The Fatal Fortress, the Guns & Fortifications of Singapore 1819-1956

B2352

Most of the coverage of the of Singapore’s defences has concentrated on the brief battle when a larger British and Commonwealth force surrendered to the Japanese generals who had been surprised by the surrender. Coverage of the defensive guns and fortifications has been relatively modest and usually confined to comments that the guns pointed seaward and were of little use against an attacker coming out of the jungle. The author has made a fine job of describing the history of Singapore’s defensive artillery from the founding of the city, to the demise of Coastal Artillery in the British Army in 1953. A very interesting read that is recommended.

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NAME: The Fatal Fortress, the Guns & Fortifications of Singapore 1819-1956
FILE: R2352
AUTHOR: Bill Clements
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
PAGES: 199
PRICE: £19.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Singapore, Malayan Peninsular, heavy guns, shore batteries, coastal artillery, fortifications, WWII, World War Two, Second World War, Japan
ISBN: 1-47382-956-9
IMAGE: B2352.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/hpzmuxr
LINKS:
DESCRIPTION: Most of the coverage of the of Singapore’s defences has concentrated on the brief battle when a larger British and Commonwealth force surrendered to the Japanese generals who had been surprised by the surrender. Coverage of the defensive guns and fortifications has been relatively modest and usually confined to comments that the guns pointed seaward and were of little use against an attacker coming out of the jungle. The author has made a fine job of describing the history of Singapore’s defensive artillery from the founding of the city, to the demise of Coastal Artillery in the British Army in 1953. A very interesting read that is recommended.

The clear and fascinating text is ably supported by a considerable number of illustrations in the form of maps, drawings and photographs. Coastal artillery is a subject that has received little attention from historians and military writers. It is assumed that it has completely disappeared from the family of weapons, but that is some way from the truth with coastal fortifications continuing to be built and manned around the world, albeit that today it is more likely to see missiles and radar than guns. In this book the story of Singapore is told in relation to its coastal batteries and the Fall of Singapore, but many readers will particularly enjoy the coverage of artillery from the muzzle-loading guns at the end of the Napoleonic Wars to the final deletion of Singapore’s batteries, via the period of Victorian innovation as muzzle-loading canon were succeeded by breech-loaders and the replacement of wooden gun carriages and slide mounts with barbet and turret guns of ever increasing size. Where originally guns were laid manually and individually, they came to depend on fire control systems and communications to tackle targets by battery and beyond sight.

The popular belief was that the guns were wrongly sited when they came to be needed in 1942, but the author has advanced the view that the real failure was in overall failure in command and control. This is the most credible conclusion but the popular belief was largely based on the shock that an ‘impregnable’ colonial fortress could be defeated with such ease and speed by a relatively small Japanese force. One aspect that has remained lost in time was that a small unit of Royal Naval personnel, commanded by a Chief Petty Officer and including Indian soldiers, succeeded in penetrating the defences before the outbreak of WWII during an exercise. The CPO was berated for not being sporting in not following the rules of the exercise, but taking his party through the jungle and in through an under-defended back door. The exercise had assumed that an enemy would only attack from the sea and have to make a frontal attack on the main fortifications. The CPO concerned, later promoted, had the satisfaction as boat-master, to a Commando force in accepting the surrender of the Japanese General in Singapore at the end of the war.

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