Wednesday, 28 September 2011

A disaster rehearsed

I have been reading about the fall of Singapore. When I lived in Malaya I had heard much from old Colonial types about the Japanese occupation and I was interested in getting some of the truth out of the urban myths. The early chapters deal with the decisions that were taken with regards to the defence of the main harbour. Immediately, I was struck with the impression that I was reading a far more modern history.
The powers that be had convinced themselves that any attack would come from a sea-borne enemy. The hinterland of the Malayan jungle was deemed to be too difficult for Asian troops. These were assessed by our military experts as of low grade - even described as afraid of the dark. This showed total disregard for the performance of the Japanese army in recent confrontations. The Japanese had shown themselves capable of coordinating land, sea and air attacks. All this was ignored. Military HQ in Singapore decided to install very large artillery pieces to cover the sea approaches. Second thoughts were for a naval fleet to extend the reach of the defence. There was deemed to be no spare capability of RN vessels but Their Lordships were reassuring that they could deploy a few ships from the Indian fleet 'if any threat developed'. The nascent RAF took on board the idea of reach and made a case for air power where torpedo carrying aircraft would be a good defence.
Thus began inter-service rivalry. There were no facilities for a naval presence and no suitable airfields. Bibs and bobs of budgets were dug up and a start was made on docks and landing grounds. Then it was decided that there was a need for a chain of airfields from India to Singapore. More debate and chewing of military mustaches. The whole fiasco was set against a decision that there would be no attacks within a 10 year timescale. The whole exercise was a rehearsal for the recently undertaken Strategic Defence Review such as was undergone recently.
The book is a well researched publication as one would expect from Professor Richard Holmes; a writer sadly missed. I recommend it.
I also recommend today's lost child of a blog - as warned in my last blog.
’m not a typical holiday person. I believe that the feelings of peace on earth and goodwill toward men (and women) have become overshadowed by the fuss of hosting dinner parties and shopping.

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