#FWW Japanese Troops in Singapore

Almost simultaneously with the attacks on the Americans on the 7th December 1941 the Japanese attacked British Malaya. The successful invasion of Malaya led in February 1942 to the fall of Singapore. This was not the first time Japanese troops had been in action in the British colony of Singapore.

27 years earlier the Japanese had helped to quell the Singapore Mutiny. Accounts of how helpful and/or successful the Japanese were vary. There is an account in the book Nasyo Yori, Koji Tsukuda. An extract from this book translated by the Foreign Office appears in Secret Documents on Singapore Mutiny By Dr TR Sareen, parts of which are reproduced below.

The British had asked the Japanese for assistance.

“Up until now slighted both by the British and native and regarded as contemptible in trade, it is now devolved on us to protect the feeble and pitiable British” Around a hundred Japanese volunteers elected to undertake this task.

Two Japanese warships arrived at Singapore. The first the “Otawa” on the 17th February 1915 and the second the “Tshushina” the next day. Two hundred marines disembarked from the two ships. By midday, they had taken over Alexander Barracks.

” At noon on the same day, they were reported to have taken possession of the rebel’s Headquarters i.e. Alexander Barracks. That is to say that our landing party at once broke up the main strength of the enemy and these were able to take possession of their Headquarters”

The British General Staff in Singapore took a not surprisingly different view.  They felt the Japanese volunteers did not do anything and the best thing to do was disband them. The marines according to the GeneralStaff only went to Alexander Barracks after it had been reoccupied by the British.  That all the Japanese did was sit around and indulge in the odd suspected bit of looting. An eyewitness to the handing back of Alexander Barracks by the Japanese to the British recorded in 1927 that when we arrived the Japanese were already drawn up on the parade ground. The British marched on, the Japanese marched off. No words were exchanged. (page 811(1))

A few days later on the 25th February, there was a parade known as the Japanese Parade to thank and honour the Japanese for their assistance. The Governor of Singapore expressed his thanks for the “excellent and valuable work”(2) carried out by the Japanese officers and men. he also mentioned that no Japanese had been killed or wounded. A statement contradicted by the press Bureau in a Reuters Telegram London February 28th that states, “some Japanese were wounded”(1) Reports in the Japanese press do state there were no Japanese wounded.  In closing, the Governor said, “Now, admiral, I again on behalf of this Colony thank you, your officers and men, and I know well that the Colony will always remember the good ships which came to our assistance and will welcome them warmly whenever they may honour us by visiting this port.” (page 830 (1)) What a difference 27 years would make to this feeling.

The Japanese press did report on the mutiny, for example, The Japan Times described the execution of two of the publicly shot mutineers as “A Grim Example” (page 844, (1)

(1) Secret Documents on Singapore Mutiny. Sareen

(2) Strait Settlements Times 26th February, viewed online.

 

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