does well in Far East in 42

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Re: North African strategy if Britain does well in Far East in 42

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 27 Nov 2022 20:42

Kingfish wrote:
27 Nov 2022 12:18
A Commonwealth hold in SE Asia might have a material effect on the Arctic convoys, which in turn has a material effect on what is supplied to Africa / Asia. I'm sure Britain would place the emphasis towards defense of her own holdings rather than territory in Russia.
I agree. Firstly an impact on shipping, the distance from UK to Singapore is much further than UK to Murmansk, a single convoy to Singapore can easily equate to three journeys to Murmansk.
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Re: North African strategy if Britain does well in Far East in 42

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 27 Nov 2022 20:55

EwenS wrote:
27 Nov 2022 13:15

I don’t see that it changes anything in North Africa.

Operation Crusader and Rommel’s counter offensive see saw back and forth across the desert between Nov 1941 and before the line stabilises around Gazala in Feb 1942. Both sides then need to regroup and re-equip. By then the decision has been made to withdraw the two Australian divisions and 7th Armoured Brigade (which ended up in Burma instead of Singapore or Java, can’t remember which offhand). 18th Div was diverted while en route to the Middle East. There are no other troops to spare in the Middle East. The next reinforcing divisions don’t sail from Britain until mid-year 1942. It takes about 2 months plus planning time to move anything from Britain to the Indian Ocean area.

Strategically nothing has changed. North Africa is key to keeping the Suez Canal and the Middle East oil fields. It also helps keep Turkey out of the war on the Axis side, and therefore closes a back door route to the Middle East.

As for the RAF and RN same situation. All that could be spared was sent.

So if Malaya holds on a bit longer the cupboard is bare. Ultimately same result just takes longer.

In fact the Burma position could be worse. A slower Japanese move to take Rangoon, leaves the British Army stranded in central Burma when the monsoon strikes, unless it simply abandons the country.
Ah but it does. In truth, historically, the Far East was lost so quickly that Britain's strategy had very little time to change, but in this What If, they are holding Malaya, Sumatra, Java, and historically whats left east of Java. Britain can't abandon Malaya, Singapore is central to the whole defence of Australia (Singapore Strategy), while holding the two major islands of the Dutch East Indies seriously damages Japans whole plan of success in the war, by denial of the oil.

The pressure on Britain giving up the Australian 9th Division, maybe even the 2nd New Zealand from North Africa to defend the DEI is huge. Secondly, realistically, the DEI can only be held by strong a air force and naval presence. Despite your view that no more can be given up, taking a very defensive stance in North Africa could possible free more forces, especially naval.
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Re: North African strategy if Britain does well in Far East in 42

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 27 Nov 2022 20:58

EwenS wrote:
27 Nov 2022 13:22
Kingfish wrote:
27 Nov 2022 12:18
A Commonwealth hold in SE Asia might have a material effect on the Arctic convoys, which in turn has a material effect on what is supplied to Africa / Asia. I'm sure Britain would place the emphasis towards defense of her own holdings rather than territory in Russia.
On the other hand keeping Russia in the war is strategically important as it ties a large part of the German Army down and again stops a German breakthrough into the Caucasus later in the year.

In late 1941, Britain prioritised Russia over the Far East in spite of the increasing threat in the Far East. By early 1942 the LL to Russia was starting to flow from the US. The significant British contribution was to escort it there.
I'm not suggesting they give up on Russia, far from it, but a different balance now has to be struck. Agree the RN has to take on the Artic escorting duties, keeping things simple, but can some to the USN Atlantic fleet be spared for the Pacific.
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Re: North African strategy if Britain does well in Far East in 42

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 27 Nov 2022 21:10

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
27 Nov 2022 19:26
Fatboy Coxy wrote:
27 Nov 2022 11:33

Initially, everything east of Malaya/Sumatra is going to be covered by the Australian I Corps in Java, and god knows what else can be found to defend the Island chain towards Australia. Quite when and how far the Americans commit to I can't say.

Parts of the Pensacola convoy were diverted from the Philippines to Australia & DEI in January 1942. Task Force 6814, a division size group of separate regiments and battalions, was embarked from the US east coast to the A Pac 23 January 1942. A complete infantry division was embarked for S Pac a little after that.
I'd be interested in knowing what more the USA could give in this theatre. For them too, strategy has to change, does the USN pacific campaign become more contorted with resources being sucked into defending the eastern DEI and sea lanes to Australia
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Re: North African strategy if Britain does well in Far East in 42

Post by T. A. Gardner » 27 Nov 2022 21:59

Fatboy Coxy wrote:
27 Nov 2022 11:36
Hi T A Gardner, Sumatra can't fall while both Malaya and Java are held. I agree with your view on US capabilities.
The two are mutually exclusive. The British could hold Malaya while the Dutch lose the DEI. That is quite likely going to be the case here. The Japanese forces involved in the two are separate things as are the Allied forces. Malaya holding doesn't mean the British and Commonwealth suddenly have large numbers of forces freed up to go elsewhere. That isn't happening here. There are two reasons why:

First, they'd still need a sizable force in Malaya for defense in case the Japanese reinforce and make a second try.
Second, they lack the shipping and naval escorts to run large units into the DEI and keep them supplied once they're there.

My position in this scenario is the British hold Malaya and the Dutch lose the DEI, including Sumatra.

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Re: North African strategy if Britain does well in Far East in 42

Post by T. A. Gardner » 27 Nov 2022 22:03

Fatboy Coxy wrote:
27 Nov 2022 20:55
EwenS wrote:
27 Nov 2022 13:15

I don’t see that it changes anything in North Africa.

Operation Crusader and Rommel’s counter offensive see saw back and forth across the desert between Nov 1941 and before the line stabilises around Gazala in Feb 1942. Both sides then need to regroup and re-equip. By then the decision has been made to withdraw the two Australian divisions and 7th Armoured Brigade (which ended up in Burma instead of Singapore or Java, can’t remember which offhand). 18th Div was diverted while en route to the Middle East. There are no other troops to spare in the Middle East. The next reinforcing divisions don’t sail from Britain until mid-year 1942. It takes about 2 months plus planning time to move anything from Britain to the Indian Ocean area.

Strategically nothing has changed. North Africa is key to keeping the Suez Canal and the Middle East oil fields. It also helps keep Turkey out of the war on the Axis side, and therefore closes a back door route to the Middle East.

As for the RAF and RN same situation. All that could be spared was sent.

So if Malaya holds on a bit longer the cupboard is bare. Ultimately same result just takes longer.

In fact the Burma position could be worse. A slower Japanese move to take Rangoon, leaves the British Army stranded in central Burma when the monsoon strikes, unless it simply abandons the country.
Ah but it does. In truth, historically, the Far East was lost so quickly that Britain's strategy had very little time to change, but in this What If, they are holding Malaya, Sumatra, Java, and historically whats left east of Java. Britain can't abandon Malaya, Singapore is central to the whole defence of Australia (Singapore Strategy), while holding the two major islands of the Dutch East Indies seriously damages Japans whole plan of success in the war, by denial of the oil.

The pressure on Britain giving up the Australian 9th Division, maybe even the 2nd New Zealand from North Africa to defend the DEI is huge. Secondly, realistically, the DEI can only be held by strong a air force and naval presence. Despite your view that no more can be given up, taking a very defensive stance in North Africa could possible free more forces, especially naval.
I can't see them holding any of the DEI. They lack the naval forces to win the sea battle, then lack the land forces to form any sort of coherent defense of the DEI. There's just too much land to try and defend.

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Re: North African strategy if Britain does well in Far East in 42

Post by nuyt » 27 Nov 2022 22:33

Very interesting.
If I understand correctly the British hold Malaya and Singapore, in which case part of the IJA/IJN assault force must be lost. The Japanese take British and Dutch Borneo, Celebes and Ambon in their first wave. The Western assault force destined for Western Java and, first stop, Southern Sumatra, does not have sufficient air cover and is vulnerable to Allied harassment and ABDA naval attacks. It either gets a beating or it does not deploy at all. Instead the Japanese focus on the eastern DEI and double down against Timor and the other lesser islands there. Here a big battle is on, as the Allies and especially the Australians want to keep Timor free. Allied forces from the US, NZ and Australia are rushed in. Timor is the new Guadalcanal in this scenario. Both sides throw in what is available and the battle takes several months until... Midway.
The tide will turn and the Dutch in Sumatra and Java are still safe as there is no meaningful Japanese attack force left. And their morale is still high because Malaya and Singapore did not fall and the Allies are still supplying and reinforcing them. The Dutch lost max 15.000 men on the occupied islands of their total 150.000, so 90% still left. Naval and air force may be depleted in this period. But they have their B24s now and Hurricanes. Tanks have arrived and more AA, AT and field guns. Bu they are safe on their islands until they need to counterattack elsewhere.
The Japanese dig in on Borneo (with plenty of oil in both Dutch and British territories), Celebes, Ambon and New Guinea. Naval and air war rage.
The battle of Timor does not involve a lot of Allied divisions, mainly US Marines as in the Solomon campaign. One or two Allied Divisions can be send to Java and Sumatra, but that's it I guess. So if three ANZAC divisions are available in theater and a one or two US Marine divisions plus additional artillery are moved from the Pacific to Timor and lesser Sunda islands, that should work. Then it's island hopping again all the way to Japan, but that can wait a year or so.

So hardly any change in North Africa?

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Re: North African strategy if Britain does well in Far East in 42

Post by EwenS » 28 Nov 2022 12:36

North Africa needs to be looked at separately from the “Middle East” which covered everything from Libya to the Persian Gulf and down into East Africa.

There is another way of looking at how North Africa is potentially affected by a change in the Far East in this What If. Where exactly did the units that were redeployed historically come from.

Firstly, the decision to move the Australians didn’t occur until late Dec 1941 / early Jan 1942. That in itself was affected by the speed of the Japanese advance right across the East Indies.

7th Australian Div - Having taken part in the invasion of Syria in 1941, it moved from Syria to Palestine to Suez to embark for Australia, but due to troop shipping shortages it had to move in stages. First convoy left on 30 Jan 1942. Some elements diverted to Java, with early plans calling for the whole division to go there. Following the fall of Singapore there was a furious row between London & Canberra as to where it should go - Rangoon or Australia. It wasn’t reunited as a division until mid-March.

6th Australian Div - based Syria, before being withdrawn to return to Australia. 19th Brigade was first to arrive back in Australia on 10 March. The following two brigades didn’t leave until mid-March and were then diverted to defence of Ceylon until July then back to Australia. Finding the troop shipping to move them is again the big issue.

7th Armoured Brigade - had been severely mauled during Operation Crusader and was resting and re-equipping in the Canal Zone. 2 of its 3 Armoured regiments were sent east. Planned for Singapore, diverted to Rangoon, arriving 20 Feb 1942.

18th Infantry Div - this unit had been earmarked as a reinforcement for the Middle East (sources vary as to whether that meant the Middle East or North Africa. It was diverted to Singapore at the end of Dec 1941.

Hurricane squadrons - In late 1941, 7 Hurricane squadrons were shipped out from Britain destined for the Middle East, for a planned operation over southern Russia. En route some of the aircraft & pilots were diverted in Nov 1941 to Malta. Of the remainder, Indomitable transported 2 squadrons (258 & 232) to Java in Jan 1942. They had been offloaded at Takoradi and flown across Africa and picked up new aircraft before embarking. Another 3 squadrons ended up in India / Burma in Feb 1942.

On her second trip in late Feb / early March, Indomitable took another 2 squadrons intended for Java, 261 and 30, but they were diverted while en route to Ceylon instead. Only 30 squadron was withdrawn from North Africa. 261 came from Iraq / Palestine.

803 & 806 squadrons FAA, which had been operating as part of the RN Fighter Squadron along the North African coast, were only withdrawn in Feb to re-equip before going to Ceylon in March.

Back in Britain at the beginning of 1942, 2 squadrons of Beauforts were earmarked to be sent to the Far East. Initially their departure was delayed, but then many of the aircraft and crews were hijacked in the Med to augment the anti-shipping Forces there.

The point about these redeployments between theatres is threefold:-
1. Very little is being withdrawn from the forces assembled in North Africa fighting Rommel. Rather, they are being diverted from garrison units in the Middle East or operations planned as a precaution for what might happen elsewhere. Without substantial withdrawals from North Africa life goes on as historical.
2. Note how much was diverted to Ceylon, India or Burma because of the speed with which everything happened in the DEI/Malaya. This was done to reinforce pressing issues (Burma) or because there was no point in throwing more force into lost causes. In this What If what goes where and when if the Allied position proves substantially better than historical.
3. The speed with which anything can be moved across the Indian Ocean is limited by the huge distances involved and the shortage of troop shipping available in this time of crisis.

Stopping the Japanese in Malaya does nothing to delay the more southerly thrusts. Once the Japanese arrive on Java, Malaya becomes virtually impossible to defend unless substantial reinforcements can be put on the island to slow their westward advance. Back to shipping the 7th Australian Div. So long as Southern Malaya is held no meaningful invasion of Sumatra or western Java can take place.

What happens to Burma and the reinforcements directed there, very much depends on how much resource the Japanese need to devote to capturing Singapore.

As for oil, the big prizes are the refineries at Palembang in southern Sumatra.

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Re: North African strategy if Britain does well in Far East in 42

Post by nuyt » 28 Nov 2022 13:45

Excellent, so we could see early March 42:

- 7th AB going to Singapore and from there to Palembang
- 7th Div fully deployed on (Eastern and Central) Java
- 19th Brigade (6th Div) with its three infantry battalions can be disembarked in emergency on Timor (the USS Houston convoy carrying Australian and US reinforcements had made it in this scenario to the island on Feb 17th, as well as some Dutch reinforcements, British AA troops and air force elements)
- four Hurricane squadrons on Java

The Pensacola convoy had carried three US artillery battalions, one of which had been sent to java, the second had been on the Houston convoy and in this scenario goes to Timor, while the third in real life went to Darwin. This 147th can be sent to Timor as well to help keep the line.

Added later:
- the 800 Portuguese troops on their way as reinforcements from Mozambique (and who would turn back near Sunda Strait) in this scenario arrive in PT/East Timor (included an artillery battery).

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Re: North African strategy if Britain does well in Far East in 42

Post by Gooner1 » 28 Nov 2022 17:11

Fatboy Coxy wrote:
26 Nov 2022 19:32
Operation Crusader is over, as was historically, but with the expected sucking of yet more resources to the Far East, what does Britain do in North Africa. They still need to supply Malta, which at the moment, with the capture of Cyrenaica, has become much easier. But Cyrenaica is hard to hold, and having been chased out once, are they likely to appreciate that they’ll be pushed out again. Do they ignore the coming German counter attack, hoping to muddle through, or can they take the strategic option of falling back to Halfaya Pass, leaving a strong garrison in Tobruk, like they did last year.

Making that decision early means a proper defence of Tobruk can be mounted, using the knowledge of last year to help prepare. But what troops might they choose to garrison the stronghold, and can the Navy again supply it, given their own losses last year.
A big fat No to that plan from the Royal Navy I think.

They lost 27 ships sunk and 27 ships damaged in the '41 siege to go through that sort of attrition again when there was absolutely no need for it can be safely dismissed. The plan for the defence of Gazala was that Tobruk would be abandoned if the position had to be abandoned. The decision to defend Tobruk after the position had to abandoned was very much a late one.

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Re: North African strategy if Britain does well in Far East in 42

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 28 Nov 2022 23:44

Thanks Gooner1, well I knew they lost a lot, but not that many. Do you know how many were Gunboat or Destroyer size and above.

So my hypothesis of a strategic plan of withdrawing, leaving a garrison in Tobruk, like they did in 41, would now be modified to just the retreat, given how the RN is being asked to provide more ships for the Far East theatre.

Of course, any suggestion of a strategic retreat, has to overcome Churchill, I wonder how well that would go?

So it would seem, by default, that they remain where they were historically, except the Battle of Gazala in May 42, may be an even bigger loss, given a continued sucking of resources to the Far East that didn't happen historically due to the loss of Singapore and Java in February and March respectively.
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Re: North African strategy if Britain does well in Far East in 42

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 28 Nov 2022 23:52

nuyt wrote:
28 Nov 2022 13:45
Excellent, so we could see early March 42:

- 7th AB going to Singapore and from there to Palembang
- 7th Div fully deployed on (Eastern and Central) Java
- 19th Brigade (6th Div) with its three infantry battalions can be disembarked in emergency on Timor (the USS Houston convoy carrying Australian and US reinforcements had made it in this scenario to the island on Feb 17th, as well as some Dutch reinforcements, British AA troops and air force elements)
- four Hurricane squadrons on Java

The Pensacola convoy had carried three US artillery battalions, one of which had been sent to java, the second had been on the Houston convoy and in this scenario goes to Timor, while the third in real life went to Darwin. This 147th can be sent to Timor as well to help keep the line.

Added later:
- the 800 Portuguese troops on their way as reinforcements from Mozambique (and who would turn back near Sunda Strait) in this scenario arrive in PT/East Timor (included an artillery battery).
7th AB going to Singapore and from there to Palembang Given the whole of Malaya is still held, as well as Java, I can't see how Sumatra is threatened. I do think some poorly trained Indian troops might help out in a local security role, but the 7th Armd Bde would be better placed in either Malaya or Java.

Also the other British reinforcements might get swallowed up in Malaya, stopping the Japanese, even a logistically challenged one, wouldn't come cheap. re the four Hurricane squadrons, this theatre would now be a major drain on aircraft I suspect, as the RAF and its support take on attuiting the Japanese Air Forces.
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Re: North African strategy if Britain does well in Far East in 42

Post by OldBill » 29 Nov 2022 02:17

Do the Allies place forces on Timor as IRL? This would also mean the Japanese will react as in OTL, with an invasion. How likely is it that Portugal can be brought into the Allied fold?

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Re: North African strategy if Britain does well in Far East in 42

Post by nuyt » 29 Nov 2022 10:44

Fatboy Coxy wrote:
28 Nov 2022 23:52


7th AB going to Singapore and from there to Palembang Given the whole of Malaya is still held, as well as Java, I can't see how Sumatra is threatened. I do think some poorly trained Indian troops might help out in a local security role, but the 7th Armd Bde would be better placed in either Malaya or Java.

Also the other British reinforcements might get swallowed up in Malaya, stopping the Japanese, even a logistically challenged one, wouldn't come cheap. re the four Hurricane squadrons, this theatre would now be a major drain on aircraft I suspect, as the RAF and its support take on attuiting the Japanese Air Forces.
Agreed re the 7th AB. Palembang could be reinforced with elements from the DEI 1st and 2nd divisions on Western Java before the arrival of more Allied troops.

Going back to the issue of holding Malaya. How does this happen and when? If the landing force for Kota Bharu is destroyed at sea by ABDA submarines and aviation, that would still leave the Southern Thailand landings as a main threat to Malaya. So a successful Operation Matador must have happened as well. That means the IJA lands further north and descends the Krah Istmus, adding a bit more time for Allied forces to dig in on the smallest part. The Allies are now at war with Siam by the way.

Will the IJN double down on Malaya and Singapore with a much bigger force or focus on the Eastern DEI and Pacific?

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Re: North African strategy if Britain does well in Far East in 42

Post by nuyt » 29 Nov 2022 10:48

OldBill wrote:
29 Nov 2022 02:17
Do the Allies place forces on Timor as IRL? This would also mean the Japanese will react as in OTL, with an invasion. How likely is it that Portugal can be brought into the Allied fold?
You mean the Portuguese half of Timor. Well, the Japanese arrived earlier than the PT reinforcements IRL, so I'd say yes, ABDA still lands at Dili. The PT reinforcements however do arrive in this scenario as I wrote above and are added to the defence (which still will require attention from the Allies). The IJA still lands as well and Timor has the potential to become this scenario's Guadalcanal.

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