The War in Malaya – Arthur Percival (1949) (1st edition)


The War in Malaya – Arthur Percival (1949) (1st edition)


Title: The War in Malaya
Author: Lieutenant-General Arthur Ernest Percival
Publisher: Eyre & Spottiswoode, London, 1949. First edition.
Condition: Hardcover, no dust jacket. Good. Newspaper cutouts pasted on ffep, tanning and foxing to edges and endpapers. Text clean, binding tight.

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About the book

A very scarce and important account of World War 2 in Malaya by General Arthur Percival, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) Malaya of the British forces who was responsible for the fall of Singapore and the surrender of Malaya to the Japanese. He was subsequently imprisoned by the Japanese and sent to a POW camp in Manchuria. Percival was blamed for losing Malaya to Japanese, although later scholarship took a more sympathetic view of him due to the difficulties he experienced at that time.

Chapters include “Malaya in Pre-War Days”, “The Battle for Kedah”, the operations in Kedah, Borneo, Johore, administrative problems, the Battle of Singapore and others, with many maps, plans and diagrams.

About Percival (from Wikipedia):

Lieutenant-General Arthur Ernest Percival (26 December 1887 – 31 January 1966) was a British Army officer and World War I veteran. He built a successful military career during the interwar period but is most noted for his defeat in World War II, when he commanded the forces of the British Commonwealth during the Japanese Malayan Campaign and the subsequent Battle of Singapore.

Percival’s surrender to the invading Imperial Japanese Army force is the largest capitulation in British military history, which undermined the United Kingdom’s prestige as an imperial power in the Far East.[1][2] However, current knowledge about the years of under-funding of Malaya’s defences and the inexperienced, under-equipped nature of the Commonwealth army has enabled certain commentators to hold a more sympathetic view of his command.

In 1936m Percival was tasked to draw up a tactical assessment of how the Japanese were most likely to attack. In late 1937, his analysis duly confirmed that north Malaya might become the critical battleground. The Japanese were likely to seize the east coast landing sites on Thailand and Malaya in order to capture aerodromes and achieve air superiority. This could serve as a prelude to further Japanese landings in Johore to disrupt communications northwards and enable the construction of another main base in North Borneo. From North Borneo, the final sea and air assault could be launched against eastern Singapore—against Changi area.

In April 1941 Percival was given promotion to acting lieutenant-general, and was appointed General Officer Commanding (GOC) Malaya. For much of the interwar period, Britain’s defensive plan for Malaya had centred on the dispatch of a naval fleet to the newly built Singapore Naval Base. Accordingly, the army’s role was to defend Singapore and Southern Johore. While this plan had seemed adequate when the nearest Japanese base had been 1,700 miles (2,700 km) away, the outbreak of war in Europe, combined with the partial Japanese occupation of the northern part of French Indochina and the signing of the Tripartite Pact in September 1940, had underlined the difficulty of a sea-based defence. Instead it was proposed to use the RAF to defend Malaya, at least until reinforcements could be dispatched from Britain. This led to the building of airfields in northern Malaya and along its east coast and the dispersal of the available army units around the peninsula to protect them.

On 8 December 1941 the Japanese 25th Army under the command of Lieutenant-General Tomoyuki Yamashita launched an amphibious assault on the Malay Peninsula. Later, the Japanese insisted that Percival himself march under a white flag to the Old Ford Motor Factory in Bukit Timah to negotiate the surrender. A Japanese officer present noted that he looked “pale, thin and tired”. Churchill viewed the fall of Singapore to be “the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history.” Percival was ultimately responsible for the men who served under him, and with other officers – notably Major-General David Murray-Lyon, commander of the Indian 11th Infantry Division – he had shown a willingness to replace them when he felt their performance was not up to scratch. Perhaps his greatest mistake was to resist the building of fixed defences in either Johore or the north shore of Singapore, dismissing them in the face of repeated requests to start construction from his Chief Engineer, Brigadier Ivan Simson, with the comment “Defences are bad for morale – for both troops and civilians”.