Betrayal at Singapore, BBC 2 tonight.

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Chef, May 21, 2012.

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  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.
  4. seaweed

    seaweed LE Book Reviewer

    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.
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  5. Wordsmith

    Wordsmith LE Book Reviewer

    Be interesting to see if this little gem turns up in the program.

    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.

  6. Goatman

    Goatman LE Book Reviewer

    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:[​IMG]

    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.


    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.
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  7. Wordsmith

    Wordsmith LE Book Reviewer

    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.

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  8. seaweed

    seaweed LE Book Reviewer

    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. 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:

  11. That's the bugger. The book was:

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

    Wordsmith LE Book Reviewer

    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.


    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?
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  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.
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  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.
  15. seaweed

    seaweed LE Book Reviewer

    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.
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