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 Singapore strategy and the sinking of Force Z

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VF
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PostSubject: Singapore strategy and the sinking of Force Z   Sat 12 May 2018, 14:56

The sinking of Force Z was a disaster for the Royal Navy and Britain as a whole. Singapore was left without any meaningful naval force,a poor air force and relatively green troops.

Triceratops has recently read "Battleship - The Sinking of HMS Prince of Wales and Repulse" by Middlemarch and Mahoney. It's sober reading.Two capital ships,1 old, 1 new sent out with 3 destroyers to take on the Japanese Navy,their airforce and to suppress an invasion. They almost make contact with the Japanese at night, but Japanese floatplanes dropping flares confuse both sides and no action takes place.

Force Z has the chance to make it back to Singapore but goes off on a wild goose chase off Kuantan looking for trawler towing barges. They are eventually discovered and attacked by IJA forces and the British bad luck continues when a single torpedo manages to hit HMS Prince of Wales in possibly the worst place causing flooding out of all proportion to the size of the warhead.

Churchill was to say that he got no larger shock than the sinking of Force Z in the whole war.
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PostSubject: Re: Singapore strategy and the sinking of Force Z   Sun 13 May 2018, 16:44

Incidentally, after the sinking of Repulse and Prince of Wales, in an almost unique sign of Japanese respect for the nearly thousand dead British sailors, a single Japanese torpedo-bomber piloted by Lt. Haruki Iki dropped a wreath onto the oil-stained sea where the ships had gone down. I doubt anything like it happened again in the Far East during the war.

Perhaps though, the wreath was as much a symbol of thanks and a tribute to Britain for teaching them the art of torpedo-bombing, as much as out of respect for the dead. In particular it was William Francis Forbes, 19th Lord Semphill (a pioneer aviator who had served in the Royal Flying Corps), who had been sent to Japan in the 1920s on a British mission to help the Japanese (allies of course in WW1) to build up their naval air force by teaching the latest bombing techniques and advising on the design of aircraft carriers - for which he duly received the Order of the Rising Sun. In 1939 with the outbreak of war with Germany, Forbes was given a position in the Department of Air Material at the Admiralty, but in June 1941 British Intelligence, MI5, intercepted messages between the Japanese Embassy in London and Mtisubishi headquaters in Tokyo which indicated that Forbes had been passing secret technical information to the Japanese for some years. Forbes protested his innocence but on the 13 December 1941, just three days after the sinking of the Prince of Wales and Repulse, his office was raided and found to contain copies of secret documents. Then two days later (and now with Britain and Japan formally at war since the attack on Pearl Harbour on the 8th December) he was caught attempting to telephone the Japanese Embassy in London, which was then in the process of being shutdown/expelled.

Amazingly, considering the seriousness of the losses, both of the ships and in the subsequent fall of Singapore, Forbes was never prosecuted and was allowed to continue in public life with nothing officially said, although he was forced to retire from the Navy. Forbes died in 1965 (aged 72) which was still some years before the whole sordid affair finally came out in public, when a pile of Government documents and correspondence, held in the National Archives, was routinely released under the 30 year rule.
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PostSubject: Re: Singapore strategy and the sinking of Force Z   Mon 14 May 2018, 13:22

Going right back to the beginning, the Governments of Australia & New Zealand both wanted the new base to be built at Sydney, NSW.
Sydney however was considered to far back, Hong Kong was the opposite, to far forward so Singapore got the naval base.
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PostSubject: Re: Singapore strategy and the sinking of Force Z   Mon 14 May 2018, 14:10

@Meles meles wrote:

Amazingly, considering the seriousness of the losses, both of the ships and in the subsequent fall of Singapore, Forbes was never prosecuted and was allowed to continue in public life with nothing officially said, although he was forced to retire from the Navy. Forbes died in 1965 (aged 72) which was still some years before the whole sordid affair finally came out in public, when a pile of Government documents and correspondence, held in the National Archives, was routinely released under the 30 year rule.

Unlike Frederick Rutland, ( Rutland of Jutland ) who had also been passing sensitive information to the Japanese. Rutland was locked up in December 1941 for the duration and subsequently committed suicide in 1949.
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PostSubject: Re: Singapore strategy and the sinking of Force Z   Tue 15 May 2018, 12:52

Taking a look at the book again last night, the decision on Singapore was taken quite early, as the Washington Naval Treaty (1921) forbade the construction of new bases in the Pacific on a line East of 110 degrees. Singapore is just to the West of the line and so was not affected.


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PostSubject: Re: Singapore strategy and the sinking of Force Z   Fri 18 May 2018, 23:01

@Triceratops wrote:
Going right back to the beginning, the Governments of Australia & New Zealand both wanted the new base to be built at Sydney, NSW.
Sydney however was considered to far back, Hong Kong was the opposite, to far forward so Singapore got the naval base.

I wasn’t aware just how new the Singapore naval base was in 1942 (barely 4 years old) nor of its exact location. I had assumed that it was on the south coast of the island in the vicinity of the city and the port and was surprised to discover that it is actually tucked away in a creek on the north coast. This really should have made it impregnable as the batteries situated at each end of the Strait of Johor intended it to be. The planners must have assumed that the Strait itself acted as a moat to seal the deal. No need for forts on the mainland (Johor) side of the Strait if any attack is only going to come by sea. There seemed to be more than a hint of the Maginot Line about the whole thing with Johor taking the place of Belgium as being the weak-spot.

Here’s an interesting article by a local Singaporean dispelling some myths relating to the fall of the island:

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/revisiting-world-war-ii-sites-of-bungles-and-bravery

And from the same publication, a fascinating pull-out with maps and images of the impressive 15-inch guns defending the ‘Gibraltar of the East’:
 
https://www.straitstimes.com/sites/default/files/attachments/2017/02/12/st_20170212_fall12c_2935711.pdf

Apparently the guns pointing out to sea could rotate to fire inland ... and did.
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PostSubject: Re: Singapore strategy and the sinking of Force Z   Sat 19 May 2018, 00:27

Thank you Vizzer for these links. I will first read them all before comment...as you said dispelling some myths...put as real history before, I guess...

Kind regards from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Singapore strategy and the sinking of Force Z   Sun 20 May 2018, 20:41

@Vizzer wrote:
@Triceratops wrote:
Going right back to the beginning, the Governments of Australia & New Zealand both wanted the new base to be built at Sydney, NSW.
Sydney however was considered to far back, Hong Kong was the opposite, to far forward so Singapore got the naval base.

I wasn’t aware just how new the Singapore naval base was in 1942 (barely 4 years old) nor of its exact location. I had assumed that it was on the south coast of the island in the vicinity of the city and the port and was surprised to discover that it is actually tucked away in a creek on the north coast. This really should have made it impregnable as the batteries situated at each end of the Strait of Johor intended it to be. The planners must have assumed that the Strait itself acted as a moat to seal the deal. No need for forts on the mainland (Johor) side of the Strait if any attack is only going to come by sea. There seemed to be more than a hint of the Maginot Line about the whole thing with Johor taking the place of Belgium as being the weak-spot.

Here’s an interesting article by a local Singaporean dispelling some myths relating to the fall of the island:

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/revisiting-world-war-ii-sites-of-bungles-and-bravery

And from the same publication, a fascinating pull-out with maps and images of the impressive 15-inch guns defending the ‘Gibraltar of the East’:
 
https://www.straitstimes.com/sites/default/files/attachments/2017/02/12/st_20170212_fall12c_2935711.pdf

Apparently the guns pointing out to sea could rotate to fire inland ... and did.
The problem wasn’t with the guns. It was the fact that they were supplied with AP ammunition as opposed to high explosive rounds. Armoured piercing shells are meant to do exactly that - pierce armour. From what I read if they did explode (they had time delayed fuses) the shrapnel affect was pretty poor and the charges weak. Had they have had HE would it have made a difference? Well,on one hand the Japanese were pretty much exhausted by the time they got into Singapore itself.If they had been pummelled by proper artillery they may have postponed the attack across the Johore strait.

But then what?

Singapore has a knife at its throat,the Japanese have air superiority and have captured the British airfields on Malaya. There is no naval force to interrupt the logistical trail (aircraft need petrol and ammunition) so it would be the British Army that would have to recross the Johore straight and push the Japanese back up Malaya .

Now if they had tanks I reckon this is a goer . They didn’t so your looking at using foot soldiers.Given the fanatisism of the Japanese this is a tall order.

The only other possibility is the RN manages to release a couple of carriers to bolster Somerville’s Indian fleet (Warspite + the R’s) and the RAF gets some frontline fighters in (modern ones,not hand me downs like the Buffalo).



Singapore was a base without a fleet. The RN’s pre war plan was to move the Mediterranean Fleet to Singapore in times of trouble. They obviously couldn’t do that as they were heavily engaged in the Med at that point and had a serious shortage of ships - Ark Royal sunk,Barham sunk,Queen Elizabeth and Valiant almost sunk and Illustrious battered. Warspite and the R’s were all that was left and the R’s were pretty much knackered. 

In some respects British Far East planning was scuppered as a result of the 1921 Washington treaty. There simply were not enough capital ships to cover all eventualities.
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PostSubject: Re: Singapore strategy and the sinking of Force Z   Sun 20 May 2018, 20:57

@Triceratops wrote:
Taking a look at the book again last night, the decision on Singapore was taken quite early, as the Washington Naval Treaty (1921) forbade the construction of new bases in the Pacific on a line East of 110 degrees. Singapore is just to the West of the line and so was not affected.


Triceratops,

The million dollar question from the book is this -

Windrush stopped the affected shaft after the hit,it was already noisy at this point but there was no catastrophic flooding. The shaft is restarted and pretty quickly things go tits up. The shaft gland has given up the ghost and a veritable waterfall is reported to have flooded the turbine room and critically the shaft alley has been smashed allowing a catastrophic amount of water to enter the ship.

Now if the turbine hadn’t been restarted would the ship have been half paralysed as a result of flooding ? POW lost the entire electrical supply the after part of the ship resulting in a lack of rudder control and loss of the aft four 5.25 turrets. If she can manoeuvre and manoeuvre at a speed better than 8 knots (as what happened ) she may have stood a better chance of surviving the following attack and may have been salvageable by the time Vigors turns up with his squadron of Buffalo’s.

An interesting “what if”.


Now you have read the book,google “Job 74” on the Pacific wreck site and see just how catastrophic the damage was to POW with that first hit. Divers have undertook a forensic analysis of her wreck including entering the affected shaft alley. You can see why she sank. The rotating shaft demolishes the Plummer blocks and glands for a good hundred foot. I would give you the link now but I’m having to use my phone at present!
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PostSubject: Re: Singapore strategy and the sinking of Force Z   Sun 20 May 2018, 21:01

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PostSubject: Re: Singapore strategy and the sinking of Force Z   Sun 20 May 2018, 21:14

Virtual fletch,

what a lot of interesting insights you give. From when I have time I will look at all the information.
Thank you for that.

Kind regards from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Singapore strategy and the sinking of Force Z   Mon 21 May 2018, 09:57

@Vizzer wrote:


I wasn’t aware just how new the Singapore naval base was in 1942 (barely 4 years old) nor of its exact location.

Vizzer, there was also a base on the South side of Singapore Island at Keppel Harbour.
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PostSubject: Re: Singapore strategy and the sinking of Force Z   Mon 21 May 2018, 10:03

@VF wrote:
https://www.pacificwrecks.com/ships/hms/prince_of_wales/death-of-a-battleship-2012-update.pdf



Easier than I thought - enjoy!

Thanks for that, VF. I'll read it in due course.

That early torpedo hit on POW effectively settled the battle.

There is an interesting "what if" in the book, where Force Z requests air cover when the Japanese scouting plane first arrives. OK they're Brewster Buffaloes but the Japanese bombers/torpedo-bombers have no escort and the Buffaloes might just be able to hold them off to let the ships escape.

Buffaloes of 453 Squadron, RAAF, at RAF Sembawang. This Squadron was detailed to provide air cover for Force Z:

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PostSubject: Re: Singapore strategy and the sinking of Force Z   Mon 21 May 2018, 21:50

@VF wrote:
@Vizzer wrote:
@Triceratops wrote:
Going right back to the beginning, the Governments of Australia & New Zealand both wanted the new base to be built at Sydney, NSW.
Sydney however was considered to far back, Hong Kong was the opposite, to far forward so Singapore got the naval base.

I wasn’t aware just how new the Singapore naval base was in 1942 (barely 4 years old) nor of its exact location. I had assumed that it was on the south coast of the island in the vicinity of the city and the port and was surprised to discover that it is actually tucked away in a creek on the north coast. This really should have made it impregnable as the batteries situated at each end of the Strait of Johor intended it to be. The planners must have assumed that the Strait itself acted as a moat to seal the deal. No need for forts on the mainland (Johor) side of the Strait if any attack is only going to come by sea. There seemed to be more than a hint of the Maginot Line about the whole thing with Johor taking the place of Belgium as being the weak-spot.

Here’s an interesting article by a local Singaporean dispelling some myths relating to the fall of the island:

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/revisiting-world-war-ii-sites-of-bungles-and-bravery

And from the same publication, a fascinating pull-out with maps and images of the impressive 15-inch guns defending the ‘Gibraltar of the East’:
 
https://www.straitstimes.com/sites/default/files/attachments/2017/02/12/st_20170212_fall12c_2935711.pdf

Apparently the guns pointing out to sea could rotate to fire inland ... and did.
The problem wasn’t with the guns. It was the fact that they were supplied with AP ammunition as opposed to high explosive rounds. Armoured piercing shells are meant to do exactly that - pierce armour. From what I read if they did explode (they had time delayed fuses) the shrapnel affect was pretty poor and the charges weak. Had they have had HE would it have made a difference? Well,on one hand the Japanese were pretty much exhausted by the time they got into Singapore itself.If they had been pummelled by proper artillery they may have postponed the attack across the Johore strait.

But then what?

Singapore has a knife at its throat,the Japanese have air superiority and have captured the British airfields on Malaya. There is no naval force to interrupt the logistical trail (aircraft need petrol and ammunition) so it would be the British Army that would have to recross the Johore straight and push the Japanese back up Malaya .

Now if they had tanks I reckon this is a goer . They didn’t so your looking at using foot soldiers.Given the fanatisism of the Japanese this is a tall order.

The only other possibility is the RN manages to release a couple of carriers to bolster Somerville’s Indian fleet (Warspite + the R’s) and the RAF gets some frontline fighters in (modern ones,not hand me downs like the Buffalo).



Singapore was a base without a fleet. The RN’s pre war plan was to move the Mediterranean Fleet to Singapore in times of trouble. They obviously couldn’t do that as they were heavily engaged in the Med at that point and had a serious shortage of ships - Ark Royal sunk,Barham sunk,Queen Elizabeth and Valiant almost sunk and Illustrious battered. Warspite and the R’s were all that was left and the R’s were pretty much knackered. 

In some respects British Far East planning was scuppered as a result of the 1921 Washington treaty. There simply were not enough capital ships to cover all eventualities.

Thank you VF for this survey...it remembers me of some studies of Fall Gelb that Triceratops and I commented in another thread...I read it all including your next message.
Yes many times the appropriate munition is not availlable, in the battle of France the French fighters were equiped with guns firing trough the propeller and there existed special ammunition armour piercing even through the most heavy plated German tank, only that particular ammunition was not delivered at that moment...what if the French planes could have stopped the German panzers of the Sichelschnitt...?

To end with, I learned a lot that I didn't know from you, Vizzer and Triceratops.

Kind regards to the three of you from Paul.
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