Back to Fortress Singapore: A First-Hand Account
Our latest resource Foreign Office Files for Japan, Japanese Imperialism and the War in the Pacific 1931-1945, released this week, documents a turbulent time in Anglo-Japanese diplomatic relations.
Singapore, the epitome of British colonial rule with its grand government buildings and famous hotels, was also the British military stronghold in the East. Established as a defensive Naval base following WW1 it was bolstered at great expense as a reaction to Japanese expansion during the
Britain surrender to the Japanese, February 1942.
This report from 1945 written by Esler Dening, Chief Political Adviser to the Supreme Allied Commander, details his trip to Singapore, just eight days after the formal surrender of Japan. The document paints a picture of the conditions in Singapore and offers interesting insights into how it was viewed by a member of the British government.
Arriving in Singapore on the 10th September, two days before the official surrender ceremony was to be held on the 12th, he describes cruising along the coast of Sumatra, still in Japanese hands, and coming ashore in â€śa boat paddled by wooden boards.â€ť
He paints a vivid picture of the surrender ceremony, recounting â€śa brave showing of the Royal Navy and Marine bandâ€™, the Supreme Commander arriving
Of the rife starvation and destruction on the island, he notes after an exchange with a starving Chinese family, â€śI think we were wrong in suppressing Japanese currency from the word go when we were not yet employing any numbers and our own currency had not yet got into circulationâ€ť.
Describing his trip to Changi Jail, he revealed â€śI came away feeling it was almost unbelievable that men (and women) had endured so much and preserved such a marvellous spiritâ€ť although, in a telling show of prevailing colonial attitude he also notes â€śWe were shown the cell â€¦ Before the
Despite this perseverance of spirit and the cheers for the Supreme Commander, that Britain had let Singapore fall had left its authority in Singapore and other occupied colonial territories shaken: a fact that would play some part in the decline of the empire over the following decades.
This report will be open access for 30 days. Read it here.
Japanese Imperialism and the War in the Pacific, 1931-1945, the first section of Foreign Office Files for Japan, 1919-1952 is out now. Read more here. This resource is part of Archives Direct, sources taken from The National Archives, UK.