History Sec 2

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Essential Information sheet for SEQ Chapter 6 – How did World War 2 Affect Singapore?

EQ1: What were the efforts made by the British to defend Singapore?

All military planning and deployment of military resources towards the defence of Singapore and Malaya centered around a key strategy known as the Main Fleet to Singapore Strategy .

Why did the military planners come up with this strategy of sending a battle fleet to Singapore instead of basing it in Singapore?

The main reason was due to economic reason. After the Great Depression and in the period leading to the war, many governments like the British government was financially drained and could no longer maintain a strong naval fleet outside of Europe. It was believed that in the event of an attack on Singapore, the British would be able to deploy a sizeable force to defend it’s colonies. This ensured that there was no need to spend extra money to maintain a naval fleet if there was no threat at all. Secondly, the British had a strong stereotypical bias view of the Japanese as being a weak enemy that would be beaten soundly by British forces. Thus, the British were confident that the main fleet would have enough time to arrive at Singapore and would not be too late to make a valid contribution to the defence effort since they believe that British defences at Singapore would be able to hold off the Japanese. Lastly it was believed that the war in Singapore would be one where the enemy would attack from the seas and that the main fleet would be the solution.

EQ2: What were the three main ideas behind this strategy?

The first idea was that the British would continue to base their naval fleet in Britain until there was an imminent threat. The main fleet would then be deployed to defend Singapore only when a threat appeared. The British believed that the Japanese would only attack from the sea due to the jungle and mountainous terrain in Malaya which would become a strong defensive hinterland to protect Singapore from any land attack. This idea assumed that the Singapore defences would be able to stand up to an enemy seen as inferior and weaker to British forces until the main fleet arrived from Britain to deal the decisive blow to the enemy.

The second idea was that the British would make Singapore become a heavily defended fortress which an enemy would find it hard to attack or penetrate. Airfields were built to deploy fighter planes to give Singapore a strong air defence. Bunkers were built to house large number of soldiers ready to defend Singapore from a sea invasion. Ground based 15 inch naval guns were built and pointed towards the sea, waiting to destroy any enemy naval fleet that dared to approach Singapore. A naval base was built to dock and supply the expected main naval fleet that would arrive in Singapore.

The third idea was that the British would use numerical superiority to overwhelm the enemy. The British would flood Singapore with large numbers of soldiers so that the enemy would be outnumbered. Thus many soldiers from Britain, Australia, New Zealand and India were brought to Singapore to help in the defence efforts.

This strategy assumes that the enemy – the Japanese, that the British saw conflict with were weak.

What are the reasons why the British assumptions of the enemy were incorrect?

The Japanese were not the weak and inferior enemy that the British thought they were. The Japanese had fought in China since 1937 and defeated Russian forces over territorial disputes. This meant that the Japanese had much more combat experience than the raw soldiers that the British brought in to defend Singapore. Moreover the Japanese soldiers were trained in jungle warfare which meant they would be able to fight very well in Malaya’s jungle terrain which the British had thought would not be possible for an enemy to penetrate. The Japanese...
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