The Principles of War Podcast
1 The most Manouevrist Campaign the Australian Army has ever fought

1 – The most Manouevrist Campaign the Australian Army has ever fought.

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Our first campaign that we will look at is the Malaya 1941-42 Campaign.  Is this not the most manouevrist campaign that the Australian Army has ever fought?  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 it’s fall was a complete shock.

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

We detail some of the key people in the Malaya Campaign:

  • LT Gen Percival
  • AVM Pulford
  • LT Gen Heath
  • MAJ Gen Gordon Heath
  • LT Gen Yamashita

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

  • We look at the force ratios for both sides.  Yamashita was fighting significantly outnumbered, so how did he make up the numbers?
  • 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.  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 MAJ GEN 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 lost and significant casualties are suffered by the Allies.
  • 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.

Related posts

4 – Comparing Japanese and British Doctrine in Malaya

James Eling

54 – Preparing for the Battle of Long Tan with LT COL Harry Smith

James Eling

37 – D Coy training, leadership and Esprit de Corps

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.


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