Malaya What If

MWI 40092713 The Tripartite Pact
1940, Friday 27 September;

Saburo Kurusu, sat back into the high leather cushioned backed chair, allowing the aide to lean forward and carefully roll the blotter over his signature. It was the second signature, a third was still required, bringing the Tripartite Pact into being. Flashlights were popping off as these historical events were being captured for posterity.

He looked briefly to his right, Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German Foreign Minister was just completing his third signature, while the other side of Ribbentrop, Galeazzo Ciano, the Italian Foreign Minister, was waiting to be given his last treaty signature book. He didn’t like Ciano, he wasn’t a diplomat, just a rich playboy in a fancy uniform. It said everything about Italy as far as Saburo was concerned, they weren’t to be trusted. Come to think of it he didn’t like Ribbentrop either, he was arrogance and obnoxious, but he had been of some benefit to Japan, and Germany had to be taken very seriously. The aides rotated round and the third copy was in front of him now. He scanned through the text again.

“The Governments of Japan, Germany, and Italy consider it as the condition precedent of any lasting peace that all nations in the world be given each its own proper place, have decided to stand by and co-operate with one another in their efforts in Greater East Asia and the regions of Europe respectively wherein it is their prime purpose to establish and maintain a new order of things, calculated to promote the mutual prosperity and welfare of the peoples concerned. It is, furthermore, the desire of the three Governments to extend cooperation to nations in other spheres of the world that are inclined to direct their efforts along lines similar to their own for the purpose of realizing their ultimate object, world peace. Accordingly, the Governments of Japan, Germany and Italy have agreed as follows:

ARTICLE 1. Japan recognizes and respects the leadership of Germany and Italy in the establishment of a new order in Europe.

ARTICLE 2. Germany and Italy recognize and respect the leadership of Japan in the establishment of a new order in Greater East Asia.

ARTICLE 3. Japan, Germany, and Italy agree to cooperate in their efforts on aforesaid lines. They further undertake to assist one another with all political, economic and military means if one of the Contracting Powers is attacked by a Power at present not involved in the European War or in the Japanese-Chinese conflict.

ARTICLE 4. With a view to implementing the present pact, joint technical commissions, to be appointed by the respective Governments of Japan, Germany and Italy, will meet without delay.

ARTICLE 5. Japan, Germany and Italy affirm that the above agreement affects in no way the political status existing at present between each of the three Contracting Powers and Soviet Russia.

ARTICLE 6. The present pact shall become valid immediately upon signature and shall remain in force ten years from the date on which it becomes effective. In due time, before the expiration of said term, the High Contracting Parties shall, at the request of any one of them, enter into negotiations for its renewal.

In faith whereof, the undersigned duly authorized by their respective governments have signed this pact and have affixed hereto their signatures.”

Satisfied that all was in order, he leant forward to sign, happy that what was detailed was about as much as he could have hoped for, indeed he thought Japan was rather getting the better out of it. The USA might think twice when dealing with Japan now, and he felt it would help reinforce the isolationist movement there. He looked at his fresh wet inked signature on the page, it was done now, the treaty was signed.
 
1940, Friday 27 September;

Saburo Kurusu, sat back into the high leather cushioned backed chair, allowing the aide to lean forward and carefully roll the blotter over his signature. It was the second signature, a third was still required, bringing the Tripartite Pact into being. Flashlights were popping off as these historical events were being captured for posterity.

He looked briefly to his right, Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German Foreign Minister was just completing his third signature, while the other side of Ribbentrop, Galeazzo Ciano, the Italian Foreign Minister, was waiting to be given his last treaty signature book. He didn’t like Ciano, he wasn’t a diplomat, just a rich playboy in a fancy uniform. It said everything about Italy as far as Saburo was concerned, they weren’t to be trusted. Come to think of it he didn’t like Ribbentrop either, he was arrogance and obnoxious, but he had been of some benefit to Japan, and Germany had to be taken very seriously. The aides rotated round and the third copy was in front of him now. He scanned through the text again.

“The Governments of Japan, Germany, and Italy consider it as the condition precedent of any lasting peace that all nations in the world be given each its own proper place, have decided to stand by and co-operate with one another in their efforts in Greater East Asia and the regions of Europe respectively wherein it is their prime purpose to establish and maintain a new order of things, calculated to promote the mutual prosperity and welfare of the peoples concerned. It is, furthermore, the desire of the three Governments to extend cooperation to nations in other spheres of the world that are inclined to direct their efforts along lines similar to their own for the purpose of realizing their ultimate object, world peace. Accordingly, the Governments of Japan, Germany and Italy have agreed as follows:

ARTICLE 1. Japan recognizes and respects the leadership of Germany and Italy in the establishment of a new order in Europe.

ARTICLE 2. Germany and Italy recognize and respect the leadership of Japan in the establishment of a new order in Greater East Asia.

ARTICLE 3. Japan, Germany, and Italy agree to cooperate in their efforts on aforesaid lines. They further undertake to assist one another with all political, economic and military means if one of the Contracting Powers is attacked by a Power at present not involved in the European War or in the Japanese-Chinese conflict.

ARTICLE 4. With a view to implementing the present pact, joint technical commissions, to be appointed by the respective Governments of Japan, Germany and Italy, will meet without delay.

ARTICLE 5. Japan, Germany and Italy affirm that the above agreement affects in no way the political status existing at present between each of the three Contracting Powers and Soviet Russia.

ARTICLE 6. The present pact shall become valid immediately upon signature and shall remain in force ten years from the date on which it becomes effective. In due time, before the expiration of said term, the High Contracting Parties shall, at the request of any one of them, enter into negotiations for its renewal.

In faith whereof, the undersigned duly authorized by their respective governments have signed this pact and have affixed hereto their signatures.”

Satisfied that all was in order, he leant forward to sign, happy that what was detailed was about as much as he could have hoped for, indeed he thought Japan was rather getting the better out of it. The USA might think twice when dealing with Japan now, and he felt it would help reinforce the isolationist movement there. He looked at his fresh wet inked signature on the page, it was done now, the treaty was signed.
In OTL this was a serious misjudgment!
 
In OTL this was a serious misjudgment!
Up to now this should all read as OTL, excepting the transfer of the four Rainbow class submarines back to the Far East, and the earlier expansion of the Malay and Hong Kong Chinese regiments. I was going to comment on your statement that "this was a serious misjudgement", as I feel the benefit of hindsight tells us Japan going to war with the USA was obviously suicidal for the Japanese regime. But perhaps with a 1940 perspective that may not look so obvious. So thank you Butchpfd, you've led me to another story line that helps set the mood for the gathering war clouds.
 
MWI 40092811 Becoming an Officer
1940, Saturday 28 September;

The truck pulled up at the edge of the parade ground, and the second lieutenant climbed out and walked to the back. “Here we are gentlemen, Roberts barracks, and if you’d like to climb out and follow me, I’ll take you to where you will be staying for the next 17 weeks. Sergeant Billy Dixon, 2nd Battalion East Surrey’s, a 22-year-old regular, and nearly five years in, stiffly climbed out and moved into the shade thrown up by the corner of a building, and swung his kit bag down off his shoulder, his companions doing the same.

In the top pocket of his shirt was the letter informing him of acceptance on an officer training course. He was to present himself to Major Denne of the Officer Cadet Training Unit, Singapore, Monday 30 September. He’d telephoned to accept and the Adjutant had told him he could come earlier and get settled in, ready to start first thing Monday morning. Not wishing to appear anything but eager he’d asked if he could come Saturday, and that had been agreed. When he got to the rail station, he found he wasn’t alone in wanting to get there early, as another eight other lads were waiting.

The officer led them on, Billy’s apprehension was only matched by his thirst, he could murder a cup of char. And it was so much hotter here in Singapore, his battalion had only arrived in August from Shanghai, and he looked forward to getting out of the heat. They entered a brick-built building, into a hallway. The Officer pointed to a chalked board, “Gentlemen welcome to Singapore OCTU. You will be paired off into your quarters, the board will tell you what rooms you are in and what floor they are on, I’ll give you half an hour to settle in, then meet me back here and I’ll walk you around the facilities.

Billy looked on the chalk board for his name. There was 42 of them, three others from his regiment, 3 from the Seaforth’s, who had also arrived from Shanghai, along with someone from just about every other British unit. There were also 6 from the formerly Shanghai Municipal Police and another two from the Hong Kong Police. Billy was paired with a Sergeant Willie Miller, Seaforth Highlanders, who according to the board was already here.

Billy slung his kitbag back onto his shoulder and started to climb the stairs, he was in room 5, first floor. As he climbed so he thought of what his mum and dad back in Croydon would make of him becoming an officer, a smile came to his lips. His company commander and even the Colonel had encouraged him, he was a natural soldier they said, and being able to speak quite a bit of Chinese and Japanese, born from conducting joint patrols in Shanghai, could be advantageous too. His apprehension lifted and he walked with a bit of a swagger, he was going to become an Officer!
 
Something not to be sneezed. Always better to be at the top, rather than the bottom of a pyramid but it means more responsibility as well...
 
As an FYI Admiral Hart, CIC Asiatic Fleet, while nominally under command of USN Command in DC, was also suborniate to to Commander U.S. Forces Far East, General Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur placed restrictions on how close to Formosa and the Japanese Mandates that Hart's forces could approach for recon. That was nowhere near enough for adequate recon. Also the Army maintained that all mining operations inthe P.I. were Army responsibility,
 
Thanks for the idea Butchpfd, but I think an earlier appreciation of the USN Mk XIV torpedo's problems is a whole new 'What If' on its own, the ripples from sinking Japanese shipping and warships months, even years earlier could be enormous. I'm trying to write with considerable detail, a finer brush stroke, and am mindful of not biting off more that I can chew, and I'm chewing hard as it is! :)
Even convincing Hart to go ahead and move the torpedo stores to the tenders or more to the Navy tunnel on Corrigidor. OTL only torps for PT's and a few MK XIVs . the loss of 200 torpedoes at Cavite was as bad as losing a Battleship, imo.

Also disabling the magnetic exploders does not cure the 10-15 foot depth error issue, or the firing pin issue at best I see a <5% additional loss of Japanese ships.

Also as things get tense, (think the American War Warning Message) perhaps the RN sub tender at Hong Kong heads to Manila with the American Gunboats, when the gunboats evacuate to Manila.
 
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MWI 40093011 Churchill explodes
1940, Monday 30 September;

Another meeting of the COS, with Churchill, in the Cabinet Room, just the six of them as usual. Churchill was in quite good humour, they had been discussing the efforts of the Army to prepare for an invasion that seem less likely by the day, of ever coming, the exploits of the RAF and the new phase of the battle of Britain, ‘the Blitz’. At sea, the war had been relatively quiet, one of their better weeks.

The First Sea Lord, Admiral Pound was chairing. “Next on the agenda Prime Minister, the Far East. Intelligence reports have been able to confirm the Japanese have moved into Northern Indo-China in some considerable force. Our intelligence has identified the Japanese 5th Infantry Division as being prominent in the initial move, being involved in some minor clashes with French forces. Currently they have troops in the city of Hanoi and the port of Haiphong. Japanese aircraft are basing themselves on surrounding airfields and units on the Imperial Japanese Navy are at anchor in Haiphong. A ceasefire has come into effect and the French have effectively ceded control. As yet no Japanese forces have moved south, they appear to be solely intent on closing the Kunming–Haiphong Railway, the supply route to China. This has to be taken in context with the pressure put on us to close the Burma Road, and concerted effort to cut supplies to China.

General Dill took up the brief. “However Prime Minister, should the Japanese decide to move into Southern Indo-China, and clearly the French are unable to stop them, then the defence of Malaya and the Fortress of Singapore would be severely compromised”. Dill wasn’t making eye contact, aware of what he said next wouldn’t be received well. “Our military forces are very much under strength and plans to address that have recently been thwarted by….”

Churchill exploded, his fist banging down hard on the table, his face flushing deep red. Dammit Dill, I won’t have you undermine me in this fashion. I told you three weeks ago the Australian 7th Infantry Division is needed in the Middle East, that’s where the war is, I’m not having her sit in Malaya dilly dallying about, swilling gin with all them plantation wallah’s. The Japanese wouldn’t dare attack us, with Russia on her northern borders, her troops being swallowed up in China, and the United States wouldn’t just sit by and watch. I’ve spoken to the President and he is working on a raft of economic sanctions to impose on Japan.” Churchill stopped, to catch his breath, his face turning to each of the three Chiefs of Staff in defiance.

Pound replied “Prime Minister, General Dill is merely pointing out that in lieu of the fleet not being able to deploy in Singapore, and there not being enough aircraft currently available to cover that, it all falls on the ground forces to provide a defence. Currently we are extremely weak here.”

Churchill had regained himself somewhat. “Yes Dudley, and did we not discuss just a month ago about some more volunteer forces, and a whole flotilla of submarines I seem to remember.”

“We did Prime Minister, but the new battalions of local troops won’t be ready for many months, and the flotilla is only four submarines”.

Churchill turned to General Dill, satisfied he had won the argument. “John, I understand your concerns, but as you rightly pointed out earlier this morning, we simply can’t strip any troops from Britain’s defences, and we are hard pressed with the Italians moving into Egypt. We’ve already agreed to wait on the joint tactical appreciation from the local commanders. If you can be creative and find forces elsewhere, then I am all ears, Leslie make a note of that please”.

Air Chief Marshal Cyril Newell spoke next, “Thank you for that Prime Minister, we will look at that idea. Another concern we have is the command arrangement we currently have in place; I have had some reports that our strategy of building up our air capabilities in Malaya isn’t getting the full backing”. Dill looked at him, vexed that he should bring this up, half the problem was the local air commander himself. This was Newell looking after his own, but Churchill was already on it.

“Ah yes Cyril, the issues of command, I had a very interesting chat with Governor Shenton Thomas, recently on holiday from Singapore. I’ve decided we need one leader to command both our land and air forces in this theatre, and I’m happy to appoint a commander for this new post, let’s call it Far East Command, as soon as I can identify one. And I think we would all benefit by a change of both Army and RAF commanders as well. And I’m not leaving it there, we’ll have a new Governor, Thomas has served long enough, he won’t be returning, I’ve already spoken to the Colonial Office and I have a man in mind. This joint command will cover Malaya & Singapore, Borneo, China and Burma. I will want you to advance some names of who might be appropriate to me, Leslie take a note of that.”

Newell sat there bemused, Dill was the first to react, “Prime Minister, would not Burma be better served under India Command, all her supplies come from there. And what happens to the Royal Navy?”.

“Yes Burma, yes you may be right there, John, hmmm, that might make sense, Leslie, we need to have some discussions with CinC India on this matter, but the Royal Navy will remain separate, as is, I’m quite satisfied with her conduct in these matters”.
 
I am enjoying this timeline. I was glad to learn about the Straits Settlement Volunteer Force. It is my understanding that due to the Rape of Nanking and how the Japanese conducted the war in China, many Chinese were eager to help defend Singapore. Their families lives were at stake. Hopefully who ever is appointed Commander will take advantage of this resource and use it to upgrade the defenses on the land side of the island.

I do have a question. I have often read that the British Government did not believe that the Japanese army could march down the to Singapore due to the jungles. I have often wondered if that was a simplistic view of things. It is my understanding that Malaya had many plantations and mines. I would assume that there was some type of existing road and ferry system that the Japanese infantry and armored cars could use. Can someone explain why the British did not see a threat from the land side as a problem?
 
I am enjoying this timeline. I was glad to learn about the Straits Settlement Volunteer Force. It is my understanding that due to the Rape of Nanking and how the Japanese conducted the war in China, many Chinese were eager to help defend Singapore. Their families lives were at stake. Hopefully who ever is appointed Commander will take advantage of this resource and use it to upgrade the defenses on the land side of the island.

I do have a question. I have often read that the British Government did not believe that the Japanese army could march down the to Singapore due to the jungles. I have often wondered if that was a simplistic view of things. It is my understanding that Malaya had many plantations and mines. I would assume that there was some type of existing road and ferry system that the Japanese infantry and armored cars could use. Can someone explain why the British did not see a threat from the land side as a problem?
Hi Stubear1012, thank you

Re better Chinese involvement, there's a bit more to consider, the Chinese were somewhat split, with followers of Chiang Kai-shek, Communists and Triad gangs. In Singapore the Triads were manageable, far less so in Hong Kong. But also remember this is the British Empire, and you need to keep those local chaps in place, what!. It was bad enough limiting Chiang Kai-shek's influence, the spectre of Communism was seen as far worse than any Japanese threat pretty much up until the shooting started. But your quite right, selected better Chinese involvement would have helped, and I'm certainly leaning that way.

Ah the Jungle question! my short answer is most of the jungle was impenetrable, but as you quite rightly point out, Malaya had a very good extensive road network on the western side, along with a railway line, and lots of small ports along the coast, all aiding movement. In addition along the road and railway networks were extensive rubber plantations, and Kedah and other parts of the north had a lot of padi fields, so it certainly wasn't an impenetrable land. And be sure, the local commanders knew that.

However the thorny problem of defending a part of the British Empire that wasn't in a war zone with sufficient force against possible attack had to be balanced against the real threat of an invasion of the British Isles, along with an almost shoestring operation in North Africa, who forces were being continually being robbed for other theatres. This What If is going to show how Britain might have done a bit better. Whether that is enough, well I'm not sure yet, I'll guess we'll find out as we go along. I intend the What If to be as balanced and practicable as possible. So a lot of what I write will about ideas the British had, would have very much liked to have done, but didn't, for various reasons. Wont say any more than that for now.
 
@fatboy
enjoying this timeline great idea with the Malay Regiment and Hong Kong Chinese Regiment but you are missing this Regiment https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straits_Settlements_Volunteer_Force?wprov=sfla1
It can increased man power for the army.
Also it would be nice to see the French light cruiser https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_cruiser_Lamotte-Picquet?wprov=sfla1 join the British fleet at Singapore
Apologies Logan2879, I posted a reply, read it, was happy with it, and then promptly deleted it in error, Duh!

Ok, so firstly, thank you

Re the Straits Settlements Volunteer Force, they along with the likes of the FSMVF (Federated States of Malaya Volunteer Force), the independent volunteer forces of the unfederated states, as well as the HKVDC (Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps) in Hong Kong and the Sarawak Rangers in Borneo will be picked up later in other stories. I have a clear view as to what happens to them.

Re Lamotte Picquet, yes, you'll be reading about her, and the Vichy French of Indo-China as well!
 
MWI 40100709 Training the Malays
1940, Monday 07 October;

It was the first new intake of recruits for the Malay Regiment, 160 men, organised into four training platoons of 40 men. There had been no shortage of volunteers, the Regiment was held in high esteem among the Malay population. To provide the instructors, NCOs from the 1st Bn had been seconded into this, the 3rd (Training) Bn along with some transfers from the Federated Malay States Volunteer Bns. The whole day was given over to registering everyone, and then the paraphernalia of medical checks, haircuts, issuing kit, assigning bunks, which were mostly in tents.

They would have 6 weeks of basic training, working on discipline, drill, rifle practice, fitness and getting use to general army life. This would be followed by a further six weeks of training as infantrymen, in new platoons, as a further intake would be taken on for the basic training. After that they would be sent to one of the First Bn companies, to be integrated, replacing others who were transferred out, or helping form new additional platoons, which would be spun off into new companies, as their numbers increased. A few would be identified as future NCO’s as well as a very few as future Officers, and these would stay for further training.

The camp, was set on the outskirts of Port Dickson, in a former Volunteers summer training camp, which was being greatly expanded. All the assorted buildings required for a barracks had to be built, along with extra buildings, parade and physical training grounds, firing ranges. The Public Works Dept was doing its best but both men and resources were short, so completing buildings was slow but steady. Initially life in the camp was quite primitive, but gradually standards improved. Rail sidings coming off the Port Dickson – Seremban branch line were planned, but as yet resources didn’t allow.

Meanwhile in Hong Kong a similar event was happening as the first 240 new recruits reported for basic training. All these would be going to a newly forming Hong Kong (Chinese) Regiment, but it was recognised that other Army Corps, the Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, RAOC and RASC would all benefit from Chinese recruits and plans were already being made to extend recruitment for their benefit. Trainers were provided from other units stationed in the colony, and indeed would remain on secondment, or be transferred, when their own units were transferred out of Hong Kong. Just like the Malay Regt, both Officers and NCOs were being provided from a number of sources.
 
MWI 40100815 The Return Of Sir Andrew
1940, Tuesday 08 October;

“Olive, Olive, I say old girl, do come here, I have some marvelous news for you”. He sat in the shade of a tree, enjoying one of the few dry days for the time of year, a small table in front of him, holding the telegram, he had just been given. Olive walked over from the roses, a big straw hat on, shielding her from the hot afternoon sun, secateurs in hand. “Yes Andrew, what is it, what do you have?” He offered the telegram to her, but she waved the secateurs at him, “No, no you read it to me Andrew darling”.

“It’s from the Colonial Office, how about I tell you we are returning to Singapore”

“Singapore, darling that’s wonderful, but do tell why, what for”

“Shelton is retiring, they want me to take the Governorship”

“I don’t understand Andrew, I thought the Colonial Office had said managing the nationalist movement here was a priority. I mean that’s why we left Hong Kong so early, so what’s changed”

“Please sit down my dear”, he indicated to the chair beside him, and she put the secateurs down, removed her gloves and sat, upright, hands on lap, concerned. He leaned forward and softly spoke “I’m afraid the war might well be coming our way, Japan is getting more and more belligerent, and London is fearful for Singapore. They’re putting a new team together to prepare for any attack, and I’m wanted to govern the Straits Settlements and the States of Malaya”.

“Oh dear, Andrew, war, out here, are you sure?”

“Well, no I wasn’t, but to move me from Ceylon at the moment, suggests London must think things are quite concerning, not blowing my own trumpet Olive old girl, but I do feel quite flattered in some ways. So, Singapore Olive, what do you think”.

“It sounds lovely Andrew, when must we go”

“Ah, here’s the thing my darling, they want me to go almost right away, in a month’s time I believe, and I’m to fly in about the same time as the new Commander in Chief Far East, whoever he is?”

“Goodness Andrew, that’s not a lot of time, what about me, our daughter Joan, and son John”

“You’ll be able to come along a bit later, there’s no need to rush, and we have a month to talk about what Joan and John want to do, where their futures lie”.
 
Almost certainly Andrew Caldecott - an Elite Administrator, well versed in the nuances of Malaya and well liked by all the various local parties and groups as well as introducing an organised football league to the Peninsular.

And a very good choice for this TL
 
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