Help support TMP

"Malaya and Burma campaign 1941/42 - Good books?" Topic

17 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the WWII Scenarios Message Board

Back to the WWII Discussion Message Board

Back to the WWII Media Message Board

2,830 hits since 6 Oct 2012
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Tarleton Inactive Member06 Oct 2012 5:21 a.m. PST

Hi ho chaps,

Has anyone got any good book suggestions for the Malaya and retreat through burma campaign(s) in 1941/42?

I've read/got Tank Tracks To Rangoon by Bryan Perrett and The Jungle Is Nuetral by Spencer-Chapman but sadly lacking anything else for the early fighting.

Thanks very much.

Mad Monarchist Inactive Member06 Oct 2012 5:38 a.m. PST

Louis Allen's Burma: The Longest War is by far the best overview of the entire Burma campaign, as evidenced by the fact that all subsequent works reference it extensively.

The best and most exhaustive account of the retreat is Burma 1942: The Japanese Invasion by Ian Lyall Grant and Kazuo Tamayama.

For Malaya a concise introduction is Alan Warren's Singapore 1942 although for a more colourful read check out either Colin Smith's Singapore Burning or Peter Thompson's The Battle for Singapore.

The official British and Indian histories, while often lacking the Japanese perspective, are also worth reading as they are fantastic resources for both maps and OOBs (this is especially true of the latter).

FatherOfAllLogic06 Oct 2012 5:44 a.m. PST

Victory from Defeat(?) by The Viscount Field Marshal Slim.

Captain DEwell Inactive Member06 Oct 2012 8:47 a.m. PST

For Malaya and Singapore, an interesting introduction to the period is;

The Fall of Singapore by Frank Owen (Penguin Books, 1960). This little beauty clinched it for me and led to a long-time obsession with the campaign.

I agree with the titles mentioned above, and also (as published);

Singapore: The Chain of Disaster by Maj-Gen. Woodburn Kirby (Cassell, 1971). An authoritive account by the British Official Historian of the war.

Singapore: The Pregnable Fortress by Peter Elphick (Coronet, 1995). Reveals the identity of the 'Singapore Spy', a British officer who allegedly assisted the Japanese invasion.

Japan's Greatest Victory, Britain's Worst Defeat by Colonel Masanobu (Spellmount Ltd, 1997). Japanese officer who helped formulate the Japanese invasion plan for Malaya.

Tales By Japanese Soldiers by Kazuo Tamayama & John Nunneley (Cassell, 2000). The Japanese soldier's perspective.

The Naked Island by Russell Braddon (Birlinn, 2001). An Australian solldier's experience and viewpoint.

Singapore 1942 by Alan Warren (Hambledon & London, 2002). Based on information released from the British Public Records Office in the late 1990s.

Moon Over Malaya by Jonathan Moffatt & Audrey Holmes McCormick (Tempus Publishing Ltd, 2002). The true story of the 2nd Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders and of their compatriots, the Royal Marines. Hugely interesting.

The Defence and Fall of Singapore 1940-1942 by Brian P. Farrell (Tempus, 2005). New information based on more recently released records.

And the complete wingers no pun intended. You may wish to read the air campaigns;

Bloody Shambles: The First Comprehensive Account of Air Operations Over South-East Asia December 1941-April 1942 by Christopher Shores & Brian Cull with Yasuho Izawa. Volume One: The Drift to War to the Fall of Singapore (Grub Street, 1992).

Buffaloes Over Singapore: RAF, RAAF, RNZAF and Dutch Brewster Fighters in Action Over Malaya and the East Indies 1941-42 by Brian Cull with Paul Sortehaug and mark Haselden (Grub Street, 2003).

Buffaloes Over Singapore: RAF, RNZAF and NEI Fighters in Action Against the Japanese Over the Island and the Netherlands East Indies, 1942 by Brian Cull with Paul Sortenhaug (Grub Street, 2004).

Personal logo Vis Bellica Supporting Member of TMP06 Oct 2012 9:34 a.m. PST

If you're after scenarios, you could try my two scenario packs for IABSM: Fall of the Lion Gate (covering Malaya & Singapore) and Bloody Burma (covering Burma).

Each scenario comes with the history to go with it. Sample pages and AAR at or get them from the TFL site.

Otherwise the above list of titles covers the bibliography very nicely.


Tarleton Inactive Member06 Oct 2012 9:43 a.m. PST

By 'eck!!

Many thanks chaps, I never expected such a big list. I'd totally forgotten about Russell Braddon… I read it nearly 40 years ago. There looks to be some real gems amongst your lists.

Captain DEwell Inactive Member06 Oct 2012 9:50 a.m. PST

Good point, Vis Bellica. For scenarios also consider;

Japanese World War II Scenarios: December 1941-August 1942 by A. Michael Sayce

The Japanese Landings in Northern Malaya 1941 by A. Michael Sayce(Hamlet Models, 1998)

The Battle of Jitra, Northern Malaya 11th-13th January [sic], 1941 by A. Michael Sayce(Hamlet Models, 1998)

The Japanese Invasion of Hong Kong 1941by A. Michael Sayce(Hamlet Models, 1998)

Rapid Fire, Fast Play Rules for World War II. The Fall of Hong Kong: 8th-25th December 1941 by Colin Rumford & Richard Marsh (Strategem Publishing Ltd, 1994)

As aye,


Captain DEwell Inactive Member06 Oct 2012 4:20 p.m. PST


I incorrectly mentioned Buffaloes Over Singapore twice whereas the second book should refer to Hurricane fighters -yeah, they made it out there.

Hurricanes Over Singapore: RAF, RNZAF and NEI Fighters in Action Against the Japanese Over the Island and the Netherlands East Indies, 1942 by Brian Cull with Paul Sortenhaug (Grub Street, 2004).

Jemima Fawr Inactive Member07 Oct 2012 10:46 a.m. PST

Wot they said – especially Lyall-Grant and Tamayama's 'Burma 1942'.

I'd also add:

'Bloody Shambles' Vol.2, which covers the bulk of the Japanese invasion of Burma.

'Hurricanes Over The Jungle' by Terence Kelly, which is his personal account of operations over Sumatra and Java (including the Japanese paratroop assault on Palembang).

Patrick Delaforce's 'Churchill's Desert Rats Vol.2' devotes a detailed chapter to 7th Armoured Brigade's operations in Burma during 1942.

And if you're interested in Hong Kong, the best account I've found is Tony Banham's 'Not The Slightest Chance'.

Etranger Inactive Member07 Oct 2012 6:53 p.m. PST

The offical Australian Military Histories for the campaign are at link

There should be some coverage of air & sea actions as well as ground combat in the respective volumes.

This is a good history of the Australian actions during the Malayan campaign. It's like a supersized Osprey & recommended as a good starter. It doesn't white wash the Australian performance either. A companion volume on Singapore is promised. link

CPO Pertwee Inactive Member08 Oct 2012 12:06 p.m. PST

A bit out of scope but the classic "when your quatered safe out here" by George Macdonald Fraser is a must.

Jemima Fawr Inactive Member08 Oct 2012 2:05 p.m. PST

Yes, it's a brilliant and classic book and an absolute must-buy, but it is more than a bit out of scope. Fraser didn't join the war until the Japanese were retreating from Imphal in 1944, so it doesn't really have much to say on the Retreat of 1942.

CPO Pertwee Inactive Member09 Oct 2012 11:11 a.m. PST

Correct RMD, but his descriptions of the sharp end of infantry actions is superb.

Kiwi Red One22 Oct 2012 4:11 a.m. PST

Just found a new tome in our local library called "The Fall of Singapore 90 Days Nov 1941 Feb 1942" by Justin and Robin Corfield.

This gives good coverage of the overall campaign from a British perspective. Each day all known British/Allied military casualties are listed by unit in some detail along with a summary of events for that day.

One area that is very poorly covered are air operations. In a side bar on page 432 the authors state that the six major types of planes used by "the Japanese Air Force" were as follows:
1. Navy Type 96 (Mitsubishi A5M) a twin engined bomber with 5 crew used in large formation raids. I presume that they are actually talking about the G3M which is illustrated above the entry.
2. Army 97 (Mitsubishi Ki 15) also a twin engined bomber used in large raids. The accompanying photo correctly shows a Ki-15 single engined recce aircraft.
3. Junkers Ju 87B dive bomber(!!!!). I presume that here they are equating the Ju87 with the Ki 51, but photo shows Ju87's over Poland!
4. Junkers Ju 88 (Kyushu Q1W) built as a replica, had 3 crew and was fast(!!!). In fact the Q1W prototype did not fly till September 1943 and was a specialist anti-submarine patrol aircraft, not a bomber.
5. Navy 97 (B5N2)- used against HMS Repulse and Prince of Wales (!!!). Er, nope sorry that should be G3M and G4M land based bombers.
6. Navy 0 (Mitsubishi A6M) correctly identified.

I could sight some other examples but you get the picture.

Given the amount of readily available information on Japanese and Allied aircraft these days I find it nothing short of incredible that this sort of stuff can be put into print in a book published in 2012.

The book contains a lot of useful information and presents an overall picture of the Malayan campaign from the British point of view. However I feel that the mistakes really devalue its overall value, at least to me.

Mad Monarchist Inactive Member23 Oct 2012 8:53 a.m. PST

I reached the opposite conclusion – I thought the Corfields did a horrible job after having spent close to half an hour flicking through it in a KL book store last month.

Fatman Inactive Member25 Oct 2012 7:26 a.m. PST

Got to admit the utter rowlocks written about the airwar made me anti from the start but even allowing for that I wasn't impressed by Corfields book


uglyfatbloke07 Feb 2013 1:03 p.m. PST

Anyone know where we could find a copy of the Rapid Fire book?

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.