Saturday, August 8, 2015



            The mutiny in the 5th Light Infantry at Singapore that took place in 1915 is important for several reasons. It occurred at a time when World War I was in full swing, and a large number of Indian troops were fighting on various fronts. Though the nationalist movement in India had take root and was fairly well developed, its leaders had extended unequivocal support to Britain as soon as the war broke out. Many factors contributed to the outbreak of the mutiny. However, none of them appeared serious enough to warrant such a drastic step by seasoned troops belonging to a regiment that had earned the sobriquet ‘The Loyal Fifth’ for its past services. In addition to several Europeans, the mutineers killed their own officers, dealing a serious blow to the almost sacred theory that Indian troops fought not for the King or their country but for their regiments and the British officers who led them. This was perhaps the first mutiny in a regular unit of the Indian Army that was inspired, at least in part, by a nationalist movement that was not home-grown but had been born in another country – the Ghadar movement.

            The mutiny caught the British authorities in Singapore by surprise and would have succeeded, had the mutineers been properly organised and led. Acting on the spur of the moment, they rose against their superiors without having made a plan of action. Also, they made no attempt to obtain any help from the civil population, which included a large number of people of Indian origin.  There were almost no forces available in the island to suppress the mutiny, and it was only with the help of troops of other nationalities that the authorities were able to regain control. Retribution was swift and severe. Within a month, two Indian officers and 200 men of the 5th Light Infantry were tried by court martial. All, except one sepoy, were convicted.  Both the officers and 45 sepoys were sentenced to death, 64 to transportation for life, and the remainder to terms of imprisonment varying from one to twenty years.  Eleven men of the Malay States Guides who had joined the mutiny were also tried and sentenced to simple imprisonment from 11 months to two years.  The executions were carried out publicly, the guilty men being shot in front of thousands of Chinese, Malays and Indians outside the Outram Road Prison in Singapore.1   

            The Ghadr (Revolution) party came into being in 1913 in San Francisco, taking its name from the newspaper called Ghadr, which began to be brought out in November of that year by Lala Hardayal. It found support among the large number of Indian emigrants then living in Canada and the USA, who had left their homelands due to famine and unemployment, especially in the Punjab. The avowed aim of the Ghadr party was to end British rule in India by fomenting an armed revolution. Just before the outbreak of World War II, the Komagata Maru incident took place. In April 1914, Gurdit Singh, an Indian businessman living in Singapore chartered a Japanese ship, the Komagata Maru, to carry Indian emigrants from Hong Kong to Canada. When the ship reached Vancouver the Canadian authorities, under British pressure, did not allow the 376 passengers (24 Muslims, 12 Hindus and 340 Sikhs) to land. After spending two months moored in the harbour, without supplies and water, the ship began its return journey. Touching Yokohama, Kobe and Singapore, the Komagata Maru finally arrived at Budge Budge near Calcutta where the authorities had arranged a special train to carry them to Punjab. However, the passengers refused to board the train and tried to enter the city. The Police tried to stop them but was unsuccessful. Finally, troops had to be called in to subdue the mob and round up the passengers, many of which had escaped. There was a riot and firing from both sides, resulting in several casualties. Several members of the Calcutta and Punjab Police were killed, in addition to some civilians and railway officials. Of the Sikh rioters, 18 died in the firing by British troops, giving rise to considerable resentment.2 Though the passengers had not been allowed to land at Singapore, their plight was known to the Indian residents of the city. Several Ghadrites, as the members of the Ghadr Party came to be known, transited through Singapore on their way to India from Canada and the USA, spreading subversive propaganda among the Indians. These Ghadrites also made contact with Indian troops, especially the Sikhs of the Malay States Guides and with the Muslims of the 5th Light Infantry.3     

            When World War II began, the British garrison in Singapore comprised two infantry battalions, the 1st Battalion, The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and the 5th Light Infantry. There was also a mule battery of the Malay States Guides and some gunners of the Royal Garrison Artillery. The senior British officer in the station was Brigadier General D.H. Ridout, General Officer Commanding the Troops in the Straits Settlements. After the sinking of the German raider Emden in November 1914, the major threat to Singapore from the sea diminished, and it was decided to send the British battalion to the Western Front, leaving the Indian battalion as only regular infantry unit in Singapore. The composition of the 5th Light Infantry was somewhat unusual in that it was composed entirely of Muslims. It was organised in two wings (four companies in each), one having Hindustani Mussalmans (Pathans and Baluchis) and the other comprising ‘Ranghars’ (Muslim Rajputs from East Punjab and Delhi). The strength of the battalion was about 800. The mule battery of the Malay States Guides was a predominantly Sikh unit of about 100 men, which was plagued by internal troubles in the form of a religious divide known as the ‘Majah-Malwa’ conflict, which necessitated men from the two regions being grouped into separate companies. The unit had come under a cloud after it refused to serve overseas in 1914. 

            The 5th Light Infantry was under the command of Lieutenant Colonel E.V. Martin, with Major William L. Cotton as the Second-in-Command. The Right Wing (Ranghars) comprised No. 1 and 2 Double Companies, commanded by Captains Lionel R. Ball and P. Boyce respectively. The Left Wing (Hindustani Mussalmans), which did not mutiny, comprised No. 3 and 4 Double Companies, commanded by Lieutenant H.S. Eliot and Captain William. D. Hall respectively. The senior Indian officer in the battalion was Subedar Major Khan Mohammad Khan. Lieutenant Colonel Martin  had previously served in the unit as the Second-in-Command. The then Commanding Officer did not think very highly of his abilities and had him posted to another unit for three months to earn a ‘special report’, after which he returned as the Commanding Officer, to the surprise and chagrin of many officers and men. Matters worsened when he initiated adverse reports on two officers who he felt had been working against him during the tenure of the previous Commanding Officer. Soon, the unit was split in two groups, with some of the men seeing the Commanding Officer over the heads of their wing commanders and officers. Another matter that had split the battalion into two camps was the squabble over the promotion of a Ranghar non commissioned officer, Colour Havildar Imtiaz Ali, who was passed over twice, under the influence of officers from the other wing. The Ranghars were very bitter about the perceived injustice. 4

            Apart from the political influence of the Ghadr Party, the unit was also affected by propaganda of German and Turkish agents who preached that it was wrong for Muslims to fight against Turkey, the seat of the Khalifa (Caliph) of Islam. A maulvi (Muslim priest) at a mosque near Alexandra Barracks regularly preached this line to the sepoys of the 5th Light Infantry. Similar propaganda was disseminated by an Indian merchant, Kasim Ismail Mansur, who ran a coffee shop that was much frequented by the soldiers. The battalion often provided guards at the prisoner of war camp where several sailors from the Emden were interned. The German prisoners convinced the Indian soldiers that the Kaiser himself was a Muslim and a descendant of the Prophet. The soldiers began to believe that the Germans were Muslims and Britain had embarked on a war against Islam.5

            The 5th Light Infantry was under orders to move on 16 February 1915. It was to go to Hong Kong but this was not conveyed to the men for security reasons. Rumours that the battalion was going to Mesopotamia to fight against the Turks began to circulate among the men. At 7 a.m. on 15 February, Brigadier General Ridout inspected the battalion at Alexandra Barracks. In his farewell address, he complimented the battalion and referred to their impending departure.  His speech in English was translated into Hindustani by the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Martin. The translation was not very clear and tended to create some confusion among the men. Their destination, Hong Kong, was not mentioned in the speech. After the address by the General Officer Commanding, two sepoys of A Company (Right Half) fell out to make complaints regarding their applications for discharge, which were disposed off under his directions. The Right Half was then dismissed and marched off to their lines. While moving off, some Ranghars shouted in protest against the Left Wing being detained for the purpose of examination of havildars for promotion to commissioned grade, which they felt should have gone to one of their own, Colour Havildar Imtiaz Ali.

After lunching with the officers of the 5th, General Ridout drove back to his bungalow in Tanglin. By this time the unit’s heavy baggage and equipment, including machine guns, had already been sent down to the Nore, the troopship that was to take them to Hong Kong. Small arms and ammunition was to be moved the next morning. But after the parade, Lieutenant Colonel Martin changed his mind and ordered the removal of the ammunition that afternoon. Shortly after 2 p.m., the ammunition was loaded in a lorry at the regimental magazine under the supervision of Lieutenant Elliot. The lorry then proceeded to the Quartermaster’s stores where some oil drums were being loaded. At about 3 p.m. a shot was fired at the ammunition lorry from the direction of the quarter guard. This was the signal for the commencement of the mutiny. The fatigue parties vanished, except for a sepoy of C Company who was later shot in two places and crawled to his barrack room. A and B Companies turned out en masse, led by Colour Havildar Imtiaz Ali and Havildar Ibrahim respectively. While A Company attacked and looted the ammunition lorry, B Company ransacked the magazine that contained 26,600 rounds of ammunition. They were soon joined by the remainder of the Right Wing i.e. C and D Companies.       

Within a few minutes of the first shot being  fired, Subedar Major Khan Mohammad Khan rushed to the residence of the Commanding Officer and informed him that the Right Wing had mutinied and the Left Wing had apparently dispersed. Colonel Martin immediately warned headquarters at Fort Canning and telephoned General Ridout. Meanwhile, Major Cotton (Second-in-Command), Captain Ball (Commander No. 1 Double Company) and Captain Boyce (Commander No. 2 Double Company) rushed to the Indian Officers’ Quarters, where they met Subedars Mohammed Yunus and Dunde Khan and Jemadars Chisti Khan, Abdul Ali and Hoshiar Ali. The British officers wanted to go to their respective double companies but were restrained by the Indian officers, who told them that their lives would be endangered, since they could no longer control the men. (It later transpired that they were in fact the ringleaders who had planned and organized the uprising). The British officers decided to go to the camp of the Malaya State Volunteer Rifles at Normanton Barracks to procure assistance. On the way, Captain Boyce lost his way. (He was subsequently found murdered). Major Cotton and Captain Ball managed to reach Normanton Barracks and warn the Malaya State Volunteer Rifles.

Though the Left Wing did not take active part in the mutiny, they became virtually ineffective as soon as the alarm was given. Both No. 3 and No. 4 Double Companies fell in without ammunition under the command of their commanders, Lieutenant Elliot and Captain Hall. Both tried to gain control of their men and encouraged them to stand firm. A burst of firing caused Elliot’s men to break and disperse into the jungle. Accompanied by Jemadar Fattu, Elliot tried to follow them but was apparently overtaken by a body of mutineers and killed. Hall moved his double company towards the Commanding Officer’s bungalow. Being without ammunition, he ordered his men to fix bayonets and was preparing to charge the mutineers when a heavy burst of fire from the direction of the Indian Officers’ Quarters caused the men to panic and disperse into the jungle. A few men remained with Hall and he soon picked up another small body under Subedar Suleman.  Eventually, Captain Hall and his party of about 50 men reached the Normanton Barracks and joined Major Cotton and Captain Ball. The Malay States Volunteer Rifles turned out a body of some 80 rifles under Captain Sydney Smith. Accompanied by Captain Hall’s men of No 4 Double Company, they moved to the Commanding Officer’s bungalow’s towards which the mutineers were reported to have gone. 6

The mutineers of the Right Wing made their way towards the Commanding Officer’s bungalow, where they were joined by some Sikhs of the battery of the Malay States Guides that was located near the 5th Light Infantry. However, the involvement of the Guides was brief – after killing Captain Mackean, an officer of the Royal Garrison Artillery who was on attachment with them, they disappeared, taking no further part in the proceedings. Later, many of them were found in Malaya, marching north. They claimed they were on their way to their depot at Taiping near Perak. A few returned to their barracks or reported to police stations in Singapore. The Sikhs’ sudden change of heart in distancing themselves from the mutiny was probably because they did not wish to get involved with Ranghars whom they regarded as inferior.

Meanwhile, the mutineers had split into three groups. The largest group of 100-150 men under Subedar Dunde Khan proceeded to the lines of the Malay States Guides, who were given arms and intimidated to join them. This group then prepared to attack the Commanding Officer’s bungalow, where the Subedar Major, the Second-in-Command and his wife and two other officers had taken shelter. The second small group, an off-shoot of the first group, proceeded to the Sepoy Lines where they murdered some officers before moving towards Singapore by the circuitous Pasir Panjang Road. The third group of about 80 men under Havildar Ibrahim moved across country towards Tanglin, where the camp for German prisoners was located.

The group moving towards Singapore met and killed a Singapore District Judge, Mr C.V. Dyson, and then shot dead Mr Marshall of the China Mutual Insurance Company, and Mr B.M. Woolcombe of the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company and his wife. Some sepoys, instead of taking the turning to the city, carried on towards Pasir Panjang. On their way, they passed a seaside bungalow where three Europeans –McGilvray, Dunn and Butterworth –were enjoying a lounge and a smoke in the verandah.  They shot all three. The mutineers who had turned towards the city killed five Europeans, including one of their own officers, Lieutenant Elliot. A couple of civilians who were fired upon managed to escape, racing back to the city to spread the alarm. 

The group that had proceeded to Tanglin reached the internment camp at about 4 p.m., catching the guards totally unprepared, thanks to a delay in passage of the information about the mutiny. Guard duties at the camp were being carried out by men of the Singapore Volunteer Rifles with the assistance of some men from the Johore State Forces, the private army of the Sultan of Johore, who was on friendly terms with the British. General Ridout, soon after the call from Colonel Martin at about 3 p.m, had left for his headquarters in Fort Canning, leaving instructions with his wife to telephone and warn the Tanglin camp.  For some inexplicable reason, Mrs Ridout was able to get through to the guard commander, Lieutenant Love Montgomerie just as the mutineers reached the camp. She had just begun talking to him when she heard shots and the line went dead. After killing Montgomerie the mutineers ran into the camp, where they killed the Commandant, two captains, two corporals and four privates of the Singapore Volunteer Rifles. They also killed two British sergeants, a Malay officer, two Malay soldiers and a German prisoner of war. The mutineers threw open the gates of the camp, telling the German and Austrian prisoners that they were free. Very few of them took up the offer, most preferring to stay in the camp and tend to the wounds of the guards. Finally, only 17 Germans left the camp, of whom four were later recaptured, the remainder getting away to the neutral Dutch East Indies. It was later discovered that the prisoners had been working on a tunnel that was almost complete, and would have escaped after a few days had the mutiny not taken place. In view of this, their reluctance to leave the camp appeared strange. Apparently, most of them seemed to think that taking advantage of the mutiny was not an honourable way to achieve freedom, and declined the opportunity.

One of the German prisoners who escaped was Lieutenant Jules Lauterbach, the former navigating officer of the Emden, who was reported to have had a hand in encouraging the men of the 5th Light Infantry to mutiny. The mutineers were counting on him to lead them, and were surprised when they realised that he was only interested in getting out of Singapore with some of his crew. Lauterbach was later to command the German raider Mowe which, like the Emden, took a heavy toll of British shipping. The mutineers were also astonished by the behaviour of the German prisoners, who seemed more interested in helping their wounded British captors than escaping. They soon realised that they had been misled about the Germans – some believed them to be Turks, of their own faith. Bewildered and puzzled, the mutineers did not know what to do next, and broke up. Some went into Singapore in search of the Turkish warship that Mansur, the coffee shop owner, had told them would take them off the island. Others crossed the Straits into the Johore jungles, hoping to escape from British reprisal that they knew would follow soon.

As soon as he reached his office at Fort Canning, General Ridout sent a message to HMS Cadmus that was in the harbour. Fortunately the ratings had not been given shore leave and could be mustered. Apart from the police that had been alerted by Captain Ball and the Singapore Volunteer Rifles, Ridout also had at his disposal a detachment of 36th Sikhs who were in transit to their regiment at Weihaiwei in China. He also spoke to the Japanese Consul who hastily enrolled 190 of his nationals as special constables, who were issued with rifles by the police. With the help of the available forces, Ridout placed armed guards on all public buildings and docks. He concentrated the volunteers at the drill hall and the police at the Orchard Road Police Station.  A number of cars were requisitioned, hastily armoured with sheets of metal, and used to bring European women and children from the suburbs. They were given temporary refuge at Government House and later taken aboard some of the ships in Keppel Harbour. A landing party of 80 ratings from the Cadmus was positioned to block the entry of mutineers into the city from the Pasi Panjang area. Martial law was proclaimed at 6.30 p.m. By sunset the island was in a reasonable state of defence. 7

Meanwhile, the Commanding Officer’s bungalow was still under siege. During the night, the mutineers kept up sniping fire but were deterred form an outright attack by a searchlight at nearby Blakang Mati that lighted up the bungalow.  The mutineers also fired occasional shots at police stations in the city. At Alexandra Road Police Station, Dr A.F. Legge of the Singapore Volunteer Medical Company was killed as he moved to attend to a mortally wounded soldier. At Bukit Timah Police station 138 men of the 5th Light Infantry surrendered, while two mutineers were killed in an exchange of fire at Orchard Road Police Station. Surprisingly, life in the city went on as usual. The Chinese remained blissfully unaware of the mutiny, mistaking the sounds of firing for crackers being burst as part of New Year celebrations. At the railway station the mail train from Penang came in on time and the night mail departed on schedule. On board the Penang train were 150 men of the Johore State Forces under the personal command of the Sultan who had responded to a call from the Governor, Sir Arthur Young.

During the night, a force had been assembled to relieve the party in the Commanding Officer’s house. At dawn on 16 February, Lieutenant Colonel C.W. Brownlow led a combined the force of 80 men from HMS Cadmus, 50 men of the Singapore Volunteer Corps, 21 men of the Royal Garrison Artillery and 25 armed civilians. Advancing from Keppel harbour, the force occupied the barracks that were not held in strength. Further advance was held up by heavy fire from a higher ridge, which had to be cleared by an attack from the left by the men from the Cadmus and the Singapore Volunteer Corps. The mutineers were pushed back and the force reached Colonel Martin’s bungalow. Since the force was outnumbered by the mutineers, it was decided to retire to Keppel Harbour with the relieved personnel. The relieving force lost two men in the action, with four being wounded. Of the mutineers, 11 were killed. 8

On the way back to the city Colonel Brownlow’s force swept the golf course at Tanglin and other stretches of open country, picking up between 30 and 40 sepoys. During the day many others surrendered all over Singapore. Some had taken refuge in mosques until they judged it safe to reappear. During the same morning, the Veteran Company of the Singapore Volunteer Corps occupied Tanglin Barracks without opposition and took charge of the prisoners of war. The Volunteers were also deployed to guard Government House, General Hospital and Fort Canning. The Japanese special constables raised by the Japanese Consul were sent to various police stations, where they provided armed patrols. As a precautionary measure, all ladies and children were removed from hotels to the ships in the harbour during the day.

Apart from the Japanese, the British authorities received assistance from several other nations. Wireless messages had been sent to ships at sea and in the harbour, asking for help to quell the mutiny. The French cruiser Montcalm that had sailed from Singapore on the day the mutiny broke out turned back as soon as it got the message, docking in the morning on 17 February. The Japanese cruiser Otowa arrived the same afternoon. A party of 190 men with two machine guns from the Montcalm proceeded by motor transport to the Seletar District where a group of mutineers had been reported. Before their arrival, however, the mutineers crossed over to Johore where 61 of them surrendered to the Sultan’s forces. On the morning of 18 February Colonel Brownlow’s force, reinforced with 76 men from the Otowa marched out from Keppel Harbour and occupied Alexandra Barracks, capturing six men. A party of the Japanese then proceeded to Normanton Barracks where it captured 12 mutineers. The same afternoon the Russian cruiser Orel arrived and sent 40 men ashore. By this time situation was under control and Government House issued an announcement that the position was completely in hand. On 19 February, another Japanese cruiser, the Tsuchima arrived with 75 men. She was followed on 20 February by the SS Edvana from Rangoon, carrying six companies of the 4th Battalion of the Shropshire Light Infantry (Territorials). By the evening of 22 February, one week after the outbreak, 614 men of the 5th Light Infantry had surrendered. It was estimated that 56 mutineers had been killed or drowned.9
Even as the hunt continued for the remaining fugitives, proceedings against the captives had begun, with the first of the executions being carried out on 23 February 1915.  Of the 202 persons tried by courts martial, 47 were sentenced to death and the remainder to varying terms of imprisonment. Though public execution had been terminated in 1890’s, the practice was revived for the Singapore mutiny. The executions took place outside Outram Road Prison, watched by thousands of people. The firing parties were drawn from units that had suffered casualties at the hands of the mutineers in the proportion of five soldiers firing at one man being executed. The largest execution of 21 mutineers was carried out on 25 March by a firing party of 105 drawn from the Singapore Volunteer Corps and the Singapore Volunteer Artillery Maxim Company. The two Indian officers who had instigated the mutiny, Subedar Dunde Khan and Jemadar Chisti Khan were executed on 21 April by a firing squad of ten men from the Royal Garrison Artillery. The last executions took place on 17 May 1915. The first volley usually failed to kill the condemned men, necessitating a second volley from a shorter distance. Even then warders had to walk along the line with pistols to finish the proceedings. There was considerable debate on the manner in which the executions were carried out, with some persons recommending the use of automatic weapons such as machine guns instead of rifles to hasten the death of the condemned men. 10

A first hand account of one of the executions by Nishimura, a Japanese doctor, brings out the poignancy of the proceedings and the feelings among the local population. Witnessing the execution on 1 April 1915, Nishimura writes:

These days, in the afternoon, a music band goes out from the post of the Volunteers in Beach Road to play cheerfully and walk through the city. When I asked what had happened, answer was: ‘Mutineers were shot dead.’ Those who witnessed the scene of public execution told me: ‘Last moments of the lives of Indian mutineers were really praiseworthy’. They are brave and firm in their thought. There is none who died a shameful death.’ I also wanted to see the scene for my information and walked to the execution ground.

5 o’clock in the evening. Piles were driven at intervals of ten shaku (3 metres) in the lawn outside the wall of Outram Road prison. People are crowded along the road or the incline inside the hospital. More than twenty thousand spectators were there. The execution ground can be clearly seen by all as they occupied their places on the layered slope. Crowds are waiting for the moment, holding their breaths. At five thirty, six mutineers were brought there accompanied by six stretchers and guarded by thirty soldiers. They obeyed to (sic) the command of soldiers and stood in front of the stakes. A British Major read the promulgation of the sentences. One mutineer said something indignantly. It was spoken in an Indian language, which I could not understand.

Five gunners took aim at one mutineer and delivered a volley of fire to him with the order of a commander. Simultaneously with the sound of the gunfire five mutineers fell down miserably, but the last person remained standing and breathed his last. A medical officer confirmed their deaths formally, and the dead bodies on the stretchers covered by white cloths were taken back to the Prison. They were alive when they came here, and left in death. This is the fourth execution since it started. Those mutineers who believed in the never-ending cycle of reincarnation died admirably. The reputation in the city is not false. 11

            The mutiny in the 5th Light Infantry in Singapore in 1915 has been well documented, though opinions differ on its character. The British authorities treated it is as a military revolt, instigated by disgruntled elements within the regiment. Others felt that it was a manifestation of the growing feeling of nationalism among soldiers in the Indian Army, who had begun to question their role in fighting for an alien power. The leaders of revolutionary movements outside India, such as the Ghadr Party, claimed that the mutiny was part of their plan to overthrow British rule in India. The mutiny failed because of poor leadership, lack of a precise programme and absence of coordination with revolutionary movements in other parts of the world. It is well known that the ambitious plans of the Ghadr Party to incite revolts in India and several places were thwarted by British intelligence and due to several other reasons, including ill luck. Had their plans succeeded, the British authorities would have found it difficult to spare forces to quell the mutiny in Singapore, which was then denuded of regular troops and warships.

            It is difficult to single out a specific factor that was responsible for the mutiny. Though World War I had started, Singapore was far removed from theatres where Indian troops were fighting. This naturally led to doubts among the Indian officers and men of the 5th Light Infantry about their role in the war. The entry of Turkey in the war against Britain complicated the issue, especially for Muslim soldiers who treated the Khalifa as their religious head. The influence of Kasim Ismail Mansur, the ‘pro-Turkish’ merchant who had close contacts with the soldiers may have augmented the reluctance of the latter to go to war.  The refusal of the Malay States Guides to go to war in 1914 added to the misgivings of the men of the 5th Light Infantry. The effect of their intimacy with the German prisoners of the Emden interned at Singapore cannot be discounted. Finally, the Komagata Maru incident and the passage of Ghadrities through Singapore had sown the seed of nationalism among the soldiers. All that was needed was a spark, and this was provided by the issue of promotion and uncertainty about being sent to fight against their co-religionists.

            The British authorities suppressed the revolt with the help of several foreign powers, including France, Russia and Japan. There was a heated debate in Japan on the propriety of using Japanese soldiers and civilian volunteers to quell the mutiny. The Third Anglo-Japanese Alliance that had been concluded in 1911 provided for Britain and Japan to assist each other in case of aggression by a third party against their territories in India and East Asia. However, it did not provide for suppression of mutinies and internal disturbances. Japan had helped Britain in capturing Tsintao from the Germans in 1914. But its assistance to Britain in suppressing the mutiny in Singapore in 1915 was questioned by many, including officers in the Japanese Navy. At that time, several Indian revolutionaries had made Japan their home, in the hope of obtaining her support in gaining independence from British rule. The Indian nationalist movement was supported by large sections of the Japanese people, who felt that the actions of their Consul in Singapore dealt a severe blow to Indian aspirations.

            A Japanese scholar who has carried out a deep study of the Singapore Mutiny is Sho Kuwajima, of the Department of India and Pakistan, Osaka University of Foreign Studies. According to him, ‘Singapore Mutiny was an expression of both anti-war feelings which derived from daily feelings of Indian soldiers and their aspiration for freedom which was encouraged by the continuous and pervasive propaganda of the Ghadr Party. The lack of revolutionary leadership and their programme blurred the basic character of the Mutiny’.12  


This chapter is largely based on Sho Kuwajima’s First World War and Asia – Indian Mutiny in Singapore (1915), (Osaka, 1988), Gerard H. Corr’s The War of the Springing Tigers, (London, 1975); Khushwant Singh’s The History of the Sikhs, Vol II, (Delhi, 1991); and  Lt Gen. S.L. Menezes’ Fidelity & Honour, (New Delhi, 1993). Specific references are given below:-

1.         Sho Kuwajima, First World War and Asia – Indian Mutiny in Singapore (1915)- (Osaka, 1988), p. 68, quoting R.W.E. Harper and Harry Miller, Singapore Mutiny, (Singapore, 1984), pp. 203-4

2.         Bhai Nahar Singh and Kirpal Singh (ed.), Struggle for Free Hindustan (Ghadr Movement), Vol. I, 1905-1916 (New Delhi, 1986), pp. 76-9.

3.         Khushwant Singh, The History of the Sikhs, Vol II, (Delhi, 1991), pp. 182-3 

4.         Lt. Gen S.L. Menezes, Fidelity & Honour, (New Delhi, 1993), p.278.

5.         Gerard H. Corr, The War of the Springing Tigers, (London, 1975), pp. 7-8

6.         Kuwajima, pp. 43-8

7.         Corr, pp. 9-12

8.         Kuwajima, p. 65, quoting D, Moore, The First 150 Years of Singapore, (Singapore, 1969), p. 550

9.         Kuwajima, pp. 65-7

10.       Menezes, p.280

11.       Kuwajima, pp. 68-9, quoting Takeshiro Nishimura, Singapore Sanjyugonen (Thirty Five Years in Singapore), (Tokyo, 1941), pp.163-4

12.       Kuwajima, p. 126

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