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Forgotten Armies: The Fall of British Asia,…
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Forgotten Armies: The Fall of British Asia, 1941-1945 (utgåvan 2006)

av Christopher Bayly, Tim Harper

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
2044104,004 (4.09)11
The vast crescent of British-ruled territories from India down to Singapore appeared in the early stages of the Second World War a massive asset in the war with Germany, providing huge quantities of soldiers and raw materials and key part of an impregnable global network denied to the Nazis. Within a few weeks in 1941-2 a Japanese invasion had destroyed all this, almost effortlessly taking the impregnable fortress' of Singapore with its 80,000 strong garrison, and sweeping through South and Southeast Asia to the frontier of India itself. This revolutionary, absolutely gripping book brings to life the entire experience of South and Southeast Asia in this extraordinary period, telling the story from an Indian, Burmese, Chinese or Malay perspective as much as from that of the British or Japanese.… (mer)
Medlem:Paul9Aspen
Titel:Forgotten Armies: The Fall of British Asia, 1941-1945
Författare:Christopher Bayly
Andra författare:Tim Harper
Info:Belknap Press (2006), Paperback, 616 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek
Betyg:
Taggar:British History

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Forgotten Armies: The Fall of British Asia, 1941-1945 av Christopher Bayly

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A pleasant surprise. Ordered sight-unseen; I figured from the title it would be about the Malaya campaign, the battles in Burma, Imphal and Kohima, and the final Japanese retreat. As it turns out, there’s practically no military history – the battles are mentioned but that’s about it; in fact the authors give the impression that they don’t really know or care very much about military history. Instead, it’s a political history of the various resistance movements, the Indian National Army, the attitude of the quasi-neutral Malayan sultanates, etc.

The collapse of Malaya came as a sudden shock, not only to the British, but to the native peoples in the entire Far East. The British (in fact, the majority of troops involved were Australian or Indian) displayed singular ineptitude in the campaign, but it’s doubtful that even the best general could have stood up to the Japanese. The civil service, most of whom were based in Singapore and Rangoon, all evacuated, leaving Anglo-Indians, Anglo-Malays, and Anglo-Burmese behind to their fate (which usually wasn’t very pleasant). All the affected territories up to the Indian border were polyglot, and, as is often the case, the original natives – Burmese, Malay, and various tribal groups – took advantage of the situation to loot, rape and murder Chinese, Indians, and anybody else who was in the wrong neighborhood. Indians in Burma suffered heavily, with thousands dying trying to evacuate to India overland.

The Japanese wooed surrendered Indian troops and Indian residents of Malaya and Burma, forming the Indian National Army under Subhas Chandra Bose; Burmese to form the Burma Independence Army; and the Malaya sultanates. The Malayan attempt went poorly from the start; the Japanese ceded the three northernmost Malayan states to Thailand, which didn’t do much to endear the remainder, and attempts to get Muslim cooperation ended when the imams met and concluded that it would be perfectly proper to conduct a jihad against the British – provided the Emperor of Japan converted to Islam. (Alternate history fans are invited to run with that one).

Although the other “liberation army” attempts initially had more success, they foundered on Japanese racism. The Japanese didn’t understand Hindu dietary customs, entered mosques and pagodas without removing their shoes, took to physical abuse of recruits (the Japanese habit of face-slapping as a disciplinary measure was particularly offensive to the Burmese) and generally acted as if they were trying to destroy whatever goodwill they had earned as quickly as possible. There was a wholesale massacre of Chinese, who didn’t help matters much by quickly dividing into Communist and Kuomintang factions that spent more time betraying each other than fighting Japanese.

Just to be even-handed, authors Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper are harshly critical of Allied efforts as well. British residents evacuated to India from Burma and Malaya acted as if nothing had changed, dressing for dinner and meeting at the club while Bengal was undergoing one of the worst famines in history (which is quite an accomplishment for Bengal). Indian Army officers stayed Kiplingesque, with unchanged prejudices about “martial races”, and, ironically, exercising excessive caution about their troops’ dietary requirement (the troops were willing to forego some of these but their officers weren’t – resulting in the bulk of the Indian Army rank-and-file being malnourished). The Indian Congress Party was antifascist (although Gandhi’s approach of passive resistance to fascism probably wouldn’t have worked very well), which didn’t save them from being jailed. The Americans come in for criticism for being arrogant (which we probably were) and callous about the Bengal famine. There’s what might be some subtle racism; it’s my impression that Bayly and Harper are particularly critical of black GIs, who reportedly spent money freely, mingled with Indian women, and, in what’s perhaps the best illustration of the author’s ignorance of military details, “drove around in enormous jeeps”. All Americans came in for contemporary criticism for their relationships with Indian and Anglo-Indian women – not that the relationships existed, but that the Americans didn’t understand that they weren’t supposed to be seen publically with their native girlfriends and mistresses – just isn’t done, old chap. The Americans, in turn, were critical of the British for seeming to be more concerned with the preservation of the British Empire than winning the war and for slowness in following up retreating Japanese (this last is illustrated by one of the rare displays of Japanese humanity – RAF POWs in Rangoon were released unharmed, even though the Japanese burned one of their own military hospitals with the patients still in it rather than let them suffer the indignity of becoming prisoners. Even though the British conducted daily air reconnaissance over the abandoned city, they were very slow in the advancing on it. Eventually the disgruntled and starving RAF men painted “EXTRACT DIGIT” on the roof of the former POW barracks and the Army showed up).

The meat of the book – although it takes some chewing – is in the details of political interaction, particularly in Burma. The Burmese puppet leader, Ba Maw, seems to have been a transvestite whose main focus was eliminating political opponents. The Burmese tribal groups – Karen, Shan, and Naga – uniformly supported the Allies, although the British were reluctant to supply them with modern weapons. The Naga, in particular, organized under a sort of female-Lawrence-of-Arabia, anthropologist Ursula Graham Bower, who I definitely want to read more about. Burmese gradually shifted from being pro-Japanese to being pro-Allied (or, more exactly, pro-Burmese) and the Japanese-organized Burma Independence Army eventually fought on the Allied side.

The authors also point out something that had never occurred to me – despite the hardships, the war was really the making of modern India. Industrialization took off, with India manufacturing the whole range of modern weapons and equipment locally, and the railroads, road network, and harbor facilities were all tremendously enlarged (this often being the work of the USA). An India that hadn’t experience the Second World War but still achieved independence would be a very different place.

The writing style isn’t inspiring; although it’s basically chronological, there quite a bit of shifting around in geography – from Burma to Malaya to India and back. The maps are good, but would be better if inserted at relevant places in the text rather than as front matter; there’s a handy list of principal characters – although it doesn’t include any Americans, even Stilwell. The main virtue of the book is that this is information I’ve never run across anywhere else; if SPI was still around the political plus military interaction would make a fantastic multiplayer game. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 8, 2017 |
Bayly & Harper are at their best writing about the social situation in Britain's Asian holdings on the verge of the deluge, on the initial period of Japanese occupation, and on how the subject populations found themselves caught between political awakening and abject suffering. These portions of the book are truly enlightening.

Where the authors seem to have trouble is with integrating the story of the war's impact on the local populations with the actual course of the war. At the very least some sloppy writing regarding military events creeps in, with the cherry on top of the sundae coming when the authors make a throwaway comment about Finns fighting the Nazis, which only occured at the tail-end of World War II! ( )
  Shrike58 | Jan 21, 2008 |
Okay, but lots of dates and descriptions, not much analysis (though some pretty broad statements of opinion). Lots of very long paragraphs, gossip and tangential information/observations. Not quite what I would expect from professional historians. ( )
  ebethe | Oct 6, 2007 |
Great book, still reading and need to finish. Gives a great discription of the pre war readiness of British in S.E.Asia. Bought this book in Singapore. ( )
  meegeekai | Jan 26, 2007 |
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Christopher Baylyprimär författarealla utgåvorberäknat
Harper, Timhuvudförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Harper, Timhuvudförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
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The vast crescent of British-ruled territories from India down to Singapore appeared in the early stages of the Second World War a massive asset in the war with Germany, providing huge quantities of soldiers and raw materials and key part of an impregnable global network denied to the Nazis. Within a few weeks in 1941-2 a Japanese invasion had destroyed all this, almost effortlessly taking the impregnable fortress' of Singapore with its 80,000 strong garrison, and sweeping through South and Southeast Asia to the frontier of India itself. This revolutionary, absolutely gripping book brings to life the entire experience of South and Southeast Asia in this extraordinary period, telling the story from an Indian, Burmese, Chinese or Malay perspective as much as from that of the British or Japanese.

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