Battle Story

Battle Story by Chris Brown Read Free Book Online

Book: Battle Story by Chris Brown Read Free Book Online
Authors: Chris Brown
ensure adequate supplies of ammunition and the inability to stem Japanese advance undermined the premise. After the lengthy retreat down the peninsula, the troops were not confident in combat and became increasingly unlikely to make a determined stand. Often, when they did stop the Japanese advance, they were obliged to retire because of threats to their flanks or breakthroughs against other units that might result in encirclement. A number of withdrawals occurred due to misleading orders or to the perceived need to maintain the integrity of formations as viable combat assets.

    18. Rubber plantation. The endless rows of trees had a depressing effect on many troops. (Author’s collection)
    The first Lanchester armoured cars entered service with the British Army in 1929. Lanchesters had a nominal top speed of about 50mph and a range of about 250 miles. They were armed with two .303 Vickers guns and one 0.5 calibre Vickers. In North Africa, Lanchesters proved to be obsolete and a considerable number were sent to India and the Far East. The story goes that Colonel Ian Stewart of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders found that there were some in store on Singapore and promptly ‘acquired’ them and put them to use in exercises with his battalion.
    C HI -H A T ANK
    Designated the Type 97 from the Imperial year of 2597. The original main armament was a low-velocity 57mm gun, later exchanged for a high-velocity 47mm gun with better armour-piercing capability. The Chi-Ha was also equipped with two 7.7mm machine guns, one on the hull of the vehicle, the other mounted facing backwards from the turret – a very unusual arrangement. The turret armour was 25mm (1in) thick on the turret, which made the Chi-Ha very vulnerable to even light anti-tank weapons. The 21.7L diesel engine gave the 15-ton Chi-Ha a top speed of 24mph and a range of about 160 miles. Over 1,000 Chi-Ha tanks were built and they saw service in Malaya with 1st, 6th and 14th Tank Regiments.

    19. A speeding Ha-Go Type 95 tank.
    H A -G O T ANK
    Production of the Type 95 Ha-Go, also known as the Kyu-Go, was the most common Japanese tank of the Second World War, with over 2,300 vehicles produced between 1935 and 1943, including a field engineering crane and an amphibious version. Ha-Go tanks were at least as good as any light tank in the world when they were introduced in 1935, and were a match for the Honey (or Stuart) tanks they encountered in Burma and the Pacific in terms of speed and manoeuvrability. The Ha-Go was driven by a 14L Mitsubishi diesel engine and armed with a 37mm gun and two 7.7mm machine guns. Some hundreds of Ha-Go tanks were captured by Chinese forces at the end of the Second World War and they saw extensive service in the Chinese Civil War between the Nationalists and the Communists.
Misconceptions & Shortcomings
    In addition to the problems with shortages, poor equipment and inadequate training, the Allied commanders underestimated the Japanese to a ridiculous degree. To some extent this was simply racism. The notion that the Japanese were short, were poor physical specimens generally, had poor eyesight and that their equipment was bad was compounded by faulty strategic and tactical analysis. Japan had already been at war for some years and gained a wealth of experience, but Westerners did not see Chinese forces as serious opposition. The fact that Japan had been roundly defeated by the Soviet Union in 1938 and that now – at the end of 1941 – the Russians were being heavily beaten by the Germans did not mean that the Japanese were incompetent, but that was the general perception of the British military establishment.
    None of this was helped by a policy position at Westminster that can only be described as wishful thinking. The assumption that there would not be war in the East ignored the possibility that Japan might see the European war as an opportunity.
    By the time General Yamashita’s troops reached Johore,

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