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The Borneo Company Limited, Sarawak, Japanese Occupation 24 December 1941 To 11 September 1945.

The Japanese occupation of Kuching on 24 December 1941 brought all Borneo Company Limited Sarawak (BCLS) activities throughout Sarawak to an abrupt end and its employees immediately lost the security of their employment as well as facing the disruption of what was to be a 38 months occupation. (1) To avoid the Japanese occupation forces, a significant proportion of the Chinese urban community in Kuching and Miri moved to rural and coastal areas, eking out a living by subsistence farming (SG 7.9.1949: 219; Lockard, 1987: 151). (2) The population of Sarawak at this time was in the region of 550,000, made up of some 47% natives, 27% Chinese, 25% Malay/Melanau, 1% non-indigenous Asians, and 0.1% European, a diversity reflected in the personnel of BCLS. (3) Japanese ethnic policy for Borneo as outlined in a Japanese intelligence document was "to use native princes... according to their former status and ability" to secure the support of the local population but restrict "the political power of the Chinese" who could pose a threat in view of the "on-going conflict on the Chinese mainland" (Ooi 2011:61). (4)

That the Japanese would not tolerate any behavior that undermined their authority was underlined by the public execution by firing squad of seven Chinese who stole twenty drums of petrol from the 7th Mile airfield on 5 September 1942 (Reece 1998:117; Lim 2000:134). Nevertheless, in the early stages of the occupation some Chinese managed to set up lines of communication with the Batu Lintang civilian internment camp in Kuching through which food, medicine, and wireless parts were supplied for some time (Ong 1998:229-33). Members and organizers of the pre-war Chinese Relief Fund were targeted by the kempei-tai for intensive interrogation and made responsible for collecting 1.9 million Straits dollars from the Chinese in Sarawak (Reece 1987:118, Ooi 2011:65-6).

For the Sarawak people the occupation was a disruptive period of strict authoritarian military rule; a feared Japanese secret police, the kempei-tai, and its network of spies, jikidan, in the local populace; obligatory bowing to all military personnel; increasingly acute shortages of daily necessities such as soap and cloth as the Allied shipping blockade became increasingly effective; and during the latter part of the occupation Allied bombing of Sibu, Mukah, Kanowit, Song, and Miri. (5) Personal experiences of people during the occupation ranged from the foundation of future fortunes to torture and execution. (6) For expatriate personnel, the choice was internment in the Batu Lintang prison camp or making an attempt to escape from Sarawak. (7)


BCLS contract personnel

Most BCLS contract personnel were British expatriates who faced internment for the duration of the war. For the nine BCLS expatriate personnel and their families in Sarawak, the choice was internment or escape from Sarawak at the risk of being rounded up or killed by the Japanese. Stationed in Kuching, Sibu, and Miri, their fate was generally dictated by location and government-led action.

BCLS expatriate personnel in the group of escapees to Australia via Pontianak

The Martine dependants, the Cargil family, and R.S.Sagar (8)

On 19 December when a Japanese air raid on Kuching left 33 dead and 78 wounded, the manager of BCLS, Theodore Charles Martine, was in Singapore on company matters, and had been joined there by his seven-year old daughter Virginia, then on school holidays. (9) Pat Martine, TCM's wife, together with their second daughter, five-year old Patricia, had stayed in Kuching. Kenneth Cargill, his wife Joan, and their six-month old daughter Rosemary, normally stationed in Miri, were also in Kuching at this time. A few hours after the air raid, Pat briefly returned to BMK (Bukit Mata Kuching), the Martine residence, which had been severely damaged, and together with Cargill recovered a few essentials and tinned food for a pre-planned retreat to the Dahan Rubber Estate some 50 km south-east of Kuching. Pat and Patricia, together with Joan Cargill and Rosemary and the Cargill's amah, left Kuching the next day, arriving at Dahan some three hours after a demanding journey by car and army lorry over badly eroded, unsurfaced roads (SG 7 November 1949).


By 4.30 pm on 24 December the Japanese flag was flying over Fort Margherita in Kuching and some four hours later the District Officer at Bau telephoned the evacuees at Dahan instructing them to go to his house immediately. The evacuees quickly left the estate in the car of the estate manager, A.R. Dee, who decided to stay at Dahan and was subsequently interned by the Japanese. En route to the District Officer's house, the evacuees received instructions to go directly to the Dutch frontier and after a 25 km drive over a badly degraded road arrived at the police post at Krokong near the border. Later that evening a group of the Sarawak Volunteer Force that included Cargill and another BCLS employee, Richard Saville Sagar from Kuching, also arrived at Krokong.

The road ended at Krokong and after a short rest the evacuees and the Sarawak Volunteers set out on foot through tropical rain forest to Sanggau in Dutch Borneo some 120 miles south-south-east. Traditional Dayak hospitality provided basic overnight shelter in their longhouses, and Dayak guides showed the way along narrow winding trails that connected communities. Throughout their journey the group experienced debilitating tropical temperatures, high humidity, mosquitoes, leeches, occasional tropical rain, and inevitably hunger. However, with the help of the local people, including at some points Dayak bearers and a couple of Punjabi soldiers who helped carry Rosemary and Patricia, the entire group finally safely arrived at Sanggau.


At Sanggau the Martines and Cargills stayed at the Dutch CO's bungalow overnight and then traveled by bus to Pontianak on the west coast at the mouth of the Kapuas River, arriving on 1 January 1942. There a group of some twenty women refugees from Sarawak with seven children gradually assembled and, with others, including Sagar, was evacuated some 800 kilometers to Batavia (now Jakarta) on 15 January on a Dutch seaplane chartered by the Sarawak Government's Agent, Cecil Pitt Hardacre, in Sydney. On arrival, Pat Martine was hospitalized briefly to recover from coming into contact with Bintangor tree latex, a potent poison that the Dayaks used for stunning fish.

On the following day the family was briefly united, Martine and daughter Virginia arriving in Batavia on a supply plane from Singapore. Martine had been granted permission to evacuate Virginia by Singapore's Manpower Bureau, and had agreed to return to Singapore, then under imminent threat of Japanese invasion, within ten days. He returned to Singapore on 28 January 1942 on the last supply plane out of Batavia. His wife and daughter, Sagar, the Cargills, and the others from Sarawak were evacuated to Australia on the KPM MS Boissevan, arriving in Sydney in early March, Batavia falling to the Japanese on Thursday, 5 March. There a mini-community of refugees, including Pat, her two daughters and Sagar, who enlisted in the RAAF, set up residence in a small block of flats for the duration of the war. Pat relied on loans from her brother in England, as BCL in London advised her it could not help but that she might be able to claim compensation after the war. The Cargills are reported to have moved from Australia to South Africa and later to have returned to England.


BCLS expatriate personnel--T.C. Martine in Singapore

Martine returned to Singapore on 28 January 1942, honoring his agreement with Singapore's Manpower Bureau, and was immediately assigned to denial of supplies to the Japanese, blowing up a shipment of explosives with BCL storekeeper Chan Seng Ann and destroying the company's [pounds sterling]30,000 stock of alcohol with BCL's Singapore manager, Jack Bennet. Following General Percival's surrender on 15 February, the Japanese instructed all the Europeans in Singapore to assemble at the Cricket Club, from where they walked under armed guard first to temporary assessment camps and then some 18 miles to Changi Prison. Martine was allocated cell 8 in Block D, which he shared with a mining consultant. Martine as an accredited driver of the three old trucks at Changi, was one of four internees allowed out of the prison under guard to buy provisions. Through a letter to another internee, he was relieved to hear that his wife and daughters were safely in Sydney.


In early 1944 Martine was accused of carrying information, kicked, punched, and confined in a corrugated steel shed without food or water in tropical temperatures, an episode he subsequently never discussed even with his wife and family. Martine relinquished his role as the representative for D Block and his weight fell below seven stone (45 kg). Some time later a prominent Kuching businessman, Wee Kheng Chiang, who had found anonymous refuge in Singapore, arranged for a sock containing three addressed envelopes to be thrown over the prison wall. Picked up unnoticed by one of the internees, one envelope was handed over to Martine, the addressee, who found a wad of dollar bills which were extremely useful for purchasing food and supplies. Internees who committed suicide were barred from burial in the consecrated ground of the cemetery associated with the camp "by the Churches," to which Martine responded by helping in their burial (Martine 2004:190). (10) In May 1944 all civilian internees were moved to a camp in Sime Road where the internees were able to grow some of their own food. However, increasingly serious problems in the camp were only alleviated after 15 August 1945, when the Emperor of Japan announced Japan's surrender.

Sarawak Rubber Estates Limited: MacDonald

As seen in Part III (Porritt 2015), at this time the Borneo Company was responsible for the general control and management of the Sarawak Rubber Estates, including the appointment of its manager. When the Japanese occupied Kuching on 24 December 1941, this post was held by Donald McDonald who was immediately interned and finally moved to the male civilian internment camp at Batu Lintang. In May 1944 MacDonald, the Camp Master (Cyril Le Gros Clark), and three others, were detained in the guard room on unspecified charges. (11) By 12 September the group had been moved to Jesselton for court martial involving "a plot between members of this [Batu Lintang] Camp and persons outside" (Archer 1946:81, 95,103). Subsequently Le Gros Clark was sentenced to 2 years' imprisonment and MacDonald to 10 months. In early 1945 the group was moved to the civil goal at Keningau, then to Bulu Silau, and finally on 6 July to "a place on the Keningau-Ranau road where they were... shot in the head by a special kempei-tai execution party" (Reece 1988:178). To avoid any post-war retribution a false report was lodged "alleging that the five had been killed in an air raid" (Reece 1988:179).

BCLS expatriate personnel in the Third Division: Cobbold, Horn, McKerracher & Miles (12)

At the outbreak of war on 8 December, there were four expatriates employed on work associated with the company's commercial activities and its Rejang Timber Concession (RTC): Peter Charles Victor Cobbold in Sibu, William McKerracher, the manager of the BCLS sawmill at Salim some five kilometers upriver from Sibu, Charles Bennett Horn also at Salim, and Connup Llewellyn Miles at Pelagus some 200 kilometers upriver from Sibu.

Horn was eager to enlist for military service, so the Company released him from his duties at Salim. On his arrival in Kuching on 19 December, he was sent to the Tanjung Po lookout post at the mouth of the Kuching River. At 7 a.m. on 23 December 1941 his report of "suspicious vessels... off Tanjong Po" heralded the occupation of Kuching on the following day (SG 7.12.1949: 318). He then surrendered to the Japanese and was interned initially at "Zaida," Rock Road, then at the Padungan Camp (16 May 1942 to 14 July 1942) and finally at the Batu Lintang Male Civilian Internment Camp (14 July 1942 to 11 September 1945). (13) The conditions at the latter are well documented, summarized briefly as confinement to a specific small sleeping space in the barracks, food deficient in quality and quantity, enforced work, wholly inadequate medical supplies and medical treatment, sparse irregular contact between internees and their families interned in the women's camp, repeated bullying and common physical assaults by guards, and an indifferent and uncaring administration (SG 10.08.1950: 205-12: Archer 1046: 9-10). Some 284 internees with an average age of 43 years and 51/2 months were listed in the Batu Lintang Male Civilian Internment Camp, of whom 25 died during internment.

On 25 and 26 December the Japanese bombed Sibu, the administrative center for the then Third Division of Sarawak, causing severe damage. False reports of Japanese boats approaching from downriver led to panic looting of government rice stocks and commercial stores including BCL stores. Acting on the cabled advice from Sir Shenton Thomas, the last Governor of the Straits Settlements, in Singapore, to "Do whatever you think best," action on Resident A. McPherson's controversial plan to evacuate all Europeans up the Rejang River to Belaga and make for Long Nawang over the mountain range in Dutch Borneo began immediately (Jacks 1942). On hearing news on the radio of the Christmas Day bombing, Miles immediately went downriver to Sibu, where he was assigned to acquiring essential supplies. These included 5 more outboard motors and extra fuel for the 8 BCLS long boats at Kapit to take the evacuees further upriver and 40 bags of rice to pay the boatmen and bearers, who were all RTC employees. Salim Mill Manager McKerracher organized a committee of local RTC employees to control and ration the issue of the company's stockholding of three months' supply of food before leaving. There were 24 evacuees made up mainly of government servants but also including 3 women--one pregnant - and 2 children, as well as BCLS personnel Cobbold, Miles, and McKerracher.

The main party left Sibu at midnight on 26 December on the MV Rejang, with others following on launches Anne (Sesco), Betty (Government) and Karang Mas (BCL). On arrival at Kapit, supplies and personal effects were reloaded on to the longboats as upriver rapids precluded further use of the launches. The group set out from Kapit at 8 am on 28 December 1941, encountering its first mishap later that day when the last longboat negotiating the Pelagus Rapids capsized, losing 20 drums of fuel, 4 bags of rice, the personal effects of Cobbold, McKerracher and two others, and $600 belonging to McKerracher. Traveling upriver by longboat for the next ten days, the group stopped overnight at Pasir Naik, Marrit, the RTC Forest Station at Belaga, the last settlement on the Rejang River, and 9 longhouses further upriver. This was the end of inhabited country before their destination, Long Nawang, a military outpost in Dutch Borneo still some 14 days travel away over the Iran Mountain Range. The longboats were sent back to Kapit and the group transferred to 11 lighter paddle boats to negotiate the shallow head waters as far as possible. Two days after setting out, without explanation to his colleagues Miles decided to return to Kapit, building a raft with a few local Dayaks and heading down river. He was taken prisoner by the Japanese and interned at the Batu Lintang Male Internment Camp after initially being allowed to continue working as a forester on the Rejang Timber Concession.

Oyong Layang and Penghulu Oyong Puso assisted the group in the last part of their journey and Dutch authorities responding to a call for help sent a party of some 40 Kayans from Dutch Borneo over the border to clear a track through the forest and escort the group to Long Nawang. After an arduous crossing of the mountain range the group, two of them on makeshift stretchers, finally reached the Long Nawang military outpost on 22 January, 26 days after leaving Sibu. Three had malaria, one an injured ankle, and Cobbold's sunburn had turned septic. As the Dutch troops had left the base on military duty, the group had the use of the barracks, the officers' bungalows, 4 simple hospital beds, a local assistant dresser, and adequate food and medicine to last an estimated 12 months. On 28 January the group heard over the outpost radio that their originally planned destination, Samarinda at the mouth of the Mahakan River on the east coast of Dutch Borneo, had been taken by the Japanese. The Long Nawang group then decided that an advance party including McKerracher would try and get to Banjarmasin at the mouth of the Barito River via Long Eran and then send a report to the group for those wishing to follow. Setting out on 30 January, after an arduous 17 day trek the advance party reached Long Eran; the Dutch Controller's launch then took them a day's journey downriver to a "secret" airfield where the group boarded a Dutch troop plane to Bandung in West Java, arriving after a flight of 61/2 hours on 18 February. From there, the group flew to Batavia by commercial plane, where McKerracher embarked on a vessel to Fremantle in Western Australia, finally arriving some 12.7 kg lighter on 28 February 64 days after leaving Sibu. Of the advance party, McKerracher and Jacks (DO Kapit) reached Fremantle, Schotling (Asst. Food Controller, Sibu) was conscripted by the Dutch, and Walter (Forestry Dept. Sibu) was hospitalized in Batavia, which surrendered to the Japanese on 8 March. Rapidly moving events made a rescue plan suggested to the Dutch for those remaining at Long Nawang not viable.


Only two of the original group from Sibu, Kapit District Officer A.F.R. Griffin and District Surveyor R.H. Baron, elected to return to Sarawak and were interned at Batu Lintang. Cobbold, the only remaining BCLS employee in the group, decided to remain at Long Nawang, where numbers grew as others sought refuge there. Two British civilians and four Dutch pilots arrived in February, some 40 Dutch soldiers from Tarakan in April, and two American missionaries, one with a wife and 3 children, in early August. On 20 August a punitive expedition of some 76 Japanese marines from the Raroun Division troops attacked and took over the base. With one exception, native Dutch soldiers were released. All the European males, apart from three who managed to escape in the debacle, were "shot, bayoneted, and pushed into the [2 mass] graves" on 26 August. The women and children were killed by bayonet on 23 September and buried next to the burial ground of the men, reports recording that "the children suffered the most cruel deaths" (Ooi 2011:90). On 30 August 1945 when the Camp Master of the Batu Lintang Civilian Internment Camp asked the Camp Commander Lt.-Col. Tatsuji Suga about the Long Nawang party, he advised that "he had no information of them but knew there were no civilian prisoners of war in Dutch Borneo" (Archer 1946:123).

BCLS expatriate personnel in Miri: N.A. Lucas (14)

Norman Albert Lucas in Miri was the first BCLS employee to be directly affected by the war. Facing the impending Japanese invasion, on 8 December 1941 oilfields personnel and some 100 2/15 Punjabi Regiment soldiers rendered the Miri and Lutong oil installations inoperative. The Punjabi soldiers returned to Kuching and Europeans were evacuated with the exception of a small group left "to remain in charge until the circumstances forced them to make for the jungle" (Reece 1998: 28). Lucas and E. Bomphrey (Island Trading Company) had also not been evacuated but had "made for the jungle" and in late January were reported to be staying at a Dayak longhouse as Bomphrey was "down with kidney trouble" (McKerracher 1942: 3). Lucas was aware of the Sibu personnel's escape plan (see sub-heading BCLS expatriate personnel in the Third Division) and there were hopes that he would cross the Bintulu River and join them at Long Nawang in Dutch Borneo. However, this did not eventuate. Lucas and Bomphrey were either rounded up by or surrendered to the Japanese and were interned at the Batu Lintang male civilian internment camp. (15)


BCLS accountant A.P. Merrells

Arthur Patrick Merrells was from a prominent Singapore Eurasian family and had joined the Borneo Company in Sarawak in 1913 at the age of 28. When the Japanese occupied Kuching, he is credited with hiding the Company's books (post by Thomas Lai 22.11.2015). Although the occupation was a particularly difficult time for Sarawak's Eurasian community who, apart from a very short period as the occupation was drawing to a close, were not interned, Merrells managed to survive the occupation. He was awarded the Ahli Bintang Sarawak (Member of the Order of the Star of Sarawak) in 1965 "in recognition of the meritorious services" he had "rendered to the State of Sarawak," most of his career having been with the Borneo Company (Ho 1996:134).


The occupation finally ends

Following the Emperor's announcement of surrender on 15 August 1945, the formal surrender of Japan was signed on 2 September 1945. In Singapore the Japanese surrendered on 4 September 1945 followed by an official ceremony eight days later. (16) At the Sime Road Civilian Internment Camp where T. C. Martine, the manager of BCL in Sarawak, was interned, internee Lady Shelton hoisted the British flag at noon on 3 September, and finally on 6 September the gates of the Camp were opened (Straits Times, 7 September 1945). By then Martine weighed 44.5 kg. One of the earliest visitors to the Camp, Wee Kheng Chiang, took Martine together with two other friends to a flat at Tanjong Pagar (Martine 2004:190). Martine then returned to "Belvedere," his home in Singapore, and, for some six weeks while waiting for a passage to Australia to join his family, rallied "local... staff, opening up the workshops and recovering plant, spare parts and stores" (Martine 2004:193). The family was reunited in late October, and after 4 months in Sydney sailed to England, returning to Sarawak in the summer of 1946.

BCLS personnel, Charles Horn, Connup L Miles, Norman Lucas, and A. R. Dee

As already recorded, Horn, Miles, Lucas and Dee were interned at the Batu Lintang Internment Camp Complex in the civilian section. Planned extermination of all internees and prisoners of war in the Complex planned for 18 August 1945 was pre-empted by the bombing of Hiroshima on 6 August and Nagasaki on 9 August, and the surrender of Japan on 15 August (Reece 1998: 177-8). Camp Commander Lt.-Col. Tatsuji Suga finally informed the internees of the Japanese surrender on 24 August, advising internees and prisoners of war to stay in the Camp for their own safety as "some local [Japanese] commanders might not obey the Emperor's surrender order" (Reece 1998: 192). Indicative of conditions in the No. 1 Internees Camp at this time, on the same day the internees' representative submitted a written request to Suga "to supply this Camp as large a quantity as possible of essential foodstuffs, namely, milk, eggs, fruit, fresh fish and meat, especially for the seriously sick persons... as a matter of extreme urgency", but to no avail (Archer 1946:122). Relief finally arrived on 30 August, with twice daily Allied air drops of supplies. (17) On 1 September the Japanese formally handed over internal administration of No. 1 Internees Camp to senior internees. Kuching remained under Japanese administrative control until 11 September, when Australian troops marched into Kuching, Brigadier-General Eastick ending an address to the internees with the words "You are all [now] free people".

Lau Chai Lim of BCLS pre-empts the official surrender

The "sudden appearance of the Sarawak flag side by side with the Union Jack over Fort Margherita shortly before noon" on 11 September 1945 dramatically signalled the end of the Japanese occupation even before the first party of Australian 9th Division troops landed at Ban Hock Wharf later that day (People's Mirror, 20-21 November 1995 cited in Reece 1998:189). Lau Chai Lim, who was responsible for the BCLS Nestle agency before the Japanese occupation, had been a member of the Sarawak Volunteers No. 1 Company demolition squad in October 1941. During the occupation, he and his family "went into hiding," keeping his service rifle, pistol, and flags (Martine 2004:199).(18) One account states that he was informed by "some escaped prisoners from Batu Lintang"--control over the Batu Lintang internment camp having been formally handed over on 1 September 1945 to senior officers interned there--that the Australians would be arriving on 11 September. Acting on this information, on 11 September Lim and his twenty-year old son Kok Hua cycled into Kuching with the flags, rifle and pistol, crossed the Kuching River to Fort Margherita, and finding it deserted, waited until the first Australian patrol boats came into view and then hoisted the flags. For this, Lau was officially credited with "saving the inevitable bloodshed that would otherwise ensued" in the reoccupation of Kuching and made an Officer of The Most Excellent Star of Sarawak by Sir Charles Vyner Brooke, the last Rajah of Sarawak, on 20 June 1946 (Appendix 23).


Re-establishing BCLS in Sarawak in a post-occupation changing environment

By the end of the occupation, public services were run down; public health was in decline; essential foods, clothing, and medicines were in short supply; bazaars, shophouses, and other property at Miri, Mukah, Kanowit, Song, and Kapit had been severely damaged by Allied air raids; and the Miri oilfields had been rendered inoperative by a Japanese denial operation on 10 June 1945 as well as Allied bombing. With the surrender by the Japanese to the Australian 9th Division in Kuching on 11 September 1945, the task of re-establishing the trappings of civil administration and meeting the need for essentials such as food, medicine, and cloth fell initially to the British Borneo Civil Affairs Unit. Constituted under the command of the 1st Australian Corps, BBCAU was made up of Australian and British Army officers, the latter including some pre-occupation Sarawak administrative officers (Ooi 2013:57-61). Authority was transferred to the British Military Administration on 5 January 1945 and continued until 12 April 1946, when the civil government of the Brookes was temporarily restored (Ooi 2011:139). Sir Charles Vyner Brooke officially ceded Sarawak to the British Crown on 15 May 1946.

BCLS records were virtually all lost during the occupation, with the exception of the Kuching account books hidden by A.P. Merrills (The Borneo Times, 1 June 1952). Among the records lost were the "deep researches into the archives of the [Kuching] branch" by T. C. Martine. Losses of stock, plant, and furnishings and damage to property during the occupation were severe, loss of local records precluding an accurate estimate (Longhurst 1956:99). Rubber plantations were overgrown and neglected, making post-war production recovery a slow and labor-intensive process (Jones 1986:234). "Aneberg," the company's principal residence on Bukit Mata in Kuching, which had served as a brothel for Japanese officers, was a wreck (Longhurst 1987:99). Subsequently the Borneo War Damages Commission allocated the company [pounds sterling]4,800 for property losses (Martine 2004:214).(19)

Senior BCL personnel were among the first civilians permitted to return to liberated territories, and were reported to have played "a considerable part" in the work of rehabilitation units set up by the British Government in 1944 (Longhurst 1956:99). By early 1946, with the exception of the Dutch East Indies, the Borneo Company was reestablishing all its overseas pre-war operations. In Sarawak, Richard Sagar was posted to Kuching acting for the Manager, T.C. Martine, then in Scotland recovering from internment. Martine returned to Sarawak a few months later, by which time Sarawak had been ceded to Britain. Adding to his responsibilities as Manager of BCLS, he accepted an invitation to become a member of Sarawak's Council Negri (Legislative Council). C. L. Miles, who had been interned at Batu Lintang, returned to Pelagus to re-establish the company's forestry operation, and C. B. Horn, who had also been interned at Batu Lintang, was posted to Sibu, replacing P. C.V. Cobbold who has been killed at Long Nawang.

The nucleus of pre-occupation Sarawak Administrative Service officers returning to Sarawak with the BMA, together with those being released from internment and from overseas, coupled with reinstitution of the civil administration of the pre-occupation Council Negri and Supreme Council, provided a continuity in governance familiar to returning BCLS senior staff and personnel. (20) Indeed, Sagar would have not found Kuching "very different" when he returned, apart from a newly-established daily newspaper in English, the Sarawak Tribune (SG, 2 January 1947). Channels of communication, importation and exportation for BCLS continued largely unchanged, mainly through the Borneo Company office in Singapore and the Singapore port, a regular air service between Singapore and Kuching not starting for another three years. After an enforced interruption of some four years, BCLS was able to start rebuilding its assets and resume trading. With its interests in rubber and timber, as well as agencies ranging from insurance to tobacco and engineering, BCLS was well-placed to take advantage of the buyer's market created by nearly four years of occupation.

Main References

Archer, John Beville

1946 Lintang Camp: Official Documents and Papers collected from the Records of the Civilian Internment Camp (No. 1 Camp) at Batu Lintang, Kuching, Sarawak during the years 1942-1943-1944-1945, Kuching: Government Printing Office.

Borneo Company Ltd., Sarawak

June 1952 The Borneo Times (in-house typescript).

Ho Ah Chon, comp.

1996 Sarawak Historical Events 1965, Kuching: Pustaka Negeri Sarawak.

Hua, Julita Lim Shau

2005 Pussy's in the well: Japanese Occupation of Sarawak 1941-1945, Kuching: Sarawak Press.

Jacks, H.P.K.

1942 Report by H. P. Jacks, 27 March 1942, typescript in the possession of R.H. Reece.

Jones, Stephanie

1986 Two Centuries of Overseas Trading: The Origins and Growth of the Inchcape Group, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Lim, Patricia Pui Huen and Wong, Diana, eds.

2000 War and Memory in Malaysia and Singapore, Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Lockard, Craig Alan

1987 From Kampung to City: A Social History of Kuching Malaysia 1820-1870, Athens, Ohio: Ohio University.

Longhurst, Henry

1956 The Borneo Story: The History of the First 100 Years of Trading in the Far East by the Borneo Company Limited, London: Newman Neame Ltd.

Martine, Roddy

2004 Scorpion on the Ceiling: A Scottish Colonial Family in South East Asia, Scotland: Librario Publishing Ltd.

McKerracher, William

1942 Report on Proceedings before, leading up to and covering the evacuation of the Borneo Company's staff from Sibu and the Rejang Timber Concession, 2 May 1942, RHL MSS. Pac.S.109 (typescript held in the Rhodes House Library in Oxford).

Morrison, Alastair

1993 Fair Land Sarawak: Some Recollections of an Expatriate Official. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University.

Ooi Keat Gin

2005 Reliving the cruelty of the Japanese Occupation: A Japanese Christmas, The Star, 10 July.

2011 The Japanese Occupation of Borneo, 1941-1945, New York: Routledge.

2013 Post-War Borneo, 1945-1950: Nationalism, Empire and State-Building, Abingdon [U.K.]: Routledge.

Ong Kee Hui

1998 Footprints in Sarawak: Memoirs of Tan Sri Datuk (Dr) Ong Kee Hui, Kuching: Sarawak Press.

Porritt, Vernon L.

2015 The Borneo Company's Role in the Economic Development of Sarawak during the Brooke Dynasty: Part III, Up to the Japanese occupation of Kuching on 24 December 1941, Borneo Research Bulletin. 46:93-109.

Reece, Bob

1998 Masa Jepun: Sarawak Under The Japanese 1941-1945, Kuching: Sarawak Literary Society.

Tan, Gabriel

2011 Under the Nippon Flag, Kuching: Borneo Post, 16 September.

Vernon L. Porritt

Honorary Research Associate Murdoch University

(1) By then BCLS had offices in Kuching, Sibu, Sarikei, Binatang, Miri, Kuala Belait, and Brunei, as well as its forestry operations in the Rejang (BCL Sarawak Branch--Annual Report for year ended 31 March 1941).

(2) SG--abbreviation for Sarawak Gazette used throughout this paper. The Japanese declaration of war on the United States of America and the British Empire was published in all Japanese newspapers on 8 December 1941. There was no mention of war with Sarawak, which was not part of the British Empire, although a British protected state.

(3) BCLS personnel included indigenes, mainly Iban, employed in their Rejang Timber Concession.

(4) Special Intelligence Bulletin: Japanese Plans and Operations in S. E. Asia; Translation of Japanese Documents, 21 Dec. 1945. Document 11: "Summary of the government of occupied territory in the Southern Area, 12 Oct. [19]42." PRO WO 203/6310.

(5) See Hua 2005, Ooi 2011, Reece 1998, and Tan 1997. British historian Martin Gilbert provides an interesting two-page summation of the Japanese occupation of Borneo in his "Concluding remarks" in Ooi's work.

(6) Personal experiences ranged from those of Ling Beng Siew to those of Sidik bin Simoen (Reece 1998; 146 & 164)

(7) No memoirs or records of local BCLS employees' experience during the occupation have been uncovered.

(8) The WWII Martine and Cargill family story is largely culled from The Scorpion on the Ceiling by Charles Martine's son, Roddy Martine.

(9) The BCLS oil dump at Thompson Road "blazed furiously" after being hit during the air raid, threatening a nearby BCLS kerosene store which the Kuching Fire Service saved (SG, 31 March 1957).

(10) In 1983, a papal decree reversed the Church's official position on suicide, allowing Catholics to be buried according to Catholic rites regardless of cause of death (Code of Canon Law, 1983).

(11) Le Gros Clark was pre-war Chief Secretary of the Sarawak Government.

(12) The story of the BCLS expatriate staff in the then Third Division of Sarawak is largely culled from McKerracher 1942, Archer 1946, Morrison 1993, Reece 1998, Ooi 2011, and original documents referenced therein.

(13) For the treatment of those who surrendered in Kuching on 24 December 1941, see SG, 7 January 1950.

(14) Cobbold had established the BCLS Miri Branch office c. 1928.

(15) Post-war, Lucas wrote an article "The Production of Gold in Sarawak," SG, 1 February 149, pp. 30-32.


(17) One internee was killed by a falling parcel.

(18) For an account of the Sarawak Volunteer Force, see

(19) War damages claims in Borneo and Sarawak, excluding oil fields damage, totalled [pounds sterling]8 million, the British government making a contribution of one-sixth of that sum. Thus BCL Sarawak would have claimed [pounds sterling]28,800. Lord Shepherd commented that "It might now be said that what was given was too small," but explained that Britain "came out of the war... economically exhausted" and was under "no liability" to make any payment (

(20) C. W. Dawson, a pre-occupation civil servant in Malaya, served as Officer Administering the Sarawak Government from 1 July 1946 to 25 February 1947 and was Chief Secretary until his retirement in 1950. Charles Noble Arden-Clarke, who had been the Resident Commissioner in Basutoland from 1942, was Governor of Sarawak from 29 October 1946 to 26 July 1949.
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Title Annotation:RESEARCH NOTES
Author:Porritt, Vernon L.
Publication:Borneo Research Bulletin
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Jan 1, 2016
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