By Gautam Hazarika, Singapore

Background – a largely untold story

When Britain surrendered Singapore to Japan on February 15, 1942, besides the 90,000 POWs, 1,3791 civilians were also interned. They were mainly colonial bureaucrats, businessmen, doctors etc, and included 182 women and children. Their numbers rose to 2,822 as recorded on June 3, 19422 and over 3,000 later during the war. Their experience was very different from that of the POWs – the POWs were young and healthy, the civilians were not. The POWs knew they could become prisoners, the civilians did not expect this. The POWs continued to live as before, split into officers and other ranks, while the civilians were thrown together – senior colonial officials and civilians, junior civilians and young merchant seaman closely packed into an overcrowded prison. Many also endured the agony of having wives and children just around the corner, but were segregated and therefore could not meet.

Many of the more numerous POWs published memoirs in the mainstream press, but only a handful of civilians did, many through non-mainstream press and most are out of print (Annexure 1).  Also, historians focussed more on the POWs, perhaps as the focus on the military was more appealing3. Hence very little is known about the civilians.

NEWS! Cartoon from KL 1949 edition, perhaps portraying an editor at work

An amazing archive in Cambridge about this untold story

The male civilians published an almost daily newspaper (310 issues over 18 months) from Feb 1942 to Oct 1943. The newspapers were called Karikal Chronicles, from Karikal Mahal where some were first interned, and Changi Guardian once they all moved there. They also published the Changi Chimes on Sundays for a few months. It is difficult to find a complete run of anything even recent, but The Royal Commonwealth Society has a complete run of these newspapers, as incredible wartime survival. They are available online at Cambridge. The papers are an astonishing record of their daily life and can also be used to imagine the life of the POWs for the many aspects that they shared – lack of food and news, how they entertained themselves etc. They also contain unique historical accounts (Personal Recollections) of the war so far, written by people who did not survive, or did not publish when liberated. There are 26 such recollections, covering the War in Pahang, Kelantan, etc. and various aspects of the War in Singapore. The authors include former residents and other civil servants. There appears to be no book / article on the men’s newspapers and even the Cambridge archive seems little known outside academic circles.

Unique original material in the author’s possession adding more to this untold story

The editors of these papers were mainly Harry Miller and Gus Harold Wade of the Straits Times4. There are references to three volume collections of the newspapers with Mr Miller and the IWM5. The impression is that these were collections of the actual newspapers. However, the collection I acquired in 2022 show that besides publishing the papers, the editors retyped the content (perhaps to ensure their survival) while in Changi prison, in 1942, adding title pages with a summary history, that are not in the original newspapers. This retyped collection by the editors is called “We Published in Prison”. The Changi 1942 editions in my collection only has the Karikal Chronicles and First 100 Changi Guardians, interspersed with the Sunday Changi Chimes as they were issued. This covers the newspapers till August 2, 1942. Whether more newspapers were retyped into such volumes in Changi is not known. As the war progressed, paper became even more scarce and the frequency of publishing reduced. Certainly, after Double Tenth, no such collections could have been made, as even the newspapers were stopped (see below). Also, while they could, how many such editions were made is unknown – at best there would have been a handful, and in fact the one I have acquired may be the only one.

Title page of “We Published in Prison”, 1942

A second edition of “We Published in Prison” was “Retyped Kuala Lumpur March 1949”. This was a 3-volume set covering the entire run of newspapers and included original cartoons and sketches. The 3-volume sets referred to above are probably this 3-volume edition. How many of these were made is not clear. The auction listing says my set probably belonged to one of the publishers. However, the seller of the collection said he had bought it over 40 years ago6, so perhaps in the early 1980s. Since Mr Miller had his set with him when he came to Singapore in 1993, my collection could not have been his. Perhaps Mr Miller’s set was donated to the IWM after his death, or the two sets could be different. Therefore, this 2nd edition had a run of at least 2 copies – Miller’s and mine.

“HUDSON’S BAY” Changi Prison, D.J. Kibby, Aug 42

The collection consists of four books titled “We Published in Prison” (see image below).

  • Book 1 produced in Changi 1942 has the Karikal Chronicles, stating it was the 1st volume of newspapers published. This uses thick official paper with the British crest embossed on top. It is slightly smaller than A4 size and the pages were stapled together, as seen by the three staple holes at the top of each page.  It is bound in burgundy coloured buckram, that must have been added later as both stapling and binding would not have been done together.
  • Book 2 was also produced in Changi 1942. It contains Volume 2 of the newspapers (in continuation with Volume 1 above) and contains the first 50 Changi Guardians. It also has Volume 3, with Nos 51-100. They also contain the Sunday Changi Chimes interspersed date-wise. This book uses thin paper like the old cyclostyles, of varying width and length. It is slightly taller than A4 size, bound in beige board with a dark brown leather strip on the left. There are no staples here and as it encloses two volumes, it was probably bound later.
  • Books 3 and 4 are Volumes 2 and 3 of what is stated as a 3-volume KL edition. As the missing first KL volume exactly coincides with the two books produced in Changi 1942, taken together the collection is a complete set of all the newspapers (barring one issue on which there is an interesting story, see note 7) plus the title pages/ sketch/ map/ cartoons not held in Cambridge. These are uniformly bound in grey buckram and on the inner front covers have the label “Bound by CAXTON PRESS LTD, Printers, Stationers and Book-Binders, Kuala Lumpur”
Four bound volumes of “We Published in Prison” in reasonably good condition

Here is a photograph featuring Mr Miller, Mr Wade, Mr Wilson (co-publisher for just 2 issues), Mr Peet (author of one of 20 books by internees) and Dorothy Miller (Mrs Harry Miller).

Bottom row: Dorothy Miller, George Peet, Middle W.A.Wilson, Top Row Harry Miller and Guy Wade

Double Tenth and the last Changi Guardian

Changi Guardian No 262 came out on Tuesday October 12, 1943. It is very innocuous and the only reference to something going on was to thank the kitchen staff for providing late meals on Sunday (hence October 10) after the end of the sudden, day-long interrogation that was Double Tenth. As is well known, after Operation Jaywick blew up merchant ships in Singapore harbour on September 27, 1943, the Japanese suspected that the civilians were the ringleaders. Their life changed abruptly from October 10, 1943. Besides numerous others in Singapore, 58 of the civilian internees were taken by the Kempetai for interrogation of whom 14 died. Another consequence was that there were no more Changi Guardians. In May 1944, the civilians were moved to the former RAF Camp at Sime Road to make place for returning POWs from the Burma railway. They remained there till the end of the war.

Researching the Civilians and the newspapers – giving their story a fresh look

  1. The biggest source are the newspapers themselves, approximately over one thousand A4 typewritten pages. Topics like food (or the lack of it), overcrowding, sports, Changi University, plays and concerts, the lack of war and family news, Personal Recollections, the editors and/or the publishing process could fill a research article or book chapter each.
  2. For further research, Mr Peng Han Lim’s article on primary sources on Civilian internees in Singapore is a key starting point. Besides published books, it includes partial lists of unpublished diaries, oral histories in Singapore and the UK. There are additional sources in the Singapore National Archive (online) and at the IWM and other UK institutions.
  3. So far, I have come across only twenty books by the internees (ANNEXURE 1). Just three were published soon after the war, a fourth in 1969, a fifth in 1979 and 15 more thereafter, the last in 2009. Perhaps they did not want to dwell on the past and many were published after their death, edited by relatives. Each of the books fortunately tells us a different part of the story – Kitching’s diary was written while in the camp and he died of cancer, so what is published is exactly what he wrote at that time. Peet’s memoirs written while at Sime Road has an analysis of the internees situation and basically says the Japanese treated them quite fairly. Thompson’s book gives us details of the Feb 17, 1942 march from the Padang, the organisation of the camps. Another difference in the books is the point of view – Hayter and McNamara tell the story as priests, Mary Thomas as a nurse from the UK not steeped in the colonial way of life, Sheila Allan as a rare Eurasian internee, Ann Dally as a doctor, Rudy Mosbergen and Thomas Ryan as teenagers, Ethel Mulvaney as a person who suffered mental ill-health, Freddy Bloom is of interest as the publisher of POW-WOW, the women’s newspaper.
  4. Books by historians Dr Archer3, Joseph Kennedy and an article on POW-WOW, the newspaper of the women’s camp8, contain various additional references.
  5. The newspapers name over 100 people – author and historian Jonanthan Moffat has a vast archive of biographical information on most of the internees, so these named people can be profiled and studied. Besides this, there are online references (for example Straits Times) to many of these persons, including interviews, significant news, obituaries etc.
  6. Mapping a) the original camps at Joo Chiat Police Stations/ Women in two houses in Katong/ Karikal Mahal and the adjacent Roman Catholic Convent1, and b) Analysis of the three maps mentioned by Mr Peng Han Lim and the fourth map and a courtyard sketch in my collection to draw a composite picture of Changi.
  7. A few internees are still alive – if they are willing and able, an attempt could be made to meet them.

Author’s note: I am a just a collector interested in the historical context of my collection, not a professional historian or researcher. I would welcome any guidance, introductions and references to other sources to assist in doing my research better, so the civilians’ story can be told afresh and with new sources.


1 Changi Guardian No 71, June 3, 1942

2 Ibid.

    3 Why less on civilians: The Internment of Western Civilians under the Japanese 1941-1945 by Bernice Archer, p.8

    4 Gus and not Guy Wade: Archer p.105, Dateline Singapore :  150 years of The Straits Times by C.M.Turnbull, p.72, identify the co-publisher as Guy Wade. The author/ historian Jonathan Moffat provided me with a Red Cross card that not only confirmed he was Gus, but that there was a Guy Wade, but he was someone else (when Gus’s family was queried about another Guy Wade, they confirmed this Guy Wade was not their Gus)

    5 References to a 3-volume set of these newspapers – Straits Times 1993 article (ref. 8 below), Dateline Singapore:  150 years of The Straits Times by C.M. Turnbull, p. 121 note 6, email from Dr Bernice Archer October 2, 2022

    6 Auction Seller email dated 27 January, 2023

    7 The Karikal Chronicles were published in Feb-March 1942 and the retypes in my collection were made just a few weeks/months later in 1942. My collection ends at Karikal No 13, however there are references to 14 Karikal Chronicles in Dateline Singapore. Since my collection was retyped a few weeks later in 1942 by the editors, surely they could not have left the 14th out? Also, Karikal 13 was published on March 5, 1942 and they all moved to Changi on March 6 morning, so would not have had time to issue one that day. Hence, I thought there were only 13 issues. However, the Cambridge archive showed that there was a 14th. What happened was this – Karikal 13 came out on March 5 (probably in the morning). Later that day they were told they were moving to Changi the next morning, so later that day they brought out a short half page newspaper with instructions for the move to Changi. Handwritten on top is “Special Edition” and Karikal Chronicles 14”. Why it was left out in the “We Published in Prison” remains a mystery.

    8 New perspectives on the Japanese occupation in Malaya and Singapore, 1941-1945 / edited by Akashi Yoji and Yoshimura Mako, 2008; The civilian women’s internment camp in Singapore: the world of POW WOW by Michiko Nakahara.

    ANNEXURE 1 – Books by Civilian Internees – divided into those by men/women as done by Mr Peng Han Lim, with some additions by Gautam Hazarika

    Books by men interned

    1. EP HODKIN: If this Could Be Farewell. Freemantle Arts Centre Press, 2003
    2. GEORGE PEET: Within Changis Walls. Marshall Cavendish International Asia, 2001
    3. THOMAS KITCHING: Life and Death in Changi. Bretchin Tales Shop Ltd, 1998; republished Landmark Books Pte Ltd, 2018
    4. ANTHONY McNAMARA: I was in prison. Self-published, 1994
    5. G.E.D. LEWIN: Out East in the Malay Peninsula. Penerbit Fajar Bakti, Malaysia, 1991; Oxford, 1992
    6. JOHN HAYTER: Priest in Prison. Churchman, 1989; Thornhil, 1991; Graham Brash Pte Ltd, 1991
    7. TYLER THOMPSON: Freedom in Internment Under Japanese Rule in Singapore 1942-1945. Kelford Press Pte Ltd (Singapore), 1990?
    8. T.P.M. LEWIS: Changi, the lost years : a Malayan diary, 1941-1945. Malaysian Historical Society, 1989
    9. VAN CUYLENBERG: Singapore: through sunshine and shadow. Heineman Asia, 1982
    10. EJH CORNER: The Marquis, a tale of Syonan-to. Heineman Asia, 1981
    11. TAN SRI DATO MUBIN SHEPPARD: Taman budiman:  memoirs of an unorthodox civil servant. Kuala Lumpur: Heinemann Educational Books (Asia), 1979
    12. C.C. BROWN: Mural ditties and Sime Road soliloquies; illustrated by R.W.E. Harper. Singapore: Kelly and Walsh, [1948]
    13. HOBART B. AMSTUTZ: Prison camp ministries :  the personal narrative of Hobart B. Amstutz, 17 February 1942 to 7 September, 1945. Singapore :  Wesley Manse,  1945

    Books by women/girls interned

    1. MARY THOMAS: In the Shadow of the Rising Sun. Singapore Marshall Cavendish, 2009
    2. RUDY MOSBERGEN: In the Grip of a Crisis: The Experiences of a Teenager during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, 1942-45. Singapore Seng City, 2007
    3. SHEILA ALLAN: Diary of a Girl in Changi. Simon and Schuster (Australia), 1994 (a rare account of a Eurasian internee)
    4. LAVINIA WARNER and JOHN SANDILANDS: Women beyond the wire :  a story of prisoners of the Japanese, 1942-1945. Michael Joseph, 1982
    5. FREDDY BLOOM: Dear Philip. Bodley Head, 1980 (in addition to a book on her husband, a POW: Destined Meeting by Leslie Bell, published by Odhams Press ,1958)
    6. ANN DALLY: Cicely: The Story of a Doctor. Published Gollancz, 1968
    7. IRIS PARFITT: Jailbird Jottings. Kuala Lumpur, 1947

    Books on women/children by others

    1. THOMAS RYAN: A Child Prisoner of War – An account by his son Christopher. Hakawati Press (Scotland), 2021
    2. SUZANNE EVANS: Taste of Longing, The Ethel Mulvany and her Starving Prisoners of War Cookbook. Between the Lines, 2020
    3. No Longer Silent, World-Wide Memories of the Children of World War II. Pictorial Histories Publication Co., 1995