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 » 23 Jan 2022 00:59

Attrition wrote:
23 Jan 2022 00:36
daveshoup2MD wrote:
22 Jan 2022 02:01
Attrition wrote:
21 Jan 2022 15:42
Depends on the RAF so I doubt it.
True, but even the RAF answered to the British minister of defense in 1941.
The RAF let down the army in Norway, France, Greece, Crete and the Western Desert,1940 to 1941. It wasn't a matter of orders but production priority, fighter production was too low and the excellent Merlin XX was used to make the Hurricane Mk II as inferior to Bf 109F as the Mk I has been against the Bf 109E, rather than power the Spitfire Mk III, which was fobbed off with the inferior Merlin 45 series instead.
Understood, but given the reality the RAF element of what amounted to the British "strategic/mobile" reserve in the greater SW Asia/Indian Ocean/SE Asia region amounted to what, maybe four squadrons of Hurricanes, presumably if WSC had said "send them to Burma" (or Ceylon, or NW Iran, or Mosul, or wherever) they would have gone.

But absent a tactical air force worth the name - which the British did not have in the greater SW Asia/Indian Ocean/SE Asia region until (arguably) 1943 - it's really just more evidence that the British could not have defended Malaya/Singapore in 1940-42, once the Japanese were in control of French Indochina.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by EKB » 23 Jan 2022 07:49

Attrition wrote:
23 Jan 2022 00:36
the excellent Merlin XX was used to make the Hurricane Mk II as inferior to Bf 109F as the Mk I has been against the Bf 109E, rather than power the Spitfire Mk III, which was fobbed off with the inferior Merlin 45 series instead.

The Merlin XX was essentially a Merlin 46 with a second supercharger gear, to get slightly more power at low altitude. Otherwise there was no performance advantage over the Merlin 46 Spitfires that were already in service. Moreover, the rate of fuel consumption was higher with the Merlin XX due to added friction from the two-speed supercharger gearbox.

The only distinct advantage of the Merlin 20-series over the 45/46 was developed much later, when some Merlin 25 engines (Mosquito) were upgraded for +25 psi boost in 1944. By that time most Spitfires in production had the more powerful Merlin 60-series or Griffon 60-series engines.

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Attrition
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Attrition » 23 Jan 2022 10:49

Thanks, my source is RAF On the Offensive: The Rebirth of Tactical Air Power 1940-1941 (2018) by Greg Baughen.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 23 Jan 2022 12:34

daveshoup2MD wrote:
22 Jan 2022 22:55
One would have hoped the British side of the CCS would have recognized as much almost a century and a half later, but apparently not.
In November 1941 there was no CCS, though.

Your argument is entirely based on HINDSIGHT isn't it.
daveshoup2MD wrote:
22 Jan 2022 22:56
What the hell was one capital ship going to do from Darwin, which is about as remote as one could get from anything approximating an important place in Australia in 1941?
In peacetime? What all navies do in peacetime!
daveshoup2MD wrote:
22 Jan 2022 22:55
Wow, "concentration of force" is a concept?
As I said, as all your arguments about Force Z are based on HINDSIGHT of what the Japanese were going to do and, perhaps even more importantly, when they were going to do it, you would be much better reading the book I referenced or even the UK COS papers and War Cabinet papers which are all on line. Otherwise, this is a completely fruitless discussion.

You might even want to find out what Admiral Phillips was doing when reports came in of the Japanese maritime movements in the South China Sea. You might also want to see how the Allies responded. But then again, you might just want to pontificate using your omniscient hindsight to show us what a great strategist you are.

If you are actually interested in history, this is a good place to start:

https://www.naval-history.net/xDKWD-EF1 ... tation.htm

Regards

Tom

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Sheldrake » 23 Jan 2022 19:01

There is a sensible discussion of the Singapore Naval Base in Dan Todman's Britian's War
In the Far East, Britain’s ally Japan emerged from the First World War as an aggressive Asian power that might pose a threat to the Empire in the future. To guard against this, the decision was taken to build a new naval base at Singapore. This was meant to provide the infrastructure to allow a British fleet to operate in the Far East. Since Britain did not want to pay the price of keeping two fleets – one to protect the UK, the other stationed permanently in eastern waters – Singapore became the keystone of a naval strategy based on transferring force to where it was needed. Normally, the Royal Navy would keep all its capital ships at home, but if hostilities threatened in eastern waters, a powerful fleet would be sent to Singapore.
...Almost immediately, however, the Singapore base became a political football: postponed by the first Labour government of 1924, then restarted (at a very slow pace) by their Conservative successors.
...Under Churchill, the Treasury authorized the resumption of work on the base at Singapore, but on a much-reduced scheme that could not support the size of fleet necessary to take on the Japanese navy ship-for-ship. If this always lent an air of unreality to the Admiralty’s planning for a future war, the Singapore base nonetheless became a powerful symbol of Britain’s commitment to defending the Empire, particularly to Australia and New Zealand, which based their defence policies on the fact that the British navy would protect them from the Japanese.From 1925, the British participated in drawn out preparations for a world disarmament conference that many hoped would remove a cause of war. As part of these preparations, when the Labour Party returned to office in 1929, it suspended work on the Singapore base again. Todman, Daniel. Britain's War (pp.62-65). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.
(In 1936-37)
As they prioritized the more imminent dangers in Europe, the British authorities became increasingly slippery about how they expressed their determination. Everyone concerned studiously avoided the sort of showdown that might have exposed the redundancy of the ‘Singapore strategy’. The British did not want an argument that would threaten Commonwealth unity – not least because Canada and South Africa did not share the same defence priorities as the Pacific Dominions. The Australians and New Zealanders wanted to stick with their existing defence plans – which did not include bearing the full financial burden of protecting themselves against Japan. No one wanted to make a public admission of imperial weakness that would only encourage the Germans, Italians and Japanese. Meanwhile, plans for the defence of Singapore were overhauled. Originally, the naval base had been defended only against an attack from the sea, since the Malayan peninsula was presumed to be effectively impassable. Since the 1920s, however, the economic development of Malaya had resulted in a good network of roads and ports. Not only would the fleet take longer to arrive, but the base was now exposed to an attack from the north. From the late 1920s, the RAF, ever keen to demonstrate the importance of an independent air force, had angled to take over the strategic burden in the Far East. In 1936, the chiefs of staff agreed that the air force should assume responsibility for the immediate defence of the Far Eastern theatre, although still with the aim of protecting Singapore as a base for the fleet, and the RAF started work on constructing the airfields in Malaya from which British planes were meant to dominate the surrounding area. By now, however, its main focus was on building up its strength in the UK, rather than in the Empire. Just as with the naval base, the British built the facilities for a future war and hoped that they could find the forces to fight it.Todman, Daniel. Britain's War (pp. 100-101). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

At the start of 1939, as conflict in Europe grew more imminent, a debate took place within Whitehall about whether to adapt British strategy. A war with three opponents – Germany, Italy and Japan – seemed as likely as ever. Everyone agreed that it would be beyond the Empire’s resources to fight all three at once. The answer seemed to be to despatch the weakest one first. In the event of such a war, therefore, the admirals wanted to concentrate their efforts initially on beating the Italians in the Mediterranean. This would mean abandoning the existing pledge to send a strong fleet to the newly opened base at Singapore. The question was whether to recognize this by changing the plans about how to defend the Empire. If Britain accepted that the Singapore strategy was now unachievable, it could plan instead to send out a ‘flying squadron’ of just two capital ships to the Far East. If these ships could avoid being brought to battle, they might just be enough to make things difficult for the Japanese until more forces became available. Such a drastic change of plan was, however, bound to lead to a confrontation with the Dominions. For that reason, the ‘flying squadron’ proposal was rejected. Instead, the British now dropped the Singapore strategy in practice, but retained it in principle. Todman, Daniel. Britain's War (pp. 172-173). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.
(My highlight)

As I have argued before, the British could reasonably assume that there would be no Op Sealion in the near future. There was a six month opportunity to reinforce Singapore with the aircraft needed to protect Malaya. Instead 400 fighters were shot down over France.
Last edited by Sheldrake on 23 Jan 2022 19:15, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Sheldrake » 23 Jan 2022 19:09

Todman's book also implies that the Americans might share some blame for the Fall of Singapore.
In March 1939, Roosevelt welcomed an inquiry from Lord Halifax about the resumption of talks on naval strategy. They eventually took place – in conditions of extraordinary secrecy – that June, at the home of the American chief of naval operations (and Roosevelt’s trusted friend) Admiral William Leahy. A single British officer handed over signal and code books that would allow the two navies to work together if a war broke out. He also explained – with much more honesty than the British showed to the Pacific Dominions – that Britain’s European commitments meant that it was for the moment unable to send a fleet worthy of the name to Singapore. In turn, Leahy made it clear that if war broke out in Europe, Roosevelt would send the US fleet to the American base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in order to act as a deterrent to the Japanese. In the event that both countries found themselves at war with Germany, Italy and Japan, he thought that the US fleet would concentrate on the Pacific. Since they could not hope to defend their forward base in the Philippines, the Americans might use Singapore to take on the Japanese – providing that the British could also send at least some capital ships to give the impression to the American public of a joint effort.103 In retrospect, the grand strategic division that Leahy suggested – created de facto by the vacuum left by the collapse of the Singapore strategy – looks a lot like the way that the Anglo-American alliance would organize the war that broke out in December 1941. At the time, however, the talks offered some reassurance but little certainty. Their extreme secrecy indicated just how isolationist public opinion in America still was: any suggestion that the two navies were talking would jeopardize plans for co-operation. There was no pledge to come to Britain’s aid if America was still at peace. Crucially, despite repeated suggestions over the next two years from British admirals, the US navy had no intention of deploying its ships to Singapore before the outbreak of war. Todman, Daniel. Britain's War (pp. 173-174). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.


I am not sure that a couple of old battleships would have done much - but it is an interesting ATL

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 23 Jan 2022 23:50

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
23 Jan 2022 12:34
daveshoup2MD wrote:
22 Jan 2022 22:55
One would have hoped the British side of the CCS would have recognized as much almost a century and a half later, but apparently not.
In November 1941 there was no CCS, though.

Your argument is entirely based on HINDSIGHT isn't it.
daveshoup2MD wrote:
22 Jan 2022 22:56
What the hell was one capital ship going to do from Darwin, which is about as remote as one could get from anything approximating an important place in Australia in 1941?
In peacetime? What all navies do in peacetime!
daveshoup2MD wrote:
22 Jan 2022 22:55
Wow, "concentration of force" is a concept?
As I said, as all your arguments about Force Z are based on HINDSIGHT of what the Japanese were going to do and, perhaps even more importantly, when they were going to do it, you would be much better reading the book I referenced or even the UK COS papers and War Cabinet papers which are all on line. Otherwise, this is a completely fruitless discussion.

You might even want to find out what Admiral Phillips was doing when reports came in of the Japanese maritime movements in the South China Sea. You might also want to see how the Allies responded. But then again, you might just want to pontificate using your omniscient hindsight to show us what a great strategist you are.

If you are actually interested in history, this is a good place to start:

https://www.naval-history.net/xDKWD-EF1 ... tation.htm

Regards

Tom
Okay, the British side of "what became" the CCS. The CSC, in other words. Same-same.

The stupidity of deploying an understrength force into a potential war zone is hardly hindsight. Again, - and without 'hindsight' - the British were sharp enough to:
  • NOT try and defend the Channel Islands in 1940, after their position France collapsed;
    pull two infantry battalions out of Shanghai in 1940, before the Pacific War broke out;
    evacuate multiple expeditionary/defense forces from Norway, France (BEF I and BEF II), British Somaliland in 1940, and Greece and Crete in 1941; and even Burma in 1942;
    not send the RN into the Baltic or eastern North Sea or the Channel in 1939-42, in the face of Axis air strength;
    etc.
If one presumes if the foundation of British strategy was "fight to the death anywhere the flag has flown" then all of the above would have occurred, then the conflict would have been even costlier to Britain then it was historically ... but it didn't, did it? Even the CSC could read the tealeaves in some situations, apparently.

Which puts the whole "hindsight" effort at an argument to bed.

Obviously, the British were capable of weighing means and ends, and the correlation of forces, repeatedly in 1939-42, when it came to the Germans (and Italians in British Somaliland, and even the Japanese in North China and Burma, for God's sake) ... they did not when it came to the Japanese in Hong Kong and Malaya/Singapore.

One can attempt to defend such stupidity, but the fact remains - the British lost everything they attempted to hold against the Japanese in 1941-42; suggesting that not concentrating what little they had in the theater was unwise does not disparage those who tried it, simply those who made the decisions that put them - repeatedly - in unwinnable situations.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 24 Jan 2022 00:44

Sheldrake wrote:
23 Jan 2022 19:01
There is a sensible discussion of the Singapore Naval Base in Dan Todman's Britian's War

At the start of 1939, as conflict in Europe grew more imminent, a debate took place within Whitehall about whether to adapt British strategy. A war with three opponents – Germany, Italy and Japan – seemed as likely as ever. Everyone agreed that it would be beyond the Empire’s resources to fight all three at once. The answer seemed to be to despatch the weakest one first. In the event of such a war, therefore, the admirals wanted to concentrate their efforts initially on beating the Italians in the Mediterranean. This would mean abandoning the existing pledge to send a strong fleet to the newly opened base at Singapore. The question was whether to recognize this by changing the plans about how to defend the Empire. If Britain accepted that the Singapore strategy was now unachievable, it could plan instead to send out a ‘flying squadron’ of just two capital ships to the Far East. If these ships could avoid being brought to battle, they might just be enough to make things difficult for the Japanese until more forces became available. Such a drastic change of plan was, however, bound to lead to a confrontation with the Dominions. For that reason, the ‘flying squadron’ proposal was rejected. Instead, the British now dropped the Singapore strategy in practice, but retained it in principle. Todman, Daniel. Britain's War (pp. 172-173). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.
(My highlight)

As I have argued before, the British could reasonably assume that there would be no Op Sealion in the near future. There was a six month opportunity to reinforce Singapore with the aircraft needed to protect Malaya. Instead 400 fighters were shot down over France.
The point is, the interwar strategies notwithstanding, in the third and fourth quarter of 1941 and the first quarter of 1942, the British high command in London, and their local commanders in Asia, faced a very real threat from the Japanese in China and French Indochina, as opposed to a paper one in 1939-40.

Repeatedly, the British decided to reinforce exposed positions (Hong Kong and Malaya/Singapore), and then doubled down amidst failure in Burma. The Australians and Canadians supported these doomed deployments - and the Australians did the same in Ambon, Timor, and New Britain, of course. Unsurprisingly, the results were multiple defeats, and in all cases, with the losses increased because of the various too little, too late deployments.

As far as RAF reinforcement of Malaya in 1941, if those 400 fighters shot down could have a) been deployed, with aircrew and groundcrew; sustained, with avgas and the necessary supplies; and c) based somewhere where they could make a difference operationally, that could have been significant - although the Japanese still would have had four times as many combat aircraft in the theater.

And there's also the minor issue of getting a major RAF reinforcement to Malaya in time to make a difference; as it was, the single largest troop movement the British made to Malaya in 1941-42 required the USN to support it, so there's a key question - what troops don't get sent from Britain to where, historically, in 1941, to make your 400 fighters a useful asset in Malaya?

And, of course, the competing reality is the RAF in the Med/ME/SW Asia/etc. grew from ~300 aircraft in 1939 to five times as many by the end of 1941, including some `1,000 in the Desert Air Force alone...

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 24 Jan 2022 00:47

Sheldrake wrote:
23 Jan 2022 19:09
Todman's book also implies that the Americans might share some blame for the Fall of Singapore.
In March 1939, Roosevelt welcomed an inquiry from Lord Halifax about the resumption of talks on naval strategy. They eventually took place – in conditions of extraordinary secrecy – that June, at the home of the American chief of naval operations (and Roosevelt’s trusted friend) Admiral William Leahy. A single British officer handed over signal and code books that would allow the two navies to work together if a war broke out. He also explained – with much more honesty than the British showed to the Pacific Dominions – that Britain’s European commitments meant that it was for the moment unable to send a fleet worthy of the name to Singapore. In turn, Leahy made it clear that if war broke out in Europe, Roosevelt would send the US fleet to the American base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in order to act as a deterrent to the Japanese. In the event that both countries found themselves at war with Germany, Italy and Japan, he thought that the US fleet would concentrate on the Pacific. Since they could not hope to defend their forward base in the Philippines, the Americans might use Singapore to take on the Japanese – providing that the British could also send at least some capital ships to give the impression to the American public of a joint effort.103 In retrospect, the grand strategic division that Leahy suggested – created de facto by the vacuum left by the collapse of the Singapore strategy – looks a lot like the way that the Anglo-American alliance would organize the war that broke out in December 1941. At the time, however, the talks offered some reassurance but little certainty. Their extreme secrecy indicated just how isolationist public opinion in America still was: any suggestion that the two navies were talking would jeopardize plans for co-operation. There was no pledge to come to Britain’s aid if America was still at peace. Crucially, despite repeated suggestions over the next two years from British admirals, the US navy had no intention of deploying its ships to Singapore before the outbreak of war. Todman, Daniel. Britain's War (pp. 173-174). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.


I am not sure that a couple of old battleships would have done much - but it is an interesting ATL
Sorry, how does this suggest any US responsibility for defending Malaya/Singapore, much less deploying any significant naval assets under British command in the Pacific?

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 24 Jan 2022 20:24

For anyone interested in history rather than hindsight, I thought this UK War Cabinet memorandum from July 1941 might be of interest.
CAB65-23 - WM (41) 72nd Conclusion, Minute 10 - 21 Jul 41 - part 1.JPG
CAB65-23 - WM (41) 72nd Conclusion, Minute 10 - 21 Jul 41 - part 2.JPG
I thought it nicely highlights the intricacies of coalitions, the need to consult the Dominions, the importance of understanding the "American situation", the uncertainty over what the Japanese would do, the uncertainty over what the Americans would do, the dilemma of the 'short-term' over the 'long-term', the need to consider documents and decisions 'in the light of the present strengths and situation' rather than with the benefit of hindsight, etc, etc.

These documents are all on-line and free to download. :thumbsup:

Regards

Tom
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 25 Jan 2022 04:10

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
24 Jan 2022 20:24
For anyone interested in history rather than hindsight, I thought this UK War Cabinet memorandum from July 1941 might be of interest.

CAB65-23 - WM (41) 72nd Conclusion, Minute 10 - 21 Jul 41 - part 1.JPG

CAB65-23 - WM (41) 72nd Conclusion, Minute 10 - 21 Jul 41 - part 2.JPG

I thought it nicely highlights the intricacies of coalitions, the need to consult the Dominions, the importance of understanding the "American situation", the uncertainty over what the Japanese would do, the uncertainty over what the Americans would do, the dilemma of the 'short-term' over the 'long-term', the need to consider documents and decisions 'in the light of the present strengths and situation' rather than with the benefit of hindsight, etc, etc.

These documents are all on-line and free to download. :thumbsup:

Regards

Tom
What does this document from July, 1941, have to do with any actual assessment of the Japanese threat to British (or for that matter, Dutch) positions in South East Asia after the Japanese occupation of French Indochina in September, 1940?

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by EKB » 25 Jan 2022 08:24

daveshoup2MD wrote:
22 Jan 2022 23:11
The IJA had 10-12 infantry divisions, enough shipping to move and land half of them at once, 2,000+ combat aircraft

Want to know what is your source for these figures.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by aghart » 25 Jan 2022 10:23

EKB wrote:
25 Jan 2022 08:24
daveshoup2MD wrote:
22 Jan 2022 23:11
The IJA had 10-12 infantry divisions, enough shipping to move and land half of them at once, 2,000+ combat aircraft

Want to know what is your source for these figures.
He uses figures that include forces allocated to the DEI, the Philippines and PNG and ignores US and Dutch forces that the UK could expect to help and be helped by.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 25 Jan 2022 11:03

I really don't think they could mount simultaneously, amphibious operations for 5 divisions worth of troops. Only 1 Regt of 18th Div was landed at Kota Bharu, while I think the 5th Div had 2 Regts land at Singora (Songkhla) and another at Pattani. Gen Yamashita chose not to include the Japanese 56th Div in his initial order of battle, so the shipping could be used to provide more supplies. Not having enough shipping was a major headache for the Japanese, everything had to be done in waves.
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Gooner1 » 25 Jan 2022 13:47

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
24 Jan 2022 20:24

I thought it nicely highlights the intricacies of coalitions, the need to consult the Dominions, the importance of understanding the "American situation", the uncertainty over what the Japanese would do, the uncertainty over what the Americans would do, the dilemma of the 'short-term' over the 'long-term', the need to consider documents and decisions 'in the light of the present strengths and situation' rather than with the benefit of hindsight, etc, etc.
It also highlights the Prime Minister and Minister of Defence's opinion that Japan was not even contemplating an attack on Singapore.

It has to be one of the greatest ironies of the Second World War that Winston Churchill, the arch imperialist, preferred to send British armaments to the Soviet Union than to ensure the safety of the Empire.

UK Lend-Lease shipped to the Soviet Union in 1941 alone included over 600 aircraft, mainly Hurricanes, and 450 tanks, Valentines and Matildas.
You have to figure that just a third of that would be enough to save Singapore and Malaya from Japanese conquest.

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