Skip to main content

Historical documents

193 Mr V. G. Bowden, Official Representative in Singapore, to Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for Foreign Affairs

Cablegram M52 SINGAPORE, 14 December 1941, 8.20 p.m.


For Minister for External Affairs.

This morning I saw Wynne, Chief of the Special Branch of the
Singapore Police, whom I consider a most reliable informant. He
has received indications from different sources that heavy air
attacks on Singapore 14th December and December 15th are likely.

Another report that some 140 Japanese transports have been sighted
moving south suggests possibility of attack from sea.

Wynne is very concerned about the internal security, describes the
situation as 'slipping hourly' [1] and believes that the
imposition of martial law urgently necessary. He despairs of
impressing the Administration with the seriousness of the
situation and criticizes the Governor [2], as the highest
authority here, for preoccupation with formalities of procedure
and unwillingness to authorise urgent drastic security measures
and if necessary abdicate his powers (i.e. if martial law

Indications are that Singapore will shortly be in virtual state of
siege and I feel appropriate control measures should be introduced
immediately while facilities for organisation are still intact. I
have accordingly placed before Governor and also discussed with
Duff Cooper certain representations and recommendations submitted
to me by Tebbutt [3] which include early application of martial
law. Duff Cooper had received similar representations from his
military adviser [4] and appears to be in full agreement.

Governor's general attitude was that the civil Administration's
handling of security matter is adequate and that measures
recommended are unnecessary but nevertheless under pressure from
me undertook to submit them to Defence Council tomorrow. Am
convinced Duff Cooper will strongly support. [5]


1 In cablegram 56 of 15 December (AA:A3830, 1941, 3466) Bowden
advised that Alfred Duff Cooper, U.K. Minister of State for Far
Eastern Affairs resident in Singapore, had 'admitted lack of
confidence in military situation and envisaged the probability of
gradual withdrawal of forces on the peninsula to a line
approximately covering southern half of the State of Johore'.

2 Sir Shenton Thomas.

3 Liaison Officer between Army Headquarters, Melbourne, and the
Far East Combined Bureau. Major Telbbutt's letter to Bowden, dated
13 December, is on file AA:A981, Far East 16B.

4 Lt Col L. B. Robertson.

5 In cablegram 55 of 15 December (on file AA:A1608, C5 1/1/10),
Bowden advised that as a result of his recommendations, which Duff
Cooper had supported, Thomas had agreed to the required measures
affecting public security. For a more detailed account of Bowden's
representations to Duff Cooper and Thomas, see Bowden's letter of
17 December to Lt Col W. R. Hodgson, Secretary of the External
Affairs Dept, on the file cited in note 3.

[AA:A981, WAR 49, i]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
Back to top