Book Review
Malaya and Singapore 1941-42
Malaya and Singapore 1941-42, The fall of Britain’s empire in the East
  • move

by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Osprey Publishing LTD presents Malaya and Singapore 1941-42, The fall of Britain’s empire in the East, the 300th title in their Campaign series. It relates the incredible story of the loss of Malaya and then Singapore, one of the greatest military disasters Great Britain has suffered. That loss of Malaya opened further Japanese expansion into Southwest Asia which gave them resources that fed their war effort for four years. Using amphibious landings, tanks, airpower, artillery and bicycles, the Japanese attacked a superior force and routed it time after time. United Kingdom officers admitted that they were outfought and outgeneraled. The shock waves of the disaster sowed the seeds of the idea of Japanese invincibility that bedeviled the allies for 1942, and deluded the Japanese for the rest of the war.
    For the British Empire it was a military disaster, but for Imperial Japan the conquest of Malaya was one of the pivotal campaigns of World War II. Giving birth to the myth of the Imperial Japanese Army's invincibility, the victory left both Burma and India open to invasion. Although heavily outnumbered, the Japanese Army fought fiercely to overcome the inept and shambolic defence offered by the British and Commonwealth forces.

    Detailed analysis of the conflict, combined with a heavy focus on the significance of the aerial campaign, help tell the fascinating story of the Japanese victory, from the initial landings in Thailand and Malaya through to the destruction of the Royal Navy's Force Z and the final fall of Singapore itself.
    - Osprey

Through 96 pages author Mark Stilles presents a detailed account of the forces and actions that defined the campaign. The text is supported by photos and original artwork by Peter Dennis. Coded CAM 300 by Osprey, this book is available in softcover, PDF and eBook. The softcover ISBN is 978-1-4728-1122-6.

Malaya and Singapore 1941-42 is presented through eight chapters in 96 pages, plus an index and bibliography;

    • The rise of Singapore
    • The British defense dilemma
    • Japan on the march
    • British commanders
    • Japanese commanders
    • The British empire
    • The Japanese empire
    • The strategic environment
    • The British defense plans
    • The Japanese plan
    • The Japanese landings
    • The fight for Kota Bharu
    • The landings in southern Thailand
    • The saga of Force Z
    • Force Z – an assessment
    • The action off Endau
    • Debacle at Jitra
    • Jitra – the impact
    • The battle of Kampar
    • The battle of Slim River
    • British reinforcements
    • The loss of Johore
    • The air battle
    • The final air battles
    • The attack on Singapore
    • The Japanese attack
    • The battle for the Jurong Line
    • The final battles
    • Capitulation

Author Mark Stilles lays out a detailed groundwork for the campaign through 33 pages. Opposing Commanders introduces us to the chaos of the United Kingdom command compared to the ruthless effectiveness of the Japanese:
    Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham, CIC British Far East Command
    Lt Gen Arthur E Percival General Officer Commanding Malaya
    Lt Gen Sir Lewis Heath
    Maj Gen Arthur Barstow
    Maj Gen David M. Murray-Lyon
    Maj Gen H. Gordon Bennett
    Maj Gen Simmons, GOC Fortress Singapore
    Acting Adm Sir Tom Phillips, RN
    Lt Gen Yamashita Tomoyuki, Commander 25th Army
    Col Tsuji Masanobu
    Lt Gen Matsui Takuro
    Lt Gen Mutaguchi Renya
    Lt Gen Nishimura Takuma

Opposing Forces examines the soldiers and equipment of the opponents, including training, experience, doctrine and numbers. Organizations and weapons are explored in good detail. The quality of Japanese armor may surprise some readers, as may the actually effectiveness of the RAF; because of the book A Bloody Shambles I always thought the Allied air campaign was meaningless. The tragedy of Force Z is particularly enlightening. Finally, Opposing Plans presents the intentions of the enemies within the tactical and strategic limitations imposed by Malaya. An Order of Battle is offered for each side.

The rest of the book recounts the fascinating victory of the Japanese over the superior numbers and better equipped Allies. Perhaps other than the loss of Singapore itself, no other action of the campaign is as famous as the disaster of Force Z, which proved that capital ships could not survive against air attack without air support. I was surprised to learn that Force Z was not the only British naval action of the campaign; two old British destroyers attacked Japanese surface units off Endau.

The Aftermath and The Battlefield Today are interesting for the after-action assessment as well as what war tourists can see if they look for it.

In spite of some typos, this book does a good job of explaining the Malaya campaign and its outcome. It could easily be thrice as many pages.

Photographs, Maps, Artwork
Dozens of black-and-white photographs support the text. They range from studio quality to those reproduced from paper print, or taken from motion picture stills. They are from Japanese and Allied sources.

The maps and the original artwork by Peter Dennis greatly enhance the value of this book, too.

1. The Malaya and Singapore theater
2. The landing at Kota Bharu on 8 December
3. The destruction of Force Z
4. 3D ‘bird’s-eye-view’ The Battle Of Jitra: a battalion of infantry with some tanks rout two brigades and sweep aside the best prepared defenses in Malaya; keyed to 12 UK units, 5 IJA forces and 11 engagements
5. 3D ‘bird’s-eye-view’ The Battle Of Slim River: the virtual annihilation of the 11th Indian Infanrty Division by a group of tanks and motorized infantry; keyed to 12 UK foreces, 4 Japanese units and 11 engagements
6. The Battle for Northern Johore 14-24 January 1941 [sic]
7. RAF deployment, 8 December 1941
8. 3D ‘bird’s-eye-view’ The Japanese Assault Across the Strait of Johore, keyed to 13 IJA, 11 UK and 11 events.
9. The battle of Bukit Timah and the loss of the Jurong Line

1. Centerfold action scene RAF Attack on Singora: Blenheim bombers assailed by Ki-27 ‘Nate’ fighters.
2. Centerfold action scene The Death of Prince Of Wales, as seen by a Genzan Air Group Nell bomber launching a Type 91 torpedo.
3. Centerfold action scene Japanese Tank Attack at Slim River: Type 97 tanks shooting up a column in the most disastrous engagement of the campaign, decimating the 11th Indian Division.

Legends and myths surround the collapse of the British empire in Malaya in 1942. This book addresses and examines and exposes those subjects and the question of how the Japanese, with inferior numbers and attacking a prepared enemy, managed to inflict one of the worst defeats the United Kingdom has suffered.

The text is detailed and very informative. The photographs and artwork are certain to inspire modelers and artists. The few typos should not confuse any but the most unfamiliar reader. I found Malaya and Singapore 1941-42, The fall of Britain’s empire in the East to be an excellent source for those interested in the early Pacific War, Japanese and United Kingdom battlefield prowess, air-sea battles, fortresses, and jungle warfare. I happily recommend this book.
Highs: The text is detailed and very informative. The photographs and artwork are certain to inspire modelers and artists.
Lows: Minor typos.
Verdict: An excellent source for those interested in the early Pacific War, Japanese and United Kingdom battlefield prowess, air-sea battles, fortresses, and jungle warfare.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 9781472811226
  PUBLISHED: Apr 19, 2017
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

View This Item  |  View Vendor Homepage  |  More Reviews  

About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. All rights reserved.


Books like this one are simply great as they provide deep and insightful analysis and discussion on important historical events that -somehow- slipped through the cracks of mainstream historical accounts. The more we have the more we can learn, and isn't that the idea?
APR 20, 2017 - 11:42 PM
I agree, provided that the author knows what he is talking about. I recall a book by General Montgomery which included a photo of some British troops taking shelter behind a knocked out German Panzer III tank. The caption was 'tanks and infantry working in close co-operation'. I'm sure the book was ghost written but even so, the large black and white cross on the side of the tank might have been a give away? I stopped reading it at that point and threw it in the trash.
APR 25, 2017 - 11:48 PM
Make that F M Montgomery
APR 26, 2017 - 06:00 AM

Click image to enlarge
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move