An Interim Period Between Occupations in Singapore

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Soh Guan Bee recalled that people knew the Japanese were losing the war only by inference. Radios were censored, as were other forms of media from the outside, and the movie reels were replete with stories of Japanese triumphs. But when the B-52s began bombing Singapore, Soh recalled that everyone knew the Japanese must be losing the war. Even though the civilian population had to take great precautions because of the bombing, it was welcome as Soh recalled everyone knew it meant “liberation” was coming for Singapore. When surrender came, it was not known until the following day, when it appeared in the papers.

Soh had worked in a Japanese air force office and naval office as he’d trained as a fitter. His job at the time of surrender was in a mechanic shop that had been taken over by the Japanese on Orchard Road. He left for work that day not knowing of the surrender, and had been puzzled as to why the buses were not running, and assumed it had broken down. He then discovered the Japanese had surrendered. It was announced on the radio, but it seems Soh first mentioned that he found out through the paper, but later suggested he first found out from the radio announcements. He made his way to work anyway, where the “jaga” (watchman) told him to return home, and that the workshop was all locked up. Soh’s telling is a bit unclear, but it seems he returned to the shop the following day, but was was told to return home as there was “no reason to work today.” It seems he went to perhaps retrieve his tools, but found the shop still locked up and boarded. As he returned home, he saw “lots of Allied soldiers coming in” and so he knew the “Japanese are no more.”

The shop remained closed, with the jaga charged with not admitting anyone as it had come under the “British Administrative Rule” or “BMA.” The Japanese, he said, behaved as usual and were busy simply “packing up.” His own boss simply packed up and said, “I’m going back,” and left them be.

Reprisal killings began immediately. Soh reported that members of “Force 136,” a general name for British-sponsored or condoned resistance groups, began targeted killing and torture, mainly along Rangoon Road. Soh identified them as “communists” who had come down from Malaya and were composed of not only Chinese but Malays and Indians as well. They identified themselves as “liberation people.” The individuals targeted were informants, police under the Japanese administration, and perhaps others. Although Soh did not think of himself as a collaborator, he still expressed his fright that perhaps if he were out in the area he might be targeted as well, as who knows who might have a grudge or might even mistake him for someone else. They were armed and in uniform, although Soh recalls that they were wearing different uniforms. Many mistook them for Allied soldiers, and in fact he may have initially as well. The group even set a headquarters up in a hotel on Rangoon Road. However, once the British arrived, by boat and by parachute, the Force 136 quickly faded away as a visible group. The interim period was over, and the colonists returned to reestablish their own form of occupation and oversee the logistics of the Japanese surrender.

 

From

“20393. Chinese Civilian in Singapore Malaya during Japanese Occupation 1942-1945.” Text. Imperial War Museums. Accessed December 3, 2015. http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80019747.
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