Betrayal at Singapore, BBC 2 tonight.

#1
There's a documentary on a bunch of ex Brit servicemen who recce'd Pearl Harbour and Singapore for the Japanese. Apparently based on newly released docs, some of the culprits were known personally to Churchill. Should be an interesting new slant.
 
#2
I am firmly of the opinion that there are some bits of history that should just be left alone. I will watch it though, sounds interesting.

IIRC Churchill knew in advance of Pearl Harbour and delayed warning the yanks in order to draw them into the war. Everyone has dirty little secrets. Even the Yanks- German Americans who answered the call to the Fatherland etc.
 
#3
Lets get the "servicemen" bit right....these weren't squaddies, they were well-connected members of the orficer-class who were doing it for money.
 

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
#4
My reading around things produces Tricycle, a British-turned double agent who was sent to the US. He told the FBI he was under orders to find out what he could about Pearl Harbor but J Edgar Hoover refused to pass this on to Roosevelt as it was not something the FBI had found out, and he wanted FDR to believe that the FBI knew everything.

As to other Int, it's easy after the event to say that clue was there! but so probably were no ende of other clues pointing in totally different directions. I shall watch tonight's programme but take it with a pinch of salt and a head covering freshly fashioned out of cooking foil.
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
#5
Be interesting to see if this little gem turns up in the program.

http://www.merchantnavyofficers.com/automedon.html

The chiefs of Staff declared that Britain was too weak to risk war with Japan and in August of 1940 sent a 28 page report to the Commander in Chief of the Far East, the report was headed as follows:

SECRET COPY 72
COS (40) 302 (also W.P. (40) 302)
TO BE KEPT UNDER LOCK AND KEY

It is requested that special care be taken to ensure the secrecy of this document.

Amazingly this document, bearing in mind its sensitivity and importance, was placed onboard the civilian vessel Automedon, a steamer of the Blue Funnel Line. On the 24th of September she sailed for the Malayan port of Penang, she was never to arrive for in the Straits of Java she encountered the Atlantis under the command of Bernard Rogge.

Of the boarding party one German Officer had the specific task of looking for secret materials and to this end he searched for and located the Strong Room. The door was blown open with the aid of plastic explosive and within lay a veritable treasure trove of secret information, Fleet orders, gunnery instructions, intelligence reports from MI6 and quantities of Merchant Navy code books...

On inspecting the canvas bag Captain Rogge saw the significance of the Chiefs of Staff's report and secured its swift delivery to Japan. In Tokyo the German Naval Attaché Rear Admiral Paul Vernica handed it over to the Japanese Naval Head of Staff Admiral Kondo. At first the Japanese believed them to be fakes put aboard Merchant ships in order to mislead the enemy but soon changed their minds. Paul Vernica duly recorded the sensational impact on Japanese strategy made by the report seized from Automedon. "Kondo told me how valuable the information contained in the War Cabinet's memorandum was to the Imperial Navy, such as the significant weakening of the British Empires outward appearance". The report was to affect Japanese strategies. Admiral Yamamoto decided having read the report that he could deliver a double blow against the British and Americans in the Far East.
I first read about this in a book by Rogge (Altantis's captain) in the 70's so the information has been in the public domain for some time.

As an intelligence fcuk up, this takes some beating.

Wordsmith
 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
#6
I am firmly of the opinion that there are some bits of history that should just be left alone. I will watch it though, sounds interesting.

IIRC Churchill knew in advance of Pearl Harbour and delayed warning the yanks in order to draw them into the war
A conspiracy theory advanced in Brian Garfield's book the Paladin, IIRC. I have a very nice bridge for sale currently spanning the Verrazzano Narrows in NYC - would you be interested?

For all the confusion and lack of communication( on the part of USN and us) surrounding Pearl Harbor I can recommend Stephen Howarth's in-depth analysis of the Imperial Japanese Navy:


Two things come out of the book which are quite striking

1) the USN had previously carried out an exercise simulating a carrier borne attack on Pearl - the IJN followed precisely the same track, some months later

2) the IJN had an abiding admiration for the Royal Navy and had watched the succesful attack on Taranto with close interest. They adapted their tactics accordingly.

More than a year before the attack on Pearl Harbor, aircraft of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm executed a surprise attack on ships of the Italian Fleet anchored in the harbor of Taranto. The raid on Taranto anticipated the attack on Pearl Harbor, and historians have seen it as a precursor to the larger and more devastating strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy. The Taranto raid takes on added significance with the little-known fact that an officer in the US Navy was aboard the British aircraft carrier, and reported extensively on the attack to the Office of Naval Intelligence in Washington. The damage was done by 21 planes flown off the deck of HMS Illustrious, without any participation of the Royal Air Force. Illustrious took to sea the radar and aircraft control procedures that helped win the Battle of Britain. From British sources, the book describes the techniques used to allow successful use of aerial torpedoes in the shallow waters of Taranto harbor
.

Admiral Kimmel , the USN flag officer in post at the time of the attack, has had his defenders recently, including here on Arrse. They will be able to tell you whether he was to blame or not (and surely ordering the anti-torpedo nets in the harbour to be hoisted in because they impeded boat tfc has to have been a major contribution to the almighty cluster?)

But despite tin-foil hat theories concerning US Navy Intelligence intercepts ( PURPLE) I do not believe that anyone has come up with any evidence that WSC either knew in advance of Tora or witheld info from the US...that said, I shall watch the programme with interest so thanks to the OP for the heads up.
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
#7
But despite tin-foil hat theories concerning US Navy Intelligence intercepts ( PURPLE) I do not believe that anyone has come up with any evidence that WSC either knew in advance of Tora or witheld info from the US...that said, I shall watch the programme with interest so thanks to the OP for the heads up.
The best explanation I have seen is that the varying pieces of the intelligence jigsaw were there to forecast an attack on Pearl Harbour, but they were isolated pieces of data lost in the noise of the great mass of wrong, contradictory and plain fabricated intelligence. It would have taken a super-intelligent and hyper-persuasive intelligence officer to make sense of the huge quantity of data flooding in and then persuade his superiors that an attack was imminent.

I'll go with cock-up rather than conspiracy.

Wordsmith
 

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
#8
Wordsmith sent me grubbing through my library - the whole story is told by Ulrich Mohr (via AV Sellwood) in their book 'Atlantis' (Werner Laurie, London 1955). Mohr was Rogge's 'ADC' and was also the Boarding Officer of Automedon and saw and describes the document referred to. Rogge wrote him a preface so we may assume agreed the text.

Atlantis' shells had wrecked the bridge of this merchantman and the boarding party were met by the corpses of all Automedon's officers, which explains why the secret material was not ditched, although the ship had got away an 'RRR' raider report. Our cruiser HMS Devonshire eventually caught and sank Atlantis.

Atlantis by Mohr and Sellwood: Howard Baker, London Hardcover, 2nd Edition - Vickers and other copies available via Google etc.
 
#9
Was not Patrick Heenan the Singapore traitor, who met his deserved end with a bullet to the back of the head compliments of the CMP at Singapore harbour.

I have a book onf my shelf at homes that goes into the details of his treachery.
 
#10
Was not Patrick Heenan the Singapore traitor, who met his deserved end with a bullet to the back of the head compliments of the CMP at Singapore harbour.

I have a book onf my shelf at homes that goes into the details of his treachery.
Indeed he was. The book is called Odd Man Out which I have also read. Here is an article on Heenan by the author:

4C Special: No Prisoners Viewpoints: Peter Elphick

Heenan was an officer, a Capt in the 16th Punjab Regt, but to call him "well-connected" would be really pushing it. He had not gone to Sandhurst but had got a regular commission via the Supplementary Reserve:

After the obligatory six months training with a British regiment stationed in India, and perhaps uniquely, Heenan failed to get an Indian Army regiment to accept him. This was almost certainly due to his bad attitude which impressed no one in authority. He had to do an additional six months with another British Regiment before being accepted by the 16th Punjab Regiment, something that regiment soon came to regret. Although he did well during a skirmish on the North-west Frontier, he was later posted to the Indian Army Service Corps, a device used to get unsatisfactory officers away from prestigious line regiments. He blotted his copy book there too, and was returned to the 16th Punjabs, but to a different battalion. He took his long leave in Japan, and it was probably there that he was recruited by Japanese Intelligence. Early in 1941, his battalion was ordered to Malaya. There he was gotten rid of by his new battalion, which sent him off to Singapore to train as an Air Liaison Officer. That training completed, his Liaison Unit was attached to the airfields in Kedah. So, from a few months before the Japanese attacked Malaya, they had a well-placed spy at the heart of the Malayan northern defences. The Japanese attacked on 8th December 1941 and by the third day had destroyed almost every British aircraft in the north, Japanese air attacks being guided in by radio transmissions made by Heenan. He was caught almost in the act on the 10th and shipped down under arrest to Singapore. In January 1942 he was court-martialled and sentenced to death. On Friday 13th February, two days before Singapore surrendered, he was taken down to the quayside by military policemen. After being shot in the head his body was pushed into the sea.

What effect did Heenan's actions have on the course of the campaign? Given the largely out-of-date aircraft the RAF had in Malaya, and the fact that when serving as AOC Malaya the man who was to become Marshall of the Royal Air Force Lord Tedder, had authorised the placement of some of the new Malayan airfields in positions that the Army could not defend, it is likely that the Japanese would have given the RAF short shift even without Heenan's help. However, he must have passed on much helpful information pre?war and he pushed the rate of aircraft destruction along a bit after the war began. But on top of that, Heenan's actions had several very important side?effects. Flight Lieutenant (later Group Captain) J.N. Kentish knew Heenan at Sungei Patani and Butterworth airfields. Kentish told me that he became friendly with Heenan, drank at the bar with him and they played tennis, and he thought Heenan'a fine, set-up man'. Then on 10th December, 'the same day as the loss of the Prince of Wales and the Repulse', he saw Heenan brought in at gunpoint. It was all very demoralising, Kentish said. It had a similar effect upon other RAF personnel. When the news got around, which it rapidly did, it was even more demoralising for the Indian Army officer corps, and it should be remembered that that army made up nearly 50 per cent of the Commonwealth military strength in Malaya. Given the honour of the regiment syndrome, which was even stronger in the Indian Army than in the British, and the pride in itself the Indian Army as a whole had built up over many years and with good reason, the knowledge that there was an officer traitor in their midst, a white officer to boot, dealt a telling psychological blow to the corps of Indian Army officers, on top of anything the Japanese were dishing out. This blow to morale was mentioned by officers more than a few times during my researches. Heenan's unit was soon moved south, and even had the other officers in it kept their mouths shut over the affair, the enlisted men in it did not; scuttlebutt was rife. We have seen that a senior member of the Malayan Civil Service knew about the affair in Kedah and that he carried the story south. So did the police who were involved in Heenan's arrest. although in their case because of their training, they may not have so readily spread the news. A large number of people were in the know and there must also have been a great deal of uninformed rumour-mongering. So perhaps the greatest effect of the Heenan affair was on morale. That was low enough for other reasons, and could have done without any help from him.
 
#11
That's the bugger. The book was:

Elphick & Smith (1993): Odd Man Out, the Story of the Singapore Traitor, London, Hodder & Stoughton.
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
#12
I watched the program and thought it was underwhelming. Semphill's activities were not exactly fresh news - they've been known about for some time. And it was stretching a pretty major point to claim that Semphill's activities with the IJN in the mid 20's led directly to Pearl Harbour. Its not as if the IJN was planning to attack Pearl in the 20's. And when planning did start in earnest, it took Yamamoto's formidable will power to force the plan through.

The info captured from the Automedon (see my earlier post) would have made a far more interesting subject for the program.

The other thing I noticed was the lack of heavyweight naval historians - usually you get Brian Lavery, Stephen Lambert or N.A.M Roger doing the talking heads bit. Methinks they thought the program material was thin in the extreme and it wasn't a good idea to get involved.

Wordsmith

As a PS, I looked for information on Semphill in Wikipedia. The article has just been edited by the beeb citing the TV program as the authority. Incestuous or what?
 
#13
I watched the first 20 minutes then turned over due to the fact I was bored stupid. This from a person who has always had a keen intrest in WWII and the war against Japan in Paricular.
 
#14
I agree that the programme was an anti-climax. However, I find the Patrick Heenan story fascinating and have just ordered the book mentioned in the thread. Although he eventually gained a commission "through the back door"; it is interesting to note in his Wiki entry that if the authorities had known about his illegitimacy, he would never have been commissioned! How times have changed.
 

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
#15
Skin in the game - my wife's cousin, then aged three, escaped with her mother on what she says was the last boat out of Singapore. Her father, a major in 1 Manchesters, is buried in Kranji war cemetery.

I think the film, although interesting, tried too hard to spin what it had into something bigger. It is entirely possible that prosecuting Semphill would not have been possible without disclosing secret matters - pushing in the endemic Beeb anti-toff stuff was gratuitous.

As to Pearl, there were no end of Japs on Oahu and elsewhere in Hawaii so the Nips cannot have lacked Int regardless of Rutland or anyone else. And the Zero bore a great resemblance to the eccentric but gifted Howard Hughes' H-1, with the performance bonus that there was no cissy protection for the Nip pilot. Again, regardless of Semphill, thanks to the RAF there was no British naval aircraft in 1940 that could teach the Japanese anything.

Yamamoto's wiki makes interesting reading. He was very familar with the United States and throughly understood that unless a peace could be rapidly secured after the initial victories, American industrial power would crush Japan.

As to technicalities, the line about the dry dock covering 24 square miles shows the sheer careless ignorance of the journos who write this stuff. This does rather erode one's confidence in the rest of the narrative except where stuff from the Nat Archives is directly (and even then possibly selectively) quoted. What was meant was the total naval base area, which included all sorts of things.
 
#16
As to technicalities, the line about the dry dock covering 24 square miles shows the sheer careless ignorance of the journos who write this stuff. This does rather erode one's confidence in the rest of the narrative except where stuff from the Nat Archives is directly (and even then possibly selectively) quoted. What was meant was the total naval base area, which included all sorts of things.
I was stunned by that comment as well, despite having zero naval expertise! Just about sums up the quality of the material in the programme, sadly.
 
R

renamed_user

Guest
#17
IIRC Patrick Heenan not only passed on info to the nips which helped them in their invasion of Mayala, but he also gave them details of chemical weapons the RAF were planning to use. The Japs having already used gas and other chemical weapons on the chinese, were thought to be more than willing to use them on allied armies, hence the RAF had spray equipment fitted to some of its aircraft and the Royal Artillery had chemical filled shells.
When the Japs learnt the British had the means to retailiate like for like the Japs shelved the idea. Just before the fall of Singapore the chemical munitions were dumped in the harbour. As said if I recall correctly details from a book.
 
#18
Of course, the focus was of 'White' traitors. Almost to a man, the Sikh constables of the Straits Settlement Police Force switched allegiance to the Japanese during the occupation of Singapore and a number also joined Bose's INA. Those remaining in Singapore were known for their cruelty towards the White prisoners.

As a result of this, at the end of the war the British Military Administration would not allow a Sikh Bn to be reformed; instead a Bn of the 9th Ghurkha Rifles were established on the island for Public Order duties (there was considerable industrial unrest fomented by the Chinese Communists under Lai Tek and then Chin Peng). This Bn still exists as part of the Singapore Police and is officered by British Loan Service personnel. It was infiltrated by Maoist sympathisers in the early 2000s and in 2005/6 a serious mutiny took place.

Of related interest, the head of the South Seas Chinese Communist Party during this period, Lai Teck, apparently worked for the Duexieme Bureau in what is now Vietnam and was passed on to Special Branch Handlers in c 1931 (Insp Rene Onraet) and run as an asset until the Japanese occupation in 1942. He then worked for the Kempetai and returned to British control in late 1945. As Secretary General of the CHICOM he ‘miraculously escaped’ from being captured by the British until his followers began to get suspicious. He fled to Bangkok in 1946 and was strangled by a CHICOM death squad in 1947.

Chin Peng MBE then led the insurgents in a 12 year war against the British and Malay authorities – and only agreed to peace in 1989. He still lives in Southern Thailand and is an amiable ‘elder statesman’ and glosses over the thousands of people who died as a result of his leadership.

A twist to the story was the lack of government activity in S E Asia to defeat the Communists in the immediate post-war era. The Communists formed the backbone of a rather insipid guerrilla campaign against the Japanese (hence why Chin Peng received the MBE from Mountbatten) but the concern was that Governor Edward Gent, an ardent Socialist, was allowing this ‘revolution’ to happen. He eventually admitted that ‘there were bigger forces at play’ and was recalled back to London in 1948, only to die in an air crash at RAF Northolt. His intelligence director, Col Dalley, was convinced that Gent was a communist under instructions from Moscow.
 
#19
This Bn still exists as part of the Singapore Police and is officered by British Loan Service personnel. It was infiltrated by Maoist sympathisers in the early 2000s and in 2005/6 a serious mutiny took place.
Truly fascinating post. Can you direct me to any more on this mutiny?

This thread has proved far more illuminating and interesting than the programme itself - especially Heenan of who I knew not.
Much obliged to all who have contributed.
 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
#20
Watched the programme.....Sempill's engagement as leader of the semi official Naval air mission in 1921 is noted by Howarth in 'Morning Glory' who also quotes Sempill as follows: 'The Japanese will make good airmen in time, but will probably be lacking in resource and initiative'


Beyond that he does not feature in this 366 page examination of the Imperial Japanese Navy. The overblown claim that he was ' the Brit responsible for Pearl Harbor' doesn't bear even cursory scrutiny.

Reviewing the chapter on Pearl (Chapter 22 ' the proper application of overwhelming force' ) two sentences struck me:

"...the same day (Nov 2 1941) Imperial General Headquarters sent Naval Order No. 1 to Yamamoto:
' in view of the great possibility of being compelled to go to war against the United States, Great Britain and the Netherlands (it read)" Japan has decided to complete various operational preparations within the first ten days of December....the Commander In Chief will make the necessary operational preparations."
Eight days later,10 November 1941, the Pearl Harbor Task Force sailed under strict radio silence for an rv near Kamchatka

Second:
As part of the war preparations, all of Japan's merchant ships were being summoned home; and on 23 Nov 1941 , the British Far East Combined Bureau - or , less modestly, British Intelligence - came up with a remarkable forecast. The method was simplicity itself: a graph was made with a calendar on one axis and the number of Japanese merchant ships not yet home on the other .

But the deduction it produced could hardly have been more accurate : all Japanese merchant ships would have returned to Japan by the first week of December; and at that time, or shortly after, war would break out
Good book - well worth a read.



Hardback, dust jacket, gc slightly foxed.

Will post to the highest bidder in return for a cheque made out to SSAFA Forces Help.

Who will start me at 10 USD :)

( no, I don't take Yen or indeed Renminbi )

Goats
 

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