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The Malayan Debacle, December 1941 February 1942 in VS .NET
The Malayan Debacle, December 1941 February 1942
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The General Officer Commanding Land Forces Malaya was Lieutenant General Arthur Percival He was a man of courage and perception, whose warning that the jungle did not present an impenetrable obstacle to an invasion from the north the British government quietly brushed aside as being at odds with current thinking He also asked for two armoured regiments, plus additional anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns, which he did not receive Unfortunately, Percival lacked the drive, ruthlessness, and charisma needed to deal with the desperate situation that was about to arise He was, tragically, the wrong general in the wrong place at the wrong time Percival had too few troops at his disposal and, worse still, most of his units were inadequately trained His Indian battalions were newly raised and contained a high proportion of recently commissioned British officers who had yet to master Urdu, the Indian Army s common language, and were therefore unable to communicate with their men The only armoured vehicles present were some tracked weapons carriers and a few armoured cars armed with machine guns Perhaps worst of all was dangerous tendency to despise the Japanese Early on 8 December 1941 Japanese air attacks on Royal Air Force bases destroyed over half the available aircraft on the ground Those that survived were no match for the enemy s Zeros Simultaneously, Lieutenant General Tomoyuki Yamashita s Twenty-Fifth Army landed on the Kra Isthmus, just over the Thai border, and at Khota Baru The battleship Prince of Wales and the battle cruiser Repulse sailed north from Singapore to destroy the Japanese invasion fleet By now the ships had no air cover and on 10 December Japanese bombers and torpedo aircraft sent them to the bottom In two days the invaders had achieved complete air and naval superiority On 11 December the Japanese 5th Division, having advanced south across the border with a spearhead of tanks, overran a screen of ten 2-pounder anti-tank guns, lined up across the road No fighting occurred, because the gunners were all sheltering from the rain under nearby rubber trees Roaring on, the tanks ploughed into the marching column of a retreating Indian brigade Only 200 of the Indians succeeded in reaching their own lines The rest, cut off, had to surrender This incident set the pattern for the whole campaign To deny his opponents time to consolidate new positions and maintain the momentum of his advance, Yamashita ordered his men to commandeer thousands of bicycles that they rode or pushed along any sort of track that provided reasonable going, or carried them when it did not They fed so well on captured supplies that their own meagre marching rations went untouched This enabled their supply services to concentrate on the delivery of ammunition
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Part VI: The Second World War (and Beyond)
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The British defence of Malaya was road based When the Japanese encountered opposition, they left about one third of their strength to conduct a holding attack The remainder executed a wide loop through the jungle and rubber plantations to rejoin the road some kilometres to the defenders rear, where they established roadblocks The local British commander, engaged in holding off a frontal attack possibly supported by tanks, then faced the alternatives of either asking friendly troops beyond the block to clear the road, or fighting his own way out Usually, he was left to his own resources If he was unable to break the block, this meant abandoning all his artillery, anti-tank guns, motor transport, and stores Such, too, was the pace of the Japanese advance that the British lost yet more equipment when jittery engineers blew bridges prematurely
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