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  • British Indochina.

    Dear All,

    Suppose for just a moment that it was Britain and not France that was the colonial power in what eventually came to be known as French Indochina. Perhaps France looked elsewhere to expand her Empire (there's a thought - France takes a hand in South Africa resulting in a potential Gallic Rourke's Drift / Zulu War )

    So, bearing in mind Britain's experience gained in pacifying India (and getting a bloody nose in Afghanistan which itself gives her army experience of defeat and how to learn from it - accentuate the positive, eh?), how would an Indochina as part of the British Empire thrive (or not)?

    Suppose again that British Royal Marines subdue Chinese Black Flag Pirates, neuter the Mandarins and integrate the region, how would subsequent events play out, especially post WWII? Would Britain attempt to reassert her authority over the region as the French did, sparking the First Indochina War and if they did would Britain be any more successful than France? Would the RC4/Na San/ Dien Bien Phu battles etc ever happen or would another tack be tried by British Generals? What rules of engagement would British politicians oblige her armed services to fight under? Would there even BE a conflict, would we bow out of the region in similar fashion to the way India was given independence? Would American fears concerning the spread of communism come to the fore earlier and prevent such an outcome?

    What does anybody else think - food for thought and an interesting 'what if' or a pile of smelly Guano?
    HONNEUR ET FIDÉLITÉ

    "Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won." - Duke of Wellington at Waterloo.

  • #2
    Didn't the British fight and defeat insurgents in Malaya in the late 40's early 50's? They probably would have used the same tactics in Indochina and, possibly, won.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by SeaDog48 View Post
      Didn't the British fight and defeat insurgents in Malaya in the late 40's early 50's? They probably would have used the same tactics in Indochina and, possibly, won.
      Malya and Indo China are very different just in size. That would have made a big difference.
      "Ask not what your country can do for you"

      Left wing, Right Wing same bird that they are killing.

      you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Half Pint John View Post
        Malya and Indo China are very different just in size. That would have made a big difference.
        Not to mention that Comunists in Malaya respresented small Chinese minority not popular movement representing most populus nation in Indo-China. And Laos and Kambodga were worthless without Wietnam. Beside the point French know how fight insurgency as they showed this in Algeria and their former Colonies tend to be more stable and bloodless than ex-British ones.
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        • #5
          If the British were the colonial power in Indo China it may not have gotten that far.

          By all accounts HCM didnt start off as a great big Communist, he asked for help and Russia offered the most after everyone else ignored him.

          I am not saying the British would of said "Hey okay, have your land back" but they would of IMHO not of let something like that fester, especially after the Indian Mutiny.

          The Labour government of 45 and after wanted to untangle the Empire. If there was a problem we would of extricated ourselves....or abandoned ship like the Sub-continent. Malaya was indeed different. The minority fought, and even after this Malaya and eventually Sarawak and Sabah were granted (not really a great word for the situation) independence.

          Just my opinion of course.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Anglopole View Post
            If the British were the colonial power in Indo China it may not have gotten that far.

            By all accounts HCM didnt start off as a great big Communist, he asked for help and Russia offered the most after everyone else ignored him.

            I am not saying the British would of said "Hey okay, have your land back" but they would of IMHO not of let something like that fester, especially after the Indian Mutiny.

            The Labour government of 45 and after wanted to untangle the Empire. If there was a problem we would of extricated ourselves....or abandoned ship like the Sub-continent. Malaya was indeed different. The minority fought, and even after this Malaya and eventually Sarawak and Sabah were granted (not really a great word for the situation) independence.

            Just my opinion of course.
            I think you are probably right in your assesment but if push DID come to shove, I wonder how the British style of counter insurgency would have played out while a political solution was hammered out?
            HONNEUR ET FIDÉLITÉ

            "Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won." - Duke of Wellington at Waterloo.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Dogsbody67 View Post
              I think you are probably right in your assesment but if push DID come to shove, I wonder how the British style of counter insurgency would have played out while a political solution was hammered out?
              I am not sure it would have been the most appropriate method ti use. The British effectively cleared the juungles of support by building secure villages for the people living in the jungle. In malaya that was welcomed as appart from removing them from the burden of "supporting" the terrorists, they got things like running water and electricity.

              In vietnam the tribes people have a semi religious connection with their home village that just doesnt exist in Malaya. Try to remove them from it and you will drive them into the hands of the rebels.
              "Sometimes its better to light a flamethrower than to curse the darkness" T Pratchett

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              • #8
                quite some changes...

                I think the Brits would have decolonized anyways, perhaps more peacefully than the french - possibly not suffering such a severe defeat as Dien Bien Phu... certainly no USA sucked in an independence struggle (they would go get beaten elsewhere... perhaps..)

                with no defeat in Indochina, French might not fight so hard for the "honor" of the french army in Algeria and negotiate a better decolonisation there.

                colonisation was a bad idea anyways. costly, seeding resentment and later invasion by immigration. bad idea. (unless you genocide/ethnic cleanse everybody like in North America, Australia, Russia's east, Israel, etc. and even then, it's not a guarantee of long-term success)
                "Freedom cannot exist without discipline, self-discipline, and rights cannot exist without duties. Those who do not observe their duties do not deserve their rights."--Oriana Fallaci

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Dogsbody67 View Post
                  Dear All,

                  Suppose for just a moment that it was Britain and not France that was the colonial power in what eventually came to be known as French Indochina. Perhaps France looked elsewhere to expand her Empire (there's a thought - France takes a hand in South Africa resulting in a potential Gallic Rourke's Drift / Zulu War )

                  So, bearing in mind Britain's experience gained in pacifying India (and getting a bloody nose in Afghanistan which itself gives her army experience of defeat and how to learn from it - accentuate the positive, eh?), how would an Indochina as part of the British Empire thrive (or not)?

                  Suppose again that British Royal Marines subdue Chinese Black Flag Pirates, neuter the Mandarins and integrate the region, how would subsequent events play out, especially post WWII? Would Britain attempt to reassert her authority over the region as the French did, sparking the First Indochina War and if they did would Britain be any more successful than France? Would the RC4/Na San/ Dien Bien Phu battles etc ever happen or would another tack be tried by British Generals? What rules of engagement would British politicians oblige her armed services to fight under? Would there even BE a conflict, would we bow out of the region in similar fashion to the way India was given independence? Would American fears concerning the spread of communism come to the fore earlier and prevent such an outcome?

                  What does anybody else think - food for thought and an interesting 'what if' or a pile of smelly Guano?
                  By 1945 Vietnamese society would have been radically different and probably be more prone to look for an independence solution that didn't make communism inevitable.

                  The difference is in the differences in colonial practice between the French and the British and the institutions that they established.

                  The British allowed or rather required a great deal more autonomy from local administrators.

                  In French Colonies even the pettiest of Civil Service positions such as stationmaster or postman were held by French. Much colonial employment was just sinecures for those who couldn't cut it in Metropolitan France.

                  In India, Malaya, Fiji, Hong Kong and even Australia, administrative positions were held by currency lads. The establishment of an indigenous Civil Service contributed in a large way towards the establishment of an indigenous middle class. The establishment of a middle class has political implications. By their nature the chattering classes have more time to devote to matters political rather than the pressing exigencies of life which were the main lot of the Indochinese peasantry.

                  Additionally the British trained indigenous armies differently. The UK thinking in the 1930's was that it took 16 years to create a Colonel. This is what they were trying to achieve with the Staff Colleges that they established in India. They did not just want junior tactical leaders as the French only seemed to require from their Colonial Infantry - they wanted staff officers. Again the development of a segment of society that could be regarded as contributing towards a 'thinking class' has political implications.

                  The British Labour movement was another institution that was transferred from the UK to the colonies. Colonial labour in places like Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaya were more heavily unionised than the French equivalents. It would be unlikely that unionised Malayan rubber tappers could be exploited or politically manipulated in the same way that their non-unionised Indochinese cousins were by the French and by the Communists.

                  The soft left of the UK may have been an inoculation against the hard left of the Vietnamese Marxists.

                  A Vietnamese in 1945 would have seen the British humiliated in the same way as the French were by the Japanese. The average Vietnamese might have known about the treaty of Westminster and the fact that some countries in the Empire had reached Dominion status and there was a real chance of emancipation for all British Colonies. The UK had a track record for granting independence and for meeting national aspirations on reasonable terms. This is an advantage that the French never had.

                  Had the British colonised Indochina or if France had of adapted British colonial methods earlier than the nationalist/Marxism of Ho Chi Minh would never have gained as much traction.

                  The nationalist movement would have been more politically sophisticated and a plurality of views and models such as Ghandian Nationalism would have made the Communist ascendancy much more difficult.

                  However it was what it was. It was a pity that Vietnam gained its independence via the dead hand of the Vietnamese Communist Party who was ultimately responsible for choosing war at every turn.

                  Cheers



                  Mick

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                  • #10
                    flawlessly argued.
                    HONNEUR ET FIDÉLITÉ

                    "Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won." - Duke of Wellington at Waterloo.

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                    • #11
                      If Britain had extended their colonial rule over just the three southernmost Cham states of Vijaya, Kauthara, and Panduranga in the 17th and 18th centuries, they would have provided a bulwark against Vietnamese usurpation of the Mekong Delta, which was Southern Cambodia (Kampuchea Krom) at the time. An alliance with Mac Cuu, the Ming refugee ruler of Ha Tien, the only major port south of Hoi An (in Nguyen territory) would have secured all of today's Southern Vietnam for the East India company. That would have limited the modern Indochina War to territories north of Hoi An, and allowed the cultural survival of the Malayo-Polynesian and Mon-Khmer peoples of Vietnam to a level of today's Malay states, which indeed they may have joined after British departure.

                      An interesting alternative history that might have made the First Indochina War unnecessary. Assume that Britain would have occupied French Indochina (limited to northern Central and North Vietnam) with the fall of France. Which, of course, they would have lost in January 1942. Force 136 would have been more involved in Central and South Vietnam than it was, but Ho Chi Minh would have still had some influence there as Comintern Rep for Southeast Asia. But may have played a role similar to that of Lim Chin Siong in Singapore. Without the massive Vietnamese population in the Cham states, he would not have found the base of support that he did in post-war Central Vietnam. Furthermore, that support would have been confined to narrow coastal enclaves.

                      Dogsbody, I assume, of course, that the French would still have occupied Tonkin and the northern part of Central VIetnam that was ruled by the Nguyen lords. (THe North was ruled by the Trinh) A bit different from your original, but more viable in that it would have allowed the development of the essentially Malay Cham states.
                      Last edited by lirelou; 19 May 10, 11:48.
                      dit: Lirelou

                      Phong trần mŕi một lưỡi gươm, Những loŕi giá áo túi cơm sá gě!

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                      • #12
                        Dogsbody, I assume, of course, that the French would still have occupied Tonkin and the northern part of Central VIetnam that was ruled by the Nguyen lords. (THe North was ruled by the Trinh) A bit different from your original, but more viable in that it would have allowed the development of the essentially Malay Cham states.
                        __________________
                        Yes, even though we are talking alternate time lines, I cant see that the British would have realistically beat the French to the Tonkin region, though I cant help but wonder how Royal Marines would have dealt with the Black Flag Pirates at Tuyen Quang.
                        HONNEUR ET FIDÉLITÉ

                        "Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won." - Duke of Wellington at Waterloo.

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