Friday, December 10, 2010

Remembering 10 December 1941

10 December 2010 makes it 69 years to the day since HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse were sunk off Kuantan by Japanese bombers; the shock of war that led to the Fall of Singapore.

The book, Sailors' Tales: Life onboard HMS Repulse during World War II by Alan Matthews (now out of print) gives riveting first person accounts not found elsewhere of the men who served aboard the battlecruiser.


Anonymous said...

You've pointed out what could go wrong for the SAF.

But how about listing out what might work out?

I suspect you'd be able to compile an equally long list.

The question then is which inadequacies should be addressed? A following question would be will that result in existing strengths being compromised?

Above all, underlying this exercise is a long list of assumptions.

Preparing for war is a misnomer because you can't ever. Moltke's "no plan survives contact with the enemy" is timeless.

My concern is less with whether the SAF has detailed plans on how to address all the possibilities you've listed out, but whether it has agile thinkers who can adapt to a changing scenario. It's the forest that matters, not the trees.

And the truth is, no one will ever know. It's strange how something as serious as war hinges on chance as much as anything else. This scares the hell out of bureaucrats but it is true.

What training and being good at wargaming does is it increases popular perception that a military is capable. In democracies, and I would count Malaysia as one, popular perception is what matters. And maybe that's all that's necessary to prevent war. Maybe the real value of the SAF is that of a fleet-in-being.

The suggestion that we can whoop your ass is a powerful indeed. Can you get an entire country to look past that and risk a fight?

David Boey said...

Dear Anonymous at 11:28am,
You framed your points well with an economy of words which I'm striving to achieve.

Yes, the list of what could go right is reassuringly long.

I think about this topic everyday. Now you know what's on my mind when I day dream. :)


Abao said...

I lament that Japan had imposed a Military Government on Singapore instead of a Civilian one a la Taiwan. It would had better support for the Imperial Government and just maybe, Singapore wouldn't be what it is today...

Anthony said...

Abao, i'm intrigued by your theory. How would things have turned out?

Anonymous said...

Hi, I have always wondered what if the aircraft carrier (with operating fighters) HMS Indomitable were to join Force Z (which included HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse + 4 destroyers), would the fate of Force Z be the same?

I'm not sure where to post this: I think the poll, "WOULD YOU RESPECT A GAY MILITARY SUPERIOR?" would be better phrased as "Would you respect a gay military superior as much as a non-gay superior?" .

David Boey said...

Dear Anonymous at 6:36am,
If HMS Indomitable had joined Force Z as planned, the Japanese would probably have sunk its first aircraft carrier.

An earlier post shows how the war in the Mediterranean had siphoned off precious resources from Singapore, including the aircraft carrier, HMS Eagle, and a flotilla of submarines. You may have seen this earlier post:

If Force Z was screened by RN submarines, they could have dealt with the picket line of Japanese subs which detected Force Z in open water. There's also a school of thought that fifth column agents reported the departure of Force Z soon after the ships cast off.

re: Poll. Wanted to keep it as a simple yes/no poll, with all other variables the same (i.e. leadership, competence, domain knowledge etc).

Best Regards,

Anonymous said...

you can check out this website to read the online version of the book. - SC

Anonymous said... (sorry, here it is)

Anonymous said...

Some of the arguments show a distinct lack of understanding our strategic reality.