Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Discussions on WW2 in the Pacific and the Sino-Japanese War.
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Attrition
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Attrition » 26 Jan 2015 10:49

The Japanese held the initiative, clearly it had a great effect on events.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 04 Feb 2015 12:53

gambadier wrote:You also have to consider the troops. The six Brit infantry bns that had been in the Far East for several years were first rate, if it had been possible to use them together in the right place at the right time the campaign might have had a different outcome, but this was obviously not possible. However, the Indian Army troops were mostly if not all newly formed units that still had a long way to go training wise. The Indian States units were not amongst the chosen by any stretch of imagination.
I have to take issue with you on this Gambadier, the British battalions were hardly first rate. You can claim the Argyll's but both the Indian battalions brigaded with them in 12th Indian Brigade performed better than any of the other British battalions. The Leicester's and East Surrey's had a disastrous start at Jitra, losing half their strength not really due to enemy action, but being unable to make a night withdraw in an orderly fasion! Merged together as the British battalion they performed well in a defensive situation at Kampar, but that was about it. The Manchesters had a defensive static machine gun role, and were kept on Singapore. The Gordons and Loyals were introduced belatly once the Japanese were fighting in Johore, committed with units they had never worked with, over ground they hadn't trained on, they didn't shine. However they had been employed as garrison troops, and had very little jungle craft about them.

The British battalions of the 53rd Brigade (18th Division) arrived just in time to be committed to the fighting in Johore, and though they hadn't had time to settle in, never the less their poor performance cannot be attributed totally to that. Their leadership from platoon up to brigade was a tale of mismanagement, indecisiveness, and outdated dogma. But with them we could also discuss general differences between the British tactics which appeared outdated and the Japanese tactics which were more suitable.

Both the Australian Brigades performed really well in Johore at battalion and levels below, they were just badly managed by higher command, and their quality destroyed before they got back to Singapore.

I make you quite right about the Indian troops in general, however, as I said before both the 5/2 Punjab and 4/19 Hyderabad performed well, given their employment and the general situation they were in.

Steve

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by steverodgers801 » 05 Feb 2015 22:50

Even with decent command, the lack of air support and the ability of the Japanese to land any where would have prevented any kind of stand. The Japanese occupation of Indochina completely unhinged the British position. It came air, land and naval bases in easy distance of Malaya and left the British no time to prepare much of a land defense even if Percival had wanted to, assuming he could.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by aghart » 19 Feb 2015 23:51

Brigadier Ivan Simson, Chief Engineer Malaya Command at the outbreak of the Pacific war, states in his book "Singapore Too Little Too Late" that even with the Japanese thrusting south through Malaya, the planned installation of scaffolding on the south shore of Singapore Island (to hinder enemy landing craft) went ahead, his request to use this asset on the north shore of the island instead was refused. During this meeting with Percival, Simpson states that he spent 2 hours giving reasons both current and historical why landward defences in Johore and Singapore Island should be built, Percival refused. Percival did however give Simson permission to talk to General Simmons (Singapore Fortress Commander) about starting defences on the north shore of Singapore Island and if Simmons agreed to it then Percival would not object or prevent it. Simmons refused as well, for the usual "defences are bad for morale" reasons. Now Simson also gave a possible reason for this school of thought. It appears that it was felt in WW1 that troops behind formidible defences were reluctant to attack, and as the only way to defeat the enemy is to attack him, strong defences hinder the offensive spirit! This is the first time I have heard a possible explanation for this unbelievable attitude to defences. If this is a credible possibility, it is another example of how London totally ignored what was happening (or not happening) in Malaya as strong defences in depth was all the rage for the British Commanders in North Africa in 1941.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by PF » 30 May 2015 21:50

In the history of the Second World War Magazine series {issue 26 .p.723}-they had this one account in which a photo of swamp is shown and the caption is that it will prove a natural barrier to attack; whoever an account of a britihs officer told a different story--the swamp did go up to his ankles; you could walk on the tree roots...-the british kept to the roads....



Besides Singapore was designed as a naval base to repeal attack from the sea....not much thought given to the japanese would come in the back door by land...!

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by steverodgers801 » 01 Jun 2015 19:14

Some areas were swamps, but much of the terrain were rubber plantations and thus were easily used by the light equipment the Japanese used. It was a tremendous advantage for the Japanese that they did not have the burdens the British did and thus could move over more difficult terrain then the British could

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by aghart » 13 Oct 2015 20:37

As it's been mentioned on a couple of occasions, I thought it best to read a copy of Japan's Greatest Victory/Britain's worst defeat by Col Masanobu Tsuji Chief of Operations and Planning Staff, 25th Japanese Army, Malaya. It was written in 1952, only 10 years after the event. My thoughts? well, he does not go into great detail about the actual battles, just that 5th division crushed the enemy force here, 18th Division brushed aside the enemy resistence there etc. It did however hit home just how much certain things effected the campaign, most is common knowledge but this book really brought home the importance of these items. First he states that although very experienced soldiers, the men of 5th & 18th Divisions had NO jungle training prior to the invasion of Malaya, in fact for most of the Japanese the first time they had ever encountered jungle was when they arrived in Malaya. The tactic of continued advance and attack to keep the enemy off balance was simply one possible option but was only decided upon as the main tactic once they had landed, and this was because of the ease in which the Indian troops covering the advance to Jitra were brushed aside, and the subsequent (easy) capture of the Jitra position.

We all know about the vast stocks left behind by the vanquished British and Indian forces, but the importance of the huge amount of food/rations that the Japanese continued to obtain from their defeated foe was a suprise to me. The food and of course the vast quantities of motor transport (and fuel) known as "Churchill" supplies was vital to the 25th Army. This transport allowed the balance of the 18th Division landing in Singora in January 1942 to be carried to Johore instead of marching there. The belated arrival of Hurricane fighters may not have had any impact on the air war, but they had a real effect on the advance of the Japanese army who feared them in the ground attack role. Tsuji said they really did slow the japanese in Johore. If only? His description of the Kampar battle is interesting, every British writing of this action stated that the Japanese were stopped cold by the defence and only amphibious landings in the defenders rear caused a retreat. Tsuji states that the Ando Regiment via the swamp got around the British position and forced the enemy off the location. A bit of propganda I think.

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Re:

Post by Freebird » 25 Dec 2016 01:45

Two Litre wrote:
Contrary to belief, the Japanese Zero fighter is faster, more maneuverable, and better armed than the Brewster Buffalo, or any other Allied fighter in the Pacific. Incredibly, a full set of plans for the Zero were passed by Americans in China to the United States before the war, but were ignored.

Harri wrote:
1. Was Zero much better armed than Brewster? I don't think so. Brewster's weapons had superb reliability with wide ammunition variety.
2. Was Zero actually much more agile than Brewster? How much faster Zero was?

Michael Tapner wrote:
By comparison the Japanese had a little over 100 Navy aircraft, predominantly Nell's and Betty's with about 24 Zero fighters.
Army aircraft amounted to over 300: Even mix of fighters (Nates and Oscars) and bombers (all sorts)

The British received susbstantial air reinforcements, that began arriving 6 weeks into the campaign, but it was by then too late. Hurricanes, Albacores and additional Hudsons arrived, but by the time they wer bought up to operational levels, the forward airfields had been overrun and Malaya all but lost.
[/quote]

Where do you find the reference for the 24 Zeros?
I only have army A/C listed in Malaya, perhaps the Zeros are only based in Indochina?
And I also am not finding any reference to battles in Malaya involving the Zero, only the Nate/Oscar

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Takao
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Takao » 25 Dec 2016 12:38

The Americans were not passed "a full set of plans"...They were passed drawings made by the Chinese of a shot down Zero - these drawings did not include the tail, which was missing from the aircraft. The same shot down Zero was also looked over by the US Naval Attache, Marine Corps Major James McHugh. Nor were the drawings "ignored", but were incorporated into US pilot training, however, few pilots took the information to heart, instead choosing to believe in their own superiority.


Freebird,

On November 22 a composite fighter squadron attached to the 22nd Air Flotilla HQ was created to support the Singapore operation. Fourteen A6M2s (model 21) of the Tainan Air Group and another 13 A6M2 (21) of the 3rd Air Group departed Tainan and Takao airfields for Saigon via Hainan Island on November 26 and 27, arriving at Soc Trang on December 1, 1941.

Two A6M2s were lost on the ferry flight, you can read more about them here:
http://www.j-aircraft.com/research/WarPrizes.htm

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by aghart » 01 Feb 2017 00:10

Badly sited and hard to defend airfields is one of the many reasons given for the British defeat. However, the more I look at it the more I feel it is false. The attack on Malaya was obviously( and identified by General Dobbie) going to be in the form of a seaborne invasion of Malaya and Thailand. So if your going to use air power to counter this threat the airfields need to be in the best place. To give maximum range to strike aircraft to be able to hit the enemy ships as far away from Malaya as possible it makes sense to place them on or near the coast. There is no point placing an airfield that will used to strike targets at sea 200 miles from the coast!

Alor Star airfield was situated where it was because it was part of air reinforcement route and was perfectly located to receive and re fuel reinforcing aircraft. it was also well placed to attack the expected Thai invasion points. The hub of airfields close Kota Bharu were well placed to deal with enemy shipping, as was Kuantan. The airfields were not badly sited, they were well sited, but they were badly protected and badly supplied with aircraft. People say that the RAF should have discussed the airfield locations with the army first? I disagree, the army should have been in sufficient strength to protect the airfields wherever the RAF chose to put them. The lesson for the RAF here is, don't build airfields unless you already have the aircraft your going to base there actually available.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by aghart » 09 Feb 2017 11:34

The loss of HMS Indominatable has been quoted on many occasions for the sinking of Force Z. I have stated that Indominatable could not have made Singapore in time even if she had not run aground. I also believe that had she not been damaged her orders to join Force Z at Singapore would have been cancelled anyway. Why? Because she was due to dock at Gibraltar on 20th November 1941 before heading for the far east, but! on 13th November 1941 the Mediterranean fleets only modern carrier HMS Ark Royal was torpedoed and sunk by U81 near Gibraltar. With Ark Royal sunk, and Indomitable due in Gibraltar shortly, and the far east still at peace surely Indominatable would have transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet to replace Ark Royal?

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Freebird » 25 Feb 2020 04:38

Takao wrote:
25 Dec 2016 12:38
The Americans were not passed "a full set of plans"...They were passed drawings made by the Chinese of a shot down Zero - these drawings did not include the tail, which was missing from the aircraft. The same shot down Zero was also looked over by the US Naval Attache, Marine Corps Major James McHugh. Nor were the drawings "ignored", but were incorporated into US pilot training, however, few pilots took the information to heart, instead choosing to believe in their own superiority.


Freebird,

On November 22 a composite fighter squadron attached to the 22nd Air Flotilla HQ was created to support the Singapore operation. Fourteen A6M2s (model 21) of the Tainan Air Group and another 13 A6M2 (21) of the 3rd Air Group departed Tainan and Takao airfields for Saigon via Hainan Island on November 26 and 27, arriving at Soc Trang on December 1, 1941.

Two A6M2s were lost on the ferry flight, you can read more about them here:
http://www.j-aircraft.com/research/WarPrizes.htm
Thanks!

Freebird
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Freebird » 25 Feb 2020 04:42

aghart wrote:
09 Feb 2017 11:34
The loss of HMS Indominatable has been quoted on many occasions for the sinking of Force Z. I have stated that Indominatable could not have made Singapore in time even if she had not run aground. I also believe that had she not been damaged her orders to join Force Z at Singapore would have been cancelled anyway. Why? Because she was due to dock at Gibraltar on 20th November 1941 before heading for the far east, but! on 13th November 1941 the Mediterranean fleets only modern carrier HMS Ark Royal was torpedoed and sunk by U81 near Gibraltar. With Ark Royal sunk, and Indomitable due in Gibraltar shortly, and the far east still at peace surely Indominatable would have transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet to replace Ark Royal?
HMS Hermes with 8 - 10 Sea Hurricanes or Fulmars and 8 - 10 Swordfish would have been more tha adequate.
Not to mention the ASV equipped Swordfish would have been far better searching at night for transports rather than two capital ships

Freebird
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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by Freebird » 25 Feb 2020 04:52

aghart wrote:
13 Oct 2015 20:37
As it's been mentioned on a couple of occasions, I thought it best to read a copy of Japan's Greatest Victory/Britain's worst defeat by Col Masanobu Tsuji Chief of Operations and Planning Staff, 25th Japanese Army, Malaya. It was written in 1952, only 10 years after the event. My thoughts? well, he does not go into great detail about the actual battles, just that 5th division crushed the enemy force here, 18th Division brushed aside the enemy resistence there etc. It did however hit home just how much certain things effected the campaign, most is common knowledge but this book really brought home the importance of these items. First he states that although very experienced soldiers, the men of 5th & 18th Divisions had NO jungle training prior to the invasion of Malaya, in fact for most of the Japanese the first time they had ever encountered jungle was when they arrived in Malaya. The tactic of continued advance and attack to keep the enemy off balance was simply one possible option but was only decided upon as the main tactic once they had landed, and this was because of the ease in which the Indian troops covering the advance to Jitra were brushed aside, and the subsequent (easy) capture of the Jitra position.

We all know about the vast stocks left behind by the vanquished British and Indian forces, but the importance of the huge amount of food/rations that the Japanese continued to obtain from their defeated foe was a suprise to me. The food and of course the vast quantities of motor transport (and fuel) known as "Churchill" supplies was vital to the 25th Army. This transport allowed the balance of the 18th Division landing in Singora in January 1942 to be carried to Johore instead of marching there. The belated arrival of Hurricane fighters may not have had any impact on the air war, but they had a real effect on the advance of the Japanese army who feared them in the ground attack role. Tsuji said they really did slow the japanese in Johore. If only? His description of the Kampar battle is interesting, every British writing of this action stated that the Japanese were stopped cold by the defence and only amphibious landings in the defenders rear caused a retreat. Tsuji states that the Ando Regiment via the swamp got around the British position and forced the enemy off the location. A bit of propganda I think.
Singapore defences are too far back, the Japanese needed to be stopped in Johore.

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Re: Why Was Britain Defeated in Malaya?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 01 Mar 2020 04:56

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
Trying to defend a tropical peninsula with a land area larger than the entirety of Great Britain and no road or rail net worth the name, and with a ground force of eight mobile infantry brigades against an enemy with a far more mobile expeditionary force (and roughly half again as many effective maneuver formations), and absolute supremacy both at sea and in the air, perhaps?

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