Chapter LXXV: Family Meeting Part III - Fight on Land, Win at Sea.
The 1937 draft of the War Memorandum (Eastern) was the subject of much debate, from the level of grand strategy down to the composition of individual units. The discussion naturally included the vexed issue of inter-service co-operation, with the Army and RAF trying to wrench the planning role from the grasp of the Senior Service, a move the Navy naturally fiercely resisted. To deal with the key strategic problem first, the Royal Navy's local commanders were decidedly unhappy with Phase II of the 1933 plan (The Relief/Recapture of Hong Kong). While it was believed Singapore could hold for the required time for fleet reinforcements to arrive, Hong Kong was considered far less secure, a situation made worse by the standing orders for China Station to fall back to Singapore in the event of war. While in many ways a wise move to prevent attrition at the hands of the enemy, it would severely weaken Hong Kong and make recapture, not relief, the most likely step for Phase II. As a properly defended and garrisoned Hong Kong could be made into a fortress it was feared that such recapturing would be a difficult and bloody task and, more importantly, a distraction from the main strategy.
The obvious solution therefore was to reinforce the colony such that it could hold out for the 50 or so days estimated as necessary for reinforcements to reach Hong Kong from Home Waters. Given the lack of additional Royal Navy ships this ask could only be performed by the other services, dooming the Admiralty rear-guard action to keep control of the planning process. After some more wrangling the task fell to the Ministry for Defence Co-ordination, the ambitious minister Harold Macmillan continuing to try and increase his ministry's stature (and his own personal importance) by grabbing up as many defence 'grey areas' as possible. While this was a wise decision, only an independent ministry could fairly adjudicate on the differences between the services and make the tough judgements necessary, it was as much politics as anything else. Macmillan, being a relatively junior member of the cabinet, owed his position to being a member of the pre-war 'Rearmament Mafia' that now dominated the government. Supportive on defence matters, with the trust of his superiors (and the failsafe that any plan would have to be approved by cabinet) the position was given as much to Macmillan personally as his ministry.
It should be noted at this stage though that it was only the co-ordination role that was taken from the services, the blending together of their individual plans into one over-all strategy. This high level role was to prove somewhat challenging given the stark differences between the services approach to planning. For the Royal Navy all planning was kept at a high strategic level, there being great faith in the officers who would have to implement the plans as being more than capable tactically. There was therefore little planning on the details of what the Eastern Fleet would do in the event of war, the document only laid down the instructions to harass any invasions where possible and the absolute necessity of avoiding unfavourable fleet engagements until reinforced. The concessions towards the protection of Hong Kong were the deployment of additional light forces (Torpedo boats and other such craft) to bolster the 'stay behind' section of China Station and the reinforcing Hong Kong's existing fleet of 'O', 'P' and 'R' class submarines with the new 'T' class.
HMS Triton, lead ship of the 'T' class. Originally intended to be a copy of the older 'P' class, hence the original name 'Repeat Ps', the design evolved to meet the changing strategic role of submarines in the East. With an emphasis on sinking warships, not merchant vessels, the design emphasised long range and maximum forward fire-power, sporting ten forward tubes but none to aft. The design was as much about deterrent as combat effectiveness, their purpose being to show a British commitment to defending Hong Kong and to force any Japanese advance to move slowly and with caution, providing the delay Britain would need to get the main fleet into position. On those terms the design must be considered a failure, while Japan noted the deployment of the class to Hong Kong they did not have any impact of Japanese planning.
In stark contrast the Army produced detailed operational plans with both an offensive option (Operation Matador, assuming pre-conflict reinforcements allowed a counter-invasion up the Malay peninsula) and a defensive option (Operation Acre, a layered defence designed to hold out with what was available until reinforcements arrived). This top down planning was not due to a lack of faith in officers on the ground, though many in the IGS despaired at the old guard elements 'clogging up the ranks', but reflection of the differences between services. The most obvious example was terrain, irrelevant for the navy but vital for the army; a good operation had to work with the landscape not against it. The IGS, in contrast to the Naval Staff, thus felt that time spent planning in advance and studying the problem would reap significant benefits in war time. The finalised Army document came down to the two detailed operational plans for Malaya, recommendations for fortifications in Hong Kong and expanding the garrison forces in both locations. The IGS made it very clear that even if they got all they asked for Hong Kong could not resist a long siege, all their plans only aimed to hold out until relief arrived within two months. On that basis the fortifications for Hong Kong were accepted, becoming the "Gin Drinker's Line" along the New Territories, but the cost of the garrison expansion was baulked at. The compromise decision was an expansion of the local forces, The Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps and the The Malay Regiment, the former was re-organised as The Hong Kong Regiment (The Volunteers) and re-equipped with modern weaponry while the latter saw it's ranks expanded with the authorisation of a second battalion. These forces, still somewhat short of what the IGS would have preferred, were considered an affordable compromise by a cabinet looking to avoid expensive long term commitments. If they would be sufficient for their intended role was a different question.
In all this planning there is the conspicuous absence of any Dominion involvement, quite simply at sea they didn't have the forces to meaningfully contribute while on land the commitment of large numbers of troops overseas in peacetime was, to put it mildly, politically inadvisable. However in the air things were different, a significant aerial presence could be deployed with a fraction of the manpower and cost of an infantry force, particularly if operating for an RAF airfield with RAF ground crew and support staff. Thus while the land and sea portions of the conference attracted little Dominion involvement, beyond approval from Australia and New Zealand that their concerns had been noted, the aerial portion would be far more of an 'All Empire' effort.
Short but hopefully sweet. Game effects are a land fortress in Hong Kong, (probably a waste of IC but it did happen OTL and I'm trying to make some mistakes.), laying down a few T-class subs (almost definitely a waste of IC for the UK, see above) and one militia division each for Hong Kong and Singapore in addition to their existing garrison. The Army is in the middle of it's reform process and, more importantly, everyone still things the Fleet is the key to winning against Japan so land forces suffer accordingly.
On the air side I'm still struggling with quite why the RAAF picked the NA-16 (Wirraway), I'm just not sure why they wanted a two seater low winged trainer when they didn't have any front line low winged aircraft? It's making writing that part quite tricky. Unless anyone knows why I'll just have to make a best guess.