Culture & Religion

Flashback: the Japanese surrender after a four-year occupation of Malaya

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One of the most gruesome periods in Malayan history was the Japanese occupation during World War II. Many who studied in local schools will remember learning about how the Japanese invaded Malaya by surprise in 1942, catching the British and Allied forces off guard. Japanese forces came in from Thailand, starting their occupation in Kedah and cycling their way south on stolen bicycles.

We also learned about the Japanese regime that spread pro-Japanese propaganda, forcing school children to learn the Nippon-go (Japanese language). There has also been much written about how the Japanese ‘did nothing to stimulate the economy’, causing a shortage of supplies and leading to high inflation, thus rendering Japanese printed ‘banana’ money pretty much worthless.

We also learned a bit about the atrocities that happened in the few years the Japanese were around, but nothing too in-depth; perhaps our teachers didn’t want to scare us too much. But this piece of history, painful and gruesome as it may be, should not be forgotten.

5. Reoccupation of penang
Dejected group of Jap civil and military officers watch Royal Marines take over the dockyards
4. Reoccupation of Penang
Lt. J. BLEASE, RN, of Johnshaven, Montrose, Scotland and SLt. (A) I. MACGREGOR, RNVR, of South Queensberry, Scotland, examine plans of Japanese seaplane.

The Japanese, after taking hold of Kedah, split into two flanks, one heading south and the other towards the east coast. They quickly drove back the British forces and made it to the Johor causeway and to Sarawak, and even conquered Singapore.

During that time, the Japanese massacred thousands of people in local Chinese communities that they suspected as being anti-Japanese. Entire villages were slaughtered; hundred of people were shot at a time, regardless of age. Ethnic Chinese men, women, and children were killed by the Japanese simply as they were suspected of providing financial support to the Nationalist and Communist forces in China who were battling the Japanese.

8. Reoccupation of Penang
Lt. Col. C. B. GRANT, OBE, RM, Officer-in-Charge Marine liberating force, discusses plans with Japanese officers
9. Reoccupation of Penang
Lt. Gen. O. L. Roberts, 34 Corps Commander, uses both hands to greet released prisoners of war Baz Hussain Shah, 43 Bengal Sappers and Miners
3. Reoccupation of Penang
Japanese truck carrying Royal Marine occupying force passes through excited crowd in Penang
6. Reoccupation of Penang
Headed by Naval Captain HIDAKA, Chief of Staff to Rear Admiral Commanding Penang Naval Headquarters, surrender delegates – who included Navy, Army and civilian representatives – discuss surrender terms aboard the HMS Nelson

Fortunately (for them), ethnic Malays and Indians were treated much better. The Japanese wanted the support of Indians in Malaya to support freeing India from British rule while ethnic Malays for some reason weren’t considered a threat. In comparison to the Chinese, the Indians and Malays were treated much better and this preferential treatment stirred up a lot of animosity between races – particularly between local Chinese and Malays.

Eventually in 1945, after strategic bombing of Malaya by the British and Allied Forces and guerrilla warfare by both local and Allied troops, the Japanese were forced to surrender, first in Penang and then in Kuala Lumpur.

1. Reoccupation of Penang
Allied Forces liberated Penang at the end of August. Jap surrender party signed off the war aboard HMS Nelson lying off Georgetown. Disarmed Jap troops march through crowds to prison camp
2. Reoccupation of Penang
2. Rear Admiral BAZUDI, Flag Officer Commanding Jap Forces, Penang, signs surrender document after deliberation. Watching him is the Jap Lt. Governor of Penang (right) and scowling Captain HIDAKA, Chief of Staff to the Jap Admiral
11. Reoccupation of Penang
Rear Admiral Bazudi, Flag Officer Commanding Jap Forces, Penang, waits while Allied representatives examine surrender document

Video: Penang Reoccupied

British Pathé, a news company that was around between 1910 – 1970, filmed the reoccupation of Penang, which can be found on their YouTube channel. The video, entitled ‘Penang Reoccupied’, documents the arrival of the British Royal Marines, surrender of Japanese Forces, the hoisting of the Union Jack, and the celebrations by the Malayan population of the defeat of the Japanese.

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