The mutiny was not confined to the Rajputs wing of the 5th NLI (Native Light Infantry). Soldiers from the Malay States Guides Took also part in the mutiny. It would seem that the Soldiers from the Malay States Guides (MSG) were coerced by men from the 5th NLI. But see, Kassim Ali Mansoor, who was under arrest and imprisoned in the Goal on Outram Road.
- Non-promotion of Imatiaz Ali
- Colonel Martin -Officer Mismanagement. Dissention among British Officers, and amongst Indian Officers. As the letter written by Mansoor shows the 5th NLI were not the only unit involved. A few soldiers from the Malay States Guides took part. On the 15th February 1915 they may have had to be coerced but a willingness to defect was shown by at least two Havildars of the MSG who signed the letter apparently on behalf of others. p62, p69 Indisipline, Mutiny in Singapore
An army marches on its stomach. If the food a soldier is given is of a low quality or rations are barely adequate moral suffers. In Singapore, the 5th NLI sepoys found their rations were not as good as they were in India. Back in India, the rations contain a large quantity of goat meat plus plenty of milk. In Singapore, both goat meat and milk were in comparatively short supply. The sepoys could supplement their rations with meat and milk purchased locally. However, they now found themselves station in Dollar, rather than a rupee economy with a higher cost of living.(Singapore Mutiny p23 M &H).
Poorly fed soldiers tend to be unhappy and are more prone to suggestions of ways to either improve their lot or find ways of punishing those they feel responsible. So while not a main cause. rations or rather inadequate rations should be included in factors which led to the rebellion.
Non-promotion of Imatiaz Ali. Imatiaz Ali was a Rajput who was promised promotion when the next vacancy occurred
Colonel Martin. The Commanding Officer of the 5th NLI. If the 5th NLI was a family, as the majority of British army regiments claim they are, the 5th NLI was a dysfunctional family. Martin often acted as the Sepoys friend in disputes and when men were brought before him in disciplinary matters (Singapore Mutiny p24 M &H) This would have eroded the NCOs and the officers in the regiment’s authority over the men. Martin himself thought that all the officers were against him (page 23 Singapore Mutiny). There was also friction between the Left and Right Wing of the Regiment, (Singapore Mutiny p23 M &H)
Colonel Martin was responcible for the Regiment, but that is not the same as saying he was a primary cause of mutiny. Neither was he responsible for the feelings and thoughts of the men in the Malay States Guides.
Subversion of the 5th NLI is a primary cause of the mutiny, but the question remains, Subversion by whom? There are five candidates.
- The Gandr Movement/Foreign Agents.
- Kassim Ali Mansoor
- Nur Alam Shah
- The Crew of the Emden.
- Christi Khan
The Gandr movement was an Indian Nationalist movement form by Indian ex-pats on America’s west coast. Its aims were to overthrow the British Raj by armed insurrection. Germany had started to form links with the Gandr before the outbreak of the war. After the start of the war, the ties between Germany and the Gandr movement grew. The Germans providing funds, offices under the guise of the Indian Political Department, part of the German War and Foreign offices. German agents also distributed the Ghadr, which was the Ghadr’s movement’s official publication. The movement sent agents to all parts of the British Empire in Asia as well as Japan. (P9 Singapore Mutiny Harper and Miller)
Kassim Ali Mansoor, the man who made the coffee. His coffee shops was a place where many of the Indian officers and men had coffee. Mansoor had befriended the Officers and men from the 5th NLI..He also chatted to the troops in his coffee shop. All good customer service. This small acts were very much part of service during those days and were good for business. Mansoor also wrote letters on behalf of the soldiers. Very probably he never gave much thought to those letters. He would write them, they would sign them, and almost certainly post them. One of these letters, posted on the 28th December 1914, was intercepted by the authorities. on the 23rd January (1915.http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/newspapers/Digitised/Article/straitstimes19150531-1.2.56.aspx (source checked 17/02/2017))
The letter was with other letters to his son. There was a covering slip in Mansoor’s own handwriting asking his son to take care unless the handwriting could be traced back to him. Addressed to his son with a request for it to be forwarded to the Turkish consul in Rangoon the letter was written in Urdu and translated as follows;
“There is a regiment here belonging to the English in Singapore called the Malay States Guides. In it is a mule battery, and all the members are Mohammedans and are not willing to serve the English. They say “We want to join the Turkish Forces, and we want someone to be kind enough to enable us to join the Turkish Forces. We have the money to meet our travelling expenses, and do not want one pie even for expenses, but we want someone to show us the way whereby we may reach Turkey. That is what we want. ” This letter is written to you as on your side Ahmad Madin is the Turkish Consul, so as to enable that gentleman to write to the German Consul at Bombay on direct to Stamboul in order that a man of war may be sent to Singapore. Then the sepoys can board the Turkish man of war and be ready to fight in the battle of Europe. The manager of the German firm of Behn, Meyer and Company was the German Consul in Singapore, but as all the Germans have been arrested and imprisoned on a hill opposite Singapore so that they are helpless. Those Mohammedan sepoys are prepared to risk their lives. If the Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment tries to exert his authority by force, at once we are prepared to fight. But we do not desire to fight against the Turks on behalf of the English. On behalf of Turkey, we are willing to fight both the English and the Russians. Therefore, they entreat some Mohammedan to help them for God’s sake and enable them to reach the Turkish Forces. All we ask is not to let us fall into the hands of the English while leaving Singapore. Accordingly, as you are the Turkish Consul, kindly let us know by which way these sepoys my leave Singapore and where they might go. You sir will get much honour. if we fight against the English on behalf of Turkey and die then we will become martyr. Therefore be kind enough to pay attention to our petition and reply soon. Address as follows to write to us.”
The address was for a Bengali baker who lived in one of the houses on Mansoor’s estate in Pasir Panjang. It was signed by two “Havildars” from the Malay States Guides, Osman Khan and Sikandar Khan. (http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/newspapers/Digitised/Article/straitstimes19371121-1.2.110 (source checked 17/02/2017))
Nur Alam Shar was the Imam at the mosque in Kampong Java Road. Shar was a charismatic figure regarded as a prophet by a number of the sepoys. He was also a member of a group of Indian nationalists in Singapore.(Singapore Mutiny p7-8 M &H)
The between 23rd January and the 12th of February the crew of the Emden and other Germans interned at Tanglin were guarded by approximately 50 other ranks of the NLI including Imatiaz Ali (p30, Singapore Mutiny,Harper and Miller) and Sepoy Ismail Khan.(page 71 TheSingapore Mutiny Sho Kuwajima) Ismail Khan fired the shot that signalled the start of the mutiny. Lt Lauterbach an officer on the Emden who in his fictionalised book, Rogue Raider did claim responsibility for the mutiny, denied in 1917 being responsible for instigating the mutiny.
" Before my eyes they sank the collier. My crew and I were taken as prisoners to Singapore. The natives of this island city were very friendly toward us. I had soon gained their confidence sufficiently to know that an attempt to escape would not miscarry. But I wanted to make prepara- tions to take my crew with me when I fled. We then began to dig a tunnel under the wire fence that surrounded our prison-camp. We had scarcely completed our work when the famous revolution among the natives in Singapore broke out. The English blamed me for inciting the blacks against them. I herewith declare that this blame is founded on untruths. When the revolution had been settled, we completed our tunnel, and, during the following night, nine of us gained our freedom.
(Source 282 THE AND’ENTURE.S OE lIEUTENANT LAUTERBACH (N.WAL RESERVE) 284 “Ayes HA”, Full text of “Proceedings of the united States Naval Institute” Vol 43, February 1917 (http://www.archive.org/stream/proceeuni43168unit_djvu.txt. (checked 17/02/2017))
The Japanese Consul in a report he sent to the Japanese Foreign Minister. Kato, based on talking to two Japanese barbers who worked at Tanglin Camp did say that ” The Indian Muslim soldiers took their final decision in consideration of their religion, and responded to the German instigation” (page 71 The Singapore Mutiny, Sho Kuwajima) Christi Khan
Jemedar Christi Khan, was heard on many occasions to sow the seeds of doubt about the British War effort. He was overheard saying to his men, ” Why should we fight for England and be killed in Europe when we are paid half a coolie’s wage and our wives and children are left to starve on two or three rupees a month?” (P35 Harper & Miller). Harper and Miller also give other examples of christi Khan undermining the war effort to his men.
Imatiaz Ali and Christi Khan were executed by firing squad.
Ismail Khan was killed during the rebellion.
Kassim Ali Mansoor was hanged.
Nur Alam Shar exiled.
- The mutiny was planned. the mutineers split up into three main groups who appear to have clearly defined objectives, and that would take planning.
- The timing of the mutiny after the speech by Col. Marting informing the Regiment that it was to embark overseas given the day the Mutiny started is significant. The Ghandr movement claimed it was the day a general rebellion against British rule would start. There appears to be no evidence this was the case.
- The speech informed the regiment that they were about to embark for service. There appears to be no surviving record of the translation of the speech. Therefore we do not know exactly what was said, only what was meant to have been said.
- If the men were told that they were to sail “East” They either did not believe this, or they were not looking forward to another Garrison posting. If the men were informed they were going where ever the Empire felt they were needed they may not have believed this and thought they were going to fight the Turks. There are possibly other reasons as yet not known (by me)
This blog will be updated at some point.
When the trigger of a rifle is squeezed no one knows how many people will be killed as a result.
Events in Singapore in February 1915 will always be overshadowed by events in Singapore in February 1942. This year being the 75th anniversary of the fall of Singapore the overshadow is even darker.
Just after 3 o’clock in the afternoon on the 15th February 1915 in Alexander Barracks in Singapore Sepoy Ismail Khan squeezed the trigger of his rifle. This shot signalled the start of the mutiny. Here is a list of people who were killed as a result of that single shot. Not included are the names of an estimated 200 mutineers who were killed during the mutiny or executed in its aftermath.
CF Anscombe, JVR Beagley, P. Boyce, EO Butterworth, BC Cameron, J Clarke, HB Collins, H O’Shaughnessey Collins, H Cullimore, JB Dunn, A Drysdale, CV Dyson, NF Edwards, HS Elliot, AR Evans, RH Galway, F Geddes, PN Gerrard, JC Harper, Hassan Kechil bin Hassan, AJG Holt, FV Izard, Abdul Jabar, Omar bin Ahmad Kaptin, GO Lawson, Lim Eng Wee, AF Legge, WH Leigh, JH Love-Montgomerie, D McGilvray, MFA Maclean, WJ Marshall, Yacob bin Salleh, EF Senftleben, FH Sexton, Sim Soh, C Smith, G Wald, ED Whittle, Mr and Mrs GB Woolcombe, Chinese man name unknown. 23 of the dead are known to be buried in Kranji War Cemetery.
One of the mutineers known to have been killed by the forces fighting the mutiny was Sepoy Ismail Khan who fired the original shot.
A contemporary report by the Japanese reproduced in Secret Documents on the Singapore Mutiny 1915 by SR Sareen, puts the successful suppression of the mutiny down to the deployment of Japanese marines. It would not be the last time Japanese troops landed at Singapore.
Malcolm Bond Shelley born 8th July 1879 and educated at Dulwich College and then Cambridge became one of the thousands of able and competent civil servants in the British Empire. He was posted to the Federated Malay states in 1902. Here he became a District Officer, Acting Governor Straits Settlements 1931, Chief Secretary to the Governor of the Federated Malay States 1933-35. To this day there is a road named after him in Kuala Lumpur the capital of Malaysia. For his services, he was awarded The Order of St Michael and St George, (CMG) also known as Call Me God. Living the normal life of a colonial civil servant, he played cricket and joined the Malay States Volunteer Rifles (MSVR). He was with the regiment when he serving as a lieutenant in the MSVR. (1) and others in the MSVR were in Singapore for a months training in 1915.
His being in Singapore coincided with the mutiny by the Indian 5th Light Infantry Regiment. On the 5th March 1915, Malcolm and his party of theMSVR captured Abdul Razzak one of the mutineers. (1) This was not to be his only involvement in the events of the mutiny and its aftermath. After the first of the trials of the mutineers, it was announced in General Orders that the MSVR would carry out the first of the executions. Captain Smith, the officer in command turned to Malcolm and said, “That will be your job.” Malcolm had never convened a firing squad before, nor had most officers in the British Army. He hurriedly read the most appropriate manuals. Those on musketry and King’s Regulations but could find no mention of how to convene a firing squad. His RSM, who probably did not know either said you need ten men. Ten men were duly chosen and after breakfast, they were given som practice by the RSM. Malcolm rushed to the Europe Hotel where British officers often stayed to try and find out if anyone there knew how to organise a firing squad. No one there knew, but he was told that if the prisoners were not killed outright the officer in charge would have to deliver the coup de grace. A prospect that Malcolm determined was not going to happen. He decided on three things. The first was there would be no blanks. Secondly, each rifle was going to be loaded with a clip of five rounds. Lastly, the firing squad would be as close as possible, eight paces from the stakes.
That afternoon(23rd February 1915) Two upright wooden stakes were positioned close to the wall. Malcolm marked out eight paces and positioned the firing party. The Colonel of the Shropshire Battalion then based in Singapore who was the parade’s commander spoke to him and the firing squad was moved a further two paces away from the stakes. The two condemned men, Dunde Khan and Chiste Khan.(3) were then led out and positioned in front of the stakes, they were not blindfolded. The sentences were then read out. Instructed to carry out his duty Malcolm saluted the colonel with his sword and gave the order to load. One soldier was very nervous and dropped his clip. After the order to fire was given one of the condemned men slid to the ground. The other remained standing and staring at the firing squad. It must have seemed like an eternity, but Malcolm quickly gave the order, “Left hand firing party, aim, fire.” and the second Indian soldier fell to the ground. The Medical Officer examed the body. There were ten bullet holes in the chest where the heart was. The condemned man had died as a result of the first volley after all. There was another bullet would in the neck. One of the right-hand side of the firing party had fired wide.(4)
The Japanese newspaper, The Japan Times on the 19th March 1915,.carried a report on the executions under the headline, “How Singapore Mutineers Died. Two Publically Shot After Court Martial for Murder- A Grim Example.” The report and Malcolm’s memory are in broad agreement. Although the report states it was Scottish Troops who formed the firing party. In the early 1920s when the volunteer units were reorganised there was a Scottish Company. Not known if this company was just formed then or was a descendant of an earlier company in the MSVR
Malcolm Bond Shelley died 27th July 1968 in his home at Littlehampton in Sussex
Notes. Thanks due to Madelaine Kirk for background information about MB Shelley
1. p798 Secret Documents of the Singap[ore Mutiny 1915 Dr T Sareen. 2.p649Secret Documents of the Singap[ore Mutiny 1915 Dr T Sareen. 3.Note 25 p237 The Testimonies of Indian Soldiers and the Two World Wars: Between Self and Sepoy. By Gajendra Singh 4.p798-817 Secret Documents of the Singap[ore Mutiny 1915 Dr T Sareen. 5. p844.
The names of heroines of the First World War that are remembered are few, Cavell, Higbee, Rankin, Sandes spring to mind. With prodding, I can come up with quite a few more, Inglis, Moreau-Evrard… prodding me while I’m drinking tea though could start the Third World War so it is not to be contemplated.There is another that I am going to mention. Her name is Mrs Reid.
When the “Battle of George Square” in Glasgow 31 January 1919 is discussed the names of William Gallacher, Kirkwood, Manny Shinwell, and Britain’s only true Communist revolutionary John Maclean, the others were “Parliamentarians” are mentioned, but rarely is Mrs Reid.
So who is Mrs Reid, and why should she be remembered? Apart from a friend of the men mentioned I know one thing about Mrs Reid. She had a flag.
In January 1919 lots of people in the UK had flags, mostly Union Flags and flags from the allied and associate nations who fought in the war. Mrs Reid’s flag was very different. It concerned the British Government and worried them. Mrs Reid had a “Red Flag”, a “Soviet” flag. Mrs Reid was going to commit a revolutionary act in the heart of the second city of Empire. She carried her flag to the demonstration in George Square on the 27th January 1919. By Friday 31st January 1919 the numbers in George Square had grown to over 60,000 and Mrs Reids Flag was flying high. It can be clearly seen in surviving photographs. The Government were now fearful of a communist uprising. The myth of “Red Clydesiders” was born. Tanks were dispatched to Glasgow. There is a photograph of them in The Grass Market. There does not seem to be any evidence of them actually being deployed on the streets. Some troops were deployed with Heavy Machine guns on rooftops. Anecdotal evidence suggests that soldiers or at least a soldier, on the ground may have opened fire. Descendents of men involved in the demonstration have said they were told by their fathers that they had heard shots. Any soldier near the demonstration with a rifle would likely have been quickly disarmed by the demonstrators as many of the demonstrators were seasoned battle veterans from the trenches. So I do not think this was likely. Myth, also has it that 10,000 English soldiers were also dispatched to the city. Again there does not seem to be any supporting evidence. There is also a lack of evidence to support the gates of Maryhill barracks being locked. On the 31st the demonstration turned into a riot. There was a police baton charge. The Riot Act was read and the crowd dispersed. All Willie Gallacher and the people of Glasgow wanted was a shorter working week and affordable rents. The Government thought they were starting a revolution.
For more information and an account “Revolt on the Clyde” by William Gallacher. published 1936.
There is a view that the Americans arrived just in time for the victory parades that followed the First World War, and there is no need to commemorate their arrival this side of the pond. This is not so.
On the 7th May 1915, the Lusitania is sunk by the U-20. 1198 passengers including 139 Americans drown. Two days later the New York Times reports President Wilson sees
On the 7th May 1915, the Lusitania is sunk by the U-20. 1198 passengers including 139 Americans drown. Two days later the New York Times reports President Wilson sees need of firm and deliberate action. A day after President Wilson announces that “There is such a thing as a nation being so right that it does not need to convince others by iy force that it is right.” American citizens in increasing numbers join the Canadian army. 24th March 1916 the SS Sussex was crossing the English Channel from Folkestone to Dieppe when she was torpedoed and badly damaged. Some of the Americans on her were injured in the attack. After America protested Germany suspended it’s intensive U-boat campaign.
Americans also volunteered to fly fighter aircraft for France. and on the 20th April 1916, the Escadrille Americaine goes into action. Later on in the war, the squadron changed its name to the Lafayette Escadrille. Their Mess song was
“So stand by your glasses steady. The world is a web of lies. Then here’s to the dead already, And hurrah for the next man that dies.”
Perhaps the most famous American Aces are Captain Edward V. Rickenbacker 26 kills, Second Lieutenant Frank Luke Jnr. 21 Kills, Major Raoul Lufberry 17 kills, First Lieutenant George A Vaughn Jnr 13 Kills, Captain Field E. Kindley 12 kills, First Lieutenant David E Putman 12 kills, Captain Elliot W springs 12 kills, Major Reed G landis 10 kills and, Captain Jacques Michael Swaab also with 10 kills.
On the 18th December, President Wilson asks the belligerents to agree to a post-war League of Nations. Almost a month later on the 10th January 1917, the Allies show president Wilson their peace terms. Wilson deems them too harsh. 12 days later Wilson pleads for “Peace Without Victory.”, the Germans reject them. February 1st, 1917 the Kaiser orders the German U-boats to “Sink on sight.”. Two days later America breaks off diplomatic relations with Imperial Germany. On the 25th the RMS Laconia is torpedoed 2 Americans are killed. The 1st of March see the publication of the Zimmerman Telegram which promised German support for Mexico and an alliance with her if America entered the war and Mexico sided with Germany.
24 days later President Wilson decides on war. The Steam Ship Aztec is sunkon the 1st April 28 Americans are killed. Wilson calls on congress to declare war on the 3rd April and a day after America joins the Allies as an “Associate Power.” In June the first American troops arrive in Europe.
11th June No12 US base Hospital marches down Slope Road in Folkestone and crosses to France. They are one of the few Units from any nation known to have marched down what is now known as The Road of Remembrance in Folkestone. (Source ,,http://history.amedd.army.mil/booksdocs/wwi/adminamerexp/chapter24.html) They are followed by U.S. General “Black” Jack Pershing on the 13th. Shortly after their arrival in France, on the 4th July, Gen. Pershing’s aide Colonel Charles Stanton made the now famous remark “Nous voila Lafayette”. (Lafayette we are here). At the end of June Mr Mowry of the American Boiling’s Aronautical Commission and 63 men from the Civilian Motor Mechanics Group crossed from Folkestone to France. They are in Europe to study British and French aircraft production techniques. (Source, Gorrell’s History AEF Air Service Sheet 8 History of Bolling’s Mechanics).
On the 8th August the U.S. 11th Engineers Regiment, a regiment raised from railway workers crossed to France from Folkestone. They were sent over to help maintain the railways in northern France. Two soldiers from this regiment, Sergeant Matthew Calderwood and Private William Branigan, became the first American Army casualties on the Western Front in the First World War when they were wounded by shell fire on the 5th September 1917. (Source, http://www.webmatters.net/france/ww1_cambrai_us.htm)
The First American Division is established on the western Front on the 21st October 1917. 8th January 1918 president Wilson’s peace terms to Germany include Independence for Poland, restoration of Belgium independence, the return of Alsace-Lorraine to France and the formation of the League of Nations. Theodore H Roosevelt in November 1918 described the League of Nations as “A product of men who want everyone to float to heaven on a sloppy sea of universal mush”.
The American Transport ship Tuscania is sunk on the 5th February 1918 and 210 Americans drown.
The Battle of Belleau Wood took place 6th June-26th June this was the first time the U.S Marine Corps went into action in the war. The 4th Brigade attacked over open ground towards the woods capturing and losing the woods over and over before they finally managed to secure the woods. During one of the German counter attacks it was suggested that the marines should retreat, marine Captain Lloyd Williams replied “Retreat? Hell we just got here.” The U.S. lost 9.500 dead during the battle and the Germans took another 1,600 American prisoners. Belleau Wood is now known as Bois de Brigade de Marine in honour of the United State Marine Corps.
From the French paper “le Matin Paris” 13th September 1918 The entry into the line of the magnificent American Army must be considered an essential factor in the operation of tomorrow.”
17th September 1918, “America rejects Austrian Peace proposal”, and “Worry Whitens the hair of the Kaiser” both from the Detroit Free press.
23rd September-3rd October The Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Fifteen American Divisions alongside twenty-two French divisions, it should be noted that an American Division was far larger than its British or French counterpart, took part. The Argonne region is not the easiest to campaign through and the American Army lacked experience progress was slow and only fifteen miles were taken. The offensive did tie down thirty-six german divisions. during this offensive Private Alvin York was awarded both the US Medal of Honor and the French Croix de Guerre for killing twenty germans and capturing another hundred and thirty-two single-handedly.
While this blog is not or intended to be a history of American involvement in the FWW, There are many events not included, hopefully, it does show there was more to US involvement than the Victory parades.
On the 11th November 1918 at 10:59 am. Henry Gunther an American soldier became the last soldier from all the warring nations to be killed in action during the Great War.
One of the good and successful First World War commemoration projects of 2016 was the Living Memory Project. An attempt largely successful to get members of the public to visit war graves in the UK. It is a relatively easy thing to do. Go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission web page. Click on Find War Dead, in the box marked cemetery, type in the name of the cemetery. If you want to restrict your search to First World War dead next to the War sign select First World War. If you live overseas you can do the same for the country you live in. Our dead as King George V said, encircle the globe. How far you then research is up to you.
But there is more…
More to find hidden in plain sight, some really are a living memory others forgotten. Here are a few from the Folkestone area. The first is Robert William Goddard MM and Bar
I have blogged about Goddard before so short recap.
Private D. Sutherland
killed in Action in the German Trench 16 May 1916,
and the Others who Died.
And he was your only son,
And the new-cut peats are rotting
And the work is left undone,
Because of an old man weeping,
Just an old man in pain,
For David, his son David,
That will not come again.
Others you can tell their story. Were they heroes or villains. What they did before the war. But not W. Moss.
W. Moss, might have just about been able to smile. He could grip your finger or hair. slept a lot. That’s about it.
Walter Moss 2 months old. Killed by a bomb which fell on Tontine Street, Folkestone, 25th May 1917. Buried with his mother in “C New Ground. St Martins Church, Cheriton, Kent.
Their grave is unmarked, every tombstone tells a story, as does every unmarked grave.
Still, makes me cry.”