Views of people of British As Rulers in Singapore

histBefore Japanese Occupation

At the beginning of the 20th century, people believed that European culture was superior, and that they had the responsibility to make those they ruled more civilised. The belief in British superiority was reflected in how Singapore was governed. Not many locals were involved in the government. Most high-ranking officials in  the colonial government were British, and even well-qualified local people were not given important positions in the governments.

Local people were involved in the colonial government as non-official members in the Legislative Council. They had little influence over government policies. The fact that there were fewer non-official members than official members in the Legislative Council, made it difficult for the non-official members to persuade the colonial  government to act on their suggestions.Also, most of the Europeans is Singapore were given privileged treatment.An example of this superiority is shown in the following source.” I called Mr Tan Ah Hung, a senior Chinese teacher, ‘Sir’ when I spoke to him, until I was advised that this embarrassed him in the kind of world we lived in. My starting salary $400 was far higher than his even though he had many years of most valued service.Salary and skin colour were what mattered, not personal merit and achievement”

Some people questioned the unequal system, and sought to negotiate with the colonial government for changes. For example, the local non-official members tried to negotiate with the colonial  government to increase  the number of non-official members in the Legislative Council. Besides  negotiating  for more local  involvement in the government, some people also formed associations, such as the Straits  Chinese British Association and the Kesutuan Melayu Singapura which is the Singapore Malay Union when translated to English, to improve the lives of the people.

During Japanese Occupation

View of the Selarang Barracks during World War II. Some of the POWs were crowded in the Selerang Barracks Square. Source: National Archives Of Singapore

The Japanese sought to dispel the myths of ‘White Man’s’ Superiority. After the British surrendered, the Australians, the British and other Europeans, including women and children, were interned by the Japanese at the Sime Road Camp, Selarang Barracks and Changi Jail. The Japanese ordered the Prisoners of War (POWs) to do do menial tasks outside of their camps, such as repairing and cleaning waterworks, dock facilities and the airfield damage by Japanese bombs. The Eurasians were treated harshly and despised for their association with the Europeans. Those suspected for helping the British were killed.

The idea that the Asians were just as good as Europeans were also spread actively by the Japanese through propaganda.

jap poster
Japanese poster circulated in Singapore in the 1940s promoting the idea of Asia for the Asians.

Through attempts to win local support, they encouraged the Malays to be involved in the defence as well as the administration of Singapore. The Japanese promised more opportunities in education in order to prepare the Malays for their roles. The Japanese also promised to assist the Indians in their movement to gain independence from the British as some of the Indian immigrants were influenced  the rise of the anti-British feelings in India. The Indian National Army was formed with Japanese support to recruit Indians in Singapore to fight against the British in India.

Thus, due to the Japanese efforts to dispel the myths of ‘White Man’s’ superiority and to cultivate a sense of Asian consciousness, some people began to question the authority of the British.


After Japanese Occupation

After the Japanese occupation, the people in Singapore started to grow discontent with the British. Political groups started to emerged and people wanted wanted to get involved in local politic. People demand for local political involvement to protect the rights of the other races living in Singapore. People started to view British differently after the Japanese occupation, as people expected something different from the British. But nothing really changes. They expected things to go back back the way things were before the Japanese occupation, but prices were so high, people could only survive. Thus, demand for local political involvement after Japanese occupation.

There was a demand for a better treatment of local civil servants who worked for the British colonial government although from 1948, there were more locals recruited into the civil service, as many British officers who had been interned during the Japanese occupation had been send back to Britain for a recuperation, British officers still enjoyed better pay and hold senior position within the civil service. One of the most angering issue was the desicion to pay special family allowances to British officers. This made the local civil servants oppose the government’s unequal treatment of the local and demanded that the government raise their pay.

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Through the Japanese Occupation, the people’s views of British As Rulers in Singapore changed in many ways.

Group Members: Wen Xin, Jin Hui, Roshan, Jasper and Harman

Class: 2/6E


Singapore as an Impregnable Fortress



Before the Japanese occupation, the British had talked about Singapore being an impregnable fortress and even called it the Gibraltar of the East. The People had felt that Singapore would be safe under the British because they were known for their naval power, having 7 forts in total with big guns and concrete beach defences .The idea of “white man’s” superiority enforced the idea of safety, and people felt assured that they were safe in the British’s hands.


One of the guns set up in Singapore.


Even with the power that the British held, the Japanese had invaded Singapore successfully and taken her over in about a week, which had people thinking twice about their views towards Singapore as an Impregnable Fortress.This mistake cost the British and they had to surrender Singapore to the Japanese, being known as one of the largest surrenders made by British-led  military personnel in history.  



history 2

Signing of the surrender document  in the Ford Motor Factory.


After the terrifying ordeal of the Japanese occupation, the people in Singapore could no longer believe that she was an Impregnable fortress after the Japanese had taken over Singapore that easily.People also sought for independence of the country after the British had taken Singapore back from the Japanese, showing their discontent and proving the people no longer supported the British.


history 3

People being executed.



Done By: Nicole, Celestyn, Ruby, Wan Shi, Eng Chong



British As Rulers

Before Japanese Occupation


{British troops in Singapore}

Many people believed that European culture was far superior than other cultures and races.There was little local involvement in the government. Most  of the high-ranking officials in the colonial government were British, and even well-qualified local people were not given important positions in the government.Not only was the British superiority reflected in politics but also in daily life as the Europeans in Singapore were given privileged treatment. One example of the superiority of the Europeans would be when a younger British teacher greeted an older British teacher and called him “sir”, but the local teacher was embarrassed due to the fact that he was a mere local and the teacher was a British. Also, the British teacher’s salary was $400 higher than the local teacher’s salary, despite the local teacher having far more years of experience in teaching compared to the British teacher. Therefore, many viewed the British of being more superior than others.

During  Japanese Occupation  

surrendered sg

{British surrendering to the Japanese}

The British were no longer considered as rulers of Singapore. The Japanese strived their best to dispel the “White man’s” superiority and to change people’s view about the British as they believed that Asians were just as superior as the British. They did this by turning the British into POWS (Prisoners Of War) and forcing them to do menial tasks outside of their camps, such as repairing and sweeping the road floors.  The Japanese also provided the POWS with very little food and water, causing them to be malnourished. When the locals and other people saw the British suffering, they lost their belief of the “White Man’s” superiority. Also, the British educated the public that the Asians were just as equal as the British through various forms of propaganda such as posters and books. Hence, the British were no longer seen as rulers.

After Japanese Occupation

british surrender

 {British claiming dictatorship of Singapore once again}

After the Japanese Occupation, the people did not really regard the British as rulers. There was growing discontent with the British as the conditions remained almost the same even after the British returned. Houses were scarce, there were insufficient jobs and schools and the cost of living remained high due to the black market. Even after the British set up a British Military Administration (BMA), there was not much change in the living conditions of the people. Due to these problems, many immigrants and locals wanted to govern themselves and some even joined trade unions and and conducted strikes to better secure their wages and to improve their working conditions. Thus, both the locals and immigrants did not view British as their rulers. 


Done by: Hai Tao, Brian, Shao Kai, Deekshitha, Lakshmi

British as rulers

Before the Japanese Occupation, the British were seen as rulers as most of the governors of Singapore at that time were British and only a small handful were Singaporeans. Even, well-qualified local people were not given important positions in the government. Local people were involved as non-official members and had little influence over government policies. As they were the minority, they had difficulties persuading the colonial government to act on their suggestions. Thus, people felt that the British had the ability to govern and had the responsibility to make those they ruled more civilised.

During the Japanese Occupation, views of British as rulers changed. The Japanese wanted to dispel the myth of the “white’s man” superiority. After the British surrender,Japanese interned them as POWs. The POWs were given little food and were tasked to do various jobs. The Japanese also spread propaganda telling that they were as equal as the British.These resulted in the locals to question the British in ruling Singapore. Thus, they changed their views of British as rulers.

After the Japanese Occupation, people didn’t want the British to rule Singapore. When the British colonial rule resumed, people felt that they were treated unfairly as the British officials continued to enjoy better pay and hold senior positions although the locals were equally well-qualified. Furthermore, the British made decision to pay special family allowances to British officials which angered the locals.Locals joined trade unions in hope of securing better wages and working conditions. People also demanded for citizenship, better treatment of local civil servants and local political involvement. They also thought that locals need a greater role in shaping Singapore’s future. Thus, locals didn’t want British to rule Singapore.

By: Viba, Siang Ying, Yan Yun, Janice and Jing En

Singapore as an impregnable fortress

Singapore before the Japanese Occupation

Before the Japanese Occupation, Singapore was an impregnable fortress. Singapore was also referred to as The Gibralta of the East, due to its good defences. The British had a lot of big guns and concrete beach defenses.Singapore was also protected by over 20 big canons that can shoot as far as 42km. Other than that, they also had 2 battle cruises that were thought to be undefeated. The British also had 137000 soldiers from many countries. With this, the British called Singapore an impregnable fortress.

A tank in Singapore.
A group of soldiers marching


During the Japanese Occupation

Singapore lacked air defenses and those available were placed at the wrong positions. Bad decisions were also made by British commanders. The commanders sent most of the forces to the coastal area that the Japanese faked attacks on, which made the forces at the bridge insufficient and was taken down really quickly.The Japanese took over many brigades and key positions in Singapore, like the airstrip and strongholds and reservoirs..This caused the British to be overwhelmed quickly and caused major panics in Singapore and the British troops to be cornered from multiple positions, which allowed tanks to land on the coastal area unopposed which made the situation more dire for the British.

After the Japanese Occupation

The main downfall of Singapore was because of bad positioning of weapons by British.  The main reason why people thought Singapore was an impregnable fortress was because of the sheer amount of firepower. The British troops also outnumbered the Japanese by 140000 troops ready to fight at any time given.

A destroyed tank after the war


A ship burned by the Japanese at Pearl Harbour. 







Members: Sabrina, Nurin, Ivan, Justin, Jue Cheng

Credit: Google images




British As Rulers

BEFORE world war 2

The people in Singapore viewed the British as rulers before the Japanese Occupation. In the 19th century, Britain was one of the colonial powers ruling many parts of the world thus people in Singapore believed that European culture was superior and they believed that the British had the responsibility to make Singapore more civilised. The belief in British Superiority can be seen in how Singapore was governed. There was little local involvement in the government and even well-qualified local people were not given important positions in the government. Locals that were in the government had little influence over the government policies and they were non-official members in the Legislative Council. Thus, people regarded the British as rulers of Singapore before the Japanese Occupation

DURING world war 2

The people in Singapore did not view the British as rulers, the Japanese wanted to dispel the myth of the ‘white man’s’ superiority and promoted ‘asia for asians’  instead of allowing the british to rule. The british that were once the rulers of singapore were  prisoner of war (POW) was seen as roadsweepers and had to do menial and laborious tasks. The Japanese promoted the Asian Consciousness through propaganda such as changing education in schools, posters, newspapers, radio broadcasts and many more. Hence, the Japanese wanted to spread the idea that Asians were as good as Europeans and British and the British were not fit for rule.

AFTER world war 2

People living in Singapore stopped regarding the British as rulers.  Most living in Singapore including immigrants started being discontented and discordant with the British and did not want them to continue ruling Singapore after World War 2 when they came back. The people were unhappy as the British and European people had better privileges than the locals working in Singapore hence they felt it was unfair. British officials continued to enjoy better pay and to hold senior positions within the civil service even though the locals were equally well qualified. British rulers also payed the British workers special family allowance which angered the local civil servants even more. Many joined trade unions to secure their wages and positions and organised strikes to go against the British government for better working conditions.

BY: Shu Han (02) Zoey (24) Lup Yun (29) Zaccary (30) Navashen (38)

Singapore As Home

Before the Japanese Occupation:

(Chinese Immigrants in Singapore)

The immigrants did not regard Singapore as home. They came to Singapore just to find jobs and earn money to send the money back to their homeland. They intend to return to their homeland once earning enough money. The immigrants still feels attached to their homeland as they remained in close contact with their families by sending letters back home and hearing news about their homeland from friends and relatives. Locals attended English medium schools, adopted westerns ways of dressing, customs and pastimes. This shows that immigrants did not want to stay in Singapore and that they only came to Singapore to earn money.

During the Japanese Occupation:

(The Surrendering of the British to the Japanese)

People started to regard Singapore as home during the Japanese Occupation. The people suffered hardships together during the Japanese Occupation, for example, shortage of food and being forced to do tiring, life-threatening tasks. There were also people resisting the Japanese as they treated Singapore as their homes. An example would be the Malay Regiment which fought the Japanese until their last breath when the Japanese invaded Singapore through Malaya. This shows that the people in Singapore regarded Singapore as home.

After the Japanese Occupation:

(The locals welcoming the British back to Singapore)

Singapore was regarded as home after the Japanese Occupation as the people demanded for citizenship, better treatment of local civil servants and local political involvement from the BMA. This shows that they have accepted Singapore as their home. The people were not happy with the British as they left Singapore when the Japanese invaded Singapore after little efforts.This shows that the people in Singapore feel that they have the rights to choose their  own leaders.

By: Yi Xuan, Arthi, Tian Jun, Nandhu and Shammas.


Credits: Google for images.

Singapore as Home

Before the Japanese Occupation, the immigrants did not regarded Singapore as their home. They only came to Singapore for a short period to work and earn enough money for their families. When they worked enough, they would eventually return to their homelands. Palanivelu Natesan who was an Indian immigrant, worked in Singapore as a ticketing clerk. He said that he came to Singapore just to earn money and go back to India. He did not stay in Singapore permanently.

Before the Japanese occupation, the locals regarded Singapore as home. This is because there were their families and friends in Singapore for a long period of time. An account from S.R Nathan said, “My family has been in Singapore for two generations…we were localised”. Therefore, locals regarded Singapore as home.

The immigrants might have felt a sense of belonging to Singapore during the Japanese Occupation. This could be seen in how the immigrants became friends with the other ethnic groups. Lim Choo Sye said that because they were under enemy occupation, they were all friends and that during the Japanese occupation was when they interacted with the Chinese, Malay, and Tamil. Therefore, they might have felt that Singapore was their home. Furthermore, they joined the anti-Japanese resistance movements which are Force 136 and the MPAJA which collected informants of the Japanese and organised stacks whenever possible, showing how they wanted to protect Singapore.

The immigrants regarded Singapore as a home because during the Japanese occupation, they were incarcerated in the same cell as the locals and bonded with them. Lim Choo Sye, a teacher during the Japanese Occupation worked in an English-medium school, said that all the races bonded and grew closer. As a result of the Japanese Occupation, they had an opportunity to make friends with teachers from other medium schools. It was his first time that he learnt about others difficulties and problems.

The locals viewed Singapore as home. After Japanese occupation, political  groups emerged, suggesting that there was increased political consciousness among the people in Singapore. As there was very little local involvement during the British rule, there was a demand for local political involvement. Thus, locals wanted to control their home, Singapore.

The immigrants viewed Singapore as home.  There were growing demands on the British such as demand for citizenship. The Chines Chamber of Commerce started to petition the British colonial government to consider granting citizenship tho China-born Chinese immigrants  over the age of 21. Therefore, immigrants wanted to consider Singapore as home.

Group members: Nur Lisha, Xuan Ling, Nurlissa, Fadhlin Atiqah, Maisarah

Class: 2/6 E