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 imposed).

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]