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on 24 October 2003
I've no jingoistic or post colonial axe to grind so I'll stick to the facts. This book sums up how pre-war mentality manifested in a wide array of events led to this famous disaster. Outflanked, not outnumbered, poor integration of the three services, political intervention, untried troops UK, Indian and Australian, divided strategy and maginot line/ypres mentality against supposedly short in stature, short in sight troops - came a cropper against professional, highly experienced troops skilled in the 'new' 1940's tactics of attack, move round and advance.
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on 19 February 2011
I don't often write reviews - but this is a 5 star book ,
I have read a great deal on the Campaign in Malaya
and this is one of the very best books i have come across ,
plus the author has done a first class job researching previously closed secret official files , only available from the mid 1990's -
I must take exception to the '1 star' review author , who makes out that the author Peter elphick , " never blames British Commanders , its the fault of the troops etc " - did he actually read the book ?
another great book for anyone to read is DEFEAT IN MALAYA by Athur Swinson ( Purnell 1969 )
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on 30 July 2012
I find it bizarre that the author is accused by T Renald of blaming the ordinary soldiers when clearly this is not the case. Elphick puts primary responsibility for the Fall of Singapore with Churchill, regularly making this point. Clearly there was scant resource put in the Far East and for this Churchill does carry ultimate responsibility. However it would have been a tough call to commit resources that were going to hard pressed Allied troops in North Africa and the Soviet Union that was fighting for its life to an area of operation which was not even at war. These were the dark days for the UK. Elphick does put together a reasonable case to at least question whether Churchill knew of the imminient attacks on Malaya/Singapore & Pearl harbour but saw this as a way to bring the USA into the war and finally tip the balance in our favour. Still secret documents may or may not prove this.

By focusing so much on what happened before the invasion Elphick also makes a compelling case for responsibility amongst the top brass and civil leaders. A top heavy command structure in the East with limited co-operation between services should not have been allowed to happen. The RAF unilaterally deciding to locate airfields for the army to defend in the north of Malaya without consulting the army on how this would fit in with the wider strategy of defence was a prime example of this. The head in the sand thinking of leaders who alienetated those who argued that invasion of Singapore island was likely to be from the north (via Malaya)not south (over sea)is another example. The appointment of Percival to command a general who had recently been his senior yet another. The list goes on.

Elphick does end the book with a detailed analysis of the deserter problem. As this is such a contentious & sensitve issue he perhaps spends too much time on this but perhaps not. There are clearly people out there who do not want to accept such a thing happened on the scale it clearly did in Singapore. Elphick does however give a context to this by stressing that many of the deserters were newly shipped in troops who were not given time to acclimatise and who had no battle combat experience themselves facing veteran Japenese soldiers.

This book is well worth reading because it is meticiulously researched and well written. The guns of Singapore it seems were not pointing the wrong way they did however have the wrong shells to be very effective against a land based rather than sea attack!! Also we could possibly have held on to Singapore if we had not surrendered quite so early so maybe Churchill had provided adequate resources after all, allied generals just blinked first.
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on 20 February 2016
One of the best books I have read for a very long time. Not an area that interested me at all - I picked up the book of a free bookshelf at a railway station. But what a fascinating read. I cannot see what one of the other reviewers was objecting about at all. However his poor opinion to my mind unfairly reduces the stars this book should command.
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on 19 August 2015
In the middle of it. Shaping up as a good read. JW
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on 22 March 2002
Reviewer: T. Renald from Singapore.
This book is a familiar style of writing. Seductive in approach. It tells those still clutching the myth of British infallibity in the East what they've always wanted to hear.
That Singapore did not fall as a result of a meticulously planned attack by an experienced Japanese force with full control of the air. Nor did Singapore fall because of the refusal of the British Commander to prepare the island for an adequate defence- a decision that is still numbing in it's implications, more than fifty years later.
Rather, according to Peter Elphick, Singapore fell due to a lacklustre performance by the British rank and file. The troops failed their officers. Thus exonerating the British Command. This message is clear in the book. And clearly, wrong.
To make his case the author has to denigrate the troops as much as possible. The author does this with accounts ranging from the credible right through to spurious invective- all eagerly accepted by Elphick and passed on as fact. Regardless of the enormous disrespect this shows to men who died struggling in appalling circumstances during the battle, and in the following years of degradation and slavery. The disrespect Elphick shows towards the fallen is callous, and frankly, disgraceful.
Peter Elphick catalogues other events as contributing factors to the fall of Singapore. All these factors fall away in significance when compared with the more visceral reality of flanked and outmanouvered British troops attempting to hold unfortified positions without air support or adequate communication.
Some responsibilty also lies with those who sent the component of Australian troops, with only two weeks training, into the battle.
The contemporary observer would note that had these events occured in this day and age, the British Commander would have eventually faced charges of negligence.
The surprises for the British Command during this dark period were many and varied. Some impossible to anticipate. Others were more obvious. The world had changed. The British mentality in the Far East had not. The most contentious surprises? These three amongst them:
1. Troops from a conquered, occupied and oppressed nation (India), with aspirations for self-rule, did not make willing cannon fodder for British colonial interests. The reluctance of some Indian troops to die for British interests is not hard to understand and should have been anticipated.

2. The first Australian military action in World War 1 was the famous British-led debacle at Gallipoli resulting in a great loss of Australian lives for no gain. In Singapore, the Australian troops anger at finding themselves involved in another World War 1 style debacle cannot be underestimated. The Australian soldiers outright refusal to take orders from English officers was hardly a surprise. Which citizens of a foreign nation would? Strangely, Elphick wrestles with this simple fact.
3. This was the 20th century, not the 19th. No more excuses please.
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