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Re: Time/effort required, Part I

May 11 2012 at 12:32 PM
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GerritJ9  (no login)
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Response to Re: Time/effort required, Part I

Nelson, first the difference re PH and Singapore. As you say, PH was investigated intensively (although I'm not 100% convinced that everything relevant has turned up), whereas Singapore wasn't. The difference, in my opinion, was down to one man: Churchill. In 1942, he stated in the Commons that a full inquiry would not be held during the war for security reasons, but he did promise one post-war. Fair enough so far. But post-war, no inquiry. Churchill was no longer PM when the Emperor signed on the dotted line, but if he had insisted on one and had thrown his considerable prestige into the fray, it is hard to see how an inquiry could have been avoided. Yet he did nothing at all, even though Percival, Wavell, Heath, Layton, Shenton Thomas, Crosby etc were still alive at that time and available for questioning.
I believe that Churchill realized that a full inquiry would have revealed all. As PM, he bore the ultimate responsibility, and an impartial inquiry would have revealed his own failings and shortcomings- and seriously damaged his own reputation as wartime leader. Not to mention that other establishment figures would have had egg on their faces. Hence Churchill's silence on the matter, which suited everybody perfectly- and still does. Mustn't damage Britain's wartime reputation, old boy.

Second, the 13.5 Mk. Vs. Britain built five classes of dreadnoughts with these guns, which carried a total of 152 guns: the battleships of the Orion, KGV and Iron Duke classes, and the Lion and Tiger classes of battlecruisers. By 1939 nearly all of them had been scrapped (only Iron Duke still carried three turrets as a training battleship), but 54 guns were in storage plus six turrets- four ex-Tiger turrets and two ex-Iron Duke turrets.
The turrets could easily have been used as shore-based mountings. If proof is needed, the Soviets used two triple 12 turrets from the Gangut class dreadnought Mikhail Frunze on Russky island near Vladivostok pre-war, and the Germans used the triple 11 turrets from the Gneisenau in several shore batteries. Post-war, the Soviets used the Frunze's remaining two turrets to repair fort Maksim Gorky near Sevastopol, which pre-1942 had two twin 12 turrets. All four of Frunze's turrets are still in existence, as is one of Gneisenau's in Norway. And, incidentally, all of these turrets are open to the public.
As built, the 13.5 turrets had a maximum elevation of 20 deg, as did the 15. In the 1930s, the 15 turrets were modified to increase elevation to 30 deg, though due to outbreak of war in 1939 this was limited to Warspite, Valiant, Queen Elizabeth and Renown plus the 15 turrets later fitted to Vanguard and the new monitors. The other ships simply couldn't be taken out of service for this modification- they were desperately required for war service.
The 13.5 turrets (or more accurately, their gun mountings) could also have been modified for increased elevation in a similar manner. So yes, suitable mountings existed. The remaining three turrets on Iron Duke could even have been removed if necessary- not sure whether this was actually done during the war or that the turrets and guns remained on board until her scrapping. (Why remove the guns and turrets if you're not going to use them?) Modifying the mountings would have taken time- but far less time than building totally new mountings.
As for the guns themselves: the guns retained probably still had a reasonable bore life left, were unused or had been relinered. Curiously, the British only used six during the war: three as railway guns near Dover, the other three were relinered to become 8 superguns. Neither the remaining guns nor the turrets were used and probably all were scrapped post-war.
So in short, guns and mountings were available. And although not as powerful as a 15, few vessels short of a battleship would like to receive a 13.5 hit.

Third, the Buona Vista battery. Perhaps the battery's CO did indeed say Best not modify for whatever reason, but Percival should have overruled him. As officer under Dobbie he had worked on the pre-war appraisal that stated that the Japanese could advance through Malaya, then attack Singapore- which they actually did. Did he really believe that the Japanese would still attempt a major seaborne attack when the IJA was only separated from Singapore Island by the Johore Strait, and Singapore's northern shore with only flimsy defences? How likely was that, even leaving aside that Yamashita was not about to share the glory with the IJN?
If the Japanese HAD attempted a major seaborne landing, they would have destroyed the shore batteries first and whether opposed by one, three or all five 15 guns would have made little difference. The two Nagatos alone had sixteen 16 guns between them, add the other battleships and the volume of gunfire is simply overwhelming. This ignores the dangers of minefields to Japanese ships of course, but if the IJN had assaulted Singapore they would undoubtedly added minesweepers to the arsenal.
Which was more important, the very real danger of the IJA crossing Johore Strait or a theoretical possibility of the IJN suddenly appearing over the horizon? Buona Vista's two guns probably wouldn't have influenced the eventual outcome but they could have made a useful contribution. At least they would have done something. Instead, they made no contribution to Singapore's defence whatsoever.

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