The Principles of War Podcast
The Manoeuvrist approach and the Australian Army

1 – The most Manoeuvrist Approach campaign the Australian Army has ever fought.

Is this not the most manoeuvrist campaign that the Australian Army has ever fought?  Our first campaign that we will look at is Malaya 1941-42.  In just 1 month and 23 days, Malaya fell.  Singapore had been the Centre of Gravity of the Australian Defence Strategy, without Fortress Singapore.  This shaped Government thinking and its fall was a complete shock.

These are the show notes for this episode. For the full story, listen to the episode on your iPhone or Android

What is the Manoeuvrist Approach?

The manoeuvrist approach seeks to shatter the enemy’s cohesion through a series of actions orchestrated towards a single purpose, creating a turbulent and rapidly deteriorating situation with which the enemy cannot cope.

Starting with the initial surprise of the landings in northern Malaya and Thailand, the Imperial Japanese Army reinforced the shock of the initial landings by trading sustainment for speed to get inside the Allied High Command’s OODA loop (Observe, Orientate, Decide, Act).  This created analysis paralysis.

This episode examines some of the key people in the Malaya Campaign:

  • LTGEN Percival
  • AVM Pulford
  • LTGEN Heath
  • MAJ Gen Gordon Bennett
  • LTGEN Yamashita

These are the points discussed on the podcast, looking at the factors that made this the most manoeuvrist campaign the Australian Army has ever fought.

  • We look at the force ratios for both sides.  Yamashita was fighting significantly outnumbered, so what force multipliers did he use?
  • Armoured warfare – who had the advantage with tanks?
  • In late 1941 the war is going quite badly for the Allies, the Germans are at the gates of Moscow.  How did this strategic situation impact Allied thinking and actions?
  • The Royal Navy sent Prince of Wales and Repulse to defend Singapore and Malaya.  After Japanese landings, Force Z moves out to defeat the Japanese only to be sunk.  Churchill describes it as the greatest naval disaster ever in the history of the Royal Navy.
  • The Japanese fight at Jitra and win.  Within the first 100 hours, they have achieved control of the air, control of the sea and started to dominate on the land.
  • Yamashita pushes aggressively south down Malaya.  A series of major withdrawals continue for the Allies.  He leapfrogs down the Western coast of Malaya outflanking the Allies out of prepared defences.
  • Wavell takes command of the ABDA command and he orders a 150-mile retreat.
  • We look at COL Tsuji, the ‘God of Operations’ and how he prepared the strategy for the Japanese attack.
  • Wavell meets MAJGEN Bennett and likes the aggressive spirit that he displays.  An inexperienced divisional staff takes over command of 3 divisions.
  • The Battle of Muar is fought and the Allies suffer significant casualties.
  • The situation is so bad in the air that unarmed flying club planes are used for recon.
  • The Japanese advanced 740 km in one month and 1 month and 23 days with a force ratio of 1:2, not the expected 3:1.  How did they manage such a marked victory?

This is part of our Malaya Campaign Podcast series.  We produced 15 episodes looking at the Principles of War, Terrain and Leadership and how they applied to the Malaya Campaign.

If your in Singapore, visit the Battle Box, the HQ where LTGEN Percival planned the defence of the island.

Related posts

73 – 1st Battle of Bullecourt – The Australian Infantry’s most brilliant achievement


7 – Security and Surprise in Malaya. How were the British surprised with 4 years warning of invasion?

James Eling

11 – Flexibility in the Malaya Campaign

James Eling


Paul Tubman June 24, 2020 at 11:01 am

Hi James
Any idea why Episode 1 and possibly 2 might have dropped off my list. (I thought I saved all episodes on my phone.) I wanted to go back and listen again but a search on iTunes fails to locate Ep. 1 & 2 to be downloaded again.

Any thoughts!!

PS Love your work and presentations in the podcasts. Excellent.

kind regards

James Eling September 6, 2020 at 9:37 am

They should be back, we’ve changed the settings to retain all episodes. Let me know if they aren’t there.


Leave a Comment