Author Topic: What if the fall of Singapore didn't happen?  (Read 1020 times)

Offline Volkodav

  • Counts rivits with his abacus...
  • Much older now...but procrastinating about it
What if the fall of Singapore didn't happen?
« on: July 13, 2018, 03:41:48 PM »
What if, either Singapore (and by default Malaya) was successfully defended, or it was basically abandoned rather than men and materiel being wasted to a lost cause.  As per usual this idea is growing exponentially and resulting and lots of reading and more ideas, through in some Hearts of Iron IV trying various things and it gets even weirder.

Just some interesting things I've come across.

•   Many, if not most, Regular Australian (senior) Officers believed that the Singapore strategy was deeply flawed and impossible to carry off as it relied citizen soldiers, conscripts and colonial troops, being able to defend against seasoned, highly motivated professional Japanese troops.  This was assuming the planned (significantly less than the requested) numbers of men and scales of equipment were delivered.

•   Senior British officers requested approximately 50% more forces than they were promised, they received about half of the promised amount.

•   Gordon Bennet, though personally brave and a proven battalion and brigade commander, was unsuited to divisional command due to his almost total lack of diplomacy, low opinion of the regular staff corps and disdain of the British.  He believed tanks would be useless in Malaya so didn't even request any, then had his forces routed by a small quantity of generally inferior Japanese armour.

•   The campaign was run on a shoe string by the Japanese and, unless they were willing and able to deploy far greater forces, it likely would not have taken much to have changed the result.

•   Rerouting the 2nd AIF 7th Division to Australia instead of Java probably saved Port Moresby, as even if they hadn't been lost in Java, they would never have had time to re-deploy to the battles along the Kokoda Track.

•   Australia made do with small numbers of quite diverse equipment, in particular aircraft, in the early phases of the Pacific / SEA war.

•   The British general staff and individuals such as Montgomery, desperately wanted to retain at least some of the 2nd AIF in North Africa and for future use in Europe, as they, like the Canadians and New Zealanders, were very much considered to be elite.

This raises several questions and extrapolated what if possibilities.

•   Could Singapore have been saved?

•   What would it have taken to save Singapore? 

•   What would the cost of abandoning Singapore and withdrawing to Australia have been?

•   What difference would the men and materiel saved have made if employed elsewhere in more defensible locations?

•   What would it have taken to convince Australia to leave one or more divisions in North Africa?

•   What would it have been worth to the Allies to retain the 2nd AIF in Africa / Europe?

•   What forces could Britain have transferred to Australia in compensation for keeping the 2nd AIF?

•   Could beefing up the RAN, in conjunction with saving the 8th Division have been enough not to need the return of the 6th and 9th divisions?

•   Once Australia was safe from invasion could the 1st Armoured Division have been available for Europe instead of sitting in Western Australia until disbanded?

Ideas?




Offline Rickshaw

  • "Of course, I could be talking out of my hat"
Re: What if the fall of Singapore didn't happen?
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2018, 05:10:48 PM »
There are many arguments pro and con defending Malaya and Singapore against the Japanese.  The Japanese did run their campaign on a shoe-string.  They committed a smaller force to defeating the Allies than the Allies to defending against them.   The Japanese relied on capturing supplies and transport as they marched southwards towards Singapore.   The British used largely inexperienced colonial (Indian) troops which they had neglected to train adequately.  The British and even the Australian troops themselves were largely ill-trained.  The Australians made up for that by being quick learners and had a real fighting spirit, which many in the British and Indian forces lacked.

All this was further compounded by flawed British strategic thinking on the forces they sent to defend Malaya and the methods they used to fight the Japanese.  While they had correctly surmised that the best way to defend Singapore was to defend as far up the peninsular as possible and had plans prepared to actually invade Thailand if necessary, they lacked the resources to do so adequately.  They believed that the largely non-existent Jungle still existed (most of it had been removed for plantations well before the outbreak of war) and so they tied themselves largely to the roads, whereas the Japanese did not.

As to whether it was worth defending Singapore, it might have been if Singapore had been set up to be defended.  The Colonial administration refused to prepare the island's defences to met the Japanese threat.   The British had only prepared the island to meet a naval attack, their guns were emplaced incorrectly and had the wrong sort of ammunition to fire against an infantry attack.   They faced the open sea, rather than the straits of Jahore, behind the island.

Singapore wasn't impregnable.  The Australian Government was correct that the 2nd AIF should be sent to Australia (although, initially they were to be deployed to Java and the Dutch East Indies).  Churchill was wrong to try and divert them to initially Singapore and then Burma, against the Australian Government's instructions.  Singapore, because of British ineptitude was a lost cause.  It had insufficient aircraft, ships and men to adequately defend it.

Offline Chris

  • An old friend and connoisseur of whiffing...
Re: What if the fall of Singapore didn't happen?
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2018, 05:15:19 PM »
Part of my alternative WWII scenario involves France fighting on, not only from North Africa but also in Far East. This leads to the Anglo/French forces being able to hold the Japanese in Malaya/Southern Indo-China. However because of the proximity of Japanese Air Forces Singapore is regarded as not being safe enough to be used as a main fleet base and the Allies Eastern Fleet is still pulled back to Ceylon.

As another part of this scenario the US Navy loses at Midway which has lots of consequences the main one of which is that the Allies formulate a Pacific rather than Europe first policy.

Although I have copious notes covering the main points of  this "history" it really is no more than a framework to enable me to build models and I fully realise there are more holes in it then the average pair of fishnet stockings.  ;)




Offline Volkodav

  • Counts rivits with his abacus...
  • Much older now...but procrastinating about it
Re: What if the fall of Singapore didn't happen?
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2018, 09:24:41 PM »
There are many arguments pro and con defending Malaya and Singapore against the Japanese.  The Japanese did run their campaign on a shoe-string.  They committed a smaller force to defeating the Allies than the Allies to defending against them.   The Japanese relied on capturing supplies and transport as they marched southwards towards Singapore.   The British used largely inexperienced colonial (Indian) troops which they had neglected to train adequately.  The British and even the Australian troops themselves were largely ill-trained.  The Australians made up for that by being quick learners and had a real fighting spirit, which many in the British and Indian forces lacked.

All this was further compounded by flawed British strategic thinking on the forces they sent to defend Malaya and the methods they used to fight the Japanese.  While they had correctly surmised that the best way to defend Singapore was to defend as far up the peninsular as possible and had plans prepared to actually invade Thailand if necessary, they lacked the resources to do so adequately.  They believed that the largely non-existent Jungle still existed (most of it had been removed for plantations well before the outbreak of war) and so they tied themselves largely to the roads, whereas the Japanese did not.

As to whether it was worth defending Singapore, it might have been if Singapore had been set up to be defended.  The Colonial administration refused to prepare the island's defences to met the Japanese threat.   The British had only prepared the island to meet a naval attack, their guns were emplaced incorrectly and had the wrong sort of ammunition to fire against an infantry attack.   They faced the open sea, rather than the straits of Jahore, behind the island.

Singapore wasn't impregnable.  The Australian Government was correct that the 2nd AIF should be sent to Australia (although, initially they were to be deployed to Java and the Dutch East Indies).  Churchill was wrong to try and divert them to initially Singapore and then Burma, against the Australian Government's instructions.  Singapore, because of British ineptitude was a lost cause.  It had insufficient aircraft, ships and men to adequately defend it.

The reason Bennett got the 8th instead of the 6th or 7th Division was his flaws were to an extent recognised and the best available were used to get the earlier divisions fully trained and ready for combat.  It could be claimed that some of the other senior officers attached to 1 Corps could have done a better job preparing the 8th and that could have made a very real difference.  The work other general officers did in the med, including rebuilding after Greece, and then after the initial reverses against Japan suggests a number of them could have done better in Malaya.

So many things could have made a very real difference, better training, better staff work, better understanding of armour and terrain, greater cohesion built through better relations with other commanders in the theatre.

Then again, realising that with the UK tied up at home and the med, that the Singapore Strategy was dead, is something I have only recently discovered was very well understood by the majority of Staff Corps Officers.  Their task was the training, development and support of the militia divisions, to do this the best and brightest trained at the best collages and service schools in the empire and undertook extensive exchange postings with the British Army.  The older more experienced among them were WWI veterans whose business was to stay abreast the latest developments and have a deep strategic understanding of the likely threats. 

The Staff Corps, more than anyone, realised the difference between inexperienced civilian soldiers and seasoned, regular, veterans.  They, almost to a man, saw the Singapore Strategy as folly and believed building land forces to defend Australia was the better use of limited resources.  There were exceptional reservists but in general the regulars were better soldiers and commanders, there just weren’t enough of them.

The real shortage was probably the lack of a professional Corps of senior non-commissioned officers, this more than anything made the raising and training of fresh units more time consuming and challenging.

Offline Volkodav

  • Counts rivits with his abacus...
  • Much older now...but procrastinating about it
Re: What if the fall of Singapore didn't happen?
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2018, 09:36:28 PM »
Part of my alternative WWII scenario involves France fighting on, not only from North Africa but also in Far East. This leads to the Anglo/French forces being able to hold the Japanese in Malaya/Southern Indo-China. However because of the proximity of Japanese Air Forces Singapore is regarded as not being safe enough to be used as a main fleet base and the Allies Eastern Fleet is still pulled back to Ceylon.

As another part of this scenario the US Navy loses at Midway which has lots of consequences the main one of which is that the Allies formulate a Pacific rather than Europe first policy.

Although I have copious notes covering the main points of  this "history" it really is no more than a framework to enable me to build models and I fully realise there are more holes in it then the average pair of fishnet stockings.  ;)

Same here, this is fun in terms of reading and learning but at the end of the day I am thinking in terms local production Matilda I and II infantry tanks supporting the 8th division, or perhaps even captured German equipment being used against Japan.  Refurbished STUGs and Panzer IIIs supporting the forces defending Malaya, FW190s in foliage green, maybe a wing of Whirlwinds based in Singapore.


The idea I am leaning towards is Renown and an armoured fleet carrier or two being transfered to the RAN with Vangard accellerated along with Implacable and Indefatigable to serve in the Far East, possibly as the core of a new RAN Fleet Unit.  Ironically Ark Royal and Vangard were both intended to bolster the defence of SEA against Japanese agression.

Offline Rickshaw

  • "Of course, I could be talking out of my hat"
Re: What if the fall of Singapore didn't happen?
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2018, 11:55:07 AM »
Ah, Bennet.  I know two authors who have written books about Bennet.  A very complex personality.  He fled Singapore because he believed he was in the running to be put in charge of the "home defence" army in Australia, over Blamey.   Blamey however, knew he was to be put in charge and left the Middle-East early just to thwart Bennet, flying home by Catalina.   Bennet was an adequate officer, he however had too much of a "personality" to endear himself to subordinates or superiors.

The 8 Division was handicapped because it was made up basically of the left-overs from the other divisions of the AIF.  Indeed, it's last units didn't even reach Singapore until after the Japanese had attacked Malaya.   It had some severe problems with discipline IIRC.   What they needed was an enemy to fight and the Japanese provided that.   Bennet proved he was better than the Japanese commanders.   As the Japanese hadn't started training for Jungle warfare until a few months before they were sent to Malaya, they did an adequate job but just barely.   I'd recommend reading the Japanese account of the campaign written by Yamashita's supply officer after the war.  It makes fascinating reading and shows just much of a classic "close run thing" the campaign was.   If the Japanese had been delayed a few weeks they would have failed to take Singapore.   As it was, even before they reached the Straits, they were starting to lose units to the Burma campaign.

There is a British author, who's name escapes me at the moment who suggested that if Churchill had sent a quarter of the materiale' that he wasted on the Russians, to Malaya, the Japanese would have been stopped.   They may well have but would the Germans be stopped in Russia?  The point is, the British were trying to defend everywhere while the Axis could choose where to attack and bring all their forces to bear against the British.  If the British weren't stretched by bolstering Stalin, then more than likely they'd have been able to defeat the Japanese, with of course, American materiale'.
« Last Edit: July 14, 2018, 07:30:52 PM by Rickshaw »

Offline Chris

  • An old friend and connoisseur of whiffing...
Re: What if the fall of Singapore didn't happen?
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2018, 04:45:11 PM »
maybe a wing of Whirlwinds based in Singapore.



Ah one of my favourite aircraft. I currently have a Merlin engined version planned. Going to use an old Airfix Whirlwind and two Italeri Spitfire V's as the engine donors. This one will be Italian based, but one (I have 4) of my Special Hobby ones is planned to be RAF Far East based. I have a bit of a thing for SEAC roundels.

Offline Volkodav

  • Counts rivits with his abacus...
  • Much older now...but procrastinating about it
Re: What if the fall of Singapore didn't happen?
« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2018, 08:23:31 PM »
maybe a wing of Whirlwinds based in Singapore.



Ah one of my favourite aircraft. I currently have a Merlin engined version planned. Going to use an old Airfix Whirlwind and two Italeri Spitfire V's as the engine donors. This one will be Italian based, but one (I have 4) of my Special Hobby ones is planned to be RAF Far East based. I have a bit of a thing for SEAC roundels.
I have an Airfix example that I was thinking would look great in Foliage Green.  Don't know whether the back story will be all RAF Whirlwinds are transferred to Singapore and survivors to the RAAF or weather production of the type is set up in Australia. 

The issue with the later is the RAAF had a requirement for a long range two seat fighter and the Whirlwind was a short range single seater.  That said I have thought of a scenario where Australia is licence producing the RR Kestrel as part of its selection of the Hawker Demon for local production in the early 30s to build a local aviation industry.  Originally my thinking was RR Australia would switch to the Merlin and Hawker Australia would start building Henleys and perhaps Hotspurs as Demon replacements, but then I thought why not have RR Australia switch instead to the Peregrine and perhaps specify a long range version of the Whirlwind with extra fuel in extended nacelles and possibly a second seat, either under an extended canopy or in the fuselage with side windows and an astrodome, and or even a ventral window/dome/gondola.

Offline Rickshaw

  • "Of course, I could be talking out of my hat"
Re: What if the fall of Singapore didn't happen?
« Reply #8 on: July 15, 2018, 11:52:41 AM »
The Merlin isn't all that much larger than the Perigrine in physical size:

General characteristics Perigrine

    Type: 12-cylinder supercharged liquid-cooled 60-degree Vee aircraft piston engine
    Bore: 5 inches (127 mm)
    Stroke: 5.5 inches (140 mm)
    Displacement: 1,296 in3 (21.2 L)
    Length: 73.6 in (1,869 mm)
    Width: 27.1 in (688 mm)
    Height: 41.0 in (1,041 mm)
    Dry weight: 1,140 lb (517 kg)

General characteristics Merlin

    Type: 12-cylinder, supercharged, liquid-cooled, 60° "Vee", piston aircraft engine.
    Bore: 5.4 in (137 mm)
    Stroke: 6.0 in (152 mm)
    Displacement: 1,649 cu in (27 L)
    Length: 88.7 in (225 cm)
    Width: 30.8 in (78 cm)
    Height: 40 in (102 cm)
    Dry weight: 1,640 lb (744 kg)[nb 16]

I'd rather see the Merlin in a Whirlwind than the Peregrine.   The Peregrine always was a bit of an orphan and Rolls Royce didn't have the ability to improve it sufficiently whereas the Merlin with it's larger capacity was much more important and in use in more aircraft types.   Downunder RR Australia might have had sufficient personnel to improve the Peregrine (and the time to do so) but the engine's capacity for improvement was limited.

Offline Old Wombat

  • "We'll see when I've finished whether I'm showing off or simply embarrassing myself."
  • "Define 'interesting'?"
Re: What if the fall of Singapore didn't happen?
« Reply #9 on: July 15, 2018, 12:58:54 PM »
The Peregrine was also at the far tail-end of its development potential, whereas the Merlin was still in the early stages of its.

The extra 1,000lb may have been a bit of an issue but some development of the Whirlwind's wings & fuselage should have fixed that, & the extra 490 hp (combined - assuming Merlin X) would have been nice.

Single-seat, twin-engined long-range fighter/fighter-bomber would have been useful in the SEA/Pacific Theatres, with improved survivability & excellent flight characteristics.
"This is the Captain. We have a little problem with our engine sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and, ah, explode."

Offline elmayerle

  • Its about time there was an Avatar shown here...
  • άber Engineer...at least that is what he tells us.
Re: What if the fall of Singapore didn't happen?
« Reply #10 on: July 15, 2018, 01:34:20 PM »
I'll agree with Old Wombat, the Peregrine was about as far as the basic Kestrel structure and architecture could be developed while the Merlin had, as demonstrated, plenty of room for growth.

I've often thought that a "growth" Whirlwind with Merlins might share some aspects of line with the Mosquito or Hornet.

Offline Rickshaw

  • "Of course, I could be talking out of my hat"
Re: What if the fall of Singapore didn't happen?
« Reply #11 on: July 15, 2018, 02:08:28 PM »
I think the Whirlwind, while attractive was a bit of a dead end as far as development went.  Westlands only won the contract because Supermarine as too busy with the Spitfire to develop their twin engined fighter design.    Westland was stretched to develop the Whirlwind and while it had potential I have often felt they went the wrong way with a too slim a fuselage which precluded much in the way of growth.     As the Welkin proved, there also wasn't development potential in the wing shape - basically it resulted in a design which was too near it's stall speed once it reached altitude so the aircraft was balancing between stall and flat out all the time.

Something the size of the Beaufighter was really a better deal.  It had enough room for more fuel tanks inside the wing/fuselage and heavier armament (the Beau' carried the heaviest gun armament to see RAF Operational use - 4 x 20mm plus 10 .303 MGs).  It also carried a second crewman to act as navigator on long range sorties - not to be sneezed at in the Pacific.   If Westland had grown the Whirlwind and adopted a better wing design, they'd have had a winner.

Now, here is an outside thought.   How about a radial engined Whirlwind?  Something with Taurus or even Hercules or something American.   Armed with 4 x 20mm plus 4 x .303in, plus either a torpedo, bombs or rockets.  It's fuselage would need to be about 25% larger in diameter, it's wings about 15% wider.   

Offline Old Wombat

  • "We'll see when I've finished whether I'm showing off or simply embarrassing myself."
  • "Define 'interesting'?"
Re: What if the fall of Singapore didn't happen?
« Reply #12 on: July 15, 2018, 05:52:28 PM »
If the actions of the Indian troops on Christmas Island are any indication, the lack of training & pro-Axis elements within their units may have limited/negated the presence of Indian troops in the defence of Malaya & Singapore at best. Of course, with an excellent intelligence network & a British intelligence officer among their spies, the Japanese were pretty well informed about Commonwealth forces & plans anyway.


Christmas Island Revolt: https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/revolt-on-christmas-island-20120313-1uy5q.html
"This is the Captain. We have a little problem with our engine sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and, ah, explode."

Offline Volkodav

  • Counts rivits with his abacus...
  • Much older now...but procrastinating about it
Re: What if the fall of Singapore didn't happen?
« Reply #13 on: July 15, 2018, 06:50:14 PM »
If the actions of the Indian troops on Christmas Island are any indication, the lack of training & pro-Axis elements within their units may have limited/negated the presence of Indian troops in the defence of Malaya & Singapore at best. Of course, with an excellent intelligence network & a British intelligence officer among their spies, the Japanese were pretty well informed about Commonwealth forces & plans anyway.


Christmas Island Revolt: https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/revolt-on-christmas-island-20120313-1uy5q.html

Interesting, I had heard of the Indian Legion, but not of this.  Thanks.

Offline Old Wombat

  • "We'll see when I've finished whether I'm showing off or simply embarrassing myself."
  • "Define 'interesting'?"
Re: What if the fall of Singapore didn't happen?
« Reply #14 on: July 16, 2018, 01:15:02 AM »
In a the jungle, if you didn't have to go too far too fast, perhaps, but the Matilda's lack of speed & inability to be up-gunned were major factors in their withdrawal from front line service everywhere except the SEA theatre.

Mind you, the Churchill, which replaced it, was, if anything, slower; it just had a bigger gun but, like the Matilda, it couldn't be up-gunned.

Both tanks did, however, possess the ability to traverse terrain that could stop other tanks.


*********************************************************
PS: Found this M41 pic while looking up some info on tanks in SE Asia.




*********************************************************
PPS: I'm just playing Devil's Advocate here, I'm liking your thought processes. ;)
« Last Edit: July 16, 2018, 01:20:11 AM by Old Wombat »
"This is the Captain. We have a little problem with our engine sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and, ah, explode."