*** World War II-- Singapore air defenses

World War II: Singapore--Air Defenses

Brewster Bufalo
Figure 1.--As Hitler and Stalin moved toward War in Europe, British aircrsft companies were builing flat out preparing for now inevitable defense of their island. There was no way to supply adanced fighter aircraft to the colonies. TheBruitish turned to American cvompanies. Thus the air defene of Singapore would be based largely on the American Brewster Bufalo. Some military experts rank it as the worst fighter of World War II. Here we see the Buffalo which may have been operating from a Sumatra airfield in the Dutch East Indfies.

As Europe moved toward war, Britain found itself in a difficult position. Like America, it had focusd its limited military aviation budget on bombers, oprating under the dictum, "The bombrr wil alwaysd get through." As a result, the British very nearly entered World War II with biplane fighters. The Royal Navy air arm did enter the War with biplanes. They belatedly began building advanced fighters. This meant that fighter production in the first 2 years of the War was devoted to the defense of France and Britain. Litttle was left over for the defense of thr colonies. Even such a imoportant outpost as Malta was defended by only three obolete bipanes. Singapore and Malaya did have fighter defenses, but they were composed of the nearly obsolete Brester Buffalo, purchased in America. The Buffalo is often referred to as the worst fighter of World War II. And Singapore only had the Buffalos because the RAF judged that they were not capable capable of European operations against German aircraft. 【Denis, et. al.】 Before Pearl Harbor, there was no recognition of the Japanese air capabilities. The British had 169 Bufalos. In ddition to the limited capbilitis of the Bufflos, the pilots were not well trained. They were operated by Royal New Zealasnd Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, and the Royal Air Force. Japanese fighters quickly establised air superiority over Malaya and Singapore. 【Farrel and Pratten, pp. 38, 98, and 101.】 The Commonwealth pilots were able to shoot down a few Japasnese aircraft before the Buffalos were shot down or withdran. Some 100 Hawker Huricanes reacvhed Singapore shortly after Pearl Harbor. They operasted from Singapore and Dutch Sumastra. The Japanese destroyed most on the ground because of the absence of any early warning system. The Chain Home System that saved Britain was just ignored in Singpore. This left Singapore without any air cover.


Dennis, Peter, Jeffrey Grey, Ewan Morris, Robin Prior, and Jean Bou. (2008). The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History 2nd ed.. (Melbourne: Oxford University Press: 3008).

Farrell, Brian and Garth Pratten. "Malaya 1942,".Australian Army Campaigns Series–5. (Canberra, Australian Capital Territory: Army History Unit, 2011).


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Created: 5:58 PM 1/8/2024
Last updated: 5:58 PM 1/8/2024