Summary to Date

OK, we’re only ten posts from kick-off, and this is probably a good place to have a review of where we are in this alternate defence of Malaya. I promised months ago that I would post OOBs to help people follow the conflict as it unfolds, but more recently, there have been requests to provide an overview of the changes to the historical path, and my reasonings behind those changes. And that seems a very fair point to me, so here goes.

My POD started with Britain yielding to Japanese pressure to close the Burma Road in July 1940, which had raised great concerns over the defence and security of British interests in the Far East. Adding to the little that was done to improve the defences in the Far East, I had Pound stopping the transfer of the four Rainbow class submarines to the Med, while Dill authorised the expansion of the Malay Regt and the raising of two British officered Chinese regiments, the Singapore (Chinese) Regt and the Hong Kong (Chinese) Regt. Both of these changes tests the plausibility of my timeline. Regarding the submarines, the Royal Navy needed every submarine it could spare for the Med, to stop Italian supplies to North Africa, along with the advancing creep of the Axis in the Eastern Med. The second is more about Britain's underlying concern about the growth of Communism among the Chinese, and fear that Communists might penetrate the British system.

A month later, with Japan moving into Northern French Indo-China, I used the opportunity to highlight the squabbles between the Army and RAF in Malaya, and allude to the poor civil administration, both of which were known, but ignored. In my TL, Churchill is more decisive, replacing the military and civilian leadership except for the Royal Navy. Placing Andrew Caldecott there is somewhat tricky. At the time, he was firefighting in Ceylon, where there was growing nationalism, but I don’t think the move is too much of a stretch. Lord Gort for Brooke-Popham is giving preference to the Army over the RAF, as the Army will be the senior partner in any defence of the Far East for some time. Gort is very much part of the establishment, and politically a reasonable choice. Park is a different thing, a talent, who has fallen foul of RAF politics, and I think I can use that excuse to take him.

The October local commander’s appreciation of what was needed to defend Malaya gave me my next opportunity for changes. Finding aircraft for the RAF is quite hard. The Fairey Battles are very much make do, but they were no longer front line in Europe, and there were a lot of them, so I feel safe sending them, and I’ve retained the Buffalos, while slightly increasing the Blenheims. Reducing the Hong Kong garrison to something more symbolic is often suggested, and I’ve followed that idea. Those forces go to Malaya, as well as a couple of British infantry battalions which should have gone to or stayed in India. That’s a bit naughty: there were already fewer units there than the CoS would have liked for security reasons. Also, at this time the Admiralty floated (do you like the pun) the idea of an American naval squadron being based in Singapore, which Roosevelt slapped down when Churchill mentioned it. In my TL, Churchill really takes this to heart, recognising the USA will not defend British Empire colonies, although at this moment he still retains the hope that the Americans will manage any Japanese aggression.

Next, I have the Singapore Conference in November 1940, where closer cooperation between the British, Dutch and Americans is discussed. I have remained historically true to the American position, as I have hopefully throughout the TL, until the shooting starts, but I have allowed the British a little more leeway in working with the Dutch. So, given Churchill’s appreciation that he will get no help from the Americans in holding Malaya, he has quietly lent leaned on the Dominions to do more voluntarily in whatever way they can. New Zealand really can’t do much, the two Article XV sqns I have are merely recognising the two sqns of fighter they manned historically. I lean towards them finding more aircrew for the FAA, which will now expand by two squadrons, one of Swordfish, the other, a bit later with navalized Buffalos. This is another reach on my part: expanding the FAA was difficult in the early war years, due in part to aircraft numbers. The Australians are able to do better, earmarking the entire 8th Australian Division to Malaya, as opposed to holding back the 23rd Bde, and a few other units, which they did historically. She has also raised two Independent Companies for Malaya, as well as a Medium Artillery Regt, using ex-Hong Kong and Indian guns. And she has contributed more aircrew, allowing extra Article XV squadrons.

South Africa has not provided any forces; her constitution stops them serving outside of Africa, unless they join the British services as individuals. But industrially, she is sending a reasonable amount of war material, including armoured cars. India is able to do a bit more: a second Cavalry Regt is sent, with both regiments to convert to those South African armoured cars. Here I have swapped the 3rd Cavalry for the 5th King Edward VII’s Own Lancers (Probyn’s Horse), and added the 6th Duke of Connaught’s Own Lancers (Watson’s Horse), simply because I have a little thing for these two old regiments. India has also sent five auxiliary battalions of the Indian Pioneer Corps, which are non-combatants, but help immensely with manpower shortages in preparing and constructing defences. She has also provided another two Brigade HQ’s along with associated smaller units, and has seen the raising of six Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regts, equipped with the nearly obsolete 3-inch AA gun.

The last Dominion to help is Canada, who, despite not sending C-Force to Hong Kong, has contributed massively. Firstly, two of the auxiliary cruisers, HMCS Prince David and Prince Henry, have been altered differently to from their historical rebuild, retaining an ability to carry up to 450 troops/passengers, while keeping all their other military improvements. These ships have been transporting Canadian servicemen to Singapore/Malaya, where a significant RCAF presence has been established. Five Article XV RCAF squadrons have been raised; also two airfield construction companies and a Royal Canadian Signals communication construction company are deployed and a decent number of Canadians are serving in the expanded radar network that Keith Park is building. But more importantly than its her military contribution, is the war materials it she is supplying. Generous amounts of rails and railway engineering equipment is are being shipped, along with cement, and other important building materials. Large numbers of motor vehicles are being supplied, and lastly, over 150 Hurricane aircraft, minus their engines, have been sent. All of it is carried by Canadian chartered tramp steamers crossing the Pacific, which don't have to be convoyed.

Britain has done more too, robbing West African ports of designated radar units to provide Keith Park with a reasonably effective network covering Singapore, as well a few strategically placed in Northern Malaya. The replacement of the Buffalo by the Hurricane is a second major step in providing a decent air defence. The recognition that the Hurricane is no longer a premier fighter in Western Europe, doesn’t detract from the fact that it can do a good job in the Far East. Its robust design allows it to work off poor airfields, as well as take quite a bit of damage, and it can be repaired easier.

Even though the Dominions have given more, Churchill and the RAF have had to alter strategy. They have sent 200 aero engines to power the Hurricanes, and shipped less war material to the USSR, the Hurricane being the most obvious reduction. Britain has also sent further units: 151 Wing of RAF fighters, a regiment of Valentine tanks, a company of Royal Marines, and small increases in Wrens, staff officers, etc, while extra equipment includes 180 3-inch AA guns, ASDIC, and specialist vehicles.

Locally, Malaya and Hong Kong have done their bit, Hong Kong recruiting probably over extra 5,000 Chinese for the local armed forces, as well as another 3,000 in civil defence duties. For Malaya, another 3,500 Malays are in the Army, as well as 3,000 Chinese, and more of both serve with the RAF and Royal Navy. Also, Lord Gort has taken the brave decision to disband many volunteer forces, enabling a lot of the Europeans to serve in roles much better suited to their own personal skill sets. This is a minus on paper, but in general, performance overall - in administration, planning, and organisation - will be better than it was historically.

Strategy in Malaya has changed too. Park is putting more emphasis firstly on his southern airfields, and has generally improved defensive measures on them all. Wann’s RAF 223 Group, in northern Malaya, has shaped into a reasonable attacking force, admittedly only with Battles and Blenheims, but Hunter’s RAF 225 Group is still equipped with Hudson and Vildebeest aircraft. However, Vincent’s RAF 224 Group, linked with a working radar network, provides a decent air defence in the south, though somewhat patchy in the north.

The Army under Percival still has the angst of not knowing if Matador is a going concern or not, but it is stronger, a bit better equipped, and somewhat better trained. If Matador happens, it will be led by the Australian 8th Division under Rowell. If Matador doesn’t happen, it will be Godwin-Austen’s Indian III Corps which will defend Kelantan and Kuantan in the east, and the Jitra line in the Northwest, but with a viable backstop line at Gurun. It will also conduct smaller operations into Southern Thailand, i.e. securing the famous ‘Ledge’.

Force Z has arrived, the Prince of Wales has her radars working, and they’ve been augmented, with four cruisers and a few extra destroyers. Working more closely with the Dutch, means the Dutch are contributing to a light squadron, and adding submarines to the small RN flotilla.

But perhaps a bigger change is the attitude among colony residents. They know they are close to war, but it's something they have been preparing for for over a year, recognising they need to train hard and realistically. This has all been driven from the top. Caldecott has persuaded the Malay and Chinese populace to buy into this, with recruitment into the services, and also plenty of contracts awarded to local firms.

Elsewhere, things are less rosy, Burma is as unprepared as it was historically, and Borneo has been stripped of any defensive force, merely left with a denial of resources plan. Hong Kong, also stripped of over half of her garrison, and with no C Force, now relies on recent Chinese recruits to help a small British garrison provide an honourable defence of the colony. In the Philippines, MacArthur holds sway, while Hart is doing all he can to save the Asiatic Fleet. The Dutch are desperately trying to rearm, and Australia has only just realised she needs to take a lot more responsibility for her own defence. Japan is as ready as she’ll ever be. It’s now or never: the die is cast!

Orders of Battle to follow.
Really enjoying it @Fatboy Coxy . To bad C Force wasn't sent to Singapore in which that would make another Brigade. Also I should have mentioned months ago that Canada were building Valentine tanks that were going to be sent to Russia. Instead tank Regiment made up by Canadian could have been sent. Here is some information that you should read: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Canadian_Armoured_Corps?wprov=sfla1

Also read on this Major General: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F._F._Worthington?wprov=sfla1

Also this Canadian Tank Brigade: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1st_Canadian_Armoured_Brigade?wprov=sfla1
 
Last edited:
I believe British Field Rations counts as a British Food Discussion. Bad form. Stop pressing OP just because you love the thread so much you're hungry for updates, or brown sauce.
 
The Australia Army learnt a valuable lesson from the fighting in New Guinea - the soldier needs all the help available in his rations. They need to be nutritious and appetizing, easily prepared and interesting to eat, hot or cold. We worked on issuing 10 man ration packs when in combat supplemented by 1 man, 24 hour ration packs. When available fresh rations were to be issued but they were not necessary. We could supplement it with cordials for hot weather and rum rations for cold weather. Americans when attached would quite often eat an entire 24 hour, 1 man pack at a single sitting and then asked, "what was next? " They were used to receiving only a single meal MRE and we had to explain patiently that was not how we operated. Our rations were based on a 24 hour period and assigned accordingly. They were surprised at the quality of our rations, which were usually excellent. Their MREs have improved over time but still don't measure up that well to our 24 hour 1 man ration pack, which comes in 5 different varieties.
I remember the 24hour ration packs from cadets, the beef ravioli menu E if I recall correctly was very tasty. Plus they had a Fred in them.
 
I remember the 24hour ration packs from cadets, the beef ravioli menu E if I recall correctly was very tasty. Plus they had a Fred in them.
The One Man, 24 hour Ration Pack went down in quality after the end of the Vietnam War. It sparked up again when Malcolm Fraser, the Prime Minister of the day panicked because of the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and put more money into the defence budget. It meant more training days and much better rations. The rations improved again with the Gulf War and the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. We saw the introduction of 5 man ration packs (basically an amalgam of the 1 man ration packs) and the introduction of patrol rations (dehydrated ration packs) which were edible. The previous ones were rubbish and even dogs would refuse to eat them but they were limited in their issue. The new ones were savory. The variety of 1 man and 10 man ration packs also improved with new foods.
 
The. British rations in the 80s were dire the only thing good in them was the chocolate bar cheese and sausages the rest were only fit for a dog. Thankfully we copied the American MREs eventually.
I joined in 1998 and our rat packs were nothing like MREs tbh. We had MREs while attached to the Japanese in Iraq and, although they were alright, were nowhere near as good as the boil in the bags we had. The chemical heater idea is shit too.
 
What do armies do about soldiers that can't eat chocolate, when that's so broadly used as a base ingredient of high-calorie desserts (WWII) and energy bars (now)?
I know the British Army (and I assume RN and RAF) will still reject people with certain allergies (I think nuts was one) because of the risk. It was possible to to order some "specialist" rat packs through the system - I remember seeing vegetarian ones and I think (although I might be wrong) there were Hindu and Muslim ones, I've no idea if there are non-allergen ones though.
 
I know the British Army (and I assume RN and RAF) will still reject people with certain allergies (I think nuts was one) because of the risk. It was possible to to order some "specialist" rat packs through the system - I remember seeing vegetarian ones and I think (although I might be wrong) there were Hindu and Muslim ones, I've no idea if there are non-allergen ones though.
The Hindu/Muslim rations are old knowledge for the British Army, given the experience of the colonial empire.
 
The Australian Army approach towards specialist rations for religious/vegetarian people is to allow them to prepare their own rations when fresh food is available and to get special dispensation if ration packs are the only other option. They can also ask to be reassigned if deploying them is too difficult. So Jewish/Muslim/Hindu/Sikh soldiers can eat ration pack food if that is all that is available because they have been given special permission to do so.
 

Fatboy Coxy

Monthly Donor
Really enjoying it @Fatboy Coxy . To bad C Force wasn't sent to Singapore in which that would make another Brigade. Also I should have mentioned months ago that Canada were building Valentine tanks that were going to be sent to Russia. Instead tank Regiment made up by Canadian could have been sent. Here is some information that you should read: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Canadian_Armoured_Corps?wprov=sfla1

Also read on this Major General: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F._F._Worthington?wprov=sfla1

Also this Canadian Tank Brigade: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1st_Canadian_Armoured_Brigade?wprov=sfla1
Hi Logan2879, thank you for this, I didn't know about Frank Worthington, very interesting. Only Frank Worthington I know of is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Worthington, who was born too early, his skill would grace any premiership club now, although his lifestyle might cause a few problems.

I could never have sent C-Force to Hong Kong, not once I'd argued for a reduction in its garrison. Sending Canadian troops to Malaya is a different argument altogether, but I believe the Canadian Army would want to keep its forces collectively together as much as possible, sending an odd tank regt wouldn't make much sense. Secondly, there were British tank regiments available that were better trained I believe. Going forward, further Valentine tank delivers could come from Canada, although they were first producing them in June 1941, I think production numbers were slow, until we get into 1942.

I don't think I needed to send a tank regiment to Malaya at all, but such was the depth of discussion, plus the amount of joy I will have writing about their exploits in jungle and padi terrain, that I just couldn't resist sending a regt. And of course the Valentine has the much fabled 2-pdr gun, oh what joy we will have with that!
 

Fatboy Coxy

Monthly Donor
The Hindu/Muslim rations are old knowledge for the British Army, given the experience of the colonial empire.
Hi Duckie, nicely brought up, please expand on this, I'm really struggling to find out much about what foodstuffs the Indians were provided with, both field rations and normal. I've read about the British troops obsession with the meat and three veg meal, and none of that bloody foreign muck, oh how things have changed there! And what about the Australians, were they a halfway house between the British and eastern foods?
 
Not looking up the scales, but Fraser makes references to tinned fish (sardines/pilchards), rice, oil, lentils, and flours being issued or airdropped in to feed the Indian troops at Meiktila. British ate compo rations, and traded element of the ration to Indian troops for tobacco, kit, ration items, etc.

Rice can be made better suited for field feeding in two ways. First, cooked rice can be prepared and wrapped, usually as a ball with a filling. This was common in the Japanese forces and also in the Philippine Army as a mess kit ration. Second, cooked rice can be dehydrated and packaged, only requiring water (hot preferred but cold will do given time) to very quickly rehydrate. This prepares quicker and with less water than raw rice. The technique is used today for boil in the bag or minute rice.
 
Last edited:
Hi Duckie, nicely brought up, please expand on this, I'm really struggling to find out much about what foodstuffs the Indians were provided with, both field rations and normal. I've read about the British troops obsession with the meat and three veg meal, and none of that bloody foreign muck, oh how things have changed there! And what about the Australians, were they a halfway house between the British and eastern foods?
More an assumption than actual information. but I have found this --- https://www.jstor.org/stable/44230804 for more actual information
 
Not looking up the scales, but Fraser makes references to tinned fish (sardines/pilchards), rice, oil, lentils, and flours being issued or airdropped in to feed the Indian troops at Meiktila. British ate compo rations, and traded element of the ration to Indian troops for tobacco, kit, ration items, etc.

Rice can be made better suited for field feeding in two ways. First, cooked rice can be prepared and wrapped, usually as a ball with a filling. This was common in the Japanese forces and also in the Philippine Army as a mess kit ration. Second, cooked rice can be dehydrated and packaged, only requiring water (hot preferred but cold will do given time) to very quickly rehydrate. This prepares quicker and with less water than raw rice. The technique is used today for boil in the bag or minute rice.
I was with 173d ABN BDE LRRP in RVN 1966-67. We were issued/traded for the SF indigenous ration of desiccated rice and dried anchovies/squid/octopus as a patrol ration. It was edible and one smelled more like a local (gave waste like a local) than a three meat meals a day Yank.
 
I was with 173d ABN BDE LRRP in RVN 1966-67. We were issued/traded for the SF indigenous ration of desiccated rice and dried anchovies/squid/octopus as a patrol ration. It was edible and one smelled more like a local (gave waste like a local) than a three meat meals a day Yank.
The indigenous rations made in Japan? Cheaper and lighter, too. Great idea. It was interesting to read that one reason the rations were created was that US spec C-rations and LRRP were too difficult for non-western soldiers to digest properly. So not just a religious/cultural reason to have tailored rations. Morale is probably much higher if the food looks at least familiar and stays down. Not to mention signature management.
 
I'm really struggling to find out much about what foodstuffs the Indians were provided with, both field rations and normal.
The only info I can find is in this podcast: https://music.amazon.co.uk/podcasts...army-rations-the-intersection's-'war-and-peas'
From skimming through it quickly (i.e. dipping in/out), it seems to be that at the start of the war those who didn't eat meat were provided with extra milk instead, but were then found to be calorie deficient, but later in the war this was fixed, with the calorie count being over 4000 per day, even for the vegetarian rations.
 

Driftless

Donor
The only info I can find is in this podcast: https://music.amazon.co.uk/podcasts/ab841f30-b14a-4c56-99fb-5f0609601a73/episodes/258fbed8-8165-4fe9-b1bc-6ed649361df9/the-podcast-hour-army-rations-the-intersection's-'war-and-peas'
From skimming through it quickly (i.e. dipping in/out), it seems to be that at the start of the war those who didn't eat meat were provided with extra milk instead, but were then found to be calorie deficient, but later in the war this was fixed, with the calorie count being over 4000 per day, even for the vegetarian rations.
For the vegetarians, lots of legumes? beans, lentils, etc. Lentils, I believe, are a common staple of some parts of Indian sub-continent cuisine. High calories, high fiber, high protien too
 
Last edited:
I believe British Field Rations counts as a British Food Discussion. Bad form. Stop pressing OP just because you love the thread so much you're hungry for updates, or brown sauce.

The Hindu/Muslim rations are old knowledge for the British Army, given the experience of the colonial empire.

Hi Duckie, nicely brought up, please expand on this, I'm really struggling to find out much about what foodstuffs the Indians were provided with, both field rations and normal. I've read about the British troops obsession with the meat and three veg meal, and none of that bloody foreign muck, oh how things have changed there! And what about the Australians, were they a halfway house between the British and eastern foods?

Not looking up the scales, but Fraser makes references to tinned fish (sardines/pilchards), rice, oil, lentils, and flours being issued or airdropped in to feed the Indian troops at Meiktila. British ate compo rations, and traded element of the ration to Indian troops for tobacco, kit, ration items, etc.

For the vegetarians, lots of legumes? beans, lentils, etc. Lentils, I believe, are a common staple of some parts of Indian sub-continent cuisine. High calories, high fiber.
Due to their anomalous position in Combined Operations edgeworthy senior's unit spent several months subsisting on Indian Army ration boxes.
They largely consisted of biscuits. And Indian Army biscuits have something of a reputation by the standards of army biscuits.
Fortunately they could be made into porridge. If you beat them into bits with a rifle butt first, the brass plate on a Lee-Enfield worked well. Then soaked them overnight, adding the can of Condensed Milk that also came with the ration box.
They also came with plenty of tea and chocolate.
Orde Wingate apparently approved of the Shakapara biscuit, which is made of atta, semolina, bran, sugar, hydrogenated oil, salt, milk, water and bicarbonate, which he thought was good for the bowels, but disapproved of the ration including cigarettes. The men considered them to be something akin to dog biscuits, or concrete.

The approximate contents of a 24 hour ration packed in light cardboard cartons* wrapped in waxed paper were:
Shakapara biscuits 12 oz.
Chocolate (pkt) 2 oz.
Milk tinned, sweetened (1) 14 oz.
Cheese tinned (1) 4 oz.
Sugar (1 bag) 5 oz.
Milk powder (1 bag) 1 oz.
Tea (1 bag) ¾ oz.
Salt 1 oz. salt refined and 8 salt tablets
Compound vitamin tablet 1 tab
Cigarettes 10
Matches 1 box
There were supposed to be variations for the various ethnicities in the BIA. Which mostly revolved around the tin of condensed milk being replaced with a tin of corned beef for British Troops, or a tin of mutton, or mackerel, or sardines for Indian troops. None of which could be found!
[There was apparently an incident where Gurkhas complained about the tin of mutton seemingly portraying ewes on the packaging.]

(*edgeworthy senior brought one home, to keep his medals in. It may still be in his old writing desk.)
 
Last edited:
Hi Duckie, nicely brought up, please expand on this, I'm really struggling to find out much about what foodstuffs the Indians were provided with, both field rations and normal. I've read about the British troops obsession with the meat and three veg meal, and none of that bloody foreign muck, oh how things have changed there! And what about the Australians, were they a halfway house between the British and eastern foods?
Australia rations reflected Australian habits as far as foodstuffs went. Meat and three veg, basically. As we became more multicultural as a society so our rations reflected this. After our exposure to Asian foods in the 1950s and 1960s, we had Asian flavours and foods introduced into our Rations. Today the Ration Packs contain such delicacies as instant noodles, curry (Indian and South-East Asian varieties), Vietnamese foods, Chinese foods, as well as Italian and Greek foods. Good stuff!
 
Hi Sam R, I like brown sauce, what you saying?
I too like brown sauce, but I judiciously avoided naming any of them to avoid provoking regimental loyalty! Your audience must be delighted by your work that they turn to British Food Discussion in just two days since the last post. I think that is a record amongst threads.

yours,
Sam R.
 
Top