Sarawak TL Redux - Planning Thread

This thread is for the planning of the proposed second attempt at my Kingdom of Sarawak timeline I produced shortly after arriving at the forum, everyone was very supportive of it for which I am most grateful but hopefully the new TL will be better planned, better thought out and better researched :) In the spirit of this Ill be asking a lot of questions in the hope I can enlist the considerable expertise of folks on this site to sort it all out before writing.

The new Timeline will begin 8 years sooner in 1931 with the death of Charles Vyner Brooke the third White Rajah of Sarawak and the creation of a brief advisory government for Anthony Brooke the Fourth Rajah - needed because he is 19 at the time. This leads to an earlier democratization of Sarawak and a government investing in the country and creating among other things a fledgling Sarawak Air Force and Royal Sarawak Navy.

I shall be posting regular questions on various eclectic topics :D Any questions, queries and comments are gratefully received.

Original Timeline - https://www.alternatehistory.com/discussion/showthread.php?t=258992
 
Military Proposals

IOTL the Sarawak Rangers were partially demobilised during the 1930s and when the Japanese invasion occurred the Sarawak Armed Forces numbered 1,515 regulars. They lacked artillery or heavy equipment capable of opposing any offensives nor did they have any Air Force or Navy. ITTL after the first elections in around 1934-35 I am planning the following.

Sarawak Rangers

As partially proposed by user Simon [Here] the Sarawak Rangers to be reformed as a British style brigade formed of four battalions of 650 men each armed with British kit. Headquarters would be at Barracks and offices located near Kuching. Lorries and Land Rover style vehicles - possibly locally produced - to give them mobility. Another brigade of territorials raised as a form of Home Guard and supported by Dayak volunteers during the war. Would be trained by ANZAC forces and co-operate with the Australian military. Uniforms and supplies likely to be brought in from British India or perhaps produced locally - maybe this need could help stimulate local industry ?

Majority of volunteer forces would probably be emplaced into fortifications such as pillboxes and gun emplacements particularly for the defence of Kuching, Miri and airstrips.

Sarawak Air Force

Construction of airstrips at Sibu, Kuching and Miri to improve economic logistics during the interwar period - simple cleared strips and compacted runways. Possibly training with Imperial forces in Malaya or with the ANZACs as the Rangers. Gloster Gladiators might be a possibility of even Hurricanes if purchasing is left late though.

I'm suggesting Gladiators because they were a commercially available design operated by a fair few countries, would be a new design when the Air Force is created, reasonably easy to operate, reliable and repairable using either assorted spares or locally available materials.

Would creation of a subdivision of a British aircraft company in Sarawak be possible or a risk they would be unwilling to take ?

Royal Sarawak Navy [RSN]

With development of Brooke Company shipyards in Sibu and construction of first few locally produced ships and expansion of the merchant marine a few patrol boats might be feasible and eventually leading to Sarawak wanting to invest in a cost-effective naval force. Namely a couple of British built small submarines similar to the OTL Estonian pre-war navy's ones. Would this be plausible and possible ? Doctrine and administration would probably be adopted from the Royal Navy or perhaps again the Australians.
 
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2 Minor nitpicks, British Brigades at this time had 3 Batallions. And I think you mean 18 year earlier :D.

On a serious note, can anyone tell us what kind of artillery did a standard British brigade during this period. Would the Sarawak army be purely motorised infantry or would there be a reconaisance component?


As to the airforce perhaps this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gloster_F.5/34


After all, it was built to meet a spec especially for hot climates. It might also raise interest in the Dominions and other second line Imperial units.

On to the navy I think you're on the right track for creating a mosquito fleet perhaps a few MTBs or MGBs for anti submarine and coastal work as the surface component.

I was very impressed by the original thread and have high hopes for this one, carry on.
 
2 Minor nitpicks, British Brigades at this time had 3 Batallions. And I think you mean 18 year earlier :D.

Would that make a British brigade number around 1,950 men in total then ? If so then the volunteer section of the Sarawak military might be expanded because the Ranger's wouldn't be quite as much of a logistical drain. Maybe even two brigades of Rangers ?

On a serious note, can anyone tell us what kind of artillery did a standard British brigade during this period. Would the Sarawak army be purely motorised infantry or would there be a reconaisance component?

Don't have much knowledge on the matter myself but I imagine that the Sarawak Army would have good local awareness and be helped by Dayak inhabitants as IOTL.

As to the airforce perhaps this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gloster_F.5/34

After all, it was built to meet a spec especially for hot climates. It might also raise interest in the Dominions and other second line Imperial units.

That is very interesting to be honest - perhaps if Sarawak expressed interest in the project then development might be accelerated compared to OTL and improved - maybe even small scale production facility built in Sarawak itself ? They look quite promising - almost a British built Zero ? However its difficult to tell whether the design is an improvement over Hurricanes or Gladiators.

I was very impressed by the original thread and have high hopes for this one, carry on.

Thank you - I certainly shall.

As to the naval aspect I am trying to keep it manageable and aware of how expensive that development and maintenance of such an investment would be - after all its not going to be obvious of the desperate need until late 1930s. Perhaps a few gunboats and maybe two or three submarines ? Part of me does want a surface fleet so that we can have a nice Royal Sarawak Naval Jack.

Responses in Bold.
 
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To be honest I got the idea of the Gloster fighter from the Whale Has Wings, where it gets upgraded with a Hercules engine (the fighter itself is called the Goshawk).

There are some advantages in the vanilla design over the Hurricane, specifically your idea of a small manufacturing plant in Sarawak itself. Its old engine, it doesn't cut into valuable Merlin production required for Hurricanes and Spitfires, and because it's an old design, it might be a good baby step for setting up Sarawak's manufacturing process. Probably Australia's too.

However, fast forward to 1941 there was a proposal to fit the Hurricane with a Hercules, which was rejected because the airframe would benefit from the extra power to make a faster aircraft. Here however you have the opporunity to upgrade the Grendel? Goblin? Gyrfalcon? (Alliterative name is a must) from a mediocre fighter to a respectable one, but by no means a world beater.

The RN were wedded to the Scout/Fighter concept that gave us the abominations that were the Skua and the Fulmar and I doubt this PoD can directly change that. However, it might make a palatable alternative to the Sea Hurricane when that time comes.
 
To be honest I got the idea of the Gloster fighter from the Whale Has Wings, where it gets upgraded with a Hercules engine (the fighter itself is called the Goshawk).

There are some advantages in the vanilla design over the Hurricane, specifically your idea of a small manufacturing plant in Sarawak itself. Its old engine, it doesn't cut into valuable Merlin production required for Hurricanes and Spitfires, and because it's an old design, it might be a good baby step for setting up Sarawak's manufacturing process.

However, fast forward to 1941 there was a proposal to fit the Hurricane with a Hercules, which was rejected because the airframe would benefit from the extra power to make a faster aircraft. Here however you have the opporunity to upgrade the Grendel? Goblin? Gyrfalcon? (Alliterative name is a must) from a mediocre fighter to a respectable one, but by no means a world beater.

It suppose because of its older technology it would be a reasonable proposal to the Gloster Company - not risking much and fairly profitable. If we assumed that each aircraft was to cost the Sarawak treasury around £12,000 [Taken from the OTL Spitfire price - perhaps a little much but would reflect problems with Sarawak production] and saying that Sarawak purchases around 10 - 20 of them it should be within the means of the government.

The problem would be in deciding whether this investment is a plausible risk for Sarawak in staking a great deal on an untested design - particularly when they could purchase a proven design like the Gladiator or Spitfire. Would there be any plausible way to improve the plane without making it too expensive for Sarawak's small finances to afford ? I mean I like the idea of a solely Sarawak produced airforce in WW2 and later air industry but realism has to be present. Perhaps failure to develop the previously mentioned aircraft could lead to a Sarawak centred small scale effort that makes a decent fighter ? Otherwise its probably easier to purchase some Gladiators and be done with it.

I suppose the difficulties in producing or designing any aircraft in Sarawak have two primary problems: Firstly that any company involved must be convinced that the design will be profitable and sell realistically to more than just Sarawak - maybe if the Dutch purchased some for the East Indies ? Or Australia might somehow be interested ? Secondly the problem of aircraft engines, to be honest I'm not at all trying to wank the British ITTL and therefore I don't mind pinching a limited amount of Merlin production for the Sarawak planes.

This is something I need rather more expert knowledge than my own on.
 
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As for the Navy I would opt for MTB.

The problem with submarines is the training involved and the long lead time with personnel.

If you do opt for a coastal submarine you are looking at a coastal submarine, than let's go with the British R class or even the U.S. Sugar boats. Another interesting possibility is purchasing from Japan, as during OTL Siam purchased a couple of boats from memory.
 
Actually what about the UB II as a submarine class, although if you do so I expect to continue the adventures of Otto Proshka.
 

They look reasonable - only problem would be that their production is considerably before the PoD so I wonder whether Sarawak might purchase some newer submarines. Would the USA be open to selling a class they still had in service ?

As for the Navy I would opt for MTB.

The problem with submarines is the training involved and the long lead time with personnel.

If you do opt for a coastal submarine you are looking at a coastal submarine, than let's go with the British R class or even the U.S. Sugar boats. Another interesting possibility is purchasing from Japan, as during OTL Siam purchased a couple of boats from memory.

MTB are probably more plausible but if possible I want to stretch as far as plausible with TTL - hopefully not going to be a wank and I'm certainly not intending to write it as one but would be nice to have a little bit of cool involved.

British R class look like a reasonable choice - after all Sarawak was a British protectorate and any RSN is likely to be highly reliant on British support and training at like initially. Advantage of British production is that the Sarawak crews could be taught and worked up in the UK in a similar way to the Estonian submarine crews of OTL. Japan might be interesting if only to study the technology of a potential enemy. I presume you are referring to the Rainbow Class submarines ?
 
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Actually what about the UB II as a submarine class, although if you do so I expect to continue the adventures of Otto Proshka.

UB II ? I'm afraid you'll have to enlighten me here I am having a slow moment.

Does everyone agree with the names of the Forces by the way ? I'm aware in actual fact the majority of Sarawak will be using Malay names for them anyway.

Royal Sarawak Navy would probably be headquartered in offices in Kuching although the primary naval base might be at Sibu given its TTL shipyards, personal would probably be trained with the Australians, British Indian or British navies and in total number no more than 3,000 to 5,000 men. Enough to be a respected participant in the American-British-Dutch-Austrialian-Sarawakian command [ABDAS].

If anyone could propose a reasonable MTB or Gunboat design that could be constructed in moderate or small sized Sarawak shipyards located on the Rajang Delta at Sibu ITTL [credit to Nickbana for that advice] on licence ? Probably only possible for Sarawak to operate a couple of them due to personal and funding constraints. How effective would a newly created navy be in the combat scenario of WW2 ?
 
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Okay you switched over whilst I was away so here's a couple responses from the previous thread.


Thank you that is an interesting proposal - perhaps what could be done is to raise the Sarawak Rangers from a more informal group to a full British style brigade through recruitment prior to the war. That would certainly hold the Japanese for slightly longer. Although I do quite like the idea of a distinction between the elite Rangers and a regular army. Raising territorials might be interesting because local support traditionally and in OTL was raised by sending the red feather upstream to the loyalists - might have to create a more formal system. Purchase of some lorries or Land Rover style vehicles to give them more mobility is an excellent idea but may require a large scale road construction program.
I'd actually think about keeping them separate with it being made up of three distinct groups - the regular battalions, the part-time territorial battalions, and the Rangers as a paramilitary force. The regulars and territorials are trained along western lines with the Rangers staying as they were or as light infantry so that when the Japanese win, and it would take some rather large points of departure to see Sarawak do more than delay them, it gives you ready made guerrillas to take to the hills as a resistance force. The British created their Auxiliary Units, perhaps someone in Sarawak is somewhat pessimistic/realistic about how things are likely to turn out so arranges for some secret arms caches and supplies to be stashed up in the hills just in case. Could make life interesting for the Japanese.


Would Britain be generous enough to provide artillery for a newly formed Sarawak Army or would the Sarawakian funds have to purchase it themselves ? Also is it completely implausible that after several years of modernisation and development Sarawak decides to invest in a very small navy and purchases one or maybe two small submarines ? Thinking similar to Estonia's pre war submarines.
Well as a protectorate/protected state, I forget which it was, Britain had the official responsibility for defence matters. If the Sarawakians can point to how they're professionally expanding their forces with their own money and relieving Britain of the job then I think they could probably have been talked into attaching a British artillery unit, which would probably mean they would still be paying for it.

On submarines I think that might be getting a little ambitious, even the basic ones we're still talking about some serious engineering. I'd probably suggest something like motor torpedo boats, fairly simple and cheap yet that can still threaten larger ships like freighters or destroyers which can run in under cover, loose off a spread of torpedoes and then get out again at high speed. By just about all account the British Fairmile D motor torpedo boats, aka. Dog boats, provided sterling service in the Channel/North Sea and the Mediterranean. Granted they didn't come along until 1942 but if Sarawak was interested in MTBs then it could help drive development of them.


Would they be the sort of company to invest in creating factories and manufacturing possibly on licence from the UK ? I think what I'm going to do is have Indian railway workers and imported expertise with the Sarawak Railway possibly with a small engine production facility and later on an indigenous train design.
That's... awfully advanced for a country that size. Unless you're really going to be expanding the railway system on a massive scale, and then I'd have to question the economic reasoning behind that, I think you'd be better off just buying in engines from the outside whilst hiring experts in to learn how to run it. But that's just me.
 
Okay you switched over whilst I was away so here's a couple responses from the previous thread.

I'd actually think about keeping them separate with it being made up of three distinct groups - the regular battalions, the part-time territorial battalions, and the Rangers as a paramilitary force. The regulars and territorials are trained along western lines with the Rangers staying as they were or as light infantry so that when the Japanese win, and it would take some rather large points of departure to see Sarawak do more than delay them, it gives you ready made guerrillas to take to the hills as a resistance force. The British created their Auxiliary Units, perhaps someone in Sarawak is somewhat pessimistic/realistic about how things are likely to turn out so arranges for some secret arms caches and supplies to be stashed up in the hills just in case. Could make life interesting for the Japanese.

Well as a protectorate/protected state, I forget which it was, Britain had the official responsibility for defence matters. If the Sarawakians can point to how they're professionally expanding their forces with their own money and relieving Britain of the job then I think they could probably have been talked into attaching a British artillery unit, which would probably mean they would still be paying for it.

On submarines I think that might be getting a little ambitious, even the basic ones we're still talking about some serious engineering. I'd probably suggest something like motor torpedo boats, fairly simple and cheap yet that can still threaten larger ships like freighters or destroyers which can run in under cover, loose off a spread of torpedoes and then get out again at high speed. By just about all account the British Fairmile D motor torpedo boats, aka. Dog boats, provided sterling service in the Channel/North Sea and the Mediterranean. Granted they didn't come along until 1942 but if Sarawak was interested in MTBs then it could help drive development of them.

That's... awfully advanced for a country that size. Unless you're really going to be expanding the railway system on a massive scale, and then I'd have to question the economic reasoning behind that, I think you'd be better off just buying in engines from the outside whilst hiring experts in to learn how to run it. But that's just me.

Thank you for the responces - always good to have some wellt thought out practical thinking to stop me getting carried away :)

I don't think to be honest however much Sarawak's army might be expanded during the interwar period that it would have even the slightest chance of presenting a significant difficulty to the Japanese - they can and will ITTL simply land a larger force and overwhelm the slightly better equipped than OTL Sarawakians - what this does do however is divert troops from other actions and slow the whole campaign down slightly with obvious butterfly potential.

Based upon what you have proposed perhaps a simplification would be the creation of a brigade sized regular Sarawak army equipped in western style as previously mentioned and the Rangers being reformed but continuing to eventually form the resistance during Japanese occupation. IOTL resistance was largely in the form of Dayak loyalist activity in the interior but ITTL a properly armed equivalent could make Japanese occupation rather difficult.

Sarawak probably would be able to purchase British equipment the problem I see with them merely pressuring the British is that London ignored even its own commanders calls for more equipment in Malaya making them listening to the even less important Sarawak unlikely - it would have to be local initiative and persistence to get anything. I'm sure artillery could be purchased but it would depend on the expense given the country's somewhat limited funds.

I was under the impression that the Fairmile vessels were effectively floating bombs - however I do agree that submarines are perhaps a little ambitious - shall have to see how it goes. Still perhaps a locally produced simple design might be a possibility ? If that's not particularly sensible then might do away with a Sarawak Navy totally - saves considerable cost and reduces the amount of flaming wreckage to be found after the Japanese invasion.

I perhaps worded the railway comment a little poorly :eek: What I meant to say was construction of the small scale engine repair and construction workshops similar to those that serve the existing small lines in India - they handled British designed locos and occasionally reconstructed them. By small I'm meaning the narrow gauge tank engines like the Darjeeling railway locos. Sarawak would bring over Indian expertise and probably import British designed engines - only snag being the aforementioned unique Sarawak Gauge.

Probably best you've reigned me in here - I get implausible when I'm feeling confident :D
 
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Post World War Two Thoughts

In my original Timeline I transferred Christmas Island to Sarawak pretty much as it got transferred to Australia IOTL - in doing so I ignored three fairly considerable problems:
- The for Sarawak, unlike Australia, £2.9 million was not an easily affordable sum.
- That the United Kingdom had little reason to sign away parts of the Crown colony of Singapore without good reason.
- I completely forgot about the Cocos/Keeling islands.

Now in my Redux I still intend to have Sarawakian Christmas Island but I intend to bring it about in a quite different manner and timescale to the previous TL. For a start due to a different Malayan Campaign in World War II that I shall probably discuss soon politic developments in Malaya are partially held back and they form a Malayan Union of Straits Settlements, Federated and Un-Federated States around 1950, when this occurs ITTL the possessions of Labuan, Christmas Island and Cocos will be broken away - Labuan will be form a separate part of British North Borneo much as OTL but Christmas Island and Cocos will be sold to Sarawak for a nominal fee given its respected status as a solid British ally and known ability in accommodating Chinese within the country. Does this sound plausible ?
 
Regarding the Gloster fighter, I'd imagine it would be about the same price as a Hurricane rather than a spitfire due to its older, smaller and cheaper engine.

This might be pushing it too far but might this also entail another potential customer for the Vickers 6 Ton light tank?

Assuming all or any of this goes ahead might it stimulate earlier/more extentsive rearmament in Australia?
 
Regarding the Gloster fighter, I'd imagine it would be about the same price as a Hurricane rather than a spitfire due to its older, smaller and cheaper engine.

This might be pushing it too far but might this also entail another potential customer for the Vickers 6 Ton light tank?

Assuming all or any of this goes ahead might it stimulate earlier/more extentsive rearmament in Australia?

With regards to the Gloster fighter I'm still thinking about the practicalities of its production - namely that other, cheaper and better planes appear to be available around the same time. That and the fact that other countries would need to also buy it - would Australia be likely to do so ?

The 6 ton Vickers looks very plausible - would it function well in the tropical environment of Sarawak ? I suppose they could be slightly modified to solve any issues as other users did so. Unit cost might be the only issue. Would give a much more powerful punch to the Sarawak forces though - any idea how it would function against Japanese tanks ?

It is almost certain to encourage further rearmament in Australia particularly given the extensive co-operation ITTL.
 
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Further Aircraft Questions

If we pursue the path of joint Sarawak-Australia co-operation in rearmament and development and an accelerated military build up perhaps we could some how move the foundation of the Commonwealth_Aircraft_Corporation forward and make it include Sarawak production facilities as well ? From there maybe they could look at the shortage of fighter and ground attack planes in the area and start work on a simple indigenous fighter design ? Probably going to be somewhat like the Hurricane of their OTL slightly later Boomerang - a basic small fighter with emphasis on reliability. Probably using the Whitney_Twin_Wasp engines or maybe given the flexibility afforded by the PoD perhaps a British design like the Peregrine or Merlin ?

This solution would solve the difficulties of importing expertise and supplies from the UK, allows a more specialised and locally focused fighter to be produced and makes the establishment simpler - plausible ?

The design would be a single seat, cannon armed fighter with long range capable of at least 320 mph. If I could have some expert help in planning this I would be very grateful - I'm hopeless :D
 
Well the Perigrine was underpowered so I think the Merlin would be your best bet, assuming you can prize any away from the Air Ministry of course.

If it's a joint Sarawak/Australian aircraft company perhaps Commonwealth isn't such a good name. The South Sea Aircraft Corporation?
Commonwealth-Brooke? Royal Commonwealth(a nod to Brooke and the British/Australian monarch)? Badgeroo (reference to Sarawak and Australia's national symbols)? OK that last one was a joke.

Earlier establishment of the company? Tricky.
Maybe one of the Regency government's last acts before Antony Brooke comes of age (21 i.e. 1933) is to make the defence proposals outlined above, and the young Raja approaches Essington Lewis (who established the CAC following a visit to Europe in 1934) or another prominent Australian businessman. Perhaps a joint mission a year earlier and involvement with a Sarawak based company or even direct government funding in establishing this new corporation?
 
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Well the Perigrine was underpowered so I think the Merlin would be your best bet, assuming you can prize any away from the Air Ministry of course.

If it's a joint Sarawak/Australian aircraft company perhaps Commonwealth isn't such a good name. The South Sea Aircraft Corporation?

That would be the difficulty - IOTL the CAC used American license produced engines - would it be possible for them to negotiate Australian production of Merlin or would they be too complex at this stage ? That would prevent it taking away from Spitfire and Hurricane aircraft.

I was thinking that as well - hopefully think of something catchy that makes a decent shorthand. Perhaps something Imperial to show links to Britain ? Could name it after the location where it was created. Imperial Aeronautical Corporation [IAC] sound decent ?
 
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I was under the impression that the Fairmile vessels were effectively floating bombs - however I do agree that submarines are perhaps a little ambitious - shall have to see how it goes. Still perhaps a locally produced simple design might be a possibility ? If that's not particularly sensible then might do away with a Sarawak Navy totally - saves considerable cost and reduces the amount of flaming wreckage to be found after the Japanese invasion.
I don't think they were floating bombs as you put it but they certainly weren't armoured heavies or designed to go up toe to toe against destroyers or cruisers, if misused that way they're bound to take a beating. As long as you use them as light raiders that get in, shoot off their torpedoes and then get out I think they could be reasonable. Especially if they wait until the Japanese ships have dropped anchor offshore to start unloading troops.

Couple of other low cost ideas I had to try and maximise the bang would be mines and possibly coastal launched torpedoes. Mines are incredibly cheap and can be laid by rebuilt civilian ships IIRC, one of them to mine the most likely approaches and offshore of the landing sites once the war has started could really tear up a Japanese convoy of light ships and freighters full of troops. Alternatively the Norwegians seem to have had pretty good results from using shore launched torpedoes fired from their forts when the German ships entered the fjords. Building some small and discrete launching sites that aren't really armoured but effectively disposable after they've been used the first time might give comparable results.


Link to the page discussing the previously mentioned railways for those interested - http://www.irsociety.co.uk/Archives/14/Borneo.htm
Hhmm, it mentions that the main reason it folded was the anchorage was a bit too exposed. Now I don't know what the terrain was like so it might not be viable but my immediate thought was what about if they built a breakwater to improve it? The Plymouth Breakwater was built back in the early 1800s but again we run into the issue of cost and whether it would be economically worth it over the long run.
 
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