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Thread: Could Britain have won Malaya?

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by 32Bravo View Post
    "The story of Colonel Chapman's adventures is typical of the British way of war, and therefore begins with a complete lack of preperation.
    While the Brits like to revel in their supposedly amateur status, the reality is that they were always a very solid military and naval, and from WWI an air, power. No nation acquires and holds for a couple of centuries an empire like Britain did by being the sort of arrogant military idiots that Japan and Germany were when they tried the same exercise in WWII. And therein is a lesson. Britain had a great belief in its superiority derived from its achievements as a colonial power. As did France, Spain and Portugal at various times. Japan and Germany in the 1930's had a great belief in their superiority derived from what they kept telling themselves about how good they were because of their racial superiority, which led them to attempt achievements in keeping with their arrogant beliefs but well beyond their national capacities.

    The problem in Malaya in 1941 wasn't a complete lack of preparation. There was very good preparation following Percival's assessment five years earlier, especially in relation to placing air bases at, as the Japanese invasion showed, accurately identified points critical to stopping a Japanese invasion; plans for the 11th Indian Division to seize Singora and Patani and destroy the Japanese before they could establish themselves; and sound back-up plans and fortifications such as the defensive positions at Jitra.

    Rather than Malaya being lost from a complete lack of preparation, it was lost because of a lack of complete preparation. What's the point of positioning airfields to dominate critical Japanese invasion and advance points if they don't have enough aircraft to do the job, and the right type of aircraft to meet the Japanese aircraft on at least equal terms? This woeful position flowed from the British arrogance that the Japanese planes were vastly inferior to the inferior British fighters stationed in Malaya, which were said by London to be “good enough” for Malaya.

    Another major factor was the timidity of the initial British response in implementing sound plans, notably failing to launch the 11th Division‘s planned attack on Singora and Patani, because of concerns about alienating Thailand by invading it. Given Thailand’s subsequent conduct, it’s a pity it wasn’t’ invaded by Britain a week earlier and British positions fully established to meet the Japanese attacks.

    Another important factor was poor communications between HQ and field commanders, resulting in critical early delays in executing plans.

    If the preparations had been fully implemented in every practical sense, and the plans carried out promptly and vigorously in the early days, Britain might not have lost Malaya. As it was, sound but incomplete preparations and sound but inadequately executed plans for Malaya’s defence showed that the problem was not in a British failure to recognise every aspect of the Japanese threat and its likely execution and to prescribe adequate counter-measures, because it correctly anticipated Japanese plans and prescribed adequate counter-measures. The problem was simply Britain's failure to implement those counter-measures properly. That was as much the fault of the powers that be in London as the commanders and troops on the ground in Malaya.

    As it was, the Japanese appreciation of Britain’s position in Malaya was spot on. Both the British and Japanese military and political leaders were widely arrogant and contemptuous of their enemy. The Japanese, unlike the British, also happened to be quite right in their assessment of Britain's ability to defend Malaya, as they convincingly proved.

  2. #17
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    Anyway, WTF would Uncle Albert know about the deep seated animosities that Australians held towards Britain, which we released by consistentely thrashing the Poms in every sport that mattered to them. Except soccer, but it's a poofter wog game which we'll get around to in time, once we learn how to give a decent headbutt, or Liverpool Kiss**, when upset with the endless boredom of the round ball game.
    It is not a great feat to defeat England in its minority sports i.e. Cricket and Rugby. For generations they have been little more than amateur sports, with the emphasis being, not on winning, but taking part. In other words, it is about playing the game for the sake of the game; to enjoy the art and science of the game; to play and win by the rules and applaud each play whether performed by home team or opponent. To be both courteous and chivalrous to the opposition and to applaud and cheer them whether win or lose. Until recent times, Rugby Union was an amateur sport in England, and even in that lesser game, Rugby League, which was considered professional the players received so little pay, that they still needed a ‘Day-job’. Most practitioners of cricket, rugby and athletics (track and field) began to learn their trade at the better schools (Grammar and Private Schools) and not many state schools invested time in training young chaps in these sports. As times are changing and the sports are opening up to others because of their professional status, the teams are, supposedly, becoming better. However, the game itself is suffering and it is losing some of its essence.

    The emphasis on winning and money is witnessed by the decline of the West Indies in the cricket world (if for nothing else - the one thing the West Indies were known for, and great at, was cricket!). With the advent of satellite TV the young West Indian boys no longer aspire to become great cricket players, as did their forefathers, but they prefer to try for a scholarship to some American university or other as a path into the NBA.

    The rivalries will always be there – I hope – but hopefully not to the detriment of the sport. For myself, I still enjoy watching a cricket match on a village green, it might not be great cricket as far as skill is concerned, but it is usually rich in the spirit of the game.

    Soccer is described as ‘a sport for gentlemen, played by hooligans’ whereas rugby is described as ‘a sport for hooligans, played by gentlemen.’


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    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun* View Post
    While the Brits like to revel in their supposedly amateur status.
    I don't agree with this. I don't think they revel in it. I think that the British forces have always had the drawbacks imposed upon them by the Treasury. I would argue that they resort to their amaturish outlook to conceal their embarrassment at beginning just about every campaign, of note, with a retreat (tactical withdrawal). For example: Crecy, Agincourt, Corruna, Waterloo, Mons, Dunkirk, Burma, El Alamein - to name a few. The reasons for this unpreparedness have usually been on account of spending cuts and the British psyche(it wasn't for nothing that Wavell quoted from 'The Old Way').

    The question of Malaya, i.e. the thread, has to be taken in the same context as those pertaining to Dunkirk and the European war. Where Britain was at the outbreak of the war; the psyche of the leaders; the disarmemant policies of the previous years; the rivalries between forces; the backwards thinking of the various forces leaders. There is the shock of the evacuation from France to consider, and the resulting battle in the skies above British cities. The fear of total defeat - no dress rehearsal.

    Yes, Britain could have won in Malaya if it had been prepared, but it would have required many people - political, military and colonial - to climb several metaphorical mountains to enable this to happen.

    Having said all of that, it would be fun to explore this topic further to discover a means by which it could have won.
    Last edited by 32Bravo; 05-11-2007 at 01:41 PM.


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    Quote Originally Posted by 32Bravo View Post
    The question of Malaya, i.e. the thread, has to be taken in the same context as those pertaining to Dunkirk and the European war. Where Britain was at the outbreak of the war; the psyche of the leaders; the disarmemant policies of the previous years; the rivalries between forces; the backwards thinking of the various forces leaders. There is the shock of the evacuation from France to consider, and the resulting battle in the skies above British cities. The fear of total defeat - no dress rehearsal.
    Agreed.

    Plus add the problem that resources were always finite and it wasn't possible to give every command everything it needed. Despite that, I still think that the British leadership's (London's) approach to the defence of Malaya (including Singapore) was very poor.

    Yes, Britain could have won in Malaya if it had been prepared, but it would have required many people - political, military and colonial - to climb several metaphorical mountains to enable this to happen.
    Maybe.

    The person who had the biggest mountain to climb, and the least likely attributes for climbing it, was Churchill. His military advisers were generally a lot more clear headed.

    I still think that the plans for defending Malaya were reasonably adequate, although by no means a guarantee of victory. The deficiency was in the gap between the plans and their implementation, much of which flowed from Churchill imposing his outdated imperial arrogance on the situation and refusing to learn from experience, such as Taranto etc which as you rightly mentioned were the clearest instructions to anyone on how air power trumped naval power without air support.

    Having said all of that, it would be fun to explore this topic further to discover a means by which it could have won.
    Why not?

    Kota Bahru serves as an example of how, in my view, Malaya was lost in London long before Japan attacked.

    I think the faults on the British side come down to two things: London (in large part synonymous with Churchill’s ill-conceived opinions and interference in matters military for reasons political) and lack of air power. The second is really just a consequence of the first.

    The first requirement was to implement the preparatory plans, devised in Malaya and agreed in London.

    This failed because Malaya command was never given the resources to do so. That was London’s fault.

    Malaya command was left to prepare for defence on the basis of the agreed plans, while London never bothered to tell it that it had no intention of giving it the necessary resources and that it had better come up with some different ideas, quick smart.

    In the agreed plans Malaya command recognised the need for air power, in particular in northern Malaya to cover the likely, and accurately identified, Japanese landing points and subsequent advances.

    Malaya command therefore embarked on building airfields at strategic points. As a result of London’s failure to provide resources, these potentially decisive strategic airfields became millstones around Malaya command’s neck.. Of the 9 airfields in the north-west at the time the Japanese landed, only 3 had planes; only 2 of the 3 in the north-east had planes; and only 3 of the 7 in the south had planes. Not only were these airfields unable to fulfil their function in the plans, and thus totally useless, but they also needed to be defended to deny them to the enemy, thus dictating tactical dispositions which hampered Malaya command’s ability to respond with an otherwise free hand to the Japanese attack.

    The Chiefs of Staff considered Malaya command needed 336 planes to defend Malaya, while Malaya command said 582 at its latest pre-invasion estimate. London gave it 13 squadrons totalling 158 aircraft, less than half of what London thought it needed. The aircraft it had, and certainly the fighters, were woefully inferior to the Japanese planes. What aeroplanes were in Malaya were doomed before they took off, but take off and fight gallantly they did.

    The consequences of these failings were that Malaya command lacked the capacity to repulse the Japanese landings with air power. If we contrast the great effect of the fighters at Milne Bay which flew air support for ground troops and damaged troop landing and supply barges with the mpact of the bombers at Kota Bahru, which had to withdraw fairly quickly as the airfield was in early danger of being taken by the Japanese, it is likely that even two or three squadrons of top line British fighters with good pilots in ground support roles could have tipped the scales at Kota Bahru. The Indian troops at Kota Bahru fought bravely and effectively at the landing point, to the extent that Col Tsuji said it was the most costly fighting in the Malayan campaign. With air support it might have been a lot more costly, perhaps to the point of victory.

    The IJN escort at Kota Bahru wanted to leave fairly early in the piece because of the damage they were suffering from air attacks. The IJA commander persuaded them to stay, because he wanted support for his advancing troops on the ground. Had his troops been subjected to solid air attack he might have had a different opinion.

    Another consequence of the lack of planes was the loss of the Repulse and Prince of Wales. In part this was due to Admiral Phillips’ radio silence and failure to call for air support in the latter part of the disaster, but in the early part he was informed that air support would not be forthcoming as he moved towards Singora. Had the British held Kota Bahru and had they had decent air forces stationed there, consistent with its strategic and tactical importance, Phillips would have steamed on to Singora. Or he could have backed up at Kota Bahru, where the Prince of Wales, Repulse, and the three remaining RN / RAN destroyers would have faced an IJN heavy cruiser, light cruiser, and four destroyers. The IJN commander at Kota, already worried about the risk of damage from the air with the meagre forces actually used, might then have withdrawn. At the very least, he would have had to fight and head for sea room to do it, which then deprived the landing forces and transports of naval support, leaving them easy prey for air forces. Phillip’s force might have destroyed or dispersed the Kota naval force, and even got in among the landing force with devastating results. One or two British destroyers against troop transports would be enough.

    Or maybe Japan would have diverted sufficient air forces to neutralise or defeat the air power at Kota and sunk the British naval force there instead of further south. Who knows?

    Whatever might have happened, the Kota example illustrates how improved air force could have altered dramatically what actually did happen. As the first battle of Wake Island, and Coral Sea on a much larger scale, showed it was possible to repulse a Japanese landing force if its naval force could be sufficiently mauled before landing, and as Milne Bay showed it was also possible to repulse it after landing with ground troops with adequate air support.

    On the Japanese side of the ledger, the simple facts are that it had better troops; better tactics; more aggressive troops; more determined troops; troops generally with battle experience against troops generally without it which, all other things being equal, can be decisive on its own; better planes; and probably better, but certainly not more courageous, pilots.

    I don't know that there was much that could have been done to overcome the superiority of Japanese troops once they were on a roll. The psychological effect on an army in retreat is hard to reverse. The time to beat them was on the beaches. Which is where air power comes in. Double the air power, which was still less than the Chiefs thought necessary and less than half what Malaya command thought necessary, would have had a huge impact on the result, and perhaps changed it by, among other things, giving ground troops sufficient support to avoid the early reverses which turned into a retreat.
    Last edited by Rising Sun*; 05-13-2007 at 04:29 AM.

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    I was keeping this for the Malaya/Vietnam thread, as and when I am able to commit the time. However, although some of it is irrelavent to this thread, some of it, probably, is relavent. It doesn't negate the argument of air support at landing beaches, but it does dilute the argument for air support making a difference later in the campaign.

    On average fewer than 70 aircraft offered the punch, despite a peak of even squadrons in 1950, two-thirds of which were Spitfires, Tempests, Meteors, Vampires, Venoms, and Sabres. All others were Short Sunderland flying boats, Avro Lincoln medium bombers, and light bombers such as Beaufighters, Hornets, Brigands, and Canberras. Both Tempests and Hornets were suited to these operations, with good firepower and loiter times and relative resistance to bad weather. Later jet aircraft—fighters and bombers—were less useful.
    Speed was a liability. Electronics and engines were more susceptible to climate-induced difficulties, and their range and loiter time at low altitude
    were insufficient. Finally, the stress on pilots required special measures such as cockpit air conditioning and limiting sorties to one per day. The best aircraft for offensive air support throughout the Emergency was the Avro Lincoln medium bomber, an updated version of the venerable Lancaster of World War II fame. They were flown by rotating RAF squadrons and Number 1
    (Bomber) Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). In addition to cost-effectiveness, Lincolns could deliver much heavier bomb loads than
    lighter aircraft, and their slow speed and endurance of up to eleven hours when fully loaded made them excellent platforms for strafing attacks.
    Offensive air support was not a major factor. It was only useful against an enemy whose position was known and that intended to hold its ground. The communists preferred mobility and stealth. In Malaya, CT positions often had to be checked by ground troops, normally resulting in ground combat or enemy withdrawal. Close air support also required aircraft with extremely short response times, which was not practicable because of the few suitable airfields and limited aircraft loiter times. Ground to air communication
    was also poor because of jungle canopies. In addition, army radios were too heavy and took too long to set up. Offensive air support in Malaya was also limited by weather and navigation. Air strikes were often unreliable except in mid-morning, after fog and thin stratus cloud dissipated and before the rapid generation of cumulus and storms, which began around noon and could last into the night. This disadvantage was not mitigated until the introduction of radar target marking in 1955. Navigation was complicated by a paucity of aids and an unending sea of jungle, which yielded few landmarks.
    By the way, I was of the opinion, probably on account of something I read somewhere years ago (might have been Noel Barber), that Percival had only recently taken command in Sigapore (at the outbreak of hostilities) and that he was largely obstructed by the 'Old-hands'? Speaking of which, one cannot ignore hubris when considering the factors, Churchill wasn't alone in this. Some of the generals, in the early stages of the war, were the wrong people in the wrong places. Not just generals, but also battalion commanders. There were good and bad, but it didn't help any, when coordinating operations, to have so much of the bad.
    Last edited by 32Bravo; 05-13-2007 at 08:51 AM. Reason: spelling


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    Quote Originally Posted by 32Bravo View Post
    By the way, I was of the opinion, probably on account of something I read somewhere years ago (might have been Noel Barber), that Percival had only recently taken command in Sigapore (at the outbreak of hostilities) and that he was largely obstructed by the 'Old-hands'?
    He was appointed GOC Malaya in May 1941. He certainly tried to improve training and readiness of his troops, but I don't know anything about his internal command issues so I don't know whether he received support or obstruction from the old hands.

    Given that Japan decided on attacking Malaya only about two or maybe three months beforehand (it was a very short time - it's in Tsuji's book) and managed to undertake all staff and other work in that time, Percival had two to three times as long to organise his defensive force. Tsuji mentions in his book that many Japanese troops were not specifically trained for jungle warfare but were issued with written instructions on tactics only on the troop transports carrying them to Malaya. I think the instructions are in an appendix to his book. If so, it shows just how adaptable the Japanese troops were.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 32Bravo View Post
    I was keeping this for the Malaya/Vietnam thread, as and when I am able to commit the time. However, although some of it is irrelavent to this thread, some of it, probably, is relavent. It doesn't negate the argument of air support at landing beaches, but it does dilute the argument for air support making a difference later in the campaign.
    Agreed.

    Beachheads are, as they say nowadays, a target rich environment.

    So are roads with columns of troops. The Japanese used them quite a bit, not least to ride their bicycles along.

    Jungles with canopies were a zero target environment with WWII technology.

    Depending on where the Japanese were, there were still opportunities for effective air attack on the advancing Japanese after they left the beachheads.

    But probably not in direct support of ground troops in many instances because of the intermingling of opposing forces or because of the country they were in.

    The place to concentrate air attacks on land, assuming better British air power, for a better result in Malaya was definitley the beachheads, but only after first attacking the invasion ships further out where they were nicely contained targets. That is exactly what happened in the Coral Sea, and why it was so successful. And exactly what didn't happen in Malaya (except to Phillips' force) and one of the main reasons why it was lost. Better to stop them getting ashore rather than try to deal with them afterwards.

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    Okay. The two capital ships that were sent to intercept the Japanese landing force were sunk by aircraft.

    So, presumably, what you are suggesting is a carrier task force to intercept them? Were there Britsh carriers available at this point in the war, or were they already commited to convoy escort duties in the Med. and the like?... or, are saying that land-based aircraft could have been used to intercept the fleet at sea?

    Given the scenario where a carrier force was despatched, or ground based aircraft made available, could not the Japanese have simply changed their invasion route and come overland via Indo-China and Thailand?
    Last edited by 32Bravo; 05-13-2007 at 06:46 AM.


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    Quote Originally Posted by 32Bravo View Post
    ...The possibility of having to fight in the ‘impenetrable’ jungle – as seen on either side of roads by Staff Officers – seems hardly to have been taken seriously. No specialised jungle technique or equipment had been evolved... ”

    Source: Frederick Spencer Chapman - The Jungle is Neutral.
    The lessons of fighting the Japanese in the jungle were learned through experience in Burma. Troops were taken out of the line and trained, and then re-introduced into the line.

    The successes the Argyll's had had against the Japanese, were when they employed ambush tactics along the roads. However, the Japanese took to the jungle and hooked around the Argyll's positions. The Argyll's anticipated this and 'did-a-runner' before the Japanese could press their assault home. Then the Argyll's repeated the action again and again. It sufficed in slowing the Japanese, but not holding them. It was only during the Battle of the Admin Box (later, in Burma), when the Brits had the air-supply capability, that they could begin to experiment with the idea of holding ground and allowing the Japanese to waste themselves against entrenched troops where their tactics of encirclement were ineffective.

    As it happened, some British troops ran away in Malaya, hearing the sound of tyre-less bicycles approaching, they envisaged tanks aproaching.

    The Brits had ruled out the use of tanks and didn't anticipate the Japanese using them. The Argyll's were fairly successful with their use of the armoured cars, but these were eventually knocked-out by Japanese tanks.
    Last edited by 32Bravo; 05-13-2007 at 08:07 AM.


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    Another point to consider, is that the Japanese infiltrated large numbers of spies into Malaya, prior to the invasion. As well as passing back information, they became guides for the Japanese forces as they advenced down the peninsula.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun* View Post
    Given that Japan decided on attacking Malaya only about two or maybe three months beforehand (it was a very short time - it's in Tsuji's book) and managed to undertake all staff and other work in that time, Percival had two to three times as long to organise his defensive force. Tsuji mentions in his book that many Japanese troops were not specifically trained for jungle warfare but were issued with written instructions on tactics only on the troop transports carrying them to Malaya. I think the instructions are in an appendix to his book. If so, it shows just how adaptable the Japanese troops were.
    Generally (in malaya and Burma), the Japanese operated as light, shock troops. There lines of communication were not that great, and, indeed, it wasn't usually a major concern in an offensive. Their general rule was to capture the supplies of the enemy. Their tactics were adaptable and, presumably, had been developed in China. The differences of terrain presented by the jungle topography etc. would not have been too great a setback for tough troops with no fear of it. It might have hampered their advance if they had had to remain in the jungle, thus causing delays, but they had anticipated this with their spy network. They also used advance units dressed as civillians to confuse and surprise their opponents.
    Last edited by 32Bravo; 05-13-2007 at 09:01 AM.


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    Quote Originally Posted by 32Bravo View Post
    Okay. The two capital ships that were sent to intercept the Japanese landing force were sunk by aircraft.

    So, presumably, what you are suggesting is a carrier task force to intercept them? Were there Britsh carriers available at this point in the war, or were they already commited to convoy escort duties in the Med. and the like?... or, are saying that land-based aircraft could have been used to intercept the fleet at sea?
    The original intention was to send HMS Indomitable with Prince of Wales etc. She was an aircraft carrier that could carry about 50 Hurricanes or similar sized modern fighters, which would have been useful for defending the task force if nothing else. She didn't go because she ran aground on a reef and was out of action for a while. HMS Hermes, another but older and smaller aircraft carrier was in the Indian Ocean at the time. She carried only a dozen Swordfish or Walruses so she wouldn't have been much use, and would just have gone down with the other two. Indomitable would have had a fighting chance if she had a full complement of planes. I don't know if anything else was available.

    Land based aircraft would be a better option, flying out of Kota Bahru. The airfield was only a couple of miles from the east coast, giving a good arc across the water and to Singora and Patani in Thailand which were also invasion points. It would have been the ideal base from which to attack Japanese ships as they neared Malaya, while Japanese planes flying out of Saigon would have had reduced combat time because of greater distances to reach the battle area, unless using long range tanks. I’m pretty sure there weren’t any Japanese carrriers supporting the Malaya invasion or anywhere near it. All this assumes that the British planes were top line planes flown by good pilots. In reality, the Japanese had about 625 mostly good to very good planes with very good pilots against 158 mostly poor to average planes for the British. So far as fighters were concerned, it didn’t matter how good the British pilots were because their planes generally weren’t up to the task.

    Col Tsuji flew over southern Thailand and northern Malaya in secret flights maybe six weeks before the plans for the invasion were finalised. He recognised that the airfields at Kota and Alor Star could destroy an invasion fleet if Britain had sufficient planes there. He also recognised that if Japan could capture them, it had air bases to support its advance south and, if necessary, north if Thailand resisted, so he gambled on being able to acquire them. Which he did. The invasion fleet actually carried quite a deal of aviation fuel and aviation supplies in the expectation of capturing airfields in Thailand and Malaya, with the intention of transferring planes from Saigon upon capturing the airfields, which is what happened.

    Given the scenario where a carrier force was despatched, or ground based aircraft made available, could not the Japanese have simply changed their invasion route and come overland via Indo-China and Thailand?
    It’s a long way to go by land, and doubly so from Saigon as they have to go a considerable way north and then south again. It introduces significant logistical and line of supply problems.

    Sea transport was highly efficient at transporting large numbers of troops, and more so the way the Japanese did it in Malaya. The fully equipped troops on the ships were packed in 3 men to a 6’ x 3’ tatami mat, giving each man and his gear about six square feet. There might not have been enough road transport in Indo-China to carry the same number of troops, and supplies for the land journey, ignoring problems about the quality of roads and possibly having to fight their way through Thailand.

    A land advance through Thailand would mean Japan was advertising its intentions days or even weeks beforehand. This would, or should, have resulted in Operation Matador or a similar operation being fully implemented to block the advance. In the actual event Matador was not fully, nor even largely, attempted, let alone fully implemented. With at least some days and possibly even weeks to implement it in the face of an advance through Thailand, the Japanese would, or should, have faced much more effective and fortified opposition.

    The time taken for an advance through Thailand could not be accurately predicted, as it depended in part on how the Thais responded, so the attack on Malaya could not be dovetailed with the attacks elsewhere at the start of Japan’s war. As surprise was critical to Japan’s plans, this alone prevented telegraphing that particular punch. Which is not to say that the British were caught completely unawares as their observer aircraft noted the troop transports moving well before the attacks were launched.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 32Bravo View Post
    Generally (in malaya and Burma), the Japanese operated as light, shock troops. There lines of communication were not that great, and, indeed, it wasn't usually a major concern in an offensive. Their general rule was to capture the supplies of the enemy.
    Yes. And their light initial ration issues refelcted that policy. Of course, it killed thousands of them later on in the Pacific where they couldn't find enough stuff to eat.

    Their tactics were adaptable and, presumably, had been developed in China.
    Their essential tactic, from section level upwards, was infiltration and hooking around behind while pressing from the front, thus alarming the enemy that its lines had been broken (as distinct from merely penetrated in isolated areas) and was encircled and or cut off. Slim's great triumph was teaching his troops that they could still fight successfully when encircled and could actually inflict more damage on the Japanese than vice versa if they held their ground. That greatly reduced the success of that particular tactic.

    The differences of terrain presented by the jungle topography etc. would not have been too great a setback for tough troops with no fear of it.
    The Japanese were certainly encouraged to treat the jungle as their friend, while the British forces were generally not too comfortable in it.

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    Okay. So, given the situation regarding aircraft, troops, equipment etc. as was, when Percival arrived, with nothing further added beyond that which was:

    First of all, what could have been done, in that limited time, to improve defences?

    Secondly, when the risk of Japanese attack became more obvious, say, from the time that the Japanese themselves knew that they were going to plan an invasion, how could the British plans have been improved?

    Let's consider that we don't have the wisdom of hindsight, but, also, that hubris does not reign, and that there is a will and drive to improve the situation locally.
    Last edited by 32Bravo; 05-13-2007 at 11:27 AM.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun* View Post
    The problem in Malaya in 1941 wasn't a complete lack of preparation. There was very good preparation following Percival's assessment five years earlier, especially in relation to placing air bases at, as the Japanese invasion showed, accurately identified points critical to stopping a Japanese invasion; plans for the 11th Indian Division to seize Singora and Patani and destroy the Japanese before they could establish themselves; and sound back-up plans and fortifications such as the defensive positions at Jitra.

    Rather than Malaya being lost from a complete lack of preparation, it was lost because of a lack of complete preparation. What's the point of positioning airfields to dominate critical Japanese invasion and advance points if they don't have enough aircraft to do the job, and the right type of aircraft to meet the Japanese aircraft on at least equal terms? This woeful position flowed from the British arrogance that the Japanese planes were vastly inferior to the inferior British fighters stationed in Malaya, which were said by London to be “good enough” for Malaya.

    Another major factor was the timidity of the initial British response in implementing sound plans, notably failing to launch the 11th Division‘s planned attack on Singora and Patani, because of concerns about alienating Thailand by invading it. Given Thailand’s subsequent conduct, it’s a pity it wasn’t’ invaded by Britain a week earlier and British positions fully established to meet the Japanese attacks.

    Another important factor was poor communications between HQ and field commanders, resulting in critical early delays in executing plans.

    If the preparations had been fully implemented in every practical sense, and the plans carried out promptly and vigorously in the early days, Britain might not have lost Malaya. As it was, sound but incomplete preparations and sound but inadequately executed plans for Malaya’s defence showed that the problem was not in a British failure to recognise every aspect of the Japanese threat and its likely execution and to prescribe adequate counter-measures, because it correctly anticipated Japanese plans and prescribed adequate counter-measures. The problem was simply Britain's failure to implement those counter-measures properly. That was as much the fault of the powers that be in London as the commanders and troops on the ground in Malaya.

    As it was, the Japanese appreciation of Britain’s position in Malaya was spot on. Both the British and Japanese military and political leaders were widely arrogant and contemptuous of their enemy. The Japanese, unlike the British, also happened to be quite right in their assessment of Britain's ability to defend Malaya, as they convincingly proved.
    Thought I'd bring this forward, in view of my last post.


    "Although God cannot alter the past, Historians can"


    Samuel Butler


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