1940-1949 | Refusing refugees

Foreign Office – send Jewish refugees to the interior of Guiana

26 December 1940 Today in 1940, a memo drafted by Richard Latham, an official in the refugee section at the Foreign Office, suggested that Britain should revive an earlier proposal to create a ‘second Jewish National Home’ in the interior of British Guiana,’ as a refuge for Jews fleeing Nazi persecution. It would, he reasoned,…

1940-1949 | Refusing refugees

Foreign office official – Jewish refugees drowning is an ‘opportune disaster’

17 December 1940 On 12 December 1940, the Uruguayan registered freighter Salvador struck reefs off the Turkish coast, drowning 230 Jewish refugees, including over seventy children. Five days later, T.M. Snow, the head of the Foreign Office Refugee Section, who was anxious to halt the flow of persecuted refugees from Nazi occupied Europe, commented in…

1940-1949 | Burning towns and cities | Indonesia

Punitive expedition against Indonesian town burns down 1000 homes

13 December 1945 On 13 December 1935, Indian troops led by British officers, acting under the orders of Major General Douglas Hawthorn, burned down the town of Bekassi on the Indonesian island of Java. As the Illustrated London News explained, ‘all the inhabitants had fled so the punitive expedition burnt the town’1 Approximately one thousand timber homes…

1940-1949 | Burning villages | Civilians slaughtered | Malaysia | Prisoners murdered

British troops murder 24 unarmed civilians in Malaya

12 December 1948 On 12 December 1948, British troops executed 24 unarmed labourers, after separating them from the women and children at a Malayan rubber plantation at Sungai Rimoh, near the small town of Batang Kali. The men were subjected to mock executions before being herded into a hut where they were shot down with automatic…

1940-1949 | Backing repressive regimes | Churchill's crimes | Civilians slaughtered | Greece

28 civilians shot dead in Athens by British armed Nazi collaborators

3 December 1944 Winston Churchill’s legendary qualities of courage and defiance are often celebrated. It is taken for granted that he was motivated primarily by a moral repugnance to Nazism. If so, it’s difficult to understand his decision in 1944 to release around 12,000 Nazi collaborators from the prisons in Athens and have them uniformed…

1940-1949 | Civilians slaughtered | India | Massacres

‘Calcutta is quieter’ after 32 protesters are shot dead

23 November 1945 Today in 1945, Richard Casey, the governor of Bengal, called on British troops to take to the streets of Calcutta to support the police, who had shot dead five student protesters earlier in the day. Another seven died the same day in hospital, and, as British newspapers informed their readers under such…

1940-1949 | Battlefield butchery | Indonesia | Massacres

British troops kill 10,000 Indonesians in battle to reassert Dutch colonial rule

10 November 1945 On 10 November 1945, 24,000 British troops began a large scale assault on the Indonesian city of Surabaya, where nationalist forces, equipped with weapons they had seized from Japanese troops, were determined to defend their newly acquired independence.  Several days earlier, a British brigadier, Aubortin Mallaby, had been killed in the city,…

1940-1949 | Burning villages | Collective punishments | Malaysia | Punitive operations

British troops burn the Malayan village of Kachau

2 November 1948 On 2 November 1948, British troops and colonial police burned down the village of Kachau in the Malayan state of Selangor. The four hundred inhabitants were given two hours to collect their belongings.  Arthur Creech Jones, the secretary of state for the colonies, questioned about the incident in the House of Commons,…

1940-1949 | Nuclear Armageddon

Foreign Secretary on the need to get a Union Jack on the atom bomb

25 October 1946 A little over a year had passed since the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing over one hundred thousand people, when, on 25 October 1946, Ernest Bevin, the Foreign Secretary of Britain’s first post-war Labour government, showed up late to a meeting of the Atomic Energy Committee at…

1940-1949 | Battlefield butchery | Burning towns and cities | Civilians slaughtered | Massacres | VIetnam

British kill hundreds of Vietnamese and burn large areas of Saigon

23 September 1945 On 23 September 1945, the British army in Vietnam backed a French coup in Saigon, the former capital of French Indo-China, with the aim of restoring colonial rule.  General Douglas Gracey with a force of British troops had arrived two weeks earlier on 6 September, soon after Japanese forces surrendered at the…