Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

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Fatboy Coxy
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 17 May 2012 21:48

While we're addressing points

Surely a more balanced view on Britains defeat has to be giving more credit to the Japanese. This was the best force they ever fielded in my opinion, well balanced and equipped, and very well commanded. The task they were given was difficult, despite Britain's incompetence, but they managed it superbly. Maybe its a British thing to talk about our failures, or still the hangover of one of the biggest shocks to the British Public in ww2, but we talk a lot about the British failure and very little about the Japanese success.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by donsor » 17 May 2012 22:34

The Japanese in my opinion simply capitalized on the British ineptness. The British at that time never got over their "colonial" attitude towards Asians, even believing that the Japanese were too dumb to invent a plane that could fly and that the Japanese can never hit a target because they (Japanese) could hardly see through their slit eyes. The French made the same blunder in Dien Ben Phu. Of course we now know the British prevailed in Malaya, at great but unnecessary sacrifices.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by aghart » 18 May 2012 20:32

Fatboy Coxy wrote:While we're addressing points

Surely a more balanced view on Britains defeat has to be giving more credit to the Japanese. This was the best force they ever fielded in my opinion, well balanced and equipped, and very well commanded. The task they were given was difficult, despite Britain's incompetence, but they managed it superbly. Maybe its a British thing to talk about our failures, or still the hangover of one of the biggest shocks to the British Public in ww2, but we talk a lot about the British failure and very little about the Japanese success.

Steve
Indeed, the attack at Kota Bharu is a classic example. The landed opposite the strongest defences in the entire sector, in the dark, under intense fire and still had effectively won the battle within a couple of hours.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 19 May 2012 00:14

donsor wrote:The Japanese in my opinion simply capitalized on the British ineptness. The British at that time never got over their "colonial" attitude towards Asians, even believing that the Japanese were too dumb to invent a plane that could fly and that the Japanese can never hit a target because they (Japanese) could hardly see through their slit eyes. The French made the same blunder in Dien Ben Phu. Of course we now know the British prevailed in Malaya, at great but unnecessary sacrifices.
I take the point that the British underated the Japanese, and do think it had racial tones, however "The Japanese in my opinion simply capitalized on the British ineptness" is grossly underating the Japanese effort, which is my point.

Look at the make up of the Japanese 25th Army. two experience, quality, vetran infantry divisions, a very strong armoured contingent, supurb engineering support, a good mix of artillery, excellent amphibious capability, they had it all! And throw in their best General, and an excellent suite of air support units, this is the Japanese forces finest moments for me.

Steve

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by donsor » 19 May 2012 02:42

And the British knew nothing about the Japanese overwhelming potential? Why the British thought that the Japanese will be unable to penetrate the unforgiving Malayan jungle, and thus pointed all their heavy guns towards the sea in anticipation of Japanese landing, were beyond my comprehension.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 19 May 2012 03:14

Fatboy Coxy wrote:....

Look at the make up of the Japanese 25th Army. two experience, quality, vetran infantry divisions, a very strong armoured contingent, supurb engineering support, a good mix of artillery, excellent amphibious capability, they had it all! And throw in their best General, and an excellent suite of air support units, this is the Japanese forces finest moments for me.

Steve
I wonder if this were the same for the Japanese Armies that landed on Luzon, Java, Sumatra. Was the 17th Army that fought on New Guinea & Guadalcanal significantly inferior in any of these respects to the 25th Army? Perhaps comparisons might add some insights into this thread.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by aghart » 19 May 2012 11:00

donsor wrote:And the British knew nothing about the Japanese overwhelming potential? Why the British thought that the Japanese will be unable to penetrate the unforgiving Malayan jungle, and thus pointed all their heavy guns towards the sea in anticipation of Japanese landing, were beyond my comprehension.
I am staggered by this post. 71 years after the event and "STILL" the old myths continue. So one more time. From 1936 onwards the British in Malaya expected any Japanese attack on Singapore to come from the north, from Thailand down the west coast of Malaya to Singapore.(Which is exactly what happened) They could not however ignore the possibility of a seaborne attack. The guns of Singapore did their job magnificently just by being in place. The Japanese never even considered a direct assault on Singapore Island from the sea "because" of those guns. The failure or success of landward defence of Singapore was never about the heavy guns anyway. It was about stopping the Japanese on the mainland and preventing them from reaching the Island.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 19 May 2012 22:55

aghart wrote:.... The failure or success of landward defence of Singapore was never about the heavy guns anyway. It was about stopping the Japanese on the mainland and preventing them from reaching the Island.
Indeed. Japanese soldiers in a position to assault from Maylasia represents a stratigic defeat, the loss of the population, rubber plantations, tin mines, airfields, ect... That is independant of the outcome of a attack on Singapore itself. While it was more convienient to capture Singapore sooner than later I'd think that with Maylasia securely in their hands the Japanese have the option of by passing the British base and invading Sumatra, thus isolating Singapore.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by donsor » 20 May 2012 03:06

I don't believe that the Japanese were deterred from invasion by sea because of the guns. I don't believe they (Japanese) even considered the prospect of seaborne invasion at all, judging from the absence of any sizable naval armada needed to protect amphibious operation. In fact the two British cruisers in the area were sunk by land based Japanese planes. If the British anticipated attack from the North, why was the British ill prepared to meet such attack. The Japanese had their jungle experienced fighters. The British did not expect the Japanese to use tanks. Moving the big guns to face the sea was for sure a large scale operation in itself. Good possibility was that there were Japanese spies in place reporting such operation. In retrospect, it really did matter as the Allied forces, facing a much superior force, would have lost the entire region soon or later.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Attrition » 20 May 2012 07:30

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
aghart wrote:.... The failure or success of landward defence of Singapore was never about the heavy guns anyway. It was about stopping the Japanese on the mainland and preventing them from reaching the Island.
Indeed. Japanese soldiers in a position to assault from Maylasia represents a stratigic defeat, the loss of the population, rubber plantations, tin mines, airfields, ect... That is independant of the outcome of a attack on Singapore itself. While it was more convienient to capture Singapore sooner than later I'd think that with Maylasia securely in their hands the Japanese have the option of by passing the British base and invading Sumatra, thus isolating Singapore.
How would Singapore have survived for long if the Japanese attack from the mainland had been repulsed? It was more the icing on the cake, after the strategic commodities in Malaya had changed hands. If the alternative was a siege like Leningrad only quicker and more lethal, an ignominious surrender might have seemed like a lesser evil.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by aghart » 20 May 2012 09:39

donsor wrote:I don't believe that the Japanese were deterred from invasion by sea because of the guns. I don't believe they (Japanese) even considered the prospect of seaborne invasion at all, judging from the absence of any sizable naval armada needed to protect amphibious operation. In fact the two British cruisers in the area were sunk by land based Japanese planes. If the British anticipated attack from the North, why was the British ill prepared to meet such attack. The Japanese had their jungle experienced fighters. The British did not expect the Japanese to use tanks. Moving the big guns to face the sea was for sure a large scale operation in itself. Good possibility was that there were Japanese spies in place reporting such operation. In retrospect, it really did matter as the Allied forces, facing a much superior force, would have lost the entire region soon or later.
Donsor. may I suggest that you read this long ongoing thread from the start! that way you will have your questions answered. Also take the time to read up on the Malayan Campaign and you will discover that the guns of Singapore were not moved to face the sea! they were purposely placed in fixed positions facing the sea in order to defend the naval base against a seaborne attack and invasion. You cannot move 15" naval guns from A to B like a piece of army artillery.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 22 May 2012 22:00

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
Fatboy Coxy wrote:....

Look at the make up of the Japanese 25th Army. two experience, quality, vetran infantry divisions, a very strong armoured contingent, supurb engineering support, a good mix of artillery, excellent amphibious capability, they had it all! And throw in their best General, and an excellent suite of air support units, this is the Japanese forces finest moments for me.

Steve
I wonder if this were the same for the Japanese Armies that landed on Luzon, Java, Sumatra. Was the 17th Army that fought on New Guinea & Guadalcanal significantly inferior in any of these respects to the 25th Army? Perhaps comparisons might add some insights into this thread.
Fair comment.

I don't mean to be disrespectful to other forces fighting the initial Japanese moves, but I feel the Japanese viewed Malaya as the hardest nut to crack, and the key to success in the Centrifugal Offensive. The Japanese quite rightly assessed the Dutch East Indies forces are merely an occupation police force, which once loss of command of the sea, was fragmented, and incapable of any sustained action.

The Americans in the Philippines was another matter, and here I feel we can take comparisons of the campaigns that had to be fought.

The major objectives in both the Philippines and Malaya were the capture of their respective naval bases, Cavite and Singapore, and the destruction of the allied forces stationed there.

Firstly Malaya/Singapore was easier to defend than the Philippines. Malaya/Singapore is less exposed to the Japanese forces, who had to come from the South China Sea (Sea) and/or Indo-China (land), and so the British only had to defend the Malaya/Thailand border and the East Coast of Malaya. For the Philippines, once control of the seas was lost, pretty much everywhere had to be defended. Prediction of attack was therefore harder to define.

Secondly Malaya was easier to supply with her lines of communications to India shielded from the Japanese Imperial Navy by the Malay Peninsula. The Philippines LoC was right across the Pacific, Midway, Hawaii and then onto the West coast of the USA, totally exposed to the IJN. So taking the big assumption that the Japanese are successful at Pearl Harbour, The Philippines becomes a relative sitting duck, while Malaya is a race of building up forces and supplies. The urgency and focus was rightly on Malaya.

With the arrival of Force Z, the British introduced something into their arsenal that the Americans didn’t have, a very potent naval threat! The Japanese responded by deploying lines of submarines across the likely path of Force Z, deployed the battleships Kongo and Haruna as back up to the invasion force, and moved the 22nd Naval Air Flotilla, with over a 100 Nell and Betty twin engine torpedo bombers into southern Indo-China.

To deal with the similar numbers of aircraft Britain and the US fielded, the Japanese deployed under 200 IJA aircraft in the Philippines, while more than 400 were used in Malaya. This is somewhat biased because the IJA initially operated from southern Indo-China for the Malaya campaign, but had to capture airfields in the Philippines before many aircraft could be deployed. Never the less it demonstrates the biased commitment they gave towards the Malayan campaign.

Comparing the land forces, Malaya had two top class veteran infantry divisions, 5th (motorised) and 18th backed up later by the Imperial Guards Infantry Div, and also available, though not used, 56th Infantry Div. Supporting them was no less than four tank regiments in the 3rd Tank Brigade, along with considerable artillery. For Luzon two Infantry Divs were deployed, the 16th and the 48th, both capable but not in the same class as the 5th and 18th, and even then the 48th was moved onto the Dutch East Indies before the fighting was complete, replaced by less capable units.

However the real stars of the 25th Army for me were the non combat units. Advancing down the predictable routes of the few good roads running north – south in Malaya, it was all too easy to destroy bridges across the numerous rivers, and so slow any advance down to a crawl. A good selection of engineering regiments specialising in bridge building, boat handling amphibious operations, railway operations, dockside handling were all present. Extra truck companies, airfield construction units helped keep the pace of advance going, being able to continually relocate forces forwards, over the infrastructure the engineers were repairing. It was shoe string, locally adapted operations at times, but it worked, and this set the platform from which victory was won.

To seriously research further into the Malayan campaign more effort will have to be made in finding and translating diaries of these Japanese formations.

Steve

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by donsor » 23 May 2012 05:36

Mr. Aghart: You are trying to tell me that the British had their 15" guns facing the sea knowing full well that the Japanese were not invading from the sea? I know it's difficult moving the 15" monstrosities around but by George they could have at least tried to get some tactical use out of them.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Barry Graham » 23 May 2012 08:24

A couple of guns were moved to face north.
They only had armouring piercing shell - unsuitable for action against land forces.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by aghart » 23 May 2012 20:02

The guns were in permanment fixed locations and could not be moved. Most did have all round traverse but these weapons were intended as anti ship weapons and as such had mainly AP shells. Standard army artillery pieces were ideal for use on the northern shore. However the only way to defend Singapore and keep the Naval base operational was to keep the Japanese at arms length, i.e. keep them some distance to the north and out of artillery range of Singapore and the naval base. That is why airfields were built in Malaya and a plan (matador) prepared to pre empt the expected japanese landing in Thailand.

The fall of France in 1940 causing the loss of the French fleet and leaving French Indo China vunerable to the Japanese pressure sealed the fate of Singapore.

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