The Fall Of Singapore 15th February 1942

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

  1. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    I am no expert on The Fall of Singapore except I have read the excellent book 'Did Singapore Have to Fall? Churchill and the impregnable fortress' by Karl Hack and Kevin Blackburn. Published in 2004. There is a free PDF copy here: Did Singapore Have to Fall?: Churchill and the Impregnable Fortress - PDF Free Download

    For those interested in defences (fortifications and artillery) there is a Pen & Sword book (pub. 2016) 'The Fatal Fortress, the Guns and Fortifications of Singapore 1819-1956, by William Clements. Here is a review: The Fatal Fortress, the Guns & Fortifications of Singapore 1819-1956 | FIRE Reviews and this seller:

    I have read another book on the policy decisions before 1939, but it has vanished from the bookshelves.

    There may be another thread on the treachery of a few officers; various accounts have appeared in recent years. The name of a NZ officer comes to the fore in a search: Captain Patrick Stanley Vaughan Heenan and a RN officer William Forbes-Sempill. I have added this as one author is widely respected: The Fall of Singapore – The Great Betrayal – BBC2
  2. BFBSM

    BFBSM Very Senior Member

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  3. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    Report by General Wavell (June 1942) on Operations in Malaya and Singapore can be read here:
    Wavell Report
    Report by Lt General Percival (Feb 1948) on Malaya Command can be read here:
    Malaya Command

    As to errors made and hindsight is a marvellous thing. I already knew about the withdrawal (mentioned above) from the area in 1939 of the 4th Submarine Flotilla (around 15 submarines) specifically stationed on the China Station for the defence of the area. However I have recently read that a large quantity of Matilda tanks were destined for Singapore but on Churchill's orders were then given to Russia in July 1940 when Hitler ordered Barbarossa. Are there any facts to support this claim?

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  4. hap

    hap New Member

    A Delicate Mission: The Washington Diaries of R.G. Casey, 1940-1942
    casey was ambassador to the USA, served in churchills war cabinet and went on to be 16th governor general of Australia. he talks at length in this book about Churchill stripping the pacific theatre to supply Stalin, in order to keep him on side.
    The USA entering the war after Pearl Harbor and how Churchill convinced Roosevelt that 'Europe First' was the best policy.
    churchill was no strategist, just a politician running out of options with the merchant fleet committed to north atlantic convoys and arctic runs of equipment to murmansk and archangel. supplying the far east for a prolonged war would have been an almost impossible task.
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  5. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    The UK-based military affairs website 'The Wavell Room' has published today this article 'How the “Gibraltar of the East” fell: A Historical Analysis of the Singapore Strategy up to WWII' by Andy Wong: How the "Gibraltar of the East" fell: A Historical Analysis of the Singapore Strategy up to WWII. - Wavell Room

    It is awhile since I looked into the issues, so am uncertain if it contains anything new. Of interest via Twitter have been two responses via Engaging Strategy:
  6. AG HART

    AG HART Member

    The facts about the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable have become blurred over the years. It is true that she had been selected for service at Singapore as part of Force Z, and it is true that she ran aground in the West Indies. However it is NOT true that she would have been present with Force Z on 10th December 1941 if she had not run aground. HMS Indomitable was not en-route to Singapore when she was damaged, she had just arrived in the West Indies to begin 3 weeks work up training and was scheduled to dock at Gibraltar on 20th November 1941, to refuel, and take on stores and provisions prior to her move to the Far East (source, Bombers Vs Battleships). Even if she only took 3 days or so before setting off, we are talking 24th November for a sailing date. The route was via the Cape and into the Indian Ocean, it would be impossible for Indomitable to reach Singapore in time. The fact is that HMS Indomitable was always going to be a late arrival with Force Z, she would probably get there in time for Christmas.

    That is assuming she would actually arrive in Singapore? I believe that had HMS Indomitable not run aground and had arrived at Gibraltar as planned on 20th November 1941 her orders to sail to Singapore would have been cancelled, why? A week earlier on 13th November 1941, HMS Ark Royal, the only modern Aircraft Carrier in the Mediterranean Fleet was torpedoed and sunk by a U Boat. So we have the Royal Navy without an Aircraft Carrier in a major war zone, and the latest and newest carrier in the Navy turns up a week later on it's way to still calm and peaceful Singapore and is allowed to proceed as planned? I don't think so, I have no doubt she would have been ordered to join the Mediterranean Fleet and Singapore would have to wait until another carrier was available.
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  7. BFBSM

    BFBSM Very Senior Member


    I have conducted a little search through the books I have available, and found the following.

    In The Second World War Volume III: The Grand Alliance by Winston Churchill, on page 364 (The Reprint Society 1954 Edition), he quotes from a message dated 4 September 1941, in response to a message from Stalin dated the same date which requested a 'monthly minimum of aid amounting to 400 aircraft and 500 tanks (of small or medium size). [p.363]:

    David Fletcher in British Battle Tanks: British-Made Tanks of World War II (Osprey, 2017), on page 31 states:

    I have been unable to find a direct mention of not sending tanks to Singapore, but to Russia instead, but it is highly plausible that some of those destined for the Far East were sent to Russia under Churchill's order quoted above.
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  8. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    As yet I have been unable to find the reference for my previous statement, however a couple of weeks ago I came across the following: ttps://
    "Particularly important for the Soviets in late 1941 were British-supplied tanks and aircraft. American contributions of the time were far fewer. In fact, for a brief period during December 1941, the relative importance of British aid increased well beyond levels planned by the Allies as a result of American reaction to the outbreak of war with Japan; some American equipment destined for the Soviet Union was actually unloaded from merchant vessels and provided to American forces instead."
    "According to Biriukov’s service diary, the first 20 British tanks arrived at the Soviet tank training school in Kazan on October 28, 1941, at which point a further 120 tanks were unloaded at the port of Archangel in northern Russia. Courses on the British tanks for Soviet crews started during November as the first tanks, with British assistance, were being assembled from their in-transit states and undergoing testing by Soviet specialists."
    Further, in Singapore, there had been a huge increase in RAF personnel (Admin, ground crew etc) in anticipation of a build-up but few additional aircraft. By most accounts due to a shortage. However from the above link we also have:
    "Lend-Lease aircraft deliveries were also of significance during the Battle of Moscow. While Soviet pilots praised the maneuverability of the homegrown I-153 Chaika and I-16 Ishak fighters—still in use in significant numbers in late 1941—both types were certainly obsolete and inferior in almost all regards to the British-supplied Hurricane."

  9. AG HART

    AG HART Member

    Tanks need crews and I have never come across anything, anywhere, that suggests, indicates or states any British Armoured Regiment was told it was going to Singapore in 1940/41. This of course does not include 7th Armoured Brigade who were ordered to Singapore once hostilities commenced.
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  10. AG HART

    AG HART Member

    Force Z needed surprise on it's side to be able to deal with the Japanese Invasion. Even before the float planes spotted the British, The Japanese had already confirmed that Force Z had left Singapore and was at sea, the transports (most of which had been unloaded) were scattered and ordered north into the Gulf of Siam out of danger and not back towards Indo China on a route where they might expect the British to suddenly appear. There were therefore no transports for Force Z to sink even if it did continue to Singora or Kota Bharu. The "nearly" encounter between Force Z and Japanese cruisers on the night of the 9th was not as close as is made out, they were in the region of 25 miles apart, not 5 miles as is often stated, and detailed analysis by someone on another site suggests that only one cruiser was present in the area the flare was dropped, not a flotilla. We now know that the sighting reports from the 3 float planes did not reach Saigon, but Admiral Phillips of course did not know this. With surprise lost he made the right choice in aborting the mission. HMS Indomitable is a red herring because as previously stated, she was never going to be at Singapore in that time period.
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  11. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    A new commentary by a USN officer on an obscure - to me - website, id'd via a Twitter recommendation. A "taster" from the conclusion:
    Link: Defeated in Peacetime: The Fall of British Singapore, 1942
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  12. Richelieu

    Richelieu Well-Known Member

    An optimistic assessment from November 1939.

    Attached Files:

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