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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

trekaddict

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The Middle East for the most part (Persia in-universe, as well as some of the Saudi Fields were discovered), the un-occupied parts of the Dutch East Indies.

Let's say that Persia and the Empire will have a very different relationship after the war. I think I also considered saying something about the discovery of some of the Nigerian sources a long while back. but it probably got lost in the shuffle (this is the third Computer I own during the duration of this AAR...)
 

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Chapter 383


The Japanese reaction to the impending loss of Hainan is telling of the contradictions under which the Japanese High Command operated. On one hand they all but abandoned southern China and pulled their own troops back to the coastal cities even as the propaganda machine went through the usual motions and on the other they followed the example of Prime Minister Tojo and tried to rationalize this clear defeat as part of a victorious campaign plan. As presented to the Emperor, the plan now was to allow Hainan to fall, temporarily of course, in order to draw the Allies, especially their fleet, northwards where they could be engaged and destroyed by the Combined Fleet at Admiral Toyoda's leisure.


It was also patently ignored that four Chinese and two British Divisions (the 10th Airborne acting as the reserve) had utterly destroyed the 1st Guards over the course of a week and driven the remaining Japanese forces back onto the defences around Haikou after another twelve days. In less than a month the second-largest of the Chinese Islands had almost been cleared by supposedly racially inferior Chinese and weak, effeminate and decadent westerners.


If they had known about it, they would also have ignored the sailing of another convoy from Cham Rhan Bay. Said convoy was carrying a reinforced Commonwealth Division that consisted of British, Canadian and Anglo-Chinese troops, reinforced by two extra battalions that had been poached from the Indian Marine Brigade that was being held back in anticipation of Jaywick 2. A reserve was provided by an extra brigade of Their task was only to kick in the door. The actual fighting would be done by the rest of the Division, all of which and the Candians in particular had an axe to grind with the Japanese that had occupied their destination for years. The Japanese in that city might have been worried had they known that the Canadian unit were both battalions of the Royal Rifles of Canada, and they might have worried even more had they known that the point ship in the Battlegroup (though not the flag) was the British Light Cruiser HMS Thunderchild.




To attempt a liberation at Hong Kong was a decision made, to no one's surprise right at Number 10. The great difficulties that Operation Corporate brought with it however can only partly be laid at Churchill's feet. His may have been the idea for the mission and the determination to see it through against the objections of everyone but what the Prime Minister often said was that it was the right time. The 38th Army would have ballooned in size had Corporate taken place only a scant week or two later, and had the original plan been followed, which was to take Hong Kong on the bounce as the invasion forces for Formosa sailed past, losses would have been even more severe.


Most of the criticisms Churchill's reputation had and has to face concern the cost involved in supplying Corporate and the losses taken by the units involved. That much can be seen as accurate, as the British efforts to supply Hong Kong later certainly played their part in the difficulties the Allies would face on Formosa. However, the common myth that Corporate was the cause why there never was an invasion of the Philippine Islands is wrong. That option was discounted long before the plan for Jaywick had been settled on. What is true however is that supplies that should have gone to the local resistance there instead went to Hong Kong.


Tong Fuk beach on Lantau Island was chosen as the first point of entry used by the Marines. The Island was supposed to proved a logistics and artillery base Even though Silver Mine Bay would be far more suitable as a landing area it would place the invasion forces far too close to Hong Kong Island itself as well as far too close to the old defensive minefields that were assumed to be still in operation. Once the Island was secured, entrance into Hong Kong Island itself would be difficult. Topographically Hong Kong Island was a nightmare to take against a prepared defence. Repulse bay was the best of a set of bad choices. There one of the Brigades as well as one of the Marine Battalions (whichever were in the best shape after Lantau Island) would land. As soon as the Island was secured a third landing would take place. That time, Clear Water Bay on the mainland would be the target for no other purpose than to circumvent the inevitable Japanese defences opposite Hong Kong Island.


Fighting through the hills towards the new border with China proper would not be easy and very costly, but that was the case with any other possible landing place. At the very least landing there would ensure naval artillery support.


It wasn't the perfect plan, but it was launched all the same and in ignorance of the worsening weather.


Exactly why Admiral Cunningham insisted on pushing forward in spite of being given the option not to by the Imperial General Staff isn't quite clear. His official papers only record that the decision was taken on the 10th and as being contingent on success on Hainan, while his autobiography only states that he felt it was the right thing to do at the time. There is also the departure of the bulk of the Combined Fleet from Japanese waters to consider, since the liberation of Hong Kong would be endangered by its presence, in fact it was still going on when the Battle of the South China Sea took place.


Appropriately, it was Thunderchild that was to open fire first, shortly before noon on 25th April 1944.


~**---**~


No one had officially ordered a moment of silence as HMS Thunderchild slipped into position, but no one on the bridge was uttering a word. Only a handful of the officers and other ranks had ever been to Hong Kong before the war, but to anyone on the ship this was a special place, would always be. The ten 5.25 inch guns in the turrets were trained on their targets, known Japanese defensive positions on the landing beaches.


Stonefaced, desperately trying not to show any emotion, her Captain uttered only one word.


“Fire.”


Sheets of flame tore through the night, and the darkened fleet took this as their call. Beside Thunderchild, there were Cumberland, Exeter and Belfast, all taking her cue and adding their own shells to the fire.


For twenty minutes the shells walked up and down a small section of the coast. During that time the Marines had boarded their landing craft and the sky had lightened up enough for them to be able to see where they were shooting. Accompanied by two Destroyers that were meant to provide more direct support, the Marines were also supported by a troop of Mathilda IIs. Those tanks, while criminally obsolete in Europe and increasingly vulnerable against newer Japanese tanks such as the new Type 3, which was rare due to the Japanese inability to manufacture them in the numbers they needed even with forced labour in factories on the Chinese mainland; but it proved to be more than a match for the third and fourth-line types such as the BT-17 and the T-28 that the Soviets were using on the Asian front.


Still, they would provide support to the Marines who had for the most part been peasants in Mysore and Madras only a year or so before, though several Officers and NCOs, white and Indian, had been on exchange posting with 'The Division' in Europe and had imparted their wisdom on the others. The Japanese defenders on the other hand had spent the last two years or more holding down a city of mixed ethnicity, of which all major groups had reasons to hate them even without the occupation. Japanese conduct was correspondingly brutal.


In the end though they were experienced but poorly trained second string troops with little heavy equipment against superbly equipped and supported light Infantry that had little actual combat experience.


The initial clashes favoured the Allies thanks to an overwhelming superiority in firepower, but terrain favoured the defence. Grinding into the hills was not an easy task, but the defenders of Lantau Island were few, most of the Japanese were concentrated either in the city itself or were even farther north trying to keep the supply lines open. Which proved to be easier said than done, given that the countryside exploded into rebellion as soon as news that the attack was not just a raid filtered through to the local population.


In the air the situation had been decided before mid-day, the few remaining and hopelessly obsolete fighters did not live long against CANZAC Sea Furies, leaving the airgroups of the three carriers free to provide air support.


What aided the Allies even more were the inflexible tactics the Japanese followed. In the latter stages of Indochina and then on Hainan, Japanese commanders had taken to adopting a more flexible defence. Here, they fought in the same old style, clinging to fixed positions which worsened the lot of the average infantryman but made the Japanese far less slippery than they might have been.


Overall the official Japanese response was surprisingly muted. Nothing in surviving Japanese archives suggests that the actual sailing of the Combined Fleet was materially affected by the attack on Hong Kong; at best it was moved up by a few hours nor were there any extraordinary air movements. All in all this indicates that the Japanese High Command really had written off the city by this point.


The 38th Army on the other hand acted. Or it tried to. For the remainder of the 25th, trying to ferry people across over ten miles of open water from Hong Kong island was suicide, that much was recognized. By night on the other hand a slow but surprisingly steady trickle of men with little more than their rifles made it on every conceivable craft, as the Allies had not thought to bring MTBs to guard against something of that sort.


But it couldn't make any difference. For five days the Anglo-Chinese 111th and 212th Regiments as well as elements of the Royal Rifles of Canada fought for the Island and had it secured by the 30th. On 2nd April the main landing on Hong Kong proper took place. During the early planning stages it had been intended for the Marines to once again be the first on shore, but after some rather... energetic reactions by the Colonel of the Royal Rifles of Canada, everyone decided that it was best not to be between those Canadians and the Japanese.


The landing itself was a display of guile, strong will and sheer bull-headedness that was worth remembering all on its own. Completely ignoring strong mortar and machinegun fire from Middle Island as well as artillery from Hong Kong itself the Canadian landing craft and Destroyers sailed straight up to the coast, not bothering with any preparation. The Canadian Infantry then proceeded to overrun the comparatively strong beach defences with little effort and few casualties before pushing clear towards Deep Water Bay in the west and Middle Beach Bay in the south as well as the site of the modern-day Church of All Nations in the north-east before running into any serious resistance.


Thus having blown a massive hole in the Japanese perimeter and secured a substantial beachhead, the Canadians stopped.


While they consolidated their lines, the rest of the Division began pouring in.


Had this taken place only a scant day later, then it would forever have been in the shadow of what happened on the 3rd and 4th of that month....


tbc


The original plan I had really called for Hong Kong being taken on the bounce, but in the game it didn't really happen, and it wouldn't have made sense in context of this story either. In reality I actually used Paratroops to do an amphib landing...
 
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ViperhawkZ

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It approaches...
 

stevep

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The Middle East for the most part (Persia in-universe, as well as some of the Saudi Fields were discovered), the un-occupied parts of the Dutch East Indies.

Let's say that Persia and the Empire will have a very different relationship after the war. I think I also considered saying something about the discovery of some of the Nigerian sources a long while back. but it probably got lost in the shuffle (this is the third Computer I own during the duration of this AAR...)

Trekaddict

Thanks. Given how long the TL has been going and my memory nowadays I've probably asked this question before and forgotten but it seemed like an obvious one. Was this a question of infrastructure development inside the game or did you need to tweak the resources of those areas a bit because you knew other areas, i.e. the US wouldn't be available?

Good chapter. Great to see Hong Kong back and it also opens a much better supply line for aid to the number of Chinese rebels that will be expanding rapidly as the Japanese empire collapses. Wise move not to get in the way of the Canadians on this issue and glad they didn't pay too much of a butcher's bill for it. Sounds like some nasty fighting to come but hopefully it will be the sort of historical banzai attacks that helped clear out Japanese forces in a lot of places.

Sounds like the combined fleet is going to come south and hopefully Cunningham hasn't pushed too far from support. Especially since by the time things are getting this desperate for them it can't be long before that damned wind starts blowing.;)

Steve
 

Kurt_Steiner

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So the Phillipines are lefet aside? Good idea. There you have a whole Japanese army that has no way to move elsewhere and that cannot hurt you...
 

El Pip

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So the Phillipines are lefet aside? Good idea. There you have a whole Japanese army that has no way to move elsewhere and that cannot hurt you...
Wise words from Kurtie. Are you OK?

Top update trek, slightly ominous ending. But ominous for who?
 

Kurt_Steiner

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I'm sorry, Pippy et al... This moment of unexpected and unwelcomed mental sanity would not be repeated again.

I swear it by the underwear of Taylor Swift.
 

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I'm sorry, Pippy et al... This moment of unexpected and unwelcomed mental sanity would not be repeated again.

I swear it by the underwear of Taylor Swift.
Oaths don't get more sacred or powerful than that. I have no choice now but to trust you.
 

trekaddict

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ViperhawkZ It does.

stevep The fighting is nasty, yes. But we have a reinforced brigade's worth of Garrison troops against a full Division of very motivated Commonwealth forces.
The Combined Fleet is indeed coming south.


Kurt_Steiner Yea, this would have happened in real live as well, had Dogout Doug not be such a goddamn egomaniac. I've heard it said he put six months on the war.

El Pip For the Japanese Navy, of course. :D Once I reaveal the numbers involved in the Battle of the South China Sea, you'll know why.


 

El Pip

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Kurt_Steiner Yea, this would have happened in real live as well, had Dogout Doug not be such a goddamn egomaniac. I've heard it said he put six months on the war.
In all fairness someone had to put some time into the war. If you add up all the things/people/inventions that 'Took xx years off the war' then WW2 should have lasted -479 years, possibly less. Therefore someone had to be putting all that time back on again, a task that fell to men like Dugout Doug, Giffard Martel and General Clark - making catastrophically stupid decisions to extend the conflict and make sure the war didn't last a negative number of years.
 

trekaddict

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Chapter 384


It is estimated that the trees used to make the paper of all the books and other publications written on the subject of the Battle of the South China Sea could cover all of the United Kingdom and then some. Every minute aspect of the Battle has been covered in every possible way, and every form of media, from the printed word to all things electronic.


Of course the most famous treatments will always be the filmed ones.


These range from the amazingly excellent, such as the multi-BAFTA winning 'Wings of the Pacific' (2013), the rare case of a remake surpassing its already excellent 1958 original which had itself won several BAFTAs, to the amazingly awful, chiefly 1976s 'Officers' which only recovered 5% of its budget at the box office and led to the then-First Sea Lord Sir Lesley Phillips VC to sue the makers for libel because they had portrayed him as a bumbling, incompetent idiot who was most interested in chasing women. The controversy led to the film not seeing a home media release until the 1999 Christmas season, while both versions of 'Wings of the Pacific' are noted for their relative accuracy and are recommended viewing at Dartmouth and it's subsidiaries in spite of their length.


As can be seen, the cultural impact cannot be overestimated.


Quite aside from being the last major fleet action of the war fought by the Royal Navy and the last time before the Falklands War that a British Fleet Carrier would sink another, it must be credited with setting the stage for the geo-political and strategic situation of the Cold War in the South Pacific as well as the current status of the Royal Navy in that, as Winston Churchill famously remarked in 1953, 'Britain experienced a second Trafalgar'. While the statement is overly dramatic and most modern historians shy away from the overt comparison with the events of 1805 there is some truth to it anyway; though how much is hard to quantify without access to American archives.


What is known, thanks to several American defectors, is that during the late 40s and early 50s when the APN was trying to formulate a strategy to counter the Royal Navy's overwhelming strength, Washington decided against one of open confrontation and a Fleet to Fleet battle in part at least because of how the Japanese had been defeated in the South China Sea. No one wanted to be on the receiving end of that.


In Britain and the wider Empire the Battle was at first seen as just another day at the office. Only when it became apparent how much of the remaining strength of the Imperial Japanese Navy had been destroyed by it did get the attention it deserved.


~**---**~​


If one is to examine the battle in detail, a look at the events leading up to it from the point of view of either combatant is needed first.


For the Allies it was more or less an accident. While it was hoped that the twin attacks on Hainan and Hong Kong would draw out elements of the Japanese fleet in order for them to be destroyed before the attack on Formosa was launched, no one really expected to fight an all-out fleet engagement. With hindsight this is a very naïve point of view, considering what is known now about Japanese intentions and motivations.


Even back then there were voices who believed from the start that nothing but massive fight could ensue of the Allied fleet operated this close to what the Japanese saw as their own heartland. Among them were most of the senior staff of Force Z in general and HMS Hood in particular.


Admiral Cunningham on the other hand believe that it was more likely that the Japanese would husband their fleet for the expected American or Allied offensives against the Home Islands and that they would make no more than a token effort to defend Formosa. Back in London opinion was divided as well, but the Imperial General Staff and the Allied Leadership Conference during the planning phases of both Jaywick Operations decided that it was worth the risk anyway.


There was confidence in the Royal Navy's ability to engage the Combined Fleet on favourable terms and defeat them in open battle, but that does not mean that there were no worries.


While the Allied Navies outnumbered the Japanese by a fair margin in Carriers as well as Dreadnoughts, damage to enough of them would severely upset plans, especially with the Audacious-Class carriers already in the fleet or still working up, and HMS Malta, lead ship of her class, not expected to enter service before February 1945. In summary, there would be a gap of several months where no additional carriers would be available to replace any that might be lost or damaged.


When these concerns were voiced to him, Admiral Cunningham said his most famous words.


'It takes us three years to build a ship. It will take three hundred years to build a new tradition. The Royal Navy will fight.'


This 'never say die' attitude meant that when the time came, the British Pacific Fleet and the various Allied detachments would engage the Japanese head on.


If there was a sufficiently decisive victory, then the Japanese would be finished at sea. The Joint Intelligence Committee had determined that the Japanese didn't have the industrial capacity to keep up with the building programme. Of course what was unknown then was that the Japanese economy was nowhere near strong enough to even replace the losses they had suffered so far, never mind expand the fleet.

That Japanese naval power was in decline was obvious, considering that the Japanese Fleet had not really been much of a factor in the South-West Pacific theatre, but it wasn't until after the war that the Allied Powers learned just how badly outmatched the Japanese had been from the start.


The other side of the coin was that for the Japanese it was the last chance, do or die.


Once again the lack of surviving records makes it difficult to determine to what extent the Japanese leadership was aware of the strategic situation.


That is not say that the information wasn't there for them to see.


Yet the amount of self-deception and doublethink going on in the Japanese High Command in the waning months of the war would have made the denizens of Orwell's '1994' proud and has been well documented there and generally outside the Navy Ministry where more records have survived. According to post-war testimony of the highest-ranking surviving Japanese officers when in Allied or American custody the mood in the halls of power during those days was one of cautious optimism and confidence in the superior fighting abilities of the Japanese sailor.


Never mind that the supposedly inferior Allied Fleets and by extension also the Americans had already done a number on the Combined Fleet, from sinking a host of Cruisers and Destroyers to blowing rather large holes into the lower hull of a supposedly unsinkable Dreadnought.


In the classic Orwellian definition of doublethink the Japanese also seem to have been aware that they would likely be doomed anyway even if they somehow managed to destroy the Allied fleet without completely gutting their own forces.


And there was of course the technological aspect.


The Allied Carriers had by this time already replaced the Seafire with the Sea Fury which was a massive jump in capability. A plane that had half again the range of a late-model Seafire on only internal fuel and twice with drop tanks, was considerably faster at most altitudes and could reach those considerably faster was a good thing of it's own, but the Sea Fury was also very nimble for a plane it's size.


By comparison, the Japanese still mostly relied on variants of the venerable but by now obsolescent Mitsubishi A6M. It's intended replacement, the A7M2 from the same company had recently entered production but was only available in small numbers, with only two squadrons converting to the type by the time of the battle and none of them were operational.


Then there were the first forms of what is today known as an ARCS (Airborne ReConnaissance System) which proved to be a decisive factor, even though then no one really knew just how much of a game-changer an airborne RDF set would end up being. Even though the Swordfish-based planes only had a single set and a single operator, they extended the range of the RDF picket far beyond the outer ring of Destroyers. Aside from being the last bi-planes in service with the Commonwealth Navies, they would end up being a major factor in the outcome of the battle.


Generally RDF would play a major role, from allowing for more accurate AA fire to the laying of the guns of Force Z during their part of the engagement, and was one more advantage for the Allies.


For all the technical expertise in electronics that West Japan offers us today, during World War Two though they were hopelessly behind the rest. To illustrate, by 1943, all British Cruisers and most of the Destroyers were equipped with RDF and by the time of the Battle of the South China Sea there were attempts to fit RDF sets even to Motor-Torpedo Boats.


To compare, only Japanese Dreadnoughts and their heavy cruisers had RDF sets which where on the whole far less resistant to battle damage and shorter ranged as well.


But saying that the outcome was a foregone conclusion is wrong.


While the Allies had the technological edge as well as superior numbers, tactical surprise and the initiative were with the Japanese. The battle was fought with fierce determination to win on both sides and the fighting was correspondingly brutal.



Musashi under attack


Of course whatever plans there were for the further campaign by either side after a victory, they all ignored the third player on the scene. The Americans.


One thing the war so far had shown that for all it's size, the People's Navy was a far cry from the US Navy. The revolution and the civil war had eviscerated the Officer Corps, their tactical doctrine was heavily outdated and for all intents and purposes stuck in the early 1930s.


The course and outcome of the Battle of the South China Sea would end up forming American strategic and tactical thought for the war at sea for the Cold War in a way that no one would have expected.


Hardly surprising, considering what happened.




tbc


So, Malta-Class. Very similar to OTL, but pretty much with the dimensions of the Midway-Class, and the 6inch deck. This will make them more difficult to retrofit, but the worst of them, the angled flight deck, is as stated in this update already being incorporated. It was invented earlier than RL, sure, but I think it's one of those amazingly simple (relatively) and logical ideas that could have happened at any time. This is a departure from my original plans and I've edited the fact file accordingly.
 
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stevep

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Trekaddict

Excellent. An update and a big and successful battle coming up. Sounds like Cunningham is being rather careless but the navy will have the strength, training and equipment to win and decisively so. :D

Interesting that Orwell writes probably his most famous book a year later than OTL. Presumably in this version Britain isn't reduced to an airbase for a greater American empire. :)

Steve
 

Kurt_Steiner

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This is going to be the Stalingrad of the Seas for the IJN...
 

El Pip

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This is going to be the Stalingrad of the Seas for the IJN...
I think Stalingrad will turn out to have been less one sided. We will (hopefully) find out shortly.
 

CosmaFulanita

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Wait, you said a while back that there already was an Implacable-class carrier named Audacious and that the name of the carrier class that succeeded the Implacables was named the Lancaster class.
 

Kurt_Steiner

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I think Stalingrad will turn out to have been less one sided. We will (hopefully) find out shortly.
True.

After Stalingrad the III Reich alsos had Kursk...

Then... some kind of Bagration of the seas?

Leyte revisited?

The naval version of Battle of Amiens?
 

trekaddict

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stevep: I would say that Cunningham is confident, maybe overly so, but look at it this way, he's beaten back the Japanese without loosing much in the way of capital ships. As for the book, the later date is only random butterflies. As for the plot... the basic message remains the same, obviously, but I couldn't even begin to speculate on the geopolitical situation ín it.

Kurty&Pip A bit of all of them.

CosmaFulanita It's a retcon. Upon doing a lot more reading (I wrote the piece concerned years ago) I decided on re-naming the class. Having the Lancaster Class (which would have been the RL-Audacious for all intents and purposes anyway) be as massive as I imagined it to be back then made no sense what with the excellent Malta-Class design in the pipeline. This entire thing is one of those remnants of a time when I actually bothered following the tech tree of the game.
 

MarcusAurelius1

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I know it's too late for you to change how the Second Battle of Hong Kong went, but as a native, I should warn you that the Corporate plans (nice codename BTW :D) as they stand right now could have been disastrous had the Japanese reacted properly, and thus I don't know if the Brits would've gone for that.

For one, the Repulse Bay beach is too small - probably can't handle more than two infantry battalions - and there are only two mountain roads [1] which can easily be blocked leading out of it. Japanese defenders could set up positions at Chung Hom Kok and Middle Island and pour it on the landing forces from the flanks, as well as something on the west slope of Stanley Mount. There's also Lamma Island to consider - you could fit a lot of kamikaze boats and manned torpedoes and hit the transports as they approach Repulse Bay. The same problems apply to Clear Water Bay, only the landing force is almost completely surrounded on all sides when they enter Port Shelter. On a more positive note, it's likely to be less well-defended than Repulse Bay

On the other hand, while there are no quick way to get from Lantau Island to Hong Kong proper (sorry, Lantau people, no hate) before the Tsing Ma Bridge opened in 1998, the south side of that island, still not big enough to handle a large landing force, likely won't be defended, and from there you can occupy the entire Lantau Island before making the next move.

I'm gonna risk revealing some elements of my own TL-in-the-making and suggest an alternate Operation Corporate:

The axis of attack should go from north to south - much like what the Japanese did in 1941, ironically. It would allow the Allies to maximize their advantages in firepower and mechanised forces, since terrain in the north is much more open than in the city. To that end, the British should aim to land a brigade on either roughly where Bao'an Airport would be IOTL and/or Aotou Harbour. I can't say whether a two-prong offensive would be a good idea though. Once the Allies landed and rendezvoused, they should then head south into New Territories. If the Japanese have any brains they won't attempt to defend all of that, and instead choose to fight the Allies in the city... that, mein herr, is where the Lantau Island landings come in handy.

Not much creative juice lately, so I'll bid all y'all adieu, and comment more when the Battle of South China Sea finally begins!

[1] Island Road and Repulse Bay Road branches off across the channel from the Yacht Club on Middle Island. Island Road goes west to Aberdeen and the south side of Hong Kong Island, while Repulse Bay Road goes north into Wong Nai Chung Gap and onwards to the north side of HK Island

Marc A
 

trekaddict

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Generally, I agree. But going in from the north would make something necessary that the British are desperate to avoid, getting directly involved on the mainland.

Besides, the Japanese weren't really trying all that hard, and the Brits knew it.

As for the battle, it's coming along slowly...