Was there a way to save Malaya and Singapore in WW2?

Nov 2014
412
ph
#1
Was there a way to prevent Malaya, Singapore, and the Dutch East Indies from falling to the Japanese in WW2? Considering that the British empire forces outnumbered the Japanese more than 2 to 1.
 

Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,657
#2
Was there a way to prevent Malaya, Singapore, and the Dutch East Indies from falling to the Japanese in WW2? Considering that the British empire forces outnumbered the Japanese more than 2 to 1.
The first attack might have been stopped with better preparations and a defiant attitude but Malaysia was way too far for reinforcements with what else was going on in Europe only some troops from British India might have arrived in time but not enough aeroplanes or heavy equipment to really stop the Japanese at this point.
 

Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,711
Australia
#3
Yes. Better leadership would almost certainly have prevented Malaysia and Singapore from falling, and this would have had an effect on the NEI campaign, but enough to prevent Japanese success there? Maybe not.
 
Sep 2012
1,074
Tarkington, Texas
#4
The Defense of Malaya was handled badly by the British. The Governor told the Army what they could do. The CIC was an RAF General, not Percival. The RAF made sure its airfields were guarded by the Army and the fields were not sabotaged when the IJA came. They left a large store of gas and munitions at these bases. Singapore was getting bombed by British RAF bombs! The British and Indian Army were on Peacetime schedules and were levied for trained troops to send to the Middle East. At least half of the Indian troops had been in the Army less than one year and many were less than 6 months. Many of the roads followed the rivers.Battalions There had been a new road system built that left numerous bypasses. The Army was often passed around. There were thousands of antitank mines found in warehouses in Singapore after the battle.

The IJA sent some well trained and equipped troops to invade. One Division was motorized and there were IJA tank regiments (battalions) sent. The IJA found thousands of bicycles along the side of the road and they used them! The IJA had mostly obsolescent aircraft but they were better than the RAF aircraft present.

Pruitt
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,382
#5
Was there a way to prevent Malaya, Singapore, and the Dutch East Indies from falling to the Japanese in WW2? Considering that the British empire forces outnumbered the Japanese more than 2 to 1.
Is that a fronnt line troop number or counting all the rear area base troops?

It's doubtful in the long term Singapore/malaya could be held without significant air and naval assets. Say 600 modern aircraft. before the outbreak of war with Japan, diverting serious assets from Europe is problematic.

Not to say the campaign was well managed, but hanging onto these areas in the longer term would have needed a large commitment,
 
Sep 2012
1,074
Tarkington, Texas
#6
There were no trained troops in India to send. True they did send a number of brigades, but they did not know how to fight in the woods. The Indian Army Troops were recently raised and training for duty in the Middle East. The IJA would drive down a road until they met a British roadblock. The British did not have many troops so they just spread out up and down from the river crossing. On contact the IJA would hold the British in place while they sent flanking units around the edges of the British position. The IJA would then use the "Hooks" to set up a roadblock behind the British. The British would then turn around and hit the IJA roadblock and force its way through. Do this several times and a brigade is whittled away. Do this all the way down Malaya and the British burned out several brigades of troops.

Only one British Battalion ever trained in the woods, the Argylle and Sutherland Highlanders. This unit also had some Armored Cars (locally made). There were shortages in equipment of the British and Indian battalions. Major John Masters took a Gurkha Battalion to Iraq without 3" mortars and Bren Gun Carriers. They came under 3" mortar fire in Iraq!

The British were using Malaya as an Advanced Training Course for Indian Infantry

Pruitt
 
Jun 2012
7,420
Malaysia
#7
It was something completely unexpected, I reckon. The Japanese had been in our place earlier, as kind of small business operators. Things like dhobi (old fashioned laundry using boiling hot water), retail sundry etc. My uncle actually worked kind of part time for one, can't remember his name now, Nara or something.

My father was called up for service. He was in Kuala Lipis, Pahang, on his way to Kuala Lumpur. Walking all the way from our home town Kota Bharu. They then heard news that Singapore had fallen. So they turned back.

He had to kind of lay low for a while, keeping disguise at first. If story spread that he was on the British side, that might have been dangerous for him.

I wasn't born yet, of course. Only my late eldest brother had been, that time. These were tales told to us by our elders.
 
Last edited:

stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
3,456
Las Vegas, NV USA
#9
It likely wouldn't had made much of a difference but the massive guns on the southern shore of Singapore Island were pointing south toward the sea and could not be turned to fire over Singapore toward the attacking Japanese. Much was made of this as a symbol of British hopelessness at the time.
 
Last edited:
Jan 2015
3,363
Front Lines of the Pig War
#10
Was there a way to prevent Malaya, Singapore, and the Dutch East Indies from falling to the Japanese in WW2? Considering that the British empire forces outnumbered the Japanese more than 2 to 1.
Yes, definitely.

The British had a complete description of what was required, the plan was discarded and ignored by the Minister of Defence. (Churchill)

British Empire troops did not outnumber the. Japanese during the campaign.
There were a very large number of support, HQ, RAF & dockyard personnel in Malaya/Singapore, but the actual number of troops was roughly equal.
The attack commenced with two veteran Japanese divisions (5th & 18th) attacking two inexperienced and underequipped Indian divisions. (9th & 11th)
By the time the battle reaches Singapore, the Japanese forces are 3 divisions (having been joined by the Guards division), facing 3 Empire divisions: Australian 8th, British 18th and Indian 9th/11th (combined, the battered remnants of the two divisions)

Is that a fronnt line troop number or counting all the rear area base troops?

It's doubtful in the long term Singapore/malaya could be held without significant air and naval assets. Say 600 modern aircraft. before the outbreak of war with Japan, diverting serious assets from Europe is problematic.

Not to say the campaign was well managed, but hanging onto these areas in the longer term would have needed a large commitment,
No diversion of Naval assets was required
Aircraft & troops were certainly required, but very little would need to be diverted from Europe
 

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