The Fall Of Singapore 15th February 1942

Discussion in 'War Against Japan' started by spidge, Jun 23, 2005.

  1. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

    Hi all,

    There has been much written about the loss of "Fortress Singapore" that maligns Percival whilst others say he had no choice but to surrender and save lives.

    We have had over the past couple of days some questions and responses on who are the best soldiers "pound for pound" if you like.

    Were the Japanese soldiers better in this battle or were the troops badly commanded?

    Was the Japanese strategical approach sound or were the British officers just complacent?

    Was Churchill and Superior Headquarters at fault?

    Why was there no reconnaisance or a co-rdinated defence plan undertaken?

    Why had Singapore not been upgraded Militarily since World War 1?

    Why was Singapores' Aircover restricted to obsolete Brewster Buffalo's?

    etc. etc. etc.

    Look forward to your posts! View attachment 811 View attachment 812
     
  2. DirtyDick

    DirtyDick Senior Member

    Singapore was exposed because resources previously available/earmarked for the Pacific region were removed. (IIRC, it was felt since the 1930s that Hong Kong was unlikely to remain unoccupied in the event of war with Japan, but Singapore was a different matter.)

    Aside from surface ships, including a/c carriers, a powerful RN submarine flotilla had been based in the Pacific in the 1920s and 30s. When Italy nobly declared war in June 40, this was sent en masse to the Mediterranean. Had these subs been in the region in 41/42, they could (perhaps) have prevented or deterred the Japanese landing on the Malayan peninsula and thus being able to attack Singapore from its landward side.

    IIRC, it was planned to reinforce the Singapore garrison with Hawker Hurricanes sometime in 1941, although at short notice the planes earmarked for this duty were instead sent to the USSR. (I believe the Brewsters were flown by the RAAF.)

    There was also the question of long-term reinforcement of Singapore. 100s of thousands of troops are of little use if they had no protection from air attack and no ammunition, food or water. From where would succour come, if there were scarcely enough troops to mount any form of counter-attack, let alone an appropriate armada with escorts.

    Even though the Jap threat was apparent, the UK and COmmonwealth was fighting singlehandedly to defeat the Axis and the Navy was tied up in the Med and the Atlantic: very little could be spared, so men and material for the Far East was accorded a low priority.

    The decision to send PofW and Repulse unescorted was an attempt to overawe the Japanese without firing a shot, but they arrived only after the Japs had made the decision to fight. After they had been sunk, from where was the Singapore garrison going to receive support?

    I think in part the inefficiencies evident in the defence of Singapore can be seen as due to a lack of material and a large number of inexperienced soldiers - British, Australian and Indian - fighting an unusual campaign on an ad hoc basis.

    In hindsight one can say it was foolish to surrender to an isolated Japanese force running short of supplies and number 1/3 of the defenders', but given the situation - cut off, air attacks and the water supply overrun - in Feb 42 I think this was understandable (and at this stage would Percival have known that the Japs would treat Western POWs as badly as the Chinese?)

    Richard
     
  3. Kiwiwriter

    Kiwiwriter Very Senior Member

    Originally posted by spidge@Jun 22 2005, 11:09 PM
    Hi all,

    There has been much written about the loss of "Fortress Singapore" that maligns Percival whilst others say he had no choice but to surrender and save lives.

    We have had over the past couple of days some questions and responses on who are the best soldiers "pound for pound" if you like.

    Were the Japanese soldiers better in this battle or were the troops badly commanded?

    Was the Japanese strategical approach sound or were the British officers just complacent?

    Was Churchill and Superior Headquarters at fault?

    Why was there no reconnaisance or a co-rdinated defence plan undertaken?

    Why had Singapore not been upgraded Militarily since World War 1?

    Why was Singapores' Aircover restricted to obsolete Brewster Buffalo's?

    etc. etc. etc.

    Look forward to your posts! View attachment 811 View attachment 812
    [post=35699]Quoted post[/post]
    The Japanese troops in the Malaya campaign included two divisions with a lot of China experience, the 18th and 5th, and one that had not fought a battle since 1905, the Imperial Guards Division. That outfit's CO hated Yamashita and vice versa, and they did not work together well at all. The British and Imperial commanders don't seem to be a good bunch...many of the Commonwealth forces had never even seen the brochures on fighting tanks, let alone a tank. Gordon Bennett provided reporters with snappy quotes about successful ambushes, but otherwise does not impress. Percival was a capable staff officer who lacked the superficial Montgomery-style attributes of leadership. His refusal to build entrenchments on Singapore Island is boggling. The British troops were not jungle-trained or jungle-minded -- heavy hob-nailed boots, entirely focused on roads. The only battalion that trained in the jungle was the 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, and their Co was seen as a lunatic for doing so. The 2nd Argylls had the last laugh, as they were one of the few outfits that performed well.


    At one point, Indian troops would not go on a night patrol, because the enemy was letting off "squibs." The exasperated battalion commander told his subordinates there was no known incident of "squibs" killing men.

    The Japanese had a superb approach and the British were complacent. They regarded the jungle as a stiff barrier to invasion, which it was not, and ignored the fact that vast tracts of the Malay jungles were criscrossed with small roads, which the Japanese used to encircle forward British positions via their real secret weapon -- the bicycle.

    Churchill, London, Delhi, and Malaya Command all made many mistakes, the biggest of which being the deployment of forward and well-stocked RAF bases up north, which the Japanese could easily take and use against the British. However, one point that Arthur Swinson made in his book "Defeat in Malaya: The Fall of Singapore" is a good one...by 1942, Malaya was at the very end of the British logistical chain, which was overstrained, sending Lend-Lease supplies to Russia, troops and men to North Africa, and still needing vast quantities of supplies at home to defend against the Blitz or a renewed invasion. There was little left for Malaya, so they got no tanks, and only obsolete Brewster Buffalo fighters, and a division trained in desert warfare.

    However, Malaya command had the wrong attitude as well. Complacency there was incredible. The civilians did not get along with the military. When the Japanese first bombed Singapore, the city was fully lit, including Fort Canning. Nobody could find the man with the keys to the master switch at the power plant, and it took days for the lamplighters to go around the city, snuffing out the gas jets.

    As the campaign droned on, the government shuffled papers until it was far too late. They didn't dig air raid shelters because subcommittees wrangled for weeks on the proper rates of pay for coolies. Nobody took the war seriously until the Japanese reached Johore. Thye story that a Percival-Heath phone call was cut by the operator after the required three minutes is apocryphal.

    Wavell and Churchill repeatedly ordered fortifying Singapore Island's north shore, but Percival didn't do it, saying it would be "bad for morale."

    These attitudes led to sloppy defense planning. There was a coordinated plan, "Operation Matador," but when it came time to do it, Percival and his boss, Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham, who fell asleep during meetings, dithered.

    Singapore's defense had been upgraded since the Great War. The naval base was the primary addition, along with the famous guns that faced the wrong way. Actually, they did face both ways, but they lacked HE ammunition. General Dobbie recommended fortifying Singapore in the 1930s, but there were "no funds available," first under the "Ten-Year Rule," then under the Great Depression.

    The Buffaloes were all that the RAF, RNZAF, and RAAF could spare. The Royal Navy rushed in two squadrons of Hurricanes, and the Japanese Oscars, the Army knock-off of the Zero, chewed them up.

    Malaya was a major disaster, and a disgrace to British arms, which is why British bigshots rarely attend ceremonies there to mark the defeat. The British outnumbered the Japanese, who were running out of ammunition and bluffing when they browbeat Percival into surrender. Had Percival been of sterner stuff, the British might have held on and forced Yamashita into a humiliating retreat due to lack of supplies.

    But to me, the Malaya campaign is a situation where the British did everything wrong, and the Japanese did everything right.

    The only saving grace I see is Percival himself...he went in the bag with his men (unlike Gordon Bennett, who was told to stay with the men, and instead skipped off to Australia and write a book blasting the Pommies) and conducted himself honorably through captivity. After the war, he was president of the Far East POWs Association, as FEPOW No. 1, and worked hard on their behalf for medical and pension benefits, until his death in 1966. I have enormous respect for that.
     
  4. GUMALANGI

    GUMALANGI Senior Member

     
  5. ham and jam 1

    ham and jam 1 Member

    My great uncle was killed at or just after leaving Singapore so ive had an interest in what happened there. I belong to the Force Z survivors website, and it has some good info on it

    This is by Alan Mathews whos father was also on the Repulse, he holds Churchill responsible for many things, its a good read

    http://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/sinking1.html

    http://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/automedon.html

    These are the personal diaries of a sailor who was at the city as it fell

    http://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/fallofsingapore.html


    Andy
     
  6. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

    Just little wonder,.. is this gun located at the Siloso Beach?,.. at the Sentosa Isl.?
    if it is,.. i do not think any of those guns able to face Johore bahru strait. Went there this morning,.. seems,.. other than sea,.. guns only able to be directed to Singapore inland.

    Regards
    [post=35831]Quoted post[/post]
    [/quote]


    An attack was never expected from the North however:

    With the exception of the Buona Vista Fifteen-inch Battery and the southern-most 15 Inch gun of the Johore Battery at Changi, all the guns had all-round or near all-round traverse.


    To make things worse, for an attack from land, the guns did not have a lot of high-explosive (HE) ammunition. For the big guns, there was apparently only one fifteen-inch High Explosive shell on Singapore Island. Being coastal artillery, all of the guns had plenty of armour-piercing (AP) ammunition which was useless for firing at troops.
     
  7. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

     
  8. halfyank

    halfyank Member

    The decision to send PofW and Repulse unescorted was an attempt to overawe the Japanese without firing a shot, but they arrived only after the Japs had made the decision to fight. After they had been sunk, from where was the Singapore garrison going to receive support?

    The POW, if that ship wasn't doomed from the start I don't know what ship was, and Repulse weren't going to be sent unescorted. HMS Indomitable, a pretty fair aircraft carrier, was originally planned to escort them but ran aground while working up. While her aircraft wouldn't have been much use against Zeros or Oscars she could have helped against the unescorted land bombers sent after the two capital ships. That probably just would have meant the next raid would have been escorted and then the RN would be out a carrier as well as two great big gun ships. Even without the Indomitable the POW and Repulse had four destroyers escorting them, though they had poor anti-aircraft protection.


    Back to the original question my theory is that such disasters like this are almost inevitable when a democracy is suddenly attacked when they're not fully expecting it. This is because of the inertia of a peace time force being forced into a wartime footing. I believe there is also more of a little defeatism going on, not only in Malaya but also the Philippines for the Americans. They were so totally shocked by Pearl Harbor and Force Z that they felt defeated before they were. I believe both Percival and Wainwright could have put up a better defense than they did, though I'm not sure if it would have saved them in the end.
     
  9. angie999

    angie999 Very Senior Member

    Given the collapse of the British position in Malaya generally, I do not think Singapore could have held out indefinitely. I suppose they could have fought on for longer, but the end result would have been the same.

    There was no way the British could have reinforced in time to do much. Such scanty British forces as were available were about to get chased out of Burma, by which time the Japanese were probably a bit over-extended and run out of steam.
     
  10. morse1001

    morse1001 Very Senior Member

    Originally posted by angie999@Jun 27 2005, 05:31 PM

    Given the collapse of the British position in Malaya generally, I do not think Singapore could have held out indefinitely. I suppose they could have fought on for longer, but the end result would have been the same.

    There was no way the British could have reinforced in time to do much. Such scanty British forces as were available were about to get chased out of Burma, by which time the Japanese were probably a bit over-extended and run out of steam.
    [post=35901]Quoted post[/post]



    The deciding factor for percival was when the japanese captured the water supply for the island. he had, after all, had to take into consideration the civilian populations well as the military position.
     
  11. Cheshire Yeomanry

    Cheshire Yeomanry Junior Member

    One of the most important factors which hasn't beenm mentioned was the loss of French Indo-China with the fall of France in 1940.

    French Indo-China provided a bulwark against any northern attack, but with Japan's semi-occupation, the Japanese AF was able to base there whilst the Army launched west and south from it.

    Britian had a defensive plan that was based along the narrowest part of the Malaya peninsula which would be the normal invasion route. Britain put this plan into action but the Japanese landed to there rear. This ability was mainly down to Japan's occupation of French Indo-China. British/Empire forces never fully recovered from this reverse
     
  12. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

     
  13. Kiwiwriter

    Kiwiwriter Very Senior Member

    Originally posted by halfyank@Jun 27 2005, 12:36 PM
    The decision to send PofW and Repulse unescorted was an attempt to overawe the Japanese without firing a shot, but they arrived only after the Japs had made the decision to fight. After they had been sunk, from where was the Singapore garrison going to receive support?

    The POW, if that ship wasn't doomed from the start I don't know what ship was, and Repulse weren't going to be sent unescorted. HMS Indomitable, a pretty fair aircraft carrier, was originally planned to escort them but ran aground while working up. While her aircraft wouldn't have been much use against Zeros or Oscars she could have helped against the unescorted land bombers sent after the two capital ships. That probably just would have meant the next raid would have been escorted and then the RN would be out a carrier as well as two great big gun ships. Even without the Indomitable the POW and Repulse had four destroyers escorting them, though they had poor anti-aircraft protection.


    Back to the original question my theory is that such disasters like this are almost inevitable when a democracy is suddenly attacked when they're not fully expecting it. This is because of the inertia of a peace time force being forced into a wartime footing. I believe there is also more of a little defeatism going on, not only in Malaya but also the Philippines for the Americans. They were so totally shocked by Pearl Harbor and Force Z that they felt defeated before they were. I believe both Percival and Wainwright could have put up a better defense than they did, though I'm not sure if it would have saved them in the end.
    [post=35899]Quoted post[/post]


    Actually, I think if Indomitable had been present, the task force would have made it back home...they were retreating at the time the Japanese bombers pounced, and were out of range of the Oscars, which were army-controlled anyway. By the time the Japanese would have re-armed and re-fueled and organized a coordinated strike, the big ships would have probably been at the edge of the Zeros' range.

    Oddly enough, if Prince of Wales and Repulse had not aborted their mission, a few minutes later, they would have smacked into the Japanese transports and their escort of heavy cruisers. Prince of Wales and Repulse would have the big-gun advantage against Japanese Long-Lance torpedoes. It would have been an interesting battle.
     
  14. Gibbo

    Gibbo Senior Member

    Visibility was poor on 9 December. Around 5pm it cleared, to reveal 3 Japanese aircraft tailing Force Z. The mission was then called off but if HMS Indomitable had been present then I think that as aggressive a commander as Admiral Phillips would have continued & encountered the Japanese cruisers mentioned by Kiwiwriter.

    My guess is that Force Z, including Indomitable, would have still been wiped out but as it withdrew, having sunk several cruisers & many transports. The IJNAF 22nd Air Flotilla, which sank Prince of Wales & Repulse, included 36 Zeroes, which would presumably escorted the bombers.

    Had Admiral Phillips still decided to abort the mission on spotting the recce aircraft, despite the presence of Indomitable, then I reckon that Force Z would have got away. These aircraft were from the cruiser squadron & didn't report the sighting to the land based aircraft. These were on the return leg of their search & destroy mission when they spotted Force Z. although the Zero had a very long range for a single seat fighter, I don;t think that it could have escorted this mission so my opinion is that Indomitable's fighters could have fought off the attack.

    Facts in this posting are from "The Hunting of Force Z" by Richard Hough, opinions are mine.
     
  15. morse1001

    morse1001 Very Senior Member

    A very good book on the subject of the Fall of Singapore is "Singapore - the Japanese Version" By Col Masanobu Tsuji who was in the operations and planning staff for the attack.
     
  16. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

    Originally posted by morse1001@Jul 22 2005, 08:03 AM
    A very good book on the subject of the Fall of Singapore is "Singapore - the Japanese Version" By Col Masanobu Tsuji who was in the operations and planning staff for the attack.
    [post=36715]Quoted post[/post]


    I think Yamashita summed it up perfectly!

    [/I]"My attack on Singapore was a bluff - a bluff that worked. I had 30,000 men and was outnumbered by more than three to one. I knew if I had to fight long for Singapore, then I would be beaten. That was why the surrender had to be arranged at once. I was very frightened all the time that the British would discover our numerical weakness and lack of supplies and force me into disastrous street fighting.

    Yamashita did not know that Percival's intelligence about the Japanese was so poor it could virtually be discounted.
     
  17. Capt Bill

    Capt Bill wanderin off at a tangent

    Had to give Law of Armed Conflict mandatory lecture at weekend, and Gen Yamashita is used to illustrate to the british Forces of today exactly what happens when a Commander does not report his subordinate for undertaing an atrocity such as the Manila Massicre
     
  18. Visibility was poor on 9 December. Around 5pm it cleared, to reveal 3 Japanese aircraft tailing Force Z. The mission was then called off but if HMS Indomitable had been present then I think that as aggressive a commander as Admiral Phillips would have continued & encountered the Japanese cruisers mentioned by Kiwiwriter.

    My guess is that Force Z, including Indomitable, would have still been wiped out but as it withdrew, having sunk several cruisers & many transports. The IJNAF 22nd Air Flotilla, which sank Prince of Wales & Repulse, included 36 Zeroes, which would presumably escorted the bombers.

    Had Admiral Phillips still decided to abort the mission on spotting the recce aircraft, despite the presence of Indomitable, then I reckon that Force Z would have got away. These aircraft were from the cruiser squadron & didn't report the sighting to the land based aircraft. These were on the return leg of their search & destroy mission when they spotted Force Z. although the Zero had a very long range for a single seat fighter, I don;t think that it could have escorted this mission so my opinion is that Indomitable's fighters could have fought off the attack.

    Facts in this posting are from "The Hunting of Force Z" by Richard Hough, opinions are mine.

    With the Indomitable Phillips would have possesed a air recon. he would have more control of. The difficulty in coordinating the air recon. from the land bases had much to do with the fruitless search for he enemy amphibious fleet. With air recon launched from the Indomitable it is possible one or more of the japanese amphibious groups or convoys would have been located ear;ly on. Also the possiblity of a torpedo strike by the Indomiatable's air wing must be considered.

    A long shot best case scenario is Phillips locates and attacks one of the amphib convoys early, then is able to withdraw before the enemy can locate the Brits or organize their own attack. that would allow a chance at a second attack on the Japanese sea communications a few days later.
     
  19. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    Actually, I think if Indomitable had been present, the task force would have made it back home...they were retreating at the time the Japanese bombers pounced, and were out of range of the Oscars, which were army-controlled anyway. By the time the Japanese would have re-armed and re-fueled and organized a coordinated strike, the big ships would have probably been at the edge of the Zeros' range.

    Oddly enough, if Prince of Wales and Repulse had not aborted their mission, a few minutes later, they would have smacked into the Japanese transports and their escort of heavy cruisers. Prince of Wales and Repulse would have the big-gun advantage against Japanese Long-Lance torpedoes. It would have been an interesting battle.

    The mere fact that Fulmars, Swordfishes and the rest of the planes the FAA fielded at the time, were absolutely no match for the Oscar, would have made such an encounter a very one-sided affair. Even the Nells (or were they Bettys? :unsure:) that attacked Z Force were tough nuts to crack for the available RAF fighters, and would have been so for the FAA's.

    About the said RAF planes, Brewster Buffaloes at that time, Cull's "Brewsters Over Singapore" shows them as incapable even of handling fixed-undercarriage Ki-27 Nates, not to mention Oscars. Not much of an effective air umbrella over Malaya.

    However, on the ground, even though battle-hardened and tested japanese troops had the advantage of being able to operate on little more than rice and a pair of sandals, coupled with the disdain with which the Allied commanders saw them even after first blood was drawn, restricting vital training, they received a few good lickings like that at Gemas, courtesy of non other than your everyday Digger, which DID have the time to receive some jungle-training, courtesy of Bennett being able to see beyond the "yellow monkey" myth. Has always seemed to me like a mixture of over-confidence, racism, etc., more than a matter of Japanese brilliance (and this affected the fielding of Buffaloes as main-line fighters, too).

    About Bennett, IMO a good commander, I have always wondered what does an officer do when ordered to abandon his men in the hour of need; does he disobeys and stays, or does he complies and prepares on the way out to face the judgment of history? When I read the Aussie Official History volume concerning this period, on first thought I also didn´t like his behaviour, but after trying to understand the variables of High Command, thinking strategically rather than tactically, I'm not so sure anymore.
     
  20. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Part of the Witness History Series on the BBC (Radio) World Service - 9 min audio

    The fall of Singapore
    Witness History

    BBC World Service - Witness History, The fall of Singapore

    In 1942, during the Second World War, the British colony of Singapore fell to Japanese forces. Its capture marked the start of Japan's three-and-a-half year occupation of the island state, during which many ethnic Chinese living in Singapore were rounded up and killed. Louise Hidalgo has been listening to the memories of some of those who lived through that time.

    Sook Ching - Wikipedia
     
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