Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

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aghart
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by aghart » 05 Dec 2021 10:21

Just after 1400 hrs on the 5th of December 1941 six Beauforts arrived from Australia at RAF Station Seletar Singapore. These were supposed to be the first delivery of many to replace the Vildebeestes of 36 and 100 Sqn's RAF but unfortunately technical problems and the Japanese cut their deployment short with only one of them made operational in time to face the Japanese but in the end was destroyed on the ground at Kota Bharu on the first day of the invasion. The five remaining returned to Australia to have their problems fixed then return to Singapore but time and history were against them.
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by EwenS » 06 Dec 2021 10:29

A detachment of 100 squadron RAF began to receive Beaufort Mk.II from the Australian production line on 2 Oct 1941 at Bankstown Australia. These were the first of 90 ordered from there by the RAF, the first 20 of which were assembled from kits supplied from the U.K. As noted 6 aircraft were sent to Singapore, arriving 5th Dec. But they came without torpedo fittings as the bomb bays were filled with long range fuel tanks. They also proved unsuited to the climate due to the use of inappropriate materials in fuel-line washers amongst other problems. In addition, while the crews had trained on the aircraft they lacked operational training, as plans called for that to be carried out in Singapore. Events then prevented this.

The least troublesome of the 6, serial no. T9543, was selected to carry out a couple of photo recce sorties, bringing back valuable intelligence on the Japanese landings, before being destroyed by enemy strafing at Kota Bharu.

The remaining 5 aircraft were sent back to Australia for modification along with many of the squadron’s air and ground crew. As the squadron built up in Australia, Singapore fell. As a result the squadron was handed over to the RAAF lock, stock and barrel, and became 100 squadron RAAF on 25th Feb 1942.

All the surviving RAF Beauforts, and future deliveries, from Australian production were passed to the RAAF with the aircraft being redesignated Mk.V.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Sheldrake » 06 Dec 2021 14:16

EKB wrote:
21 Oct 2020 09:17
#
The Barracuda was designed and built as a replacement to the Swordfish/Albacore just as the Grumman Avenger of the US Navy was designed and built as a replacement to the Douglas Devastator at about the same period. The Grumman Company was given only the barest outline to work on. They had already started to produce the Hellcat single-seat US Naval fighter to replace their Wildcat and they had the US Navy’s full confidence. Although the RN’s counterpart to the Avenger was, in time, cost, and task, almost to the same specification, the ‘Barra’ was a travesty of an aircraft. Their Lordships had altered its original logical design concept to a high wing design. This was decided upon without regard to the damaging effect it would have on the aerodynamic problems.

Apparently, the high wing design was required so that the Observer, sitting on his throne at the back, could take bearings from two enormous compasses sited in bay windows on the mezzanine floor behind the pilot and have an unobstructed view of the earth and sea below. Besides the obvious structural problems of supporting a large tailplane at the uppermost extremity of the tail fin, the designers had to make sure that the tailplane itself was high enough to clear the expected turbulent down wash from the mainplane itself when airbrakes were in use. In fact, they never succeeded, as the hangar height of the Illustrious Class carriers was too low to allow this.

The Barra therefore suffered from a fatal design flaw, an unpredictable change of trim in the pitching plane when dive brakes were used. The wingfolding arrangements were also thrown off course and the undercarriage was so long and heavy that when a leg broke after a heavy decklanding it required eight men to lift it and throw it into the sea. The equivalent Seafire undercarriage needed only two. It was so overweight and underpowered that its rate of climb was too slow for any hope of surprise in its approach to the target, and barely perceptible at all in tropical temperatures — if a useful load was carried. It was little wonder that the Barracuda was soon declared unfit for use in the Far East, almost the moment it arrived there in any quantity.
IRRC that there were also problems with carbon monoxide fumes in the cockpit requiring the crew to don oxygen masks throughout their flight.

The Fairy Barracuda was awful enough to be immortalised in song.

"Any old ire, any old ire,
Any, any, any old iron.
Down at Lee you get them free,
Built by Faireys for a crew of three.
Bags of fun, no front gun,
An engine you can't rely on.
You know what you can do
With your Barracuda too.
Old iron, old iron."


There is a copy of a recording in the British Library sound Archives
https://sounds.bl.uk/World-and-traditio ... 9XX-1300V0

All of this adds up to a condemnation of British defence strategy. The RAF famously the worlds first Independent Air Force seems to have spent its first twenty five years doing its best to avoid co-operating with the other arms in favour of the chimera of "strategic bombing."

Neither the Royal Navy nor the British Army received the aircraft or the support they needed. Malaya could only have been defended with a strong air force drawing on the Dowding system. The outcome might have been very different if the 400 spitfires and hurricanes aircraft plus the bombers acting as bait lost in futile efforts to "lean into France" in 1941 had been instead shipped to Malaya. The RAF of 1941 was an effective defensive tool, but offensively almost useless.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by aghart » 07 Dec 2021 10:57

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bristol_Beaufort. If you read all of the article about the Beaufort and it's exploits, for me one conclusion springs to mind. This article shows just how good the Japanese Torpedo Bombers and their crews were that attacked POW and Repulse. A well oiled machine. I also noted how often even a handful of fighters could cause problems.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by EwenS » 08 Dec 2021 17:39

It is a pity that the Barracuda gets remembered the way it does. Needless to say that the picture portrayed by Mike Crosley, a WW2 fighter pilot not a torpedo bomber pilot, portrays many of the negatives and contains some comments that are plain wrong.

Part of the problem is that the Barracuda and the Avenger entered FAA service with front line squadrons within a few months of each other in early 1943 (Jan & Mar respectively). But their development timetables were completely different at a time when large advances in aircraft design were occurring in the late 1930s. Designs would be superseded by new ones within the space of a couple of years.

The Avenger was the product of a request for a new torpedo bomber for the USN in 1939. Contracts for prototypes were awarded in April 1940, production aircraft in Dec 1940, first flight in Aug 1941. Production began in Jan 1942 and service entry was in time for Midway in June.

The Barracuda emerged from a Nov 1937 spec. So it is nearer the Douglas SBD Dauntless or maybe even its successor, the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver, in timescale than the Avenger. The Barracuda first flew in Dec 1940 with production not beginning until April 1942. In June 1939 the Admiralty noted that production was planned to start in March 1941 at Stockport, following completion of Fulmar production, and to be complete by about April 1942, presumably to be succeeded by its successor. Its schedule was delayed by development problems and then a lack of priority once war broke out.

The Admiralty did not specify a high wing. They did specify what was required for the Observer, which was not significantly different from that required in the Albacore (ever noticed the two large side fuselage windows in the observer’s position in that aircraft?). They also specified a landing speed. Both those things drove the design of the two winning entries to the competition, those being the Fairey Barracuda and the Supermarine Type 322 Dumbo which never progressed beyond the prototype stage due to Supermarine being busy with Spitfires. Both emerged with a high wing to allow the observer a good view from large windows essential to allow him to carry out the find and fix elements elements of the FAA role at the time. Fairey chose Youngman flaps to help reduce the landing speed while Supermarine opted for a variable incidence wing. At least Fairey adopted a retractable undercart, but to give it a stable track on the flight deck it ended up as it did with an awkward arrangement. Supermarine copped out and opted for a fixed undercarriage.

Yes it had development problems. The intended air cooled RR Exe engine was axed from Aug 1939 necessitating a redesign to accommodate the liquid cooled Merlin 30 and then a more powerful Merlin 32, installed in the production Mk.II. The original low mounted tailplane of the prototype had to be raised to avoid the wash from the wing flaps. Weight grew by nearly 40%. Yes there were problems with exhaust fumes in the cockpit in the early days, just as there were with the Typhoon and Corsair, but cures were found, just as in those other aircraft where it is largely forgotten about. More dangerous, and not discovered until later, was that the hydraulic fluid contained ether. Faults were found on a few aircraft in 1945 where the pipe connected to the pressure gauge in the cockpit. It was this that caused the instruction to be issued to fly on oxygen not the exhaust gas problem. It was this that was then blamed for some of the otherwise previously unexplained losses.

The most dangerous feature of the aircraft when it was first introduced to squadron service was an over balancing of the rudder when pulling out of dives and before the flaps were raised. This was investigated by Eric Brown when he joined the RAE in 1943, the cause of the problem identified, new handling instructions issued, at which point he notes the problem ceased. That may not quite have been true. And that then brings up the problem that many of the Barracuda pilots in 1943/44 had been used to the biplane Swordfish and Albacore which were relatively vice free and were perhaps not as careful in their handling of the Barracuda. Certainly it seems to have been much less of a problem for those pilots emerging from the training schools in 1944/45.

But it was not all bad news. Eric Brown found it a very good aircraft for a pilot to deck land even in its underpowered Mk.I version.

It struggled with weight problems throughout its life and was generally considered underpowered, but again something not uncommon for aircraft of that time period. In June / July 1945, the 4 squadrons in the 11ACS heading for the Pacific gave up their TAGs and rear guns to save weight. Efforts were also made to clean up the aircraft by fitting flush windows in the observer’s compartment.

Adding more power in the shape of the Griffon engine and a bigger wing and rudder in the Mk.V helped sort some of its problems. But the true successor was to be the Fairey Spearfish, development of which began in 1943 and which made its first flight in July 1945, before falling victim to post war cut backs.

Yes the Barracuda was replaced by the Avenger in Oct 1944 in the squadrons destined for the BPF (only 6 in all). But the RN continued to form Barracuda squadrons on it into 1945. It formed the strike element of the air groups on the first four light fleet carriers that reached the Pacific in Aug 1945 and Barracuda squadrons existed to equip the next 6. It was clear by mid 1944 that the FAA would not get anywhere near enough Avengers to equip all its carriers. Had the war gone on, it would have entered combat against the Japanese again in late Aug 1945. As it was its last wartime operational sorties were against Japanese suicide boats at Hong Kong as the BPF arrived at the end of Aug, a purely precautionary measure.



As for the song about the Barracuda, they also had a version about the Fulmar

Any old iron, any old iron
Any, any, any old iron;
Talk about a treat
Chasing round the fleet
Any ole Eyetie or Hun you meet!

Weighs six ton
No rear gun,
Damn all to rely on!

You know what you can do
With your Fulmar Two;
Old iron, old iron!

It is interesting to note that come mid 1945, USN plans were calling for a reduction and eventual elimination of the Avenger from its carrier air groups, while at the same time requalifying the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver to carry torpedoes.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Linkagain » 08 Dec 2021 19:59

In the 1970's World At War Magazine had a article on Malaya for example one page had a photograph of a bunch of Jungle trees/swamps with a caption claiming that be a barrier to Japanese then the page had remarks from a british officer who claimed in War Games the commanding General said that swamp etc would be a barrier..the officer remarked first of all mud around the trees only came up to your ankles,,,,and that you could avoid it by walking on tree roots....also he remarked that his units were always road bound....{Vol 26 .p.723]

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by EKB » 02 Jan 2022 04:59

Sheldrake wrote:
06 Dec 2021 14:16
IRRC that there were also problems with carbon monoxide fumes in the cockpit requiring the crew to don oxygen masks throughout their flight ...

All of this adds up to a condemnation of British defence strategy. The RAF famously the worlds first Independent Air Force seems to have spent its first twenty five years doing its best to avoid co-operating with the other arms in favour of the chimera of "strategic bombing."

Neither the Royal Navy nor the British Army received the aircraft or the support they needed. Malaya could only have been defended with a strong air force drawing on the Dowding system. The outcome might have been very different if the 400 spitfires and hurricanes aircraft plus the bombers acting as bait lost in futile efforts to "lean into France" in 1941 had been instead shipped to Malaya. The RAF of 1941 was an effective defensive tool, but offensively almost useless.

Aside from modern aircraft, it was vital to have a comprehensive early warning radar network to improve efficiency of other air defence weapons.

Cabin contamination and exhaust poisoning was a serious safety concern in all types of aircraft with the engine in front of the pilot. Part of the testing programme at A&AEE Boscombe Down was making spot checks to precisely measure air quality in the cockpit.

I recently read that carbon monoxide fumes were a potential hazard in other enclosed spaces, such as a buttoned-up tank. On November 8, 1944 the entire crew of an M4 apparently died from exhaust poisoning, in the middle of a battle! The five men were found inside the tank, still at their crew stations, as if they fell asleep. No hint of battle damage or other marks were found on the vehicle or the bodies. But that's getting off topic so I will post more about the story in another thread.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 03 Jan 2022 17:05

Linkagain wrote:
08 Dec 2021 19:59
In the 1970's World At War Magazine had a article on Malaya for example one page had a photograph of a bunch of Jungle trees/swamps with a caption claiming that be a barrier to Japanese then the page had remarks from a british officer who claimed in War Games the commanding General said that swamp etc would be a barrier..the officer remarked first of all mud around the trees only came up to your ankles,,,,and that you could avoid it by walking on tree roots....also he remarked that his units were always road bound....{Vol 26 .p.723]
This reminds me of a story, perhaps mythical, from August 1914. A young Lt of the BEF was asked by the company commander if he had posted a watch on his open flank. The reply was the flank was on "private property". Wasn't clear if the Subaltern thought that would prevent the Germans from passing across the ground, prevented him from posting a outpost there, or both. It sounds silly, but in Beruit in 1983 a USMC artillery officer tried to refuse a Fire Mission called to his battery, on the grounds that the proper training safety measures were not in place. What the outcome of that conversation was my imagination runs wild over. Bad habits and assumptions are more common than you'd think in training, or preparations for combat.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Linkagain » 04 Jan 2022 16:49

Or sometimes ingrown habbits from Peacetime traniing!!! :lol: :lol: :lol:

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 09 Jan 2022 23:37

David C. Clarke wrote:
11 May 2005 00:36
Hi Folks, in your opinion, what were the primary factors in Britain's defeat in Malaya in 1941-42?

Best,
~Akira
Overwhelming Japanese air and sea superiority, a Japanese expeditionary force that was far more mobile than the defense forces, and the questionable strategy of trying to defend a territory roughly twice the size of England against amphibious invasion with a force of three infantry divisions.

Other than that, nothing obvious. ;)

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 10 Jan 2022 06:40

daveshoup2MD wrote:
09 Jan 2022 23:37

Overwhelming Japanese air and sea superiority, a Japanese expeditionary force that was far more mobile than the defense forces, and the questionable strategy of trying to defend a territory roughly twice the size of England against amphibious invasion with a force of three infantry divisions.

Other than that, nothing obvious. ;)
Questionable strategy of trying to defend a territory roughly twice the size of England against amphibious invasion with a force of three infantry divisions? Can you expand on that please
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 10 Jan 2022 06:49

Fatboy Coxy wrote:
10 Jan 2022 06:40
daveshoup2MD wrote:
09 Jan 2022 23:37

Overwhelming Japanese air and sea superiority, a Japanese expeditionary force that was far more mobile than the defense forces, and the questionable strategy of trying to defend a territory roughly twice the size of England against amphibious invasion with a force of three infantry divisions.

Other than that, nothing obvious. ;)
Questionable strategy of trying to defend a territory roughly twice the size of England against amphibious invasion with a force of three infantry divisions? Can you expand on that please
England is roughly 50,000 square miles; the Malayan peninsula is roughly 95,000 square miles.

The British garrison when the Japanese invasion began in December, 1941, amounted to three infantry divisions - the 9th and 11th Indian divisions, and the Australian 8th Division.

Given the size of Malaya, and the available British/Imperial/Commonwealth/Colonial forces, and the correlation of those forces with the available IJA and IJN forces, it was an impossible task.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 10 Jan 2022 06:59

So are you saying that it was the wrong strategy, or just impossible to defend given what we know with hindsight on the performance of the Allied forces. If its the wrong strategy, what was the right one?
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 10 Jan 2022 07:49

Fatboy Coxy wrote:
10 Jan 2022 06:59
So are you saying that it was the wrong strategy, or just impossible to defend given what we know with hindsight on the performance of the Allied forces. If its the wrong strategy, what was the right one?
As long as the Japanese were not any farther south than Taiwan, essentially, Malaya could be held by the historical garrison in 1940, which was the Singapore fortress organization and maybe a brigade or two of infantry.

Once the Japanese were in strength in French Indochina (Q3/Q4, 1940), however, Malaya could not be defended with what was available to the British/Empire/Commonwealth/etc. at the time (as was pretty much demonstrated by the events of 1941-42). And, it didn't require hindsight; basically, the British in Malaya in 1940-42 were in the same situation the Russians in Port Arthur were 30+ years earlier; inadequate forces, too far from home, and in - essentially - the enemy's strategic backyard. The Americans on Luzon were in the same situation, but they - for the most part - had accepted the inevitable.

Defending Malaya would have required a field army in the Far East (which the British did not have to spare in 1941-42); a tactical air force (which they also didn't have to spare); and, realistically, given the strength of the IJN, a naval force the size of the British Pacific Fleet of 1944-45, which they very much did not have to spare.

A holding/wasting defense - equivalent to the American/Filipino defense of the Bataan Peninsula, and essentially trading space for time - was about all that could be expected, realistically. The challenge is there was not a handy redoubt like Bataan in Malaya, and the British were unwilling to declare Singapore an open city and withdraw (as the US did in regards to Manila).

Given the above, presumably the two Indian divisions alone, supported by the (historically) fairly limited RAF contingent, and an RN force the equivalent of the historical "China Squadron" (no capital ships, obviously) would have been enough to "go down fighting" and both the Australian 8th Division, the British 18th Division, and the (IIRC) 44th and 45th Indian brigades could have been used elsewhere, along with the RAF reinforcements thrown into Singapore in 1942 and, of course, the two capital ships.

Keeping the two Indian brigades with their divisions, for use (presumably) in Burma, the 18th Division in Ceylon, and the 8th Division in (presumably) Papua would have been far more helpful to the Allied cause in 1942 (and afterward); same for the two RN fast capital ships, in the Atlantic, Med, or Indian Ocean.

Not especially glorious, but realistic.
Last edited by daveshoup2MD on 10 Jan 2022 08:18, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 10 Jan 2022 08:01

Sorry daveshoup2MD, giving up on defending Malaya/Singapore is quite unacceptable to the British, whats committed before the fighting starts has to stay there. I grant you there is a very good argument for not sending the 18th Division, but the Australians were already there. There is a big difference between what the Philippines are to the USA and Malaya is to Britain. No, you'll have to provide me with a better strategy than that please :)
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