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If we are to be pedantic it may help by pointing out that both Dec 7th and Dec 8th are quoted in various references as being the date upon which Malaya and Hawaii were first attacked by Japan - Something to do with international date lines.
Singapore was attacked by air on the same date - Dec 8th - The main assault would follow weeks later in Feb 42. In fact Malaya was invaded some hours before the attack on Pearl Harbour.
The programme mentioned a Sqn Ldr who was found guilty and imprisoned as a traitor. It stated that, after his release alone and penniless, he committed suicide. Were there any repercussions for Semphill, or did he live out his life as the 'Master of Semphill and Frederick Rutland', a free man and (to those around him) free of suspicion?
On the premise that resources in Singapore were stripped bare - From first hand accounts of the situation in 1941 - Singapore (The Gibralter of the East) had little to be stripped of. The complacency of successions of GOCs and The Governor had if anything discouraged such thoughts to result in absolutely no great construction of defences of any note
- other than its big guns that would prove virtually useless when eventually called upon - Even its meagre supply of shells would prove also table for the battle. The hugely expensive great naval base would also prove to be a white elephant - Destined never to harbour any RN fleet - (the very reason for its existance) and would be gifted virtually intact to a grateful foe - together with Malayan airfields complete it is said with huge stores of fuel and munitions. Some of the 35,000 Indian troops were in a state of divided loyalty with Indian Home Rule high on their agenda at that time and reports that one Indian Regiment had shot and killed its British officers resulting in the entire Indian unit being withdrawn from the line. British and Australian troops having fought their way down Malaya - crossing the causeway into Singapore would look in vane for evidence of its much vaunted fortifications and bastion which of course did not exist. Even the constructin of public air shelters had been refused by Singapores Governor Shenton Thomas (Bad for native morale dont you know). Churchill himself had much to answere for regarding Singapores apathy and lack of preparations and would later be on record for stating "That Singapore having no landward defences no more entered my mind than that of a batteship being launched without a bottom" !
Tramps - Sempill became Lord Sempill and Baron of Craigever upon his father's death in 1934 (in fact while his espionage activities on the part of the Japanese were ongoing), and after he was found out he retired to whatever it is that retired peers who are persona non grata in official circles do (in his case, ISTR it was a fair amount of private flying). On his death, the Peerage and the Baronetcy were split, in a confusing tale which involves gender reassignation, hermaphroditism and court battles... In fact, probably a far more interesting (if prurient) and decidedly less well-known bit of history for a BBC documentary.
I know that Frederick Rutland was interned after Pearl Harbor and released when it became clear he wasn't a threat any more (around 1944/45). As I recall, he committed suicide a few years after the war ended.
I haven't seen the documentary in question as BBC-I-Player is UK only, but I have read the definitive work on the subject: "Singapore Burning" by Colin Smith, first published in 2005. Having done two tours of Singapore, [and spent time on the very same beach where the Japanese landings took place], I think this book does it for me, and he certainly dispels some of the myths.
I have read much about Singapore and The Greatest Defeat ever suffered by Britain, which is was. I understand that until jap invaded Malaya the was no mention of, Fortress Singapore, until some jurno came up with the name. Britain built a First Class Naval Dockyard, to repair Line of Battle Ships, post a major engagement with Japan, which had been noted as the only enemy capable, of taking the Empire's Possessions as early as 1923. The RN was tasked with the job of protecting the Far East. Lord Trenchard was of the opinion that the RAF could do the job better and Cheaper. W.S. Churchill the Chancellor liked the Cheaper idea and became a supporter. The Army was tasked with, Protecting the Navy Yard, Internal Security and Defeating an enemy on the mainland of Malaya in that order. Col Percival was sent out mid 30's to study and suggest a defence plan. He recommended X number of first class divisions and a couple of tank regiments as minimum, this was never supplied out. A minmum number of Modern Aircraft (Monoplanes) was suggested, about 350 and this also never happened. The troops and equipment in country where the leftovers from Europe and Mid East, the army divisions having only 2 brigades instead of the normal 3. You can find comments like 6 weeks in the ranks and 4 spent teaching how to wear boots and march. 10 days ago a civilian on the streets of Sydney. Sir John Dill CIGS told his successor Alan Brooke I have done very little about Singapore. They knew it was coming.
Gen Percival was Army Commander never, Overall Commander, of who there is one comment by Churchill's special adviser Gaga.
Arther Percival was old school and took the rap for Britain's Greatest Defeat.
Sorry to disagree with you jonwilly (an interesting title in Thailand, n'est pas?)
Fortress Singapore was the title of the British Garrison and British Military Government on the Island (a bit like 'Troops Aldergrove' in Belfast). It was not concocted by a journalist.
I concur that 'Singapore Burning' by Colin Smith is an excellent and sympathetic read; his other book on Vichy France (England's Last War with France) is equally good.
A few years ago I was awarded a Defence Fellowship and studied intelligence aspects of the Malay Peninsular and Singapore. In c 1938 the JIC sent Wg Cdr Wigglesworth to Singapore to conduct a review of the intelligence organisation. After reviewing Combined Intelligence Bureau Malaya (CIBM) Wigglesworth noted:
Here [Singapore], CIBM Officers from all three Services and MI5 pooled and exchanged intelligence across South East Asia. Cooperation was uncommonly good, but sources poor.
He also noted that most material on the Japanese to the Far East Combined Bureau (MI5/SIS regional office) was based on radio intercepts, implying that HUMINT sources were few.
Pre-war Special branch ran particularly effective operations against the Chinese Communists and Japanese agents. From 1931 until 1946, the Sec Gen of the ‘Nanyang’ (Overseas) CHICOM party was a British ‘asset’. However, the Japanese espionage was extremely well organised, better resourced and more than a match for the British.
Post War Lt Gen Perceval played down many of the failings. Colin Smith is more objective. The Japanese were at the end of their supply chain and British denial methods (Jahore causeway, airfield denial) weren’t particularly efficient. The use of gas in a defensive role was even considered. Aircraft were definitely drawn from the 2nd XV (Wirraways, Buffalos, Vildebeests, a handful of Blenheims, for example) and some British troops were poorly trained and some exhibited poor discipline (eg the Australian contingent). Nonetheless the Japanese didn’t get away lightly. They did sustain very high casualty rates (the numbers are not known) and they suffered a fair number of Naval and air losses as well. But in the East, life is cheap.
Last edited by Whenurhappy; 25th May 2012 at 07:41.
I don't own this space under my name. I should have leased it while I still could
Join Date: Dec 2002
HH, while true you might also say it was a lesson learnt. We no longer had the manpower or stupidity to do that.
As far as sending 2nd echelon forces to the Far East, you might argue that the same logic applied to post-war theatres too.
While Fortress Britain had a 1st rate air force the other air forces had to make do with 2nd echelon. As we could not provide sufficient 1st class assets like V-bombers and all weather fighters until the UK base was equipped then it was inevitable that less capable forces would be deployed with the expectation that they would be reinforced.
By 1942 reinforcement of the Far East would have been but a pipe dream and indeed in 1940 we didn't have the spare monoplane fighters in sufficient numbers.
The point was made that the Japanese were at the end of over-long supply lines. The allied forces had hardly any supply lines at all.
Almost a 100 years after the Great War, there is still huge British and Commonwealth angst about losses, such as occured on the Somme. The same could not be said about the Japanese view of losses in China and elsewhere.
I don't own this space under my name. I should have leased it while I still could
Join Date: Dec 2002
By coincidence there is an obitutary in today's (25 May) Telegraph of an American author who highlighted the change in British attitudes after the First World War, a lesson surely learnt by the US after the Civil War.
Archimedes thank you for your reply.
It was quite shocking to find out that the aristocracy and the elite of this country allowed Semphill to get away with his treachery. Not only did he get away with it he was also allowed to keep his titles! The blood of many British military personnel and Commonwealth men, women and children was spilt because of his actions; he should have, at the very least, been tarred, feathered and sent to the tower.
the elite of this country allowed Semphill to get away with his treachery.
Birds of a feather, old boy. Birds of a feather! The really shocking betrayal of this country by the aristocracy, including Royalty, was set to happen 10 May 1941 at Dungavel House, the home of the 14th Duke of Hamilton, an Air Commodore who was on duty that night at RAF Turnhouse and responsible inter alia for the Air Defence of Scotland. Another Duke though was present at Dungavel, the Duke of Kent, the King's brother, also serving in the RAF as a Group Captain. The airstrip lights were seen to go on but were extinguished about 15 minutes later. The reception committee dispersed. Later it was learned that an ME110 had crashed not far away near Eaglesham and the pilot captured, having bailed out. He identified himself as Alfred Horne, a friend of the Duke of Hamilton who he asked to speak to. He was soon identified as the Reich Deputy Fuhrer, Albert Hess. His subsequent movements are sketchy, reportedly being held in the Tower of London and Abergaveny. The Duke of Hamilton was defended in Parliament by Sir Archibald Sinclair, the Secretary of State for Air, saying that "the conduct of the Duke of Hamilton has been in every respect honourable and proper". On 25 August 1942 the Duke of Kent died in the crash of Sunderland III W4026 on Eagles Mount above Loch More, which bordered the estate of Sir Archibald Sinclair, the Secretary of State for Air. Prince George was supposedly en route from Invergordon to Iceland and hence Newfoundland. Only the tail gunner Andy Jack survived, though he had initially been counted as dead. The final headcount of 15 bodies and the one survivor exceeded the official SOB by one. The Duke's body was found to have a briefcase attached to his wrist by a chain. It was stuffed with high denomination Swedish Kroner Banknotes. The BOI report is missing. Rudolph Hess's supposed peregrinations ended finally at Spandau Prison Berlin on 17 August 1987. Death was by hanging, evidenced by the only horizontal ligature suicide known to medical science. Was the dead man Hess? The Beeb is never likely to run with this story, but other broadcasters have, and Google as always is your friend....
Ha ha! I wondered who'd spot that one first, Genstabler! It was of course Rudolph, my apologies. I must also have had in mind that other "acceptable face" of Naziism, Albert Speer. I think we all agree that the inmate of Spandau totally resembled Hess, though strangely minus his reported WW1 battle scars on his upper body. To be honest I have no idea whether he was or was not the real man. What is known is that the real man flew to and bailed out over enemy territory demanding in the first place to see Hamilton, and then the King. I don't think he had just popped in for a cup of sugar! I should also add that others at Dungavel included some senior Polish Officers. The most senior Polish Officer of all of course, General Sikorsky, died 4 July 1943 in another RAF accident at Gibraltar where his Liberator transport plunged into the sea on take of. The controls jammed...