Improve the Singapore Strategy

MatthewB

Banned
The cost to build the Sembawang Naval Base and (I believe) its surrounded fortifications and guns was £28 million (1938 GBP). This is equal to £1,870 million (£1.9 billion) in 2019. We should add another £8 million for the construction of the RAF bases throughout Malaya. As a point of reference, a single KGV class battleship cost £7 million. HMS Ark Royal cost £3 million, not including aircraft.

So, you've got £35 million for a Singapore strategy. What would you do differently?
 
Spend money on rain water collection as when the Japanese took the water catchments Singapore was stuffed. Improve the border defensiveness. Build hardened air craft hangers buy more modern planes lots of them and tanks that more than a stupid 2 ponder gun that could not use any rounds on troops.

Spend what’s left on training and training. Singapore was doomed as soon as that idiot Percival was appointed along with then RAF fellow who for the life of me name I forget.
 
Nothing?

You need the infrastructure to support the forces. If the forces aren't available, then something else has gone horribly wrong, and it probably wouldn't have been solved by infrastructure spending decisions ten years previously.
 

MatthewB

Banned
You need the infrastructure to support the forces. If the forces aren't available, then something else has gone horribly wrong
I agree it does seem backward to build a massive fortress and naval base but to send no defenders or ships.

My thinking, use Ceylon for your primary Indian Ocean base, with additional fuel/support points in Austalia and Singapore, limiting investment all around. And then focus on keeping ships at Singapore and Ceylon. And for god sakes force the rubber plantation owners to pay for it - it's a British colony, it's time to coerce the business owners to take part. Use £10 million of the £28 million spent on Singapore to instead build the Singapore-class CVL (assuming we can around or out of the Washington Treaty).

What was the point of the big guns at Singapore, to defend an empty base? Or was it to shelter a fleet in the base - but the RN would come out and fight.
 
The cost to build the Sembawang Naval Base and (I believe) its surrounded fortifications and guns was £28 million (1938 GBP). This is equal to £1,870 million (£1.9 billion) in 2019. We should add another £8 million for the construction of the RAF bases throughout Malaya. As a point of reference, a single KGV class battleship cost £7 million. HMS Ark Royal cost £3 million, not including aircraft.

So, you've got £35 million for a Singapore strategy. What would you do differently?

Firstly there is a fair amount of hindsight in this as before the occupation of French indo china a Japanese land invasion via the Kra Isthmus was impossible and a direct attack from the Japanese highly improbable

So things I would do once I found out the Japanese were moving on FIC - so late Sept 1940 is the trigger!

  • Keep the air bases away from the coast - assume that landings will be made to capture them
  • Improve the railway logistics in the Malayan Peninsula including the support said airbases
  • Stand up a chain home system plus a Fighter Command style system for fighter control
  • Massively increase the Malaysian Militia / Armed forces and intelligence services / police
  • Plan for any defence to be based around the 2nd AIF so as soon as Japan makes an aggressive move start replacing Australian (and New Zealand?) units in the North African and Middle East theatres with British units from the UK and shift those Aus/NZ units East- there was at least 6-8 UK divisions that were good enough to be sent to replace them.
  • Send FC Spitfire Squadrons to North Africa/Malta earlier (Send Kieth Park to Malta earlier while they are at it) - thus freeing up P40 and Hurricane Squadrons for duties in Malaya and elsewhere.
  • Send as much of the HK garrison as can be withdrawn to Malaya including the 3 old destroyers, 2 insects and the 6 MTBs. 1 Of the DDs was converted into a minelayer which might prove useful
  • Ask for Force C to reinforce the Malayan 'Garrison' rather than HK. The loss of HK is irrelevant to the conduct of the war. Expand the HK Regiment and HK Artillery Rgt but withdraw as much of the Regular forces as possible.
  • The last 2 with at least 5 infantry and 1 Machine gun battalions and 2 Brigade HQs should allow the 2 Indian divisions in Malaya to each become 3 Brigade affairs
  • Send 300 Covenanter tanks to allow the Australians to form the 1st Australian Armoured Division - yes they are just about the worst tanks the British built but they are probably still better than the Japanese tanks and better than nothing and available. And what better tank to learn AFV maintenance eh? Better tanks will follow.
  • From Sept 1940 involve the Dutch and US in any plans - ie fwd planning for any defence of places like Rabaul, Ambon, and Timor?
  • Try to send additional MTB/MGB Squadrons to defend the East coast - a 'littoral flotilla' - these can come from Coastal Forces in the UK and be based in places like Kota Bharu
  • Improve Submarine facilities in Singapore - plan to support Dutch and US boats
  • Send an aggressive commander - some one like Ironsides or even that young chap from 3rd Division - bad bedside manner but good a lighting fires under people
 

MatthewB

Banned
set up production of the 6pdr anti tank gun when it was designed.ie prewar.
Indeed. Even the Mark I tanks of WW1 had 6pdr guns.

You do lead us to a good direction, that of defending Malaya on the ground. Forseeing the fall of FIC is unlikely, but Japanese invasion from Thailand isn't. So invest some of the cash in land defences, and roads for tanks, more railways, etc. And ground defences for the air bases.
 
The problem was the civilian and military leadership of Malaya, despite detail deficiencies with the forces deployed. Governor Shelton needed to facilitate large scale exercises of the troops and Percival needed to conduct them. Percival needed to develop plans for Operation Matador using the forces he had rather than the forces he wanted. Phillips needed to not blunder blindly around the south china sea.

If these things were done the guns of Singapore could have been a great defensive asset.
 

MatthewB

Banned
The problem was the civilian and military leadership of Malaya, despite detail deficiencies with the forces deployed. Governor Shelton needed to facilitate large scale exercises of the troops and Percival needed to conduct them. Percival needed to develop plans for Operation Matador using the forces he had rather than the forces he wanted. Phillips needed to not blunder blindly around the south china sea.

If these things were done the guns of Singapore could have been a great defensive asset.
We're predating Percival.
 
A bit on the army deployed to Malaya pre WW2.
In 1930, just two infantry battalions were stationed in Malaya, one British and one Indian. By 1937, this had increased to three British and one Indian battalions. Reinforcement of Malaya started in September 1939 with the arrival of the 12 Indian Infantry Brigade.

The next formations to arrive in Malaya were the 6 Indian Infantry Brigade and 8 Indian Infantry Brigade which landed in Malaya in October and November 1940. They came under command of the 11 Indian Infantry Division that formed in Malaya in October 1940. These two brigades both comprised three Regular Indian Army battalions, but were short of artillery support.

The 8 Australian Infantry Division was formed in Australia on 4 July 1940 as part of the 2 Australian Imperial Force. The 22 Brigade, which had been formed in New South Wales, was deployed to Malaya on 2 February 1941. This bought the total number of field Brigades to 4.

In March and April 1941, another division was sent from India to Malaya, this formation being the 9 Indian Infantry Division, comprising the 15 and 22 Indian Infantry Brigades. This formation also comprised units from the pre-war Regular Indian Army, but again was short of artillery. On arrival in Malaya, the brigades were redistributed between the two divisions. The 6 and 15 Brigades came under command of the 11 Division, with the 8 and 22 Brigades under command of the 9 Division. This was done to balance out the experience of the formations. Two British Army battalions (2 East Surrey's and 1 Leicestershires) joined the 11 Division, one being allocated to each brigade.

With two divisions now stationed in Malaya, a corps, headquarters was required, so the III Indian Corps was formed in May 1941.

27 Brigade, 8 Australian Infantry Division arrived in Malaya in August 1941.

The 28 Indian Infantry Brigade arrived in August 1941 to act as corps reserve.

This brings the total field brigades to 8.
 

nbcman

Donor
Don't send significant forces to Greece; hold Crete and close out the North Africa campaign by mid 1941. That frees up, at a minimum, the 6th and 7th Australian Division for service in Malaya. Pair that with the 2nd Armoured that was lost in Greece and in Cyrenaica plus some of the air force in North Africa would easily be able to stop the Japanese attack on Malaya. Or withhold some of the tanks such as the Matilda tanks that were sent to the Soviets in 1941.
 
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CalBear

Moderator
Donor
Monthly Donor
Plan for a siege, food storage, cisterns, medical; supplies. Plan to have to hold until relieved, food and units of fire to last for at least a year. Plan to evacuate or relocate the civilian population (they eat food and drink water, give them somewhere to do both that isn't a "fortress", hopefully where bombs aren't falling). Make sure whoever you put into command understands, and has the proper mindset to, hold to the last cartridge and cup of water. By 1940 it should be obvious that command of Singapore in case of a war with Japan is a Victoria Cross waiting to happen.

Mines are your friend, like millions (literally) of them. Take 4"/50 secondary battery guns from the decommissioned HMS King George V & HMS Ajax put them into overhead protected bunkers to act as boat guns (32 guns total) with intersecting arcs of fire all around the Island, especially along the Straits of Johor. Do the same thing with the 30-40 4"/45 QF off scrapped C-Class cruisers in AAA mounts. Both on the Malay Peninsula and on Singapore construct some decent revetments for aircraft (granted, the aircraft are going to be shite, but at least give them a chance). Assign at least one flotilla of submarines (Odin class maybe? USN S-Boats were of a similar age and did a decent job in the Philippines)

Good news is that this is all fairly cheap. What will be somewhat costly is getting some radar, especially AAA radar. Cheap at twice the price.
 

MatthewB

Banned
Don't send significant forces to Greece; hold Crete and close out the North Africa campaign by mid 1941. That frees up, at a minimum, the 6th and 7th Australian Division for service in Malaya. Pair that with the 2nd Armoured that was lost in Greece and in Cyrenaica plus some of the air force in North Africa would easily be able to stop the Japanese attack on Malaya. Or withhold some of the tanks such as the Matilda tanks that were sent to the Soviets in 1941.
No, we’re prewar, deciding what to invest in instead of 28 million pounds into the Singapore base.
 
No, we’re prewar, deciding what to invest in instead of 28 million pounds into the Singapore base.

The pre war investment was fine in the circumstances, indeed iirc the fortification of Singapore was a victory for the British in the Washington Treaty negotiations.

It was the misuse of this investment that was the problem.
 

MatthewB

Banned
Thing is, what harm would it have been in the late 1930s to long term deploy three or four Revenge class, Hermes, Argus and other second tier ships to Singapore.
 

nbcman

Donor
No, we’re prewar, deciding what to invest in instead of 28 million pounds into the Singapore base.
The problem with that is that there were items that were planned for the Pacific that were redirected such as the O, P, R, and T class subs, most of these were lost in European waters. Plus the British built airfields in Malaya but directed front line aircraft to other theaters or to the Soviets (such as 99 Hurricanes and 39 Tomahawk P-40s).

Accelerating the expansion of the Indian Army such that they could have another Indian division or two available for Malaya - or at least get their 1940 class divisions (9th & 11th) better trained and equipped.

If the British wouldn't commit sufficient forces to hold Malaya, they should have reduced the amount of money they put into developing Singapore as a naval base and saved part or all the 60 million pounds (not 28 million) used to develop a base for the IJN.
 
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Don't send significant forces to Greece; hold Crete and close out the North Africa campaign by mid 1941. That frees up, at a minimum, the 6th and 7th Australian Division for service in Malaya. Pair that with the 2nd Armoured that was lost in Greece and in Cyrenaica plus some of the air force in North Africa would easily be able to stop the Japanese attack on Malaya. Or withhold some of the tanks such as the Matilda tanks that were sent to the Soviets in 1941.
All for not sending troops to Greece.

But the question is where in the existing shooting war two divisions would be useful before sending them to a backwater with no war? That is always going to be the issue with the subs, armies, fighters, etc. Some harebrained European adventure will always come first.
 
So, you've got £35 million for a Singapore strategy. What would you do differently?
Politically acceptable without hindsight or what I would do now?

Plan for a siege,....at twice the price.
If you can plan for a siege then why actually accept it on Singapore? Would it not be far better to simply spend the effort holding far to the north? Isn't Singapore just to small and close to be realistically defended? Or go for something isolated like Nancowry?
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Would the IJA be able to deal with large trench systems if they where built pre war?

Thing is, what harm would it have been in the late 1930s to long term deploy three or four Revenge class, Hermes, Argus and other second tier ships to Singapore.
What's the use as they will just be sent West come WWII.....

set up production of the 6pdr anti tank gun when it was designed.ie prewar.
I think this hits what I would do with hindsight, that much money could buy a lot and I would focus on stopping FoF not the disaster that came from it.....

Simply backing France over Rhineland would probably cost less than Singapore.....
 
i don t think you need hindsight you just need more money as the 6pdr design was done before the war and our favourite money grubbers said no.....would be lots of butterflies iff they said yes.
 
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