Monday 2 March 2015

Lion City Lit: Singapore Mutiny

Asian Books Blog is based in Singapore.  Lion City Lit explores literary life in our own backyard. This week, we offer a quick notice for Singapore Mutiny, a stirring account of combat and survival, by Mary Brown and Edwin A. Brown. This is a must-read for all history buffs, but especially for those with an interest in military history, or in the history of India, or in that of South East Asia.  

The Singapore Sepoy Mutiny of 1915 was an alarming episode in Singapore’s colonial history that saw 850 Indian soldiers serving in the British army revolt and slaughter 47 Brits, both soldiers and civilians. To mark the Mutiny's centenary Monsoon Books has brought out a diary kept at the time by the Browns, a colonial couple who were in the thick of the action.  The diary, never previously published, has forewords by Professor Brian P. Farrell, Department of History, National University of Singapore, Nigel Barley, the author and anthropologist, and Celia Ferguson, the Browns’ granddaughter.

Here’s an extract from the diary’s opening entry:
Chinese New Year 1915 will long be remembered in the Straits Settlements…We left for home, had a tiffin, and went to our rooms for a lie-off, having arranged to go for a good walk when the heat of the day was over. We had our tea, and at 5 pm got into the trap. We drove along Tanglin Road, into Stephens Road, and along Bukit Timah Road to the junction of Cluny Road, and there we dismissed the syce. We thought it a curious fact that no-one was playing tennis…and there was not a soul to be seen on the garrison golf course…You can imagine our horror when we found that the 5th Light Infantry had broken out in open mutiny and had been in Tanglin that afternoon, and were even then supposed to be marching on Singapore!

Also by Edwin A. Brown, Indiscreet Memories: 1901 Singapore through the eyes of a colonial Englishman. 

Both books are published in paperback, priced in local currencies, and widely available in Asia. Ebooks are available from online retailers.