Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

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daveshoup2MD
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 17 Jan 2022 01:00

Attrition wrote:
16 Jan 2022 22:02
How long would the populaion of Singapore lasted once the water from the mainland was cut off?
IN 1931, the population was well over 500,000; in 1951, more than a million. No census was published in the 1940s, but presume that with civilian refugees from the Peninsula and the troops that retreated south, 600,000 or more seems reasonable.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/20067730

Today, a healthy intake is regarded as 3-4 liters a day, but for adults in the tropics and engaged in physical activity, undoubtedly it would be significantly higher, and the above figures are just for drinking; nothing for washing or sanitation.

With that, 600,000 x 4 is 2.4 million liters, and that also has to be distributed, etc.

The above isn't even a SWAG, but absent a military logistics study (which between the British, Malaysians, Singaporeans, etc, presumably exists somewhere) seems pretty clear the island was doomed once Johore was under Japanese control - which suggests, again, that absent a field army and the equivalent of the Desert Air Force in place before the end of 1941, the entire territory, including the peninsula, was pretty clearly doomed once the Japanese were in control of French Indochina.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 17 Jan 2022 16:04

daveshoup2MD wrote:
17 Jan 2022 01:00
Attrition wrote:
16 Jan 2022 22:02
How long would the populaion of Singapore lasted once the water from the mainland was cut off?
IN 1931, the population was well over 500,000; in 1951, more than a million. No census was published in the 1940s, but presume that with civilian refugees from the Peninsula and the troops that retreated south, 600,000 or more seems reasonable.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/20067730

Today, a healthy intake is regarded as 3-4 liters a day, but for adults in the tropics and engaged in physical activity, undoubtedly it would be significantly higher, and the above figures are just for drinking; nothing for washing or sanitation.

With that, 600,000 x 4 is 2.4 million liters, and that also has to be distributed, etc.

The above isn't even a SWAG, but absent a military logistics study (which between the British, Malaysians, Singaporeans, etc, presumably exists somewhere) seems pretty clear the island was doomed once Johore was under Japanese control - which suggests, again, that absent a field army and the equivalent of the Desert Air Force in place before the end of 1941, the entire territory, including the peninsula, was pretty clearly doomed once the Japanese were in control of French Indochina.
Which is why Malaya had to be defended. You are making me laugh with this crazy strategy you are promoting, it does lend to some fun, I agree.
daveshoup2MD wrote:
16 Jan 2022 05:12
aghart wrote:
15 Jan 2022 23:29
The British penchant for reinforcing in the middle of failure notwithstanding, sending any reinforcements in 1941 was a fool's errand; the British, Australian, and Indian troops - and ships, and aircraft - sent to Malaya in 1941 all could have been much more gainfully employed elsewhere, if only to fight again another day.
Especially if you had 80 years worth of hindsight!
[/quote]

The same year, the British evacuated British Somaliland after it's defense became militarily untenable; because of that decision, four British, Indian, and African infantry battalions lived to fight again another day. Again, no hindsight necessary.
https://comandosupremo.com/british-somaliland/

Strategy is formed by a realistic understanding of the correlation of forces in a given theater. That realism was present in 1940 in Britain; it was not, interestingly enough, in 1941.

Why that is so is a question worth considering.
[/quote]

Your example of British Somaliland is a poor choice, at the outbreak of war there was only the British Somaliland Camel Corps, and it had long been proposed by the governor, Arthur Lawrence, to demilitarised, but this was rejected. In May 1940, a battalion of Northern Rhodesia Regt, was sent to reinforce, and after Italy entered the war, a battalion of the Kings African Rifles arrived. The Italians began their invasion of the colony on 3rd August, the British sending a further two battalions, a Punjab and the Royal Scots. Taking how you explained your strategy, using the Japanese moving into French-Indo China as the trigger to accept the fate of Malaya/Singapore, and not reinforce, ie throw men away, none of those four battalions should have been sent in the first place. Have i got in right, the strategy I mean?
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Fatboy Coxy

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 17 Jan 2022 19:15

Fatboy Coxy wrote:
17 Jan 2022 16:04
Which is why Malaya had to be defended. ... etc.
The Province of Johore - where Singapore got and continues to get freshwater today from the Johore River via an aqueduct/reservoir/pipeline system - and Malaya are not the same thing. It's rather like suggesting the City and County of London is the same place as Yorkshire.

Geography; it's a thing.

As far as British Somaliland goes, the point is the British chose to evacuate when it became clear it was a loss - BUT because the British retained control of the air and the sea, in comparison to the Italians in the Red Sea in 1940 (big difference with the IJA and IJN out of French Indochina; the Japanese could reinforce both, and then send reinforcements on to Malaya; the Italians could not reinforce East Africa) - they were able to get the ground forces out, as opposed to reinforcing failure with even more troops and going down in a "glorious" defeat - as the did in Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore, etc.

Is this really that hard to follow?

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 17 Jan 2022 21:43

daveshoup2MD wrote:
17 Jan 2022 19:15
Fatboy Coxy wrote:
17 Jan 2022 16:04
Which is why Malaya had to be defended. ... etc.
The Province of Johore - where Singapore got and continues to get freshwater today from the Johore River via an aqueduct/reservoir/pipeline system - and Malaya are not the same thing. It's rather like suggesting the City and County of London is the same place as Yorkshire.

Geography; it's a thing.

As far as British Somaliland goes, the point is the British chose to evacuate when it became clear it was a loss - BUT because the British retained control of the air and the sea, in comparison to the Italians in the Red Sea in 1940 (big difference with the IJA and IJN out of French Indochina; the Japanese could reinforce both, and then send reinforcements on to Malaya; the Italians could not reinforce East Africa) - they were able to get the ground forces out, as opposed to reinforcing failure with even more troops and going down in a "glorious" defeat - as the did in Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore, etc.

Is this really that hard to follow?
OK, so firstly you happy to defend the Naval base out to a distance of about 20 miles, if your defence is based on the 1930s built Kota Tinggi defensive line, but I'm hoping your not thinking so shallow, and you mean the whole of Johore, so now we are about 100 miles away at Segamat. Is that still too shallow to defend the Fleet Anchored at Singapore?

Re your reply on British Somaliland, there seems to be some shift in your strategy, if you conclude Malaya cannot be held once the Japanese enter Indo-China, then surely the same holds for British Somaliland, with the Italian East African colony across the border. How can you argue not to reinforce Malay, but do so in British Somaliland. And before you quote the British control of air and sea, the Italians possessed a decent number of destroyers and submarines to contest the seas, while the air forces Britain could muster to contest the air with the Italians was very much a scrapped together thing.
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 17 Jan 2022 23:15

Fatboy Coxy wrote:
17 Jan 2022 21:43
OK, so firstly you happy to defend the Naval base out to a distance of about 20 miles, if your defence is based on the 1930s built Kota Tinggi defensive line, but I'm hoping your not thinking so shallow, and you mean the whole of Johore, so now we are about 100 miles away at Segamat. Is that still too shallow to defend the Fleet Anchored at Singapore?

Re your reply on British Somaliland, there seems to be some shift in your strategy, if you conclude Malaya cannot be held once the Japanese enter Indo-China, then surely the same holds for British Somaliland, with the Italian East African colony across the border. How can you argue not to reinforce Malay, but do so in British Somaliland. And before you quote the British control of air and sea, the Italians possessed a decent number of destroyers and submarines to contest the seas, while the air forces Britain could muster to contest the air with the Italians was very much a scrapped together thing.
Why defend a naval base absent a fleet to base there?

The Italian Red Sea force amounted to seven destroyers and eight submarines, whose impact on the campaign was - light - to be charitable, and which was a wasting asset in any case, given their was no supply line. Likewise, the Italian air force in East Africa amounted to less than 200 operational aircraft, of which less than 40 were fighters (all biplanes). Given the results of the air campaign, the British/Commonwealth/etc. asset available were more than adequate. What led to the British decision to evacuate British Somaliland (rightly so) was the threat of the Italian colonial ground forces.

Going back to Malaya, in the fourth quarter of 1941, the Japanese had four corps headquarters equivalents, 10-12 reinforced infantry division equivalents, enough shipping to land about half of the above simultaneously and move and sustain the entire force in locations as separate as Luzon, Malaya, Indonesia, and Burma, more than 2,000 operational aircraft (IJAAF and IJNAF), and the vast majority of the Combined Fleet. They also were operating on interior lines which meant that high value assets like (for example, the fact carriers could operate in the Central Pacific in December, 1941, the Southwest Pacific in the first quarter of 1942, and the Indian Ocean in the second quarter.

The Allied forces in the Western Pacific were deployed in as many different locations, and the handful of mobile reserves - the British infantry division and two Indian brigades deployed to and thrown away in Malaya/Singapore in the first few weeks of 1942 - were allowed to be diverted and destroyed for no good purpose.

The end result was that by the end of the second quarter of 1942, the Allies were facing, essentially, four different campaigns over he rest of the year; of these, three ended well for the Allies (Central Pacific, South Pacific, Southwest Pacific) while the fourth (Burma 1942-43) ended in yet another defeat.

Unless the British could have put a British/Imperial/Commonwealth army and air force capable of fighting and winning against - essentially - the whole of the available Japanese force, detailed above, and before the outbreak of hostilities, the Japanese cud concentrate and reinforce to a degree to overcome any reinforcement the British deployed to Malaya/Singapore after the war began - as they did, historically. Having a fleet the size of the BPF of 1944-45 would not have hurt, either. ;)

And the problem for the British is that after the Fall of France, they would not have such a force available for the Far East until well after the US was at war and able to sustain the British - which was not 1941-42, of course.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Attrition » 18 Jan 2022 10:09

I think you put that rather well.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by EKB » 18 Jan 2022 10:32

daveshoup2MD wrote:
17 Jan 2022 23:15
Fatboy Coxy wrote:
17 Jan 2022 21:43
OK, so firstly you happy to defend the Naval base out to a distance of about 20 miles, if your defence is based on the 1930s built Kota Tinggi defensive line, but I'm hoping your not thinking so shallow, and you mean the whole of Johore, so now we are about 100 miles away at Segamat. Is that still too shallow to defend the Fleet Anchored at Singapore?

Re your reply on British Somaliland, there seems to be some shift in your strategy, if you conclude Malaya cannot be held once the Japanese enter Indo-China, then surely the same holds for British Somaliland, with the Italian East African colony across the border. How can you argue not to reinforce Malay, but do so in British Somaliland. And before you quote the British control of air and sea, the Italians possessed a decent number of destroyers and submarines to contest the seas, while the air forces Britain could muster to contest the air with the Italians was very much a scrapped together thing.
Why defend a naval base absent a fleet to base there?

I’m not sure what is your proposed timetable for an early British withdrawal from Singapore and Malaya. But what you suggest, that they should bail out without a fight, would have been career suicide for Winston Churchill. His job security was tenuous.

Prime Minister Churchill had a growing list of enemies in the British government, who tried to build support to remove him and exploit any signs of weakness. Many of these civil servants complained that Churchill was not aggressive at deploying the armed forces, while at the same time British army leaders pulled in the opposite direction, advising caution.

There is the ideology of Churchill to contend with. He was a stalwart pro-Imperialist, not a towering pillar of pragmatism. It seems unthinkable that a true believer like Churchill would suddenly abandon core principles about colonialism, except where he fully understood foreign military might or a political conundrum with the natives.

After Germany invaded the Soviet Union, the Russians tried to exploit the internal political pressure on Churchill to take bold military action. The Kremlin steadily increased demands for assistance and especially a second front, knowing that Churchill would be compelled to offer more help or his political opponents would pounce on him immediately. It’s lonely at the top.

Another factor is that Churchill wanted to keep his job as Prime Minister for practical reasons, as much as prestige. He managed personal finances poorly, tended to live beyond his means, and was deeply in debt.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Gooner1 » 18 Jan 2022 12:36

daveshoup2MD wrote:
13 Jan 2022 19:50
However, the devil is in the details, largely in terms of with what transport shipping and which operations that historically occurred in the Med in the first and second quarters of 1941 get suspended in order to make that happen.

Absent the above movements being completed by the autumn of 1941, it's all too little, too late, and Malaya remains a sack into which the British repeatedly sent assorted sowars, diggers, and Tommies, completely dominated by Japanese air power from French Indochina, and for no discernable point.
The Greek Campaign is pretty clearly the fiasco from which so much trouble cascaded.

Regarding shipping, this is pretty interesting, from 'Fighting with Figures':

Non-tanker imports under Departmental programmes (Thousand tons)
Total
1941 - 30,478
1942 - 22,891
1943 - 26,372
1944 - 25,147

I take that to show shipping was available in 1941 if the UK had the foresight to be more ruthless om imports.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 18 Jan 2022 13:20

Attrition wrote:
18 Jan 2022 10:09
I think you put that rather well.
I didn't think so, I think I'm dealing with a politician, no straight answer.
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 18 Jan 2022 19:48

EKB wrote:
18 Jan 2022 10:32
daveshoup2MD wrote:
17 Jan 2022 23:15
Fatboy Coxy wrote:
17 Jan 2022 21:43
OK, so firstly you happy to defend the Naval base out to a distance of about 20 miles, if your defence is based on the 1930s built Kota Tinggi defensive line, but I'm hoping your not thinking so shallow, and you mean the whole of Johore, so now we are about 100 miles away at Segamat. Is that still too shallow to defend the Fleet Anchored at Singapore?

Re your reply on British Somaliland, there seems to be some shift in your strategy, if you conclude Malaya cannot be held once the Japanese enter Indo-China, then surely the same holds for British Somaliland, with the Italian East African colony across the border. How can you argue not to reinforce Malay, but do so in British Somaliland. And before you quote the British control of air and sea, the Italians possessed a decent number of destroyers and submarines to contest the seas, while the air forces Britain could muster to contest the air with the Italians was very much a scrapped together thing.
Why defend a naval base absent a fleet to base there?

I’m not sure what is your proposed timetable for an early British withdrawal from Singapore and Malaya. But what you suggest, that they should bail out without a fight, would have been career suicide for Winston Churchill. His job security was tenuous.

Prime Minister Churchill had a growing list of enemies in the British government, who tried to build support to remove him and exploit any signs of weakness. Many of these civil servants complained that Churchill was not aggressive at deploying the armed forces, while at the same time British army leaders pulled in the opposite direction, advising caution.

There is the ideology of Churchill to contend with. He was a stalwart pro-Imperialist, not a towering pillar of pragmatism. It seems unthinkable that a true believer like Churchill would suddenly abandon core principles about colonialism, except where he fully understood foreign military might or a political conundrum with the natives.

After Germany invaded the Soviet Union, the Russians tried to exploit the internal political pressure on Churchill to take bold military action. The Kremlin steadily increased demands for assistance and especially a second front, knowing that Churchill would be compelled to offer more help or his political opponents would pounce on him immediately. It’s lonely at the top.

Another factor is that Churchill wanted to keep his job as Prime Minister for practical reasons, as much as prestige. He managed personal finances poorly, tended to live beyond his means, and was deeply in debt.
The concept is simply not to reinforce a doomed garrison, which - absent airpower and sea power worth the name - the British/ Imperial/ Commonwealth force in Malaya was, once the Japanese took control of French Indochina in 1940...

A realistic attitude toward the correlation of forces in the theater, of course, would have meant the British 18th Division, the (understrength) Australian 8th Division, the 44th Indian and 45th Indian brigades, the transports (and time) needed to move all the above, two fast capital ships (of the RN's grand total of five at the time), and a few squadrons' worth of (relatively) modern British-built fighters are available for use elsewhere: Burma, India, Ceylon, Papua, the Indian Ocean, etc.

Maybe they will make a difference, maybe not, but maybe they at least just won't end up dead, in Changi, or dying on the Thai railway for three years.

When it comes down to the "going down fighting" rhetoric, surely even the 9th and 11th Indian divisions and the various fortress and garrison elements of the pre-1941 Malaya garrison would have been enough, one would think ... especially if the British actually managed a win somewhere else with the forces not thrown away in Malaya?

Oddly enough, the British considered reality when it came to abandoning exposed positions like the Channel islands and British garrison in Shanghai, as well as evacuations (successful or otherwise) from Norway, France, British Somaliland, Greece, and Crete, so apparently pragmatism managed to penetrate - at least occasionally.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 18 Jan 2022 19:49

Attrition wrote:
18 Jan 2022 10:09
I think you put that rather well.
Put what well?

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 18 Jan 2022 19:56

Gooner1 wrote:
18 Jan 2022 12:36
daveshoup2MD wrote:
13 Jan 2022 19:50
However, the devil is in the details, largely in terms of with what transport shipping and which operations that historically occurred in the Med in the first and second quarters of 1941 get suspended in order to make that happen.

Absent the above movements being completed by the autumn of 1941, it's all too little, too late, and Malaya remains a sack into which the British repeatedly sent assorted sowars, diggers, and Tommies, completely dominated by Japanese air power from French Indochina, and for no discernable point.
The Greek Campaign is pretty clearly the fiasco from which so much trouble cascaded.

Regarding shipping, this is pretty interesting, from 'Fighting with Figures':

Non-tanker imports under Departmental programmes (Thousand tons)
Total
1941 - 30,478
1942 - 22,891
1943 - 26,372
1944 - 25,147

I take that to show shipping was available in 1941 if the UK had the foresight to be more ruthless om imports.
Interesting detail, thanks. The point about the Greek campaign is really the key; it absorbed - more or less - what passed for the strategic reserve in the Med/Southwest Asia region, which is also what - presumably - was the pool that any worthwhile reinforcement of the British position in Southeast Asia, early enough in 1941 to have made any difference - would have had to be drawn from.

Given that, anyone suggesting Malaya-Singapore (or Burma-Ceylon, or Papua, for that matter) should have been a priority has to acknowledge that the British choice in the early part of 1941 was one or the other; trying to do both resulted in two defeats.

It also opens the door to the greatest "all British what-if" - whether Britain (and the Empire, etc.) could have actually defeated the Axis in the North African theater in 1940-41?

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 18 Jan 2022 19:56

Fatboy Coxy wrote:
18 Jan 2022 13:20
Attrition wrote:
18 Jan 2022 10:09
I think you put that rather well.
I didn't think so, I think I'm dealing with a politician, no straight answer.
No idea what this is supposed to mean.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by rcocean » 18 Jan 2022 23:43

The British could have easily defended Singapore even after Indo China was lost. The Japanese took Singapore with what? 50,000 men and 500 aircraft. When they should have been reinforcing Malaysia, the UK was sending hundreds of Hurricanes to the USSR where they did nothing (as Alanbrooke suspected). A couple of Aussie divisions, later brought back to the Pacific Theater would've stopped the Japanese in their tracks.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Linkagain » 19 Jan 2022 03:24

Defensing Singapore was one thing Keeping it supplied HOW?????? It Could not be done from the air the IJN Controled the air which is why the HMS Repluse and HMS Prince of Wales were sunk....and with the capital ships gone it could only have been supplied by submarine,,,,,,how many submarine trips would it have taken to supply Singapore????
Last edited by Linkagain on 19 Jan 2022 16:34, edited 1 time in total.

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