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Thread: A Singapore Survivor

  1. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by James K View Post
    The Japanese supply lines were stretched but the RAF had left behind valuable massed stores of ammunition and fuel at several bases that they had abandoned without demolition. The Japanese speed of advance relied upon capturing enemy supplies, out flanking and manoeuvring fixed positions and there being neither coordination between allied positions nor mutually supporting lines of defence, they got all of that in spades. Principle offenders in the Malay peninsular were the senior RAF officers who refused to cooperate or even coordinate with the Royal Navy and to a lesser extent the Army. Once it reached Singapore things were too late, Percival had refused to allow defensive positions to be constructed lest it "give a bad impression and effect civilian morale", his defence plans such as they were did not get distributed to all the units involved and some units refused to support others because of racism. Gordon Bennett who refused permission for Australian units to cover the withdrawal of Indian troops because he didn't want ammunition wasted on "Wogs" (his words not mine) When it came for those same Australian units to withdraw the Indians who were supposed to cover them had been wiped out. Gordon Bennett then escaped Singapore without orders because he though himself the only man who could save Australia from the Japanese, he was later accused of cowardice and [in my view] should have been shot.

    The whole thing was a mess from beginning to end and could so easily have been avoided those who bore principle responsibility were Brooke-Popham, Percivale, Gordon Bennett with Wavell shouldering a small part of the blame.
    Brilliant, thanks for this history lesson:-) This is what I love about military "tool" watches vs civilian fashion watches; they have stories to tell.

  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by James K View Post
    It features pretty heavily in the book I've written.
    Do tell more. If I recall correctly didn't you study military history for a while ?

    Is the book just on the invasion of British Malaya or a wider scope ?

    Oh and where do we get the book ?

    AP
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  3. #23
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    I did my BA and my MA in history at Southampton University (not Solent!). I've written a book about the Royal Marines who were not Commandos between 1939 and 1960 when the last conversions were carried out. Although it isn't about the RM Commandos it does, of course, include them. The book covers their training, operations in which they were involved, equipment and effectiveness contrasting them with the RM Commando. Most of the RM special forces were not commandos, the Boom Patrol Detachment (Cockleshell Heroes), Force Viper and those members of the SBS who were from the Corps (it was an army formation), none completed the commando course. Also covered are the RM Infantry Brigades 116 & 117 who fought in NW Europe, the Landing Craft Crews, the RM Anti Aircraft Brigades who fought in the Battle of Britain and NW Europe, Royal Marine Engineers who cleared the European ports of damage and booby traps as they were recaptured and built island fortresses in Scapa Flow and the Maldieves. The ships detachments who raided enemy coastlines just as the Commandos did including the Korean war and the Royal marines Police who eventually became the MOD Police. Too many units to list here but operations include Norway, Iceland, France and the Netherlands in 1940 and later Crete, Tobruk, Sicily and other places in the Agean and Mediterranean. The RM detachments of HMS Tamar Hong Kong (who carried out the longest E&E in history along with men from the RN MTB squadron 3000 miles over six months!) and Singapore who fought against Japanese invasion and those who fought the French in Syria and Madagascar. I finished it some time ago and got a retainer/down payment from the publisher who delayed publishing it since another broadly similar book was released just as mine was due. My book will now be published to coincide with the opening of the new Royal Marines Museum in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard as part of the National Museum of the Royal Navy. That, as they say, is another story and one which I strongly disagree with! The move from Eastney Barracks, severing those historic ties, will be very sad indeed.
    If I had served God half as well as I have served the King, he would not have given me over to die in such a place as this

  4. #24
    Senior Member DaveH's Avatar
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    It became a moot point when Yamashita captured the water supply. The Japanese were in tough straights at that point but they controlled the air and having aircraft stop by and bomb the shit out of the area has a way of scaring folks. Percival was a mess, Yamashita bullied him with a good bluff and he folded like a napkin. The result was that 100,000 men arrived in prison with all of their personal goodies, watches, gold pens, rings and trading began almost immediately. Read "King Rat" by James Clavell who was there. My great friend Eddie Nunes babysat Yamashita the night before they hung him. He said the guy was a pretty nice fellow and they even flew in his wife to testify for his life. But he did win and that can't be tolerated, so.....

  5. #25
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    Congratulations on getting published, James. I'll look out for it.

    IAP
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    Usually when a senior officer surrenders his command he first seeks assurances that his men will be given the protection of the Geneva Convention. Percival did not requesting protection for the banks and reasonable conditions for officers the rank of Brigadier and above. Percival and the other general staff were sent to a hotel with their own cooks and servants for the first year of their captivity. Such were the times and attitudes.
    If I had served God half as well as I have served the King, he would not have given me over to die in such a place as this

  7. #27
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    Thanks, I'll let you know when that finally happens.


    Quote Originally Posted by ianp View Post
    Congratulations on getting published, James. I'll look out for it.

    IAP
    If I had served God half as well as I have served the King, he would not have given me over to die in such a place as this

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    After reading this thread I remembered something that might be of interest. Even five days after the Japanese invaded Malaya permission for the command to change from peace time expenditure to wartime had not been granted by HM Treasury in London, this meant that the whole command of nearly 200,000 men had a disposal rate of 500 per year. That is to say that the CinC was personally responsible for all damages, losses and write offs of equipment over that sum. The CinC ordered that all valuable items (including regimental silver which was not in his remit) including watches, compasses and survey equipment withdrawn from units in November to central store at the naval base, where they remained all properly accounted for when the Japanese took ownership. More seriously the 'denial of war' had the effect of preventing defences from being constructed, civil labour from being conscripted and the use of private property to support military operations.
    If I had served God half as well as I have served the King, he would not have given me over to die in such a place as this

  9. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by James K View Post
    After reading this thread I remembered something that might be of interest. Even five days after the Japanese invaded Malaya permission for the command to change from peace time expenditure to wartime had not been granted by HM Treasury in London, this meant that the whole command of nearly 200,000 men had a disposal rate of 500 per year. That is to say that the CinC was personally responsible for all damages, losses and write offs of equipment over that sum. The CinC ordered that all valuable items (including regimental silver which was not in his remit) including watches, compasses and survey equipment withdrawn from units in November to central store at the naval base, where they remained all properly accounted for when the Japanese took ownership. More seriously the 'denial of war' had the effect of preventing defences from being constructed, civil labour from being conscripted and the use of private property to support military operations.
    Now this is very interesting! As this watch didn't fall into Japanese hands, I wonder if there was some special effort made to retrieve and evacuate some of the more precious items? Probably there is an order filed somewhere...

  10. #30
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    Probably being a ships store item it was bundled onto one of the few ships to escape from Singapore. I know that the majority of survivors of HMS POW and Repulse, less RM Bands and Detachments, sick berth attendants and some seamen coxwains, were all bundled off to Ceylon in the last days.

    As for serious efforts to evacuate anything I don't think so, everything was in a panic even the Australian Commander General Gordon Bennett sneaked away, deserting his men, believing that he and only he held the key to allied victory. From the early days in Malaya until the fall of Singapore the Japanese were left to use tens of thousands of tons of fuel, equipment and weapons as they saw fit. It was not the fall of Singapore which was the worst military disaster in British military history, but the incompetent, inept and sometimes cowardly manner in which the Island Fortress fell.
    If I had served God half as well as I have served the King, he would not have given me over to die in such a place as this

  11. #31
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    I was just wondering how long it would take for supplies to arrive in Singapore from England by sea in 1942... At least a month?
    It could well be that 15 Jan 1942 was when the watch was dispatched from Greenwich and not when it arrived in Singapore.
    While Singapore fell on 15 February, Japanese air raids had been ongoing throughout December 1941 and January 1942, and by 3 February the Japanese were shelling the northern coast from just across the narrow strait separating Singapore from the mainland.
    I'm guessing if the watch had been sent from England by sea on or after 15 January it likely never arrived at its intended destination.
    Perhaps it stopped somewhere along the way and turned back, to be later re-assigned to HMS Adamant in 1943.

  12. #32
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    Seven weeks or more as it was inadvisable for most shipping to try the Mediterranean/Suez canal route and most ships wen't in convoy past the Cape and into the Indian Ocean.
    If I had served God half as well as I have served the King, he would not have given me over to die in such a place as this

  13. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by James K View Post
    Seven weeks or more as it was inadvisable for most shipping to try the Mediterranean/Suez canal route and most ships wen't in convoy past the Cape and into the Indian Ocean.
    Thanks James... that would lend some weight to my theory that the watch didn't actually make it to Singapore.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bobsy View Post
    I was just wondering how long it would take for supplies to arrive in Singapore from England by sea in 1942... At least a month?
    It could well be that 15 Jan 1942 was when the watch was dispatched from Greenwich and not when it arrived in Singapore.
    While Singapore fell on 15 February, Japanese air raids had been ongoing throughout December 1941 and January 1942, and by 3 February the Japanese were shelling the northern coast from just across the narrow strait separating Singapore from the mainland.
    I'm guessing if the watch had been sent from England by sea on or after 15 January it likely never arrived at its intended destination.
    Perhaps it stopped somewhere along the way and turned back, to be later re-assigned to HMS Adamant in 1943.
    That is certainly a possibility, I'm not committed to any one scenario. Your interest in this question has motivated me to contact Greenwich for a better understanding about the ledger sheets; did they accompany the watch or did they remain in England. If the former, then I'd say that "Singapore" was recorded when the watch was taken into inventory upon arrival, if the latter then I'd support your theory that it was written when dispatched and may indeed have been re-directed elsewhere as Singapore may have already fallen. Will post again when I hear back.

  15. #35
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    Fantastic find! And a great history lesson from the honorable members here; thank you!

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    This is the sort of thing I enjoy about collecting military watches. They bring history to life. My guess is that this deck watch only got as far as Mombasa.
    My father was in the Navy throughout this period on the Corvette Aster. Apparently it was total chaos following the fall of Singapore which was the only secure naval base in the Far East. Initially the withdrawal was to Colombo and Trincomalee along with the West Coast Indian ports. Unfortunately none of these ports had any defence against submarine attack and when the Japanese submarines entered the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean the fleet was withdrawn to Mombasa. For a time the defence of India was left to four Corvettes including the Aster. He survived many adventures and at the end of a war was serving on the cruiser Bermuda when they took the official surrender of the Japanese in Formosa. He is still going strong in his 96th year.

    Regards Harvey.

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    Well the stars aligned and I heard back from one of the great volunteers at Greenwich as follows: the 'Ledger Cards' were kept at the Admiralty Chronometer Dept. in England and used as a record of movements in and out of the department. They did not travel with the watch.

  18. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sheep Farmer View Post
    This is the sort of thing I enjoy about collecting military watches. They bring history to life. My guess is that this deck watch only got as far as Mombasa.
    My father was in the Navy throughout this period on the Corvette Aster. Apparently it was total chaos following the fall of Singapore which was the only secure naval base in the Far East. Initially the withdrawal was to Colombo and Trincomalee along with the West Coast Indian ports. Unfortunately none of these ports had any defence against submarine attack and when the Japanese submarines entered the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean the fleet was withdrawn to Mombasa. For a time the defence of India was left to four Corvettes including the Aster. He survived many adventures and at the end of a war was serving on the cruiser Bermuda when they took the official surrender of the Japanese in Formosa. He is still going strong in his 96th year.

    Regards Harvey.
    Thanks for these details, really helps shape a picture of events after Singapore's fall.

  19. #39
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    Thank you again James!

  20. #40
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    A great story to go with a beautiful watch... just wondering if all chronometer deck watches from different makers were similarly numbered with the last 4 digits of the movement serial?

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