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 » 29 Jan 2022 18:58

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
29 Jan 2022 18:21
Just to show that without the benefit of 80 years of hindsight prioritising between conflicting theatres of war (and possible war) is not that easy, I thought I'd post up this snip from a British Chiefs of Staff paper on 'General Strategy' produced at the end of July 1941:

CAB80-59 - COS (41) 155 - General Strategy - 31 Jul 41 - Singapore.JPG

Other considerations were:

The Defence of the UK (given uncertainty of continued Russian resistance).
Security of our Sea Communications.
North Atlantic.
South Atlantic.
Middle East.
Singapore.
Russia.
United States intervention.
Blockade of Germany.
Bombing Offensive.
Subversive activities.
Future Strategy.

You can find it online in CAB80/59/1.

Regards

Tom
Which has what to do with not reinforcing failure in Malaya and Burma in 1941-42, Tom?

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EKB
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by EKB » 29 Jan 2022 23:15

daveshoup2MD wrote:
29 Jan 2022 18:58
Tom from Cornwall wrote:
29 Jan 2022 18:21
Just to show that without the benefit of 80 years of hindsight prioritising between conflicting theatres of war (and possible war) is not that easy, I thought I'd post up this snip from a British Chiefs of Staff paper on 'General Strategy' produced at the end of July 1941:

CAB80-59 - COS (41) 155 - General Strategy - 31 Jul 41 - Singapore.JPG

Other considerations were:

The Defence of the UK (given uncertainty of continued Russian resistance).
Security of our Sea Communications.
North Atlantic.
South Atlantic.
Middle East.
Singapore.
Russia.
United States intervention.
Blockade of Germany.
Bombing Offensive.
Subversive activities.
Future Strategy.

You can find it online in CAB80/59/1.

Regards

Tom
Which has what to do with not reinforcing failure in Malaya and Burma in 1941-42, Tom?

Your question was answered. There is no need to repeat it.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 29 Jan 2022 23:25

EKB wrote:
29 Jan 2022 23:15
daveshoup2MD wrote:
29 Jan 2022 18:58
Tom from Cornwall wrote:
29 Jan 2022 18:21
Just to show that without the benefit of 80 years of hindsight prioritising between conflicting theatres of war (and possible war) is not that easy, I thought I'd post up this snip from a British Chiefs of Staff paper on 'General Strategy' produced at the end of July 1941:

CAB80-59 - COS (41) 155 - General Strategy - 31 Jul 41 - Singapore.JPG

Other considerations were:

The Defence of the UK (given uncertainty of continued Russian resistance).
Security of our Sea Communications.
North Atlantic.
South Atlantic.
Middle East.
Singapore.
Russia.
United States intervention.
Blockade of Germany.
Bombing Offensive.
Subversive activities.
Future Strategy.

You can find it online in CAB80/59/1.

Regards

Tom
Which has what to do with not reinforcing failure in Malaya and Burma in 1941-42, Tom?

Your question was answered. There is no need to repeat it.
Yeah, the answer is nothing.

See, if someone was going to try and answer the question why the British insisted on throwing good money after bad with the deployments of the Australian 8th and British 18th divisions, 44th and 45th Indian brigades, Force Z, and what passed for RAF reinforcements/replacement aircraft for the completely overmatched RAF force in Malaya and Singapore in 1941-42, that would be interesting.

Pitting 200 aircraft against 2,000, 5 divisions against 12, and the RN's forces in the Pacific against 95% of the IJN does not have a rational answer.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by aghart » 30 Jan 2022 09:51

8th Australian was put in Malaya before Japan attacked, Force Z arrived as a deterrent before the conflict started, that is not reinforcing failure.The Admiralty should have stepped in and ordered Phillips to Ceylon when the deterrent failed as was the plan all along. They didn't, but Force Z was never pitted against 95% of the IJN. Malaya or Force Z did not face 2000 aircraft and the aircraft that did sink Force Z were only there because the British had advertised the arrival of the ships at Singapore. They also had not a single spare torpedo to use for a second wave of attacks which might well have been needed if Phillips had told Singapore that he was aborting his mission. 18th British was sent as soon as Japan attacked and no one knew that the British forces would be pushed back so quickly. History tells us that Japan used 3 divisions with one in reserve in Japan, not 12 Divisions. The only claim you make that has any merit is the use of 44th & 45th Indian brigades. You are the worst type of Armchair General, you use 80 years worth of hindsight and criticise the people on the spot because they did not have a crystal ball to see the future when making strategic decisions.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 31 Jan 2022 20:26

And a little more about the British planning to improve their defences in the Far East can be found in a Joint Planning Staff paper of 12 Aug 41 (full paper is available on-line - CAB80/59). Of course, with 80 years of hindsight... :roll:
CAB80-59 - JP (41) 664 - Improvement of our position in the Far East - 12 Aug 41.JPG
History, not hindsight! :thumbsup:

Regards

Tom
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 31 Jan 2022 23:16

aghart wrote:
30 Jan 2022 09:51
8th Australian was put in Malaya before Japan attacked, Force Z arrived as a deterrent before the conflict started, that is not reinforcing failure.The Admiralty should have stepped in and ordered Phillips to Ceylon when the deterrent failed as was the plan all along. They didn't, but Force Z was never pitted against 95% of the IJN. Malaya or Force Z did not face 2000 aircraft and the aircraft that did sink Force Z were only there because the British had advertised the arrival of the ships at Singapore. They also had not a single spare torpedo to use for a second wave of attacks which might well have been needed if Phillips had told Singapore that he was aborting his mission. 18th British was sent as soon as Japan attacked and no one knew that the British forces would be pushed back so quickly. History tells us that Japan used 3 divisions with one in reserve in Japan, not 12 Divisions. The only claim you make that has any merit is the use of 44th & 45th Indian brigades. You are the worst type of Armchair General, you use 80 years worth of hindsight and criticise the people on the spot because they did not have a crystal ball to see the future when making strategic decisions.
8th Australian landed in Singapore in 1941, beginning in February (22nd Brigade) and continuing through to August (27th Brigade); the Japanese took over French Indochina in September, 1940 ... so, yeah, throwing good money after bad is an apt metaphor. The "opposing number" cited above are what the Japanese had available for an offensive in 1941-42; given that the the British did not know if Japan's war plans included the Philippines, Hawaii, and NEI, etc., using a realistic "worst case" scenario would have been the only defensible position to take ... and it's not like the IJN's strength in 1941 was an unknown quantity to the British; all sides knew the basic types and numbers, certainly for capital ships and fleet carriers.

And again, given the examples of the British garrison in North China being withdrawn in August, 1940, it's hardly hindsight to review the correlation of forces in a given theater. Common sense, actually.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 31 Jan 2022 23:25

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
31 Jan 2022 20:26
And a little more about the British planning to improve their defences in the Far East can be found in a Joint Planning Staff paper of 12 Aug 41 (full paper is available on-line - CAB80/59). Of course, with 80 years of hindsight... :roll:

CAB80-59 - JP (41) 664 - Improvement of our position in the Far East - 12 Aug 41.JPG

History, not hindsight! :thumbsup:

Regards

Tom
Again, nothing to do with putting forces too weak to make a difference into a vulnerable position before war breaks out.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 02 Feb 2022 22:15

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
31 Jan 2022 20:26
History, not hindsight! :thumbsup:
I haven't read the whole thread, obviously, but this cheap slogan... What does it mean to you?

It strikes me as a license for subservience to your "betters" - the men who considered complicated things beyond our (your?) capacity to gainsay. Much healthier simply to recognize that a lot stupid things happened during the war, including a lot of stupid things ordered by First Lords and Secretaries (and Fuehrers, Duces, Generalissimos).

You often seem to invoke complexity to stop a discussion, whereas complexity is the starting point of any discussion worth having.
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 02 Feb 2022 23:33

aghart wrote:Force Z arrived as a deterrent before the conflict started
The kind of deterrence intended by Churchill needs to be specified though: It wasn't the tactical threat of those two ships per se, rather those vessels were intended to convey to Japan that the US and UK stood together in the Pacific. From "The 'Singapore Strategy' and the Deterrence of
Japan: Winston Churchill, the Admiralty and the Dispatch of Force Z" in English Historical Review:
In any event,
this decision was mistaken, but not unreasonable. Other measures were
being taken at this time to improve Britain's defences in the Far East;
American support in die region appeared almost certain; and the
strength of the US and Britain compared to Japan seemed overwhelming. In diese circumstances, there were sound reasons to think that Japan
could be deterred, and that the presence of a fast new capital ship at
Singapore would contribute to the overall deterrent. The Prime Minister
and his Foreign Secretary pursued a policy carefully calculated to
strengthen Britain's ties with the US and persuade Japanese leaders that
they could not profitably embark on war with the British empire. The
decision to move the Prince ofWales to Singapore must be viewed within
this context.
The admiralty and Churchill expected Force Z to withdraw/vanish if war came, as I've laid out here.

The real folly of the early war against Japan lies in the strategy for dealing with the "deterrence fails" scenario.

To see why this strategy was so stupid, we must recapitulate some basic facts:
  • 1. Everybody knew that Japan's apex strategic goal would be to seize oil in Malaya and the East Indies.
  • 2. Nearly everyone knew that Britain's defenses along the Malay Barrier were weak.
  • 3. The strategy envisioned to cope with 1&2: US pressure on the Carolines and Gilberts from Pearl Harbor would divide Japanese strength, preventing a force concentration capable of overwhelming the Malay Barrier.
At base, the Allied strategy relied on assuming that Japan would be strategically incompetent: Japan would not concentrate forces on their apex strategic objective; rather they'd split their forces to contest islands of comparatively negligible strategic value (Carolines and Gilberts). When the US desultorily moved in the Caroline/Gilbert area in February 1942, Japan mostly ignored them.

Had the Allies realized that their strategy was incompetent because it relied on the enemy's incompetence, they had two options:
  • A. Concentrate superior Allied forces to defend the Malay Barrier.
  • B. Concede the Malay barrier.
Whether B is the preferrable option relies on whether A was feasible. I suspect it was. Options/elements include:
  • 1. dispatch of a strong American fleet and further RN reinforcements to somewhere within striking distance of the South China Sea - Singapore, Manila/Subic, Trincomalee, Darwin.
  • 2. Reinforcement of RAF
  • 3. Reinforcement of land units
Whether #1 was feasible I'm not certain but strongly suspect so - especially on a timeline from 1940. Regardless, 2 and 3 were probably jointly sufficient to hold Singapore until #1 could be facilitated.

All the foregoing involve a tradeoff with the Mediterranean, which Churchill explicitly rejected, stating to CIGS Dill "I gather you would be prepared to face the loss of Egypt and the Nile Valley ... rather than lose Singapore. I do not take that view." PMUK to CIGS, 13 May 1941, 376.

This is a stark choice between endangering Egypt and Singapore, frankly phrased by Churchill, who answered it incorrectly.

...but let's not judge Churchill too harshly; FDR and his military advisors underlie this strategic folly. It was their refusal to cooperate with the RN directly, and their implicit assumption that Japan was strategically incompetent, that torpedoed a naval solution.

The American strategic failure should be judged most harshly of all because, as was predicted before the war, initial disaster in the Pacific prevented implementation of Germany First in 1942. What the US could have prevented relatively cheaply in 1941, it sought to reverse at immense cost to the Allies and the civilized world in 1942-43.
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 03 Feb 2022 02:52

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
02 Feb 2022 23:33
[*]1. dispatch of a strong American fleet and further RN reinforcements to somewhere within striking distance of the South China Sea - Singapore, Manila/Subic, Trincomalee, Darwin.
[*]2. Reinforcement of RAF
[*]3. Reinforcement of land units
[/list]

Whether #1 was feasible I'm not certain but strongly suspect so - especially on a timeline from 1940. Regardless, 2 and 3 were probably jointly sufficient to hold Singapore until #1 could be facilitated.
And in 1940, where does one get the sailors to man that "strong American fleet" and the merchant marine necessary to sustain them in the western Pacific?

Much less, unless the British can whistle up an extra tactical air force and field army from somewhere in 1940, when (again, in 1940) do the Americans organize, deploy, and sustain the necessary air and ground forces to defend "Singapore, Manila/Subic, Trincomalee, Darwin"?

Or, for 2, where does the RAF get reinforced from? Or for 3, where do the (presumably) British "land units" get reinforced from?

Because we all know how the efforts the British did make in 1940-41 to reinforce their positions in Asia worked out.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 03 Feb 2022 19:25

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
02 Feb 2022 22:15
What does it mean to you?
Not much...just that I think it is very easy to be smart, and smug in one's smartness, with the benefit of hindsight.
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
02 Feb 2022 22:15
It strikes me as a license for subservience to your "betters"
What, that I recognise the complexity of the strategic situation the UK found itself in during the 1930s and 1940s?
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
02 Feb 2022 22:15
the men who considered complicated things beyond our (your?) capacity to gainsay.
I'm not sure they care about our opinions.
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
02 Feb 2022 22:15
Much healthier simply to recognize that a lot stupid things happened during the war...
I'm in good health, thanks, and consider that war is stupid, full stop. But I do also recognise that sometimes it seems that as an individual you don't get much of a choice...
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
02 Feb 2022 22:15
You often seem to invoke complexity to stop a discussion,
That's your defensiveness kicking in - I invoke complexity to gently suggest that nothing in war is simple. I think an old Prussian chap said something very similar.
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
02 Feb 2022 22:15
whereas complexity is the starting point of any discussion worth having.
Indeed. :thumbsup:

Regards

Tom

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 03 Feb 2022 21:28

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
03 Feb 2022 19:25

Not much...just that I think it is very easy to be smart, and smug in one's smartness, with the benefit of hindsight.

What is the definition of hindsight, however? If a similar event or process can be demonstrated as having occurred before the event in question, is it hindsight to question why the same - historically precedent - event or process was not of impact in the later event, as well?

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 04 Feb 2022 18:01

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
02 Feb 2022 23:33
To see why this strategy was so stupid, we must recapitulate some basic facts:
1. Everybody knew that Japan's apex strategic goal would be to seize oil in Malaya and the East Indies.
Obviously this is completely wrong. I refer the learned gentleman to the thread entitled "Japan launches Kantokuen - British DOW? especially my post 5 of 20 May 20:

viewtopic.php?p=2269772#p2269772
I've had a quick look in Martin Gilbert's Winston S. Churchill: Finest Hour: 1939-1941 and it does appear that on 15 October 1941, Roosevelt warned Churchill that:

'The Jap situation is definitely worse & I think they are headed North...you & I have two months of respite in the Far East'

There was discussion at the Defence Committee on 17 October 1941 and, after a lot of debate, this resulted in the sending to the Far East of the Prince of Wales and Repulse as a "deterrent". On 20 October 1941, Churchill sent a message to Roosevelt promising that if Japan attacked the US 'you may be sure that a British declaration of war upon Japan will follow within the hour'. I'll have a look in the 1941 Churchill war papers to see if a similar message was sent to Stalin.

Edited to add: I'll also look at the COS Committee meeting of 29 November 1941 at which they were discussing the latest analysis of Japanese intentions and at which the Chiefs of Staff agreed that:
unless our vital interests were directly affected we should avoid taking any action which would involve us in war with Japan unless we were certain the Americans would join us.
The reference given by Gilbert is: CAB79/16 - COS Committee No. 402 of 1941, 29 November 1941.
As usual, in war, "everybody" were uncertain what was going to happen next. :roll:

Regards

Tom

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by aghart » 05 Feb 2022 00:26

The other factor is what was said in private between WS and the Chief's of staff, or WS & FDR and never written down or made public. We will never know the full story or the entire truth behind the decisions made.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 05 Feb 2022 00:48

aghart wrote:
05 Feb 2022 00:26
The other factor is what was said in private between WS and the Chief's of staff, or WS & FDR and never written down or made public. We will never know the full story or the entire truth behind the decisions made.
True. The historical record at such levels is challenging. Even the official records/minutes, if written/taken down with the best intentions, can only capture so much of a conversation.

That being said, the US and UK war efforts were run on paper and are thus well-documented, and the orders that flowed from such conversations are, of course, part of that public record.

Given that, if a given decision resulted in failure, it's an valid question to consider, and is why, in fact, these decisions remain fascinating - and educationally illuminating - to this day.

Santayana was, most definitely, right. ;)

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