Singapore, 1942: Britain's Greatest Defeat Hardcover – 1 Dec 2001
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"This is a sober tale, told with patience, discrimination and intelligence" Richard Overy "Warren tells this story with authority and impressive fairness" Philip Ziegler --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
Alan Warren is Lecturer in History at Monash University. He is the author of Waziristan: The Faqir of Ipi and the Indian Army.
Top customer reviews
Whilst Farrell's book is good for analysis, the reader can get lost, esp as the maps are appalling.
and Colin Smith's and Thompsons' books bring the campaign alive with more personal perspectives.
But Warren's book allows you first to understand and then follow the campaign. Read this first!
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The impression it leaves is that of an army unprepared for attack by the Japanese in early 1942. Not so much that they were complacent because their chief artillery defenses faced the harbor and the sea, but rather that the army itself was a rag-tag ill-organized melange of British, Australian, Indian and Maylasian troops who were, by and large, poorly led and more trained in military drills than combat. Some of the Indian reenforcements in particular had had only a few weeks of training.
The book details the retreat down the peninsula, village by village, crossroad by crossroad. The terrain was terrible. Men fell ill. Guns bogged down in the mud. And the Japanese had light tanks, while the infantry stayed on bicycles on the roads. Some of the units put up a spirited defense. Most did not. Some disintegrated under fire from an inferior Japanese force. Many of the British officers were killed and it was inevitable under these conditions that the Allied forces found themselves hemmed within a small perimeter around Singapore City, which collapsed. The streets were filled with stragglers and runaway soldiers breaking windows, looting shops, getting drunk, and refusing direct orders to reform. There were a few summary executions. It was about as bad as it gets.
The Japanese were delighted when General Percival offered to discuss surrender. Yamashita was unyielding in his terms and slammed the table with his fist, an incident I think was caught on Japanese newsreel film. The conquerors were hardly less brutal. Soldiers bayoneted wounded men on the hospital's operating table. The heads of decapitated prisoners were left on fence posts and poles to frighten the civilians into obedience.
It's curious that both the Japanese invasion of Southeast Asia and Hitler's invasion of Russia was at first seen as a move to liberate the conquered peoples from some domineering alien power -- Europeans in Asia, the Soviet Union in Western Russia. The Ukranians cheered the arrival of German troops. Both victorious armies blew it by treating their civilians like so many animals.
I said this was a dispassionate book and it is. The facts are starkly presented but with little drama. The arrival, movement, and fate of the Repulse and Prince of Wales takes only two or three pages. There were times when I was completely lost in the jungle, the swampland, and the isolated rubber planations. Nor could I keep all the military units and their locations straight. I didn't know the 18th Garhwal Rifles from the Gurkhas from the 17th Dogras. It was even worse when the author began referring to the 1/18th and the 2/12th. Alan Warren could have submitted this as a doctoral dissertation if he'd peppered it with more footnotes.
Digger's Story: Surviving the Japanese POW Camps Was Just the Beginning
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