The Principles of War Podcast
7 Security and Surprise in Malaya

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

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How did Security and Surprise impact operations in Malaya and Singapore?

There was little security in the Malaya campaign for the Allies.  The Japanese had a strong expat community.

We look at the work of Patrick Heenan, a Kiwi born British and Indian Army Officer who became a spy for the Japanese, betraying the Air Force base at Alor Star. Not sure why he did, but he took a 6 month secondment to Japan prior to the war.

We also look at how the Japanese learnt that the British had no capability to reinforce Singapore and Malaya when a highly sensitive document from the British War Cabinet for Brooke Popham was captured on the SS Automedon.

Security for the Allies created a reluctance to use wireless, which inhibited tactical flexibility.

Japanese security was tight enough to limit the time available for Brooke Popham to be able to make a decision.

Percival conducted an appreciation in 1937 that was very accurate in regards to how the Japanese would attack Singapore and yet there was little work done in the 4 years before the Japanese landing.

The Allies are surprised because they fundamentally under rated the technical and operational capabilities of the Japanese.  The British were reading Japanese diplomatic messages one month before the invasion, but it still did not start ringing alarm bells.

The British did not think that the Japanese would attack during the wet season – why were the Japanese in the wet, with the much more difficult conditions for troops and movement.

How about in the Australian Army?  Were we surprised?

Where do you find the Officers and SNCO’s when you raise 3 new divisions?

What impact did the death of Australia’s ablest soldier on 13 August 1940 have on the Australian Army?

Gordon Bennett gets the Div Comd job that he so desperately wanted.  Sixth time lucky after being rejected 5 times prior!

How did the battalions prepare for the Malaya campaign?  We look at a PAR report from 6 months before the Japanese invasion.

Surprise sees Australia commit 2 BDEs to Malaya, poorly equipped and poorly trained – we look at the reasons.

How can a country improve the Whole of Government approach when moving over onto a war footing?

Lastly we look at what happens when the Japanese pay off security entirely and repeatedly.


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