An even more despairing action, which amply highlighted the vulnerability of these armed merchant cruisers so early in the war, and must have been on the mind of Captain Edward Fegen when he decided to engage was the loss of HMS Rawalpindi, see below

With three ships in the class, they would've made an interesting escort carrier conversion....
My grandfathers cousin died aboard her, he joined up after that.
I believe, historically, a small number (6-8) of captured Italian guns were sent to Malaya, and served with an ad hoc battery of 22 Indian Mountain Artillery Regt, to be used in an anti-tank role. These may have been either the 20mm Breda Model 35, or the 47mm Breda 47/32, made under licence from Bohler.
The Breda 35 was successfully used by a number countriesIt penetrated 30 mm of armor at 500 m (Wikipedia) so would have shredded Japanese tanks
MWI 41031010 More For The Far East

Fatboy Coxy

Monthly Donor
1941, Monday 10 March;

And last thing on the agenda for India, is Burma. After extensive discussion with the Viceroy of India, and CinC India, it has been agreed that India will formally resume responsibility for the defence of Burma, and that responsibility has transferred over as of today.

The agenda had moved onto the Far East, Admiral Pound, chair of the Chiefs of Staff, was reviewing the Royal Navy’s assets, little had changed. There could be no early relief of the Far East, The RAF and more importantly the Army would have to hold on for some considerable time, if war broke out with Japan. He then went on to discuss local building initiatives.

“Prime Minister, our plans to build some of the required coastal forces in Singapore, have so far proved disappointing, but the response from the Canadian Government regarding providing tools and specialist woods will go a long way to getting us back on track. We will be locally requisitioning yet more ships for patrol, anti-submarine and minesweeping duties, but there is little I can send out there for now”

“Yes, Yes Dudley, I do quite agree, the Royal Navy has far too many commitments to spare ships for there.” Churchill leaned back, a frown on his forehead, and looked over his glasses at General Dill, “erm tell me John, how are our Land Forces improving”

“Slowly Prime Minister, we are severely deficient in anti-tank, anti-aircraft and field artillery, we have no tank formation, rear area services are poor, and all unit’s lack training, a lot of it quite basic. Malaya Command is requesting the funds to build and develop training facilities, most of their Indian troops are very new, having received very basic training. And they have a lot of new officers and NCO’s, who also need training. The cost of the facilities would be small in comparison to the improvement in capability and efficiency. I’m recommending that the budget be granted”

“Yes, I noticed that in the papers forwarded to me, a not inconsiderable sum, I think, nevertheless, your paper pointed out all the benefits, and we can agree that now. Anything else?”

Yes, Prime Minister, the three locally raised regiments all look promising for the future but equipping them has been challenging. Also, with the deployment of a second Indian Division, we do need to create a Corps HQ, and the staff at Malaya Command needs expanding too.”

“And who was you proposing for command of the Corps John, not one of our best fighting men, I can’t have someone wasting out there, not with how things are in the Med, and a possible invasion of Britain this summer”

“Well Prime Minister, I have someone in mind, I’ve attached his notes to the back of the report, but for operational reasons we couldn’t hope to release him now, possibly in a month or two”

“OK Dill, plan to form the new Corps HQ, and we’ll look at a commander in a month’s time”

Dill sat there contemplating should he speak again, playing in his mind whether to put the next item off for another day or not, decided to press on, while he was doing so well, took a deep breath and resumed speaking.

“There is another matter Prime Minister, Hong Kong. The GOC, General Grasett is due to be relieved soon, we need to find a replacement. Should war come, their situation would be pretty hopeless.”

“Hong Kong, yes, a most unfortunate situation, hmm, it would be desirable, if we found ourselves at war with Japan, that Hong Kong would hold out for some considerable time, that the defenders sold their lives dearly, so that the annuals of time could record it along with Mafeking, as a glorious stand. I want someone there that understands what to do, if the time comes. Who do you suggest?”

Pug slid another paper to Churchill, again the pencil pointing out the name.

“Never heard of him John, an Indian Army man, whats this say? he’s a good trainer and organiser, a steady man. Well, make sure he knows whats expected, I don’t want another faint heart. OK John, if that’s who you recommend, so be it.”

Churchill looked sternly at Dill, to reinforce his spoken desire, a silent pause in proceedings. Air Chief Marshal Portal, the recently appointed Chief of the Air Staff cleared his throat and broke the silence.

“Prime Minister, I have some requests to make on behalf on the RAF Far East Command, the planned expansion of squadrons means we need to create three group commands in Malaya/Singapore and we would suggest a fourth in Burma, with the CinC India’s agreement, I have forwarded on my suggestions, I trust they will meet with your approval”

Churchill looked down at another newly offered paper from Ismay, read the names to himself, and gave a questioning look at Portal.

“This one, third line down, is that who I think it is Charles”

“Yes, Prime Minister, but we are sending a large number of Fairey Battles out there, I thought he might be given another chance with them, we’ve nothing to lose really.”

“Very well Charles, Leslie, note that please” Churchill looked back at Portal thoughtfully.

Pound moved the agenda on “Prime Minister, we have look at the request from….”
not Slim to Hong Kong!
I was thinking that but OTL he was still recovering from wounds taken in East Africa (21 January 1941 where as 10th Indian Brigade commander he had done 'okay'?) before taking over the 10th Indian Division in Iraq later in the year - 15th May 41 (where he did very well - getting MiD twice) after its commander fell ill.

Not sure if he would be on any short lists at that time for the Hong Kong job though?

Fatboy Coxy

Monthly Donor
not Slim to Hong Kong!
Crikey I dropped a clanger here!, proof read it, and all looked good, but didn't review the meaning of my words. I think i had cut and pasted the story, as you do, trying to fit stuff in, and wanted a bit of an intriguing ending, and so you got this. If I could take it back, I would, but whats done is done. The Hong Kong garrison commander isn't meant to be a tease, it's going to be Maltby, he did a decent job IMO, and I didn't see any reason why he shouldn't continue in my timeline, and its another ripple in the calm pool of historical events that I can avoid. Not sure that explanation sounded too right either, but hopefully you get my drift. So humble apologies to Admiral Jellicoe, Cryhavoc101 and Draconis.

Mind you, it does make me wonder what you guys are on, who wants to send Slim to Hong Kong, there's no coming back from that gig!

However, Coulsdon Eagle picked up the real teaser
Fairey Battles - do we mean Arthur Barratt?
But didn't get it right!

Another great post!
Here's hoping the Fairey Battles are used with plenty of fighter cover.
And Lord Sane is right to wonder, how are we going to use the Battles?

Fatboy Coxy

Monthly Donor
Of course a real problem to me is those of you who follow in reader mode, who don't see all the chat, and hence are in ignorance of my error. Not sure what I'm supposed to do there?
Slim while an excellent commander was still in the process of learning his trade in East Africa and Iran. Orde Wingate was a lunatic who was out of the fringes of East Africa scrubbing himself with a bass brush and looking after the natives and developing his eccentricities and really wouldn't have suited Hong Kong at all.
I used to work with Barry Niblock. After he retired from the Department of Agriculture he has done very detailed studies of the war dead of North County Down in both World Wars.

Fatboy Coxy

Monthly Donor
Lieutenant (E) suggests to me his battle station was likely down in the engine room, one wonders how much they knew down there, after action stations and full steam ahead, what other news might have filtered down.

There's a good article about the action here
MWI 41031109 Convoy WS 5BX

Fatboy Coxy

Monthly Donor
1941, Tuesday 11 March;

WS 5BX caught sight of Singapore, and began to disperse, with ships heading for Keppel harbour or the Naval Base on the other side of the island. She was the first significant convoy from Britain, evidence of the commitment made by Churchill and his CoS, that more had to be done to the defensive shield in the Far East.

Two liners, the Empress of Japan from the UK and the Aquitania from Bombay carried a big RAF contingent. There was the air and ground crews of RAF 226 Sqn, and few more RAF air and ground crew to help form cadres for new squadrons. A big party of radar technicians for a number of AMES units, namely four COL radar stations, 511, 512, 513 & 514, an MRU, 250 and two TRU’s 243 and 244. Also, on board were the gunners of 122 Field Regt RA, some newly trained low ranked staff officers of all three services, as well as small numbers of drafts for various units.

And in the past few weeks three cargo ships from the UK, loaded with the guns, vehicles etc for the artillery unit, while in crates were 20 Fairey Battle Mk II, 6 Fairey Battle Target Tugs, 6 Vildebeest Mk III torpedo bombers for the RAF, thirty 3-inch AA guns, redundant from Britain’s Home Defences, the radar sets, masts and wiring for the AMES. Assorted vehicles, and in ones, twos, twenties and hundreds, spare parts for all the needs of the military, destined for the many stores set up by the three Services. Never enough it would seem, but a slowly growing stockpile. Oh, and lots of munitions in the last ship to arrive, which had always been kept slightly apart in every port she’d made on the journey here and even now would be given a wide berth when unloaded.

They had fixed coastal defence artillery at Singapore, excepting quality anti MTB guns, and the guns for Penang which would be forthcoming. However, Malaya Command was painfully short of field artillery, and 122 Field Regt RA was the beginning of addressing that problem. She wasn’t perfect, being two batteries of 8 x 4.5-inch howitzers, and not the three of 25 pounders, as desired, but she would be part of the 12th Indian Brigade, giving Malaya Command a fully integrated unit, the strategic reserve, to be deployed where needed.
And Lord Sane is right to wonder, how are we going to use the Battles?
Torpedo bomber is the usual ATL role for the Battle - the airframe has the load capacity to carry one and they'd be a big improvement on the Vildebeest.
Alternately advanced trainer if someone is thinking of training Indian (or Australian or ...) pilots locally to fill out the new squadrons. Just don't use them as they were in France 1940 - as flying coffins for scores of valuable aircrew.