Malaya 1941: Sir Andrew Gilchrist (1992) (1st ed)


Malaya 1941: Sir Andrew Gilchrist (1992) (1st ed)


Title: Malaya 1941: The Fall of a Fighting Empire

Author: Sir Andrew Gilchrist

Publisher: Robert Hale, 1992. First edition.

Condition: Hardcover, with dust jacket wrapped in plastic. Ex-library book, with library stickers to copyright page and back endpaper. Some foxing to edges and slight foxing to first few pages. 185pp., 9″x6″.

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From jacket flap:

The surrender of General Percival to the Japanese at Singapore on 15 February 1941 remains the greatest humiliation suffered by the British army. It involved the loss of 130,000 soldiers and signalled the end of the British Empire.

Writing from first-hand experience of the area in the period leading up to the outbreak of war, the author graphically relates the events preceding the surrender including the dramatic loss of Prince of Wales and Repulse, the ignominious surrender itself, and the disastrous consequences throughout Malaysia and the Far East. Though due allowance is made for the vulnerability of the British strategic position, the main discussion focuses on the reasons for the unprecedented and shocking collapse, namely the incapacity of the army commander, Brooke-Popham, the unreadiness of the Royal Navy under Admiral Phillips and the poor performance of the RAF. Indeed, Winston Churchill himself emerges from this campaign with little credit and the author argues convincingly that the British collapse, far from being inevitable as is widely assumed, was attributable to defective command at the highest level.

About the author (from Wikipedia):

Sir Andrew Graham Gilchrist KCMG (19 April 1910 – 6 March 1993) was a British Special Operations Executive operative who later served as the United Kingdom’s Ambassador to Ireland, Indonesia, and Iceland during the Cold War.

Gilchrist was born on 19 April 1910 in the village of Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire, Scotland. He was educated at the Edinburgh Academy, before reading History at Exeter College, Oxford from where he graduated in 1931. After Oxford he entered the diplomatic service and had his first overseas posting in Siam, now Thailand.

During the war he spent time in a Japanese PoW camp, before being released in a prisoner exchange. He then joined SOE (Special Operations Executive) and was active in intelligence in India and Siam between 1944 and 1945. In a letter to his wife, he wrote harrowing accounts of worker camps along the Kra Isthmus Railway in Thailand under the Japanese.

In his retirement he wrote a scholarly account of Britain’s disastrous military collapse in the Pacific Theater. Winston Churchill himself was singled out for criticism, for failing to protect British assets and placing too much reliance on the support of the US Pacific fleet.

In 1956 he was appointed British Ambassador to Reykjavik, Iceland. His time there included the First Cod War between the two countries. Anecdotes suggest that while the countries were threatening battle, he went fishing with an Icelandic minister.He later wrote a book about his time in Reykjavik entitled ‘Cod Wars and How to Lose Them’.

After serving a stint as British Consul General to Chicago, Andrew Gilchrist served as British Ambassador to Jakarta, Indonesia (1962–1966). His time there saw an attack on the British Embassy in Jakarta on 16 September 1963, and the torching of his official car. The Indonesians had been incensed by the decision of the Malayan Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman and the Colonial Secretary Duncan Sandys to proceed with the inauguration of the Federation of Malaysia without first waiting for a United Nations ascertainment mission to complete its survey of public opinion in Sarawak and British North Borneo (modern–day Sabah). While the United Nations mission found majority support for Malaysia within the Borneo Territories, the Indonesian and Philippines governments regarded the Tunku-Sandys declaration as a violation of the Manila Accord. Thus, they refused to recognize the Malaysian Federation and demanded a new United Nations survey. Indonesia also accelerated its policy of Confrontation against Malaysia, by launching more cross-border raids into Sarawak and Sabah.