I love your enthusiasm, and such a lot of content. OK you mentioned Air Chief Marshal Portal, Chief of the Air Staff since October 1940, replacing Sir Cyril Newell. He, along with the rest of the Chiefs of Staff and Churchill, have their eyes firmly fixed on the war with Germany. Portal is trying hard to build the war winning Bomber Command, which will bring Germany to its knees, and win the war. He still has a eye on home defence, and the continued building up of Fighter Command. Distractions are Malta and North Africa, and he's only just avoided Coastal Command being completely removed from the RAF, and given to the Admiralty, accepting it be under the operational control of the Admiralty. That said, he's still goin to starve it of funds and aircraft, as more and more of Britain's resources are funnelled into the building of Bomber Command.

So what does he think of Malaya?, an irritant, but one that is going to be primarily defended by the RAF by the end of 1941. Park going out there is good, avoids any nastiness with Leigh-Mallory, Buffalo's, Battles and Vildebeest are all obsolescent over European skies. The other thing to remember, is it takes time to build an air force, with airfields, and other infrastructure needed as well as a lot of ground personnel. And Malaya is a long way from the UK by ship, which is how pretty much everything comes by.
Portal will try and give Park what he can. He knows Park was shoved out due to politics not a lack of talent and knows the man is top shelf (indeed, everything I said about about Portal, applies to Park)
I love your enthusiasm, and such a lot of content. OK you mentioned Air Chief Marshal Portal, Chief of the Air Staff since October 1940, replacing Sir Cyril Newell. He, along with the rest of the Chiefs of Staff and Churchill, have their eyes firmly fixed on the war with Germany. Portal is trying hard to build the war winning Bomber Command, which will bring Germany to its knees, and win the war. He still has a eye on home defence, and the continued building up of Fighter Command. Distractions are Malta and North Africa, and he's only just avoided Coastal Command being completely removed from the RAF, and given to the Admiralty, accepting it be under the operational control of the Admiralty. That said, he's still goin to starve it of funds and aircraft, as more and more of Britain's resources are funnelled into the building of Bomber Command.

So what does he think of Malaya?, an irritant, but one that is going to be primarily defended by the RAF by the end of 1941. Park going out there is good, avoids any nastiness with Leigh-Mallory, Buffalo's, Battles and Vildebeest are all obsolescent over European skies. The other thing to remember, is it takes time to build an air force, with airfields, and other infrastructure needed as well as a lot of ground personnel. And Malaya is a long way from the UK by ship, which is how pretty much everything comes by.
Actually, I misspelled and meant Park, but indeed this applies to Portal as well. I don't see him turning down Park's requests for any other reasons but a genuine lack of resources. Egypt and Malta simply take priority right now, as does Britain, but what can be spared for Asia will be sent. Portal knows Park is top shelf, not an alarmist, was pushed out over political games, and if he says he needs something likely does. Portal seemed to have a nose for talent and getting good performance out of subordinates most of the time, no reason for it not happen now.
While yes things are a long ways away, by early 1941 Britain really isn't hurting anymore for supplies nor kit, but rather lacking in logistics as you say. The horrendous losses of 1939-40 in the Atlantic and in supplying Malta still were still being built back up and that made things more than a little tight (in 1942, America felt a similar pinch for similar reasons).
And I imagine hiring foreign shipping was a tad pricey!
Nonetheless, improvisation and local resources from Malaya and India can indeed fill in alot of the gaps if the Army and RAF engineers get creative. Lord knows the USMC ground crews often had too in the South Pacific. Again, don't make the perfect the enemy of the good enough. These airfields just have to function, not be luxurious Bomber Command facilities, after all.

And a side note: When conducting there operations in the Southwest Pacific and Philippines, the Japanese had a EXACT and limited number of transports, freighters, and oilers for ALL the operations to be carried out. This meant that when the USS Lexington did a raid on the fleet train carrying out operations in the SW Pacific in early-mid 1942, despite them calling it a minor success, the fact that Admiral Inyo had to send five of his seven freighters all the way back to Japan (as that's the ONLY place they can repair their ships people, don't forget that, and it's over a THOUSAND miles off) it actually crippled operations for months and may have been decisive in both the New Guinea and Guadalcanal campaigns, as the Japanese were unable to build up forces and facilities in the area as planned.
Again, the Japanese merchant marine and fleet train is VERY limited and what they have is ALL they have, and is going to be used for every operation from beginning to end. Attrition of this starts throwing a spanner in the works very quickly.
Same with their carrier air crews: They have a very limited pool, husband them carefully, and too many losses will quickly start hurting.
Problem for the Japanese is once they start their offensive, they must keep going, but can't afford too many losses or mistakes at any point. Ironically, if the allies plan well, dig in a layered defense, stockpile carefully, and plan an attentional defense that plays to their strengths they may actually grind the Japanese to a halt at some point. The Japanese Naval High Command is VERY aware and paranoid about the Americans, and can't ignore them, to them, that is the main threat their carriers and their battle fleet is to be aimed at, not the British or Dutch. They are to be dealt with once the Americans are countered.
Gort and company don't know this, of course but he is a WWI vet and knows how to dig in!
And yes, Japanese intelligence prewar was excellent, but once the war kicks off and the embassy is shut down, much of that intelligence will be cut off. Not all, but most. Especially since most Japnese citizens will be expelled or arrested.
 
Actually, I misspelled and meant Park, but indeed this applies to Portal as well. I don't see him turning down Park's requests for any other reasons but a genuine lack of resources. Egypt and Malta simply take priority right now, as does Britain, but what can be spared for Asia will be sent. Portal knows Park is top shelf, not an alarmist, was pushed out over political games, and if he says he needs something likely does. Portal seemed to have a nose for talent and getting good performance out of subordinates most of the time, no reason for it not happen now
But wasn't Portal one of those pushing out Park well if not e definitely was pushing our Park's boss Dowling and Parks issue was he agreed withDowling.

So Portal here will be happy Parks is in a back area and won't be helping him.
 
Portal was made Chief of the Air Staff 25 October 1940, in December, he removed Park from 11 Group, giving him a training command, while Park's great adversary in the tactical argument on early interception v big wing, Leigh-Mallory, replaced him. I don't think Park was impressed
 
MWI 41032114 Thailand Buys Some Aircraft
1941, Friday 21 March;

The Japanese Army Air Force pilot carefully lined up the Mitsubishi Ki-21 heavy bomber with the runway and brought her down, in an almost perfect landing, before taxing the aircraft along a guided path, to come to a stop on a hard standing. With the engines now off, he quickly went through his post flight checks, before climbing out of the aircraft. To the left of the bomber, arranged in a smart line, stood the other eight bombers, their pilots, all clad in Mitsubishi Aircraft Manufacturers clothing, waiting to greet him. With that quickly done, they formed up as on a parade ground, allowing a Japanese Army Air Force Major to present the planes and crews to the Thai Air Force Colonel.

In the distance, another twelve KI-21’s could be seen, already painted in the livery of the Thai Air Force, along with ten Ki-27 fighters. These had been delivered back in December last year, the first part of a sales contract negotiated between Japan and Thailand. Previously the USA had been Thailand’s main supplier, but the deal the Japanese had offered, had been more than a good price, and the Japanese had generously offered to train the pilots and aircrew at almost cost price.

Training would be given here at Don Mueang airfield, which lay just outside Bangkok, and was the country’s premier air base, and, in addition, this would be where the spare parts, and ammunition would be stored. The major headed the small, but experienced team of trainers, who provide not just simply operational conversion training for the Thai crews, but also cover firing, bombing and navigation practices as well. Indeed, another small team of Japanese airmen had visited every airfield in Thailand, to provide them with an extensive review of what airfields were suitable for operating the Ki-21 bombers, and what weren’t.

With these sales, and the establishment of a regular civil airline service between Bangkok and Tokyo, the Japanese were preparing the ground, in anticipation of a hoped-for military alliance. It was certainly forging bonds between Japanese and Thai Air Force officers, as well as an appreciation for the Japanese, of what operating in Thailand was like.
 
But wasn't Portal one of those pushing out Park well if not e definitely was pushing our Park's boss Dowling and Parks issue was he agreed withDowling.

So Portal here will be happy Parks is in a back area and won't be helping him.
My impression was Portal went along to get along and wasn't particularly vicious about it, but British high ranking officer politics, being all "old boys club" can be, I admit, more than a bit murky to me, and I could be very wrong. So take it for what it is. In the end the decision on what to send where is Churchill's (and who was replaced by whom back in '40), and the man tends to get what he wants, being the force of nature that he is.

Interesting to note: the Thais didn't just role over for the Japanese, they kinda wavered for a bit and fighting broke out in places as local Thai garrisons and police forces refused to just let Japanese troops move right on in and move on through onto the border of Malaya. Sure, after five hours they jumped on board, but it wasn't immediate and in a few places in southern Thailand the fighting was fierce. Again, the British missed an opportunity to seize vital strategic points across the border seeing as Thai neutrality had been violated by that point. Two small efforts were indeed made late in the day, but (again) poor communications, lack of reinforcement, and lack of air and artillery supprt doomed them. Both were overrun easily.
 
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MWI 41032411 Penang Fortress
1941, Monday 24 March;

It was seventh on the agenda, but some of the preceding items were merely updates, so they had worked down to it quite quickly. Fortress Penang, from a military point of view, had to provide a secure anchorage for convoys assembling to cross the Indian Ocean, safe from air and sea attack. However, Penang was so much more than that.

There was the economical factor, with a number of significant banks and mercantile firms, the industries of smelting and exporting of tin, a strong base of light industries on Penang Island, and in Province Wellesley, opposite on the mainland, the Perai port and railway connection with its train workshops. There was the communications factor, the undersea telegraph cables from India, landed here, the radio station in Georgetown, the civil airfield. And then there was the intellectual factor, her schools were among the best in Malaya, she was thought of as the cultural capital, and attracted a lot of internationally famous people, and the fact Penang’s newspapers rivalled those in Singapore.

In part for the people of Penang, and in part for propaganda purposes, they spoke of Fortress Penang, but there was no fort, just strategically placed military assets. Never the less, at this Monday meeting of the Executive they were intending to discuss what they could each commit and agree in principle, to the deployment of some considerable assets, to provide a well-rounded defence.

For the Army, Penang Fortress was administrated as a brigade, with a garrison of one Indian infantry battalion, a Straits Settlement machine gun battalion, and the 11th Coastal Regt RA of three coastal batteries. In the south was the Batu Maung battery, of two 6-inch guns, and at the other end of the Penang Straits was the Fort Cornwallis battery, with another two 6-inch guns. While further to the north-west was Fort Auchry, where they planned to install two 9.2-inch guns, which would come from Hong Kong. They still needed light artillery to provide an anti MTB element to the defence of the anchorage. Adding to that, one of the new raising Indian HAA regiments would provide anti-aircraft cover. In addition, it was hoped a couple of the newly raised Malay and/or Singapore infantry companies could be based here.

For the RAF, the airfield at Bayan Lepas, would be developed. It currently had a training flight of the MVAF, and would soon have a flight of the newly formed RAF 212 (Malay) Sqn, with up to six Vildebeest for maritime and ASW patrol. Park wanted to have at least one fighter squadron here if he could. This all meant extensive development of the facilities, with more buildings, maintenance sheds, dispersal pens etc being built. And he also planned for the installation of radar units, one COL at Bukit Hama, on the northern edge of Penang Island, and a second in the south, along with a couple of TRU’s, one on Western Hill served by the funicular railway, and the other to be situated on Kedah Peak, Gurun. These would link in with a new control room at Glugor, where the Army HQ was, with telephone connections to the airfields at Bayan Lepas, Butterworth, Sungai Petani and Alor Star. Only two AMES units were available at the moment, but some station infrastructure would be built, awaiting the arrival of the other units.

And lastly for the Royal Navy, who had elevated the station to a Squadron status, to defend and service the port, an Ocean tug and an Oiler would be made available. There was planned to have a flotilla of MTBs but as yet no date could be given, so some Fairmile launches would be deployed for local inshore patrols, when built. To protect shipping lanes to the port a number of auxiliary minesweepers would be based here, as well as some auxiliary ASW patrol vessels. Part of the Indian Ocean escort force would stop here, allowing local vessels to take over much of the role for escorted shipping, although a lot of independent sailings would still continue.
 
Interesting to note: the Thais didn't just role over for the Japanese, they kinda wavered for a bit and fighting broke out in places as local Thai garrisons and police forces refused to just let Japanese troops move right on in and move on through onto the border of Malaya. Sure, after five hours they jumped on board, but it wasn't immediate and in a few places in southern Thailand the fighting was fierce.
I doubt the Thais wanted to sign up as spear-carriers for the Glory of Japan. but they were in the IJA's way and neither the British nor the Chinese nor even the Americans were in a position to protect them in the short term. A doomed resistance that got them marked as "enemies" and treated like the Chinese was an understandably unattractive prospect. So, collaboration - but only when they could plausibly claim that they were doing so under duress. A few dozen dead Thai soldiers make the "duress" that much more plausible if the Rising Sun goes down and vengeful westerners come looking for payback and it wouldn't surprise me if some of the Thai leadership's thinking was just that cynical. All too often, surviving is about doing what it takes.

1941, Monday 24 March;

It was seventh on the agenda, but some of the preceding items were merely updates, so they had worked down to it quite quickly. Fortress Penang, from a military point of view, had to provide a secure anchorage for convoys assembling to cross the Indian Ocean, safe from air and sea attack. However, Penang was so much more than that.
Once again, I'm impressed by the sheer amount of thought and detail you're putting into this TL - and it really pays of in terms of realism.

And, speaking of realism, once again many of the preparations you're describing are reasonable, plausible - and dangerously out of alignment with what we know (but your protagonists don't) are the real requirements. The true threat to Penang isn't coming from the sea or even really from the sky. It's coming down the isthmus and over the hills from Kota Bharu - and while upgrades like fighters and radar may help, none of the developments will come to much if a "fortress" with no walls or artillery and a two-battalion garrison can't be held against an overland advance, followed by an assault across the channel. And there's always the risk that the more the British sink into Penang, the more they will feel obliged to try to hold it - even when they realise it's a bad decision.
 
Those two battalions, if reinforced by troops and artillery brought up from reserves, and well stocked with supplies, can indeed prove one hell of a hard swallow. Again while indeed the true threat is from overland, even that threat is ran from a fraying shoestring. Too many hard fights, too many successful blocking forces the Japanese have to fight their way through and around, setting their fragile logistics up for artillery strikes and even last ditch air strikes, and they'll run out steam. Their supporting assets are that poor.
The goal here, from my point of view, isn't really to so much to win, it's to not lose and it can be done. To grind the Japanese to a stalemate and hold enough of Malaya (and maybe Burma, but that's Slim's problem) and the East Indies to create a viable defense zone that denies the Japanese a strategic victory this round is a viable strategy. It won't be easy, but it's just this side of plausible. Attrition is the key.

They're (the Japanese) on a VERY tight schedule, with resources and assets so slender that even losing and/or having damaged a dozen or fewer freighters throws everything cockeyeyed. In many ways the Japanese grand plan is like a finely tuned mechanism, and if too many gears or teeth break..... They can't just shift forces about willy-nilly either, as that means shipping for other operations is now gone: those other operations are then canceled or on hold (allowing for the locals to further prepare), finely tuned schedules are thrown off, vitally hoarded and needed shipping fuel used up, and more wear and tear done to vital ships, aircraft, engines, and men (many of which are already overdue for rest and refit) which the Japanese have only so many of...and have fully commited.
We tend to forget these things, and just how BADLY under-equipped the Japanese fleet train and merchant marine was! And the fact the Imperial Navy has shot its bolt, committing everything it has, and the Army everything its willing to at this point (and only grudgingly). So what the Allies are facing is ALL there is.
Not to mention is how badly OVERUSED the Kido Butai was in the early days of the war, even before Midway. It was already kinda burning the candle at both ends before that battle...attrition is an ugly thing. The reality is the IJN had a real debate going on about how to use it because they KNEW it was something not a glass cannon and wanted it aimed where it would get the Empire the biggest bang for their buck. Peal Harbor was supposed to have done that, it hadn't, so now they were looking for a finishing blow to aim the Kido Butai at, and everyone has their idea at the staff meetings.
A few pesky fighters in the East Indies aren't that, and a waste of transit fuel besides (at this point the IJN is counting their barrels by the day).
So in my mind it's doable. But it's going to take flexibility I think and lots of luck on the Allies' part. Penang can be held, or could at least prove such a major pain in the posterior that it proves a Pyhrric victory in the end if done right. Indeed, Malaya if done right could at least prove that! They need to wear the Japanese down, taking advantage of their enemy's VERY shallow logistics, inflexible operational and strategic conditions (tactically, they're flexible as Hell, and that'll be a pain to counter but their operational and strategic plans are on a inflexible timetable), inferior firepower (especially in artillery and machineguns), inferior numbers, radar, and communications ( you've got radios, they've often don't, use them damn it!), and tendency to ignore heavy losses to achieve short term goals. If the Allied field officers notice this latter trend, they can do as the Marines did and trick the Japanese into tactical situations that cause the Japanese to over commit to an offensive action, only to not withdraw until nearly or utterly decimated (note, not a Banzai charge, simply put many Japanese officers hated to admit failure in an operation, and would keep at it past all common sense, see Alligator River).
Yes, Yamashita is no fool, but he's one man and can't be everywhere. Idiots will abound....
 

HJ Tulp

Donor
They're (the Japanese) on a VERY tight schedule, with resources and assets so slender that even losing and/or having damaged a dozen or fewer freighters throws everything cockeyeyed. In many ways the Japanese grand plan is like a finely tuned mechanism, and if too many gears or teeth break..... They can't just shift forces about willy-nilly either, as that means shipping for other operations is now gone: those other operations are then canceled or on hold (allowing for the locals to further prepare), finely tuned schedules are thrown off, vitally hoarded and needed shipping fuel used up, and more wear and tear done to vital ships, aircraft, engines, and men (many of which are already overdue for rest and refit) which the Japanese have only so many of...and have fully commited.

One thing that is overlooked IMHO is that - while I agree that assets and resources were tight - the Japanese operational plan for the conquest of Singapore was completed 31 days in advance of the IGHQ forecasts. Logistically the Japanese advance has some slack compared to OTL.
 
Loving this time line and resulting debate. I like that reasonable and likely mistakes are being made by the British in the time line as this give it a plausibly that many TL's lack.

I agree with the position that a more successful delaying actionby the British could mean the Japanese would have to pause and wait for their supply and support to catch up and replenish before carrying on third advance. This would likely affect other operations giving Burma and parts of the DEI a chance to prepair. It also gives the reinforcements sent OTL from the UK and Middle East time to arrive AND make a potential difference.

I'm curious that if the British performance is better than OTL and the Japanese operations elsewhere are effected what does the US do? OTL after the shocks of Pearl Harbour and the loss of the Philippines the war against the Japanese for the US was largely US Navy and the US Marines island hopping (forgive me for oversimplifing this as the Pasific War isn't an area I'm very familiar with). But ITTL there would be an active major battle zones in Malaya and the DEI with the possibility of being reinforced by the US Army and USAAF before they fall. The question is does the US give it a try and how would that affect the wider war?
 
One thing that is overlooked IMHO is that - while I agree that assets and resources were tight - the Japanese operational plan for the conquest of Singapore was completed 31 days in advance of the IGHQ forecasts. Logistically the Japanese advance has some slack compared to OTL.
Right , that was why they literally out of supply when they were attacking Singapore. All the plan meant was as per usual they were over optimistic and got lucky.
 

HJ Tulp

Donor
Right , that was why they literally out of supply when they were attacking Singapore. All the plan meant was as per usual they were over optimistic and got lucky.
In supply time is a factor - the longer you fight the more bullets you shoot - but distance - the greater the distance the longer it takes to get bullets to the frontline - is one as well. One could argue that the speed of Japanese advance made them outrun their supplylines. If their advance is slower then supply has an easier time keeping up (though the intensity might be higher in that case).

EDIT: The comment was not made by 'just one Japanese officer' but by Yamashita himself. So I deleted that part of my post.
 
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In supply time is a factor - the longer you fight the more bullets you shoot - but distance - the greater the distance the longer it takes to get bullets to the frontline - is one as well. One could argue that the speed of Japanese advance made them outrun their supplylines. If their advance is slower then supply has an easier time keeping up (though the intensity might be higher in that case).

EDIT: The comment was not made by 'just one Japanese officer' but by Yamashita himself. So I deleted that part of my post.
Limit was mainly port capacity and long distance rail , shorter distance at the front would not help with that at all.
 
Those two battalions, if reinforced by troops and artillery brought up from reserves, and well stocked with supplies, can indeed prove one hell of a hard swallow. Again while indeed the true threat is from overland, even that threat is ran from a fraying shoestring. Too many hard fights, too many successful blocking forces the Japanese have to fight their way through and around, setting their fragile logistics up for artillery strikes and even last ditch air strikes, and they'll run out steam. Their supporting assets are that poor.
The trouble with this is that, as I've said upthread, this is effectively Perceval's OTL strategy - and it failed disastrously because his own forces degraded faster than the Japanese. If the Commonwealth troops are too disorganised and demoralised to mount an effective defence, it doesn't matter much what the Japanese supply situation is.

The specific issue of Penang is that it's close to the frontier, the island is small and only half a mile from the mainland. It likely can't be held (without air/artillery superiority, which the British don't have) once the Japanese occupy the facing shore and certainly can't be resupplied once Japanese artillery brings the airfield under fire (in 1944, with air superiority and air-supply techniques, this might be different). The risk is that if the defence fails on the frontier, whichever unfortunate Indian brigade is trying to hold the west coast will be ordered to withdraw into "fortress" Penang. The brigade fights its way back to Penang, losing most of its heavy equipment in the retreat, only to be trapped there. The Japanese then have the pleasant choice of whether to assault the island (Singapore: The Prequel), potentially netting 10,000 prisoners and piles of captured supplies in the opening phase of the campaign, or simply leave it as a self-administering PoW camp while they push on to Johore.

Or someone has to make the difficult decision to abandon the "fortress" without a fight. Of course, if the British have a reinforced brigade of well-trained, well-equipped troops, with adequate air cover, sufficient artillery, good communications and plentiful supplies in place before the Japanese attack, then the point is moot because the invasion isn't going to get to Penang.

Yes, Yamashita is no fool, but he's one man and can't be everywhere. Idiots will abound....
Idiots will abound everywhere, it's one of the rules. There will be more than enough to go round on both sides.
 
If trying to turn Penang into a fortress, it might be an ideal place to deploy their Mark VI Light Tanks as they would be far less likely to be engaged by Japanese tanks or antitank guns in the initial phase of any attempted amphibious landing.....but would be able to surge to engage light infantry as they arrive on beaches.
 
One thing that is overlooked IMHO is that - while I agree that assets and resources were tight - the Japanese operational plan for the conquest of Singapore was completed 31 days in advance of the IGHQ forecasts. Logistically the Japanese advance has some slack compared to OTL.
That happened due to the Japanese rolling, in TTRPG parlance, a constant stream of natural 20s adding to just an extraordinary stream of good luck that put lie to the Murpy's Law of Combat in a big way. Meanwhile the British not only rolled nothing but "1s" but compounded that by an almost comical series of bad command decisions, a truly piss-poor command-and-control and communications performance that just boggles the mind, and just sheer bad luck that even Murphy would be jealous of. Indeed, the entire first six months of the war in the Southeast Asia and East Indies theaters, with few exceptions, went like that for the Japanese.
Seriously, the whole point of this timeline is throw a spanner in them there dice rolls, to use multiple metaphors, and see how it plays out when things DON'T go perfectly for the Japanese right from the get go.
And yes, the Japanese tend to be very to overly optimistic when it comes to logistics, and even tend to wishful thinking on many occasions (the Navy's math on the estimated consumption rate of their oil stockpile, for example, once the war kicked off proved, well, just pure fantasy), and this routinely got them into trouble (Guadalcanal, Kokoda Trail, Imphal and Kohima). Worse is that they REPEATED this mistake time and again as they sincerely believed the Yamato spirit could overcome any material insufficiency. To deny this was tantamount to doubting what it meant to be Japanese.
So yes, they'll keep coming even as the bullets and rice runs out, and outnumbered three or more to one...because it's what a good Japanese soldier does. And once his better fed and fully ammo-upped opponent figures this out...it gets ugly for the Japanese soldier.
Yamato spirit gets you damned far...but only so far.
 
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The trouble with this is that, as I've said upthread, this is effectively Perceval's OTL strategy - and it failed disastrously because his own forces degraded faster than the Japanese. If the Commonwealth troops are too disorganised and demoralised to mount an effective defence, it doesn't matter much what the Japanese supply situation is.

The specific issue of Penang is that it's close to the frontier, the island is small and only half a mile from the mainland. It likely can't be held (without air/artillery superiority, which the British don't have) once the Japanese occupy the facing shore and certainly can't be resupplied once Japanese artillery brings the airfield under fire (in 1944, with air superiority and air-supply techniques, this might be different). The risk is that if the defence fails on the frontier, whichever unfortunate Indian brigade is trying to hold the west coast will be ordered to withdraw into "fortress" Penang. The brigade fights its way back to Penang, losing most of its heavy equipment in the retreat, only to be trapped there. The Japanese then have the pleasant choice of whether to assault the island (Singapore: The Prequel), potentially netting 10,000 prisoners and piles of captured supplies in the opening phase of the campaign, or simply leave it as a self-administering PoW camp while they push on to Johore.

Or someone has to make the difficult decision to abandon the "fortress" without a fight. Of course, if the British have a reinforced brigade of well-trained, well-equipped troops, with adequate air cover, sufficient artillery, good communications and plentiful supplies in place before the Japanese attack, then the point is moot because the invasion isn't going to get to Penang.


Idiots will abound everywhere, it's one of the rules. There will be more than enough to go round on both sides.
I'm getting the feeling, rightly or wrongly, that you pretty much expect the British to react, fight, and respond EXACTLY as they did OTL without any change despite the differences in command, leadership style, the greater commitment in resources, and so on, as well as a greater appreciation for the challenges faced (if not always correctly assumed as to their nature).
Correct me if I'm wrong in my assumption here, though you're not wrong as to the danger of Penang if mishandled.
 
Was a bit surprised I had so little reaction to the Thailand Buys Some Aircraft post, all of which was historical, and then a good reaction to the Penang Fortress post, good job I'm not a betting man.

Thailand was in a very difficult position, and did it's best to maintain its own independence between the old empires of Britain and France, and the newly emerging Japanese one, having to make difficult but IMO realistic choices.

Once again, I'm impressed by the sheer amount of thought and detail you're putting into this TL - and it really pays of in terms of realism.
Ooooohhhhh!, the bigger you make me, the further I fall.

And, speaking of realism, once again many of the preparations you're describing are reasonable, plausible - and dangerously out of alignment with what we know (but your protagonists don't) are the real requirements. The true threat to Penang isn't coming from the sea or even really from the sky. It's coming down the isthmus and over the hills from Kota Bharu - and while upgrades like fighters and radar may help, none of the developments will come to much if a "fortress" with no walls or artillery and a two-battalion garrison can't be held against an overland advance, followed by an assault across the channel. And there's always the risk that the more the British sink into Penang, the more they will feel obliged to try to hold it - even when they realise it's a bad decision.
So apart from the change to the Volunteers, and the part about the RAF, all of Penang Fortress is historical. The British had bad memories of the visit the Kaisers cruiser Emden paid them in October 1914, see below
 
Attrition is the key.
Well certainly that's how the it worked out for the Allies in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

One thing that is overlooked IMHO is that - while I agree that assets and resources were tight - the Japanese operational plan for the conquest of Singapore was completed 31 days in advance of the IGHQ forecasts. Logistically the Japanese advance has some slack compared to OTL.
You're right about the timetable, but remember the advance down Malaya was partially achieved thanks to the Churchill Supplies, the fuel, munitions and supplies captured from the retreating British. How would they have managed without those supplies.

I'm curious that if the British performance is better than OTL and the Japanese operations elsewhere are effected what does the US do? OTL after the shocks of Pearl Harbour and the loss of the Philippines the war against the Japanese for the US was largely US Navy and the US Marines island hopping (forgive me for oversimplifing this as the Pasific War isn't an area I'm very familiar with). But ITTL there would be an active major battle zones in Malaya and the DEI with the possibility of being reinforced by the US Army and USAAF before they fall. The question is does the US give it a try and how would that affect the wider war?
And that Derwent Water, is a very big question to answer, IF, as you say, British performance is markedly better. I'm currently mapping some of that out as maybe's, but for some possibilities I have to write the preceding moves first before I can see what comes next, the blindingly obvious doesn't always appear until I've done that.

Limit was mainly port capacity and long distance rail , shorter distance at the front would not help with that at all.
Ah, good old logistics, spot on pjmidd, you can't beat it, I've a few posts that will be discussing this in greater detail, including rail and port capacity.

The specific issue of Penang is that it's close to the frontier, the island is small and only half a mile from the mainland. It likely can't be held (without air/artillery superiority, which the British don't have) once the Japanese occupy the facing shore and certainly can't be resupplied once Japanese artillery brings the airfield under fire (in 1944, with air superiority and air-supply techniques, this might be different).

I'm of the same opinion, but I wouldn't like to say how Gort would react, if it came to it.
 
MWI 41032623 The 9th Indian Arrives
1941 Wednesday 26 March;

Major General Arthur Barstow, commander of the 9th Indian Division stood by the window of his third-floor hotel room, and looked down Coleman Street. The bells at St Andrews Cathedral had just rung 11pm, and he was ready for bed. His case had been unpacked by his batman while he’d been dinning with Percival, his commander, who’d had him picked up from the ship, and brought him here. Percival certainly didn’t impress, looks wise, but as they’d talked through dinner, most of it a kind of catch up on what was happening, he’d began to appreciate another side of the man. While he had some humorous anecdotes, he also been able to paint quite a revealing picture of Singapore and Malaya.

Tomorrow would be more formal, with Lord Gort, as well as Percival, and they would discuss in some detail not only the role of his 9th Division, but also its composition, as there would be some swapping of brigades and battalions. The convoy had delivered his first brigade, the 15th to Penang and Singapore, but Percival had already told him he would lose it to the 11th Division, and take their 8th Brigade in its place. His second brigade, the 22th was due about the 16th of next month. And it sounded like his division would be split up and assigned defensive roles up and down the eastern coast of Malaya. His HQ was going to take over the buildings in Kuala Lumpur, where currently 11th Indian Division HQ was, as they were moving north.

For now, he would only have the two brigades, but Percival hoped to get him a third brigade by the summer. Artillery of any type or size was almost non-existent, and the infantry battalions in his command were very raw, all units having been milked a number of times of experienced officers and men, replaced with barely trained new recruits. He already knew training would be a major priority, but Percival had told him the beach defences he would be taking over, were mostly not even built yet!

A number of Indian State infantry battalions had also arrived, and he might get a couple of them, but they were only good for rear area static defence, being lightly armed and poorly trained. Yes, he had a lot to do by the look of it, but he’d get right on it first thing tomorrow, he wasn’t called Bustling Bill for nothing!
 
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