Chapter VI – CIVIL DEFENCE

THE defence of a land which is inhabited by several races of mankind each with its own customs, characteristics, religion, and standard of life, is already a new and vital problem which has arisen out of the Second World War. In the United Kingdom and the Dominions, the full collaboration and co-operation of the people is taken as certain, but in the case of Malaya there were at least five different peoples concerned who had to be united in a common effort for the defence of their natural or adopted homeland. It cannot be said that such unity was achieved and this is the task which now faces our administrators in that far-off land.

Since the war we have heard a great deal about the constitution of Malaya, but it is not the purpose of this book to enter into discussion about what is admittedly a very complex and a very delicate problem. But we should make a great mistake if we did not learn from experience, and it is right that the facts as they existed and as they affected the all-important question of defence should be generally known and given full consideration.

In the first place, the form of government of Malaya, as it existed in 1941, was probably more complicated and less suited to war conditions than that of any other part of the British Empire. As is our custom, it had been evolved over a number of years without any consideration for war requirements. Broadly, it was divided into three parts. Firstly, there were the Straits Settlements of Singapore, Malacca, and Penang, with Province Wellesley, combined into a British colony administered from Singapore by the Governor acting through an executive and legislative council. Secondly, there were the four Federated Malay States of Perak, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, and Pahang— federated for certain centralized services and administered by a Federal Government at Kuala Lumpur but otherwise governed by their own Sultans assisted by British Residents. Thirdly, there were the five Unfederated Malay States of Johore, Trengganu, Kelantan, Kedah, and Perlis, which were governed by their own Sultans assisted in each case by a British Adviser. These States, like the Federated States, were Malay territory and each of them had been incorporated in the British Empire by separate treaties. In most of these treaties, if not in all, the British Government undertook to defend the territories of the State concerned against external aggression—an undertaking which was probably intended for local wars and was quite inapplicable to a world war but which, in at least one case, gave rise to serious recriminations when we were forced to abandon territory. The Governor of the Straits Settlements was also High Commissioner for both the Federated and the Unfederated Malay States so that the machinery of government was in fact centralized in his person.

In pan-Malayan matters the High Commissioner could not deal with the four Federated States as one entity. He had to consult each, either direct or through the Federal Secretariat. Sometimes he had to deal with the Federal Government as well. So more often than not the Governor and High Commissioner had to deal with eleven separate bodies, all of which had to be in agreement before measures affecting Malaya as a whole could be introduced. Correspondence between governments does not as a rule pass very quickly and it only required a little extra delay on the part of one of these governments to hold up a measure for what was often an exasperatingly long period. As an instance of this, in 1941 it took four months to get on the statute book a measure to restrict the hours during which alcoholic liquor could be sold, though this had become urgent to conform with war conditions. In addition to this, there were customs frontiers between the various States and the permission of the State ruler concerned always had to be obtained before land could be used for defence purposes. Generally, it is true, these rulers were co-operative and helpful but delays frequently occurred and there was even a case during the height of the campaign when strong protests were made against the cutting down of rubber trees without permission in order to make gun positions.

In the Police Intelligence Service also the complicated constitution had a crippling effect. There were multiple separate police forces in Malaya and, although the Inspector General of Police Straits Settlements was also Civil Security Officer for the whole of the country, there was bound to be some lack of co-ordination and delay when prompt action was most required. The situation was to some extent improved, though it remained far from satisfactory, by a scheme for co-ordination which received final approval in 1939. A much simpler and more centralized system is obviously necessary.

One of the lessons of the war in Malaya was the hampering effect of this complex constitutional organization. Whatever constitution is evolved in the future it will not be satisfactory from a defence point of view unless it is very much simpler and unless, at least when danger threatens, there is a stronger and more centralized control at the top.

The bulk of the Asiatic population consisted of Malays and Chinese in approximately equal proportions. In general the Chinese, the more industrious and commercially minded race, were to be found in the towns and larger villages, while the Malays inhabited the country districts and the sea-boards being content to live on the natural products of the soil.

The weakness of the Chinese community was that it was not itself united. In the first place part of it, i.e. those who had been born in the Straits Settlements, were British subjects but the remainder were not. With few exceptions they were loyal adherents of the British Empire and many contributed liberally to our war effort, but not all, at any rate before war broke out, were prepared to take an active part in the defence of the country. This was shown by our inability to fill the ranks of the Chinese units of the volunteer forces. Probably the most powerful group were those who owed political allegiance to the Kuomintang, but the most active and vocal group were the pro-Communists to be found almost exclusively among the working classes. There were a few supporters of Wang Ching Wei, who were in sympathy with Japanese aims. The temporary reconciliation between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party which followed the invasion of Russia by Germany resulted in Malaya in the formation of a united front which, by the time war broke out with Japan, had absorbed all Chinese with the exception of the pro- Wang Ching Wei party. Like most other things in Malaya, however, this came too late and, although many Chinese worked* unceasingly for the Allied cause and some courageously came forward to take the lead and rally their people, the community as a whole throughout lacked homogeneity and strong central control.

The Malays were, on the other hand, up to a point more united but were at that time in the broad sense less politically minded. Their allegiance was, however, probably more to their own local rulers than to the British Empire, as was evidenced during the operations by a tendency to set more store on the defence of a State than of the country as a whole. That they could still fight and fight well, however, when properly trained and disciplined was proved by the men of the Malay Regiment and of other regular units in the fighting services. But the Malay civil population, taken all round, was inclined to be apathetic throughout the campaign, though there was no very extensive fifth-column activity. For this I believe we have only ourselves to blame. I believe that if we had taken much more trouble to make the people of Malaya war-minded in the years before war broke out and if steps had been taken to organize them to take a part in the defence of the country, even if it had not been possible to supply them with modern arms, we should have had very much more help from them when the crisis arose. After all, have we not seen what could be done by the resistance movements in many countries in Europe and would not the same have happened had our own country been invaded? There is no reason why the same should not have happened in Malaya if plans had been made in good time. The trouble was that the country had been free from war for so long, and until the last minute it was not fashionable even to talk about war. Often we learn only by bitter experience and Malaya no doubt has learnt its lesson from the tyranny of the Japanese occupation.

The majority of Indians in Malaya were whole-heartedly British in their loyalty, especially the Indian traders and those in the clerical classes and professions. But Indian nationalism, working through the Central Indian Association of Malaya, was becoming very active and bidding for control of the Indian population of the country on a strongly Nationalist basis. The Sikh community, strongly organized within itself, was very susceptible to the anti-British propaganda emanating from overseas.

There were a number of Japanese in Malaya, chiefly in the larger cities such as Singapore and Georgetown, in Penang, and in the country districts where they owned rubber estates and iron ore mines. Their knowledge of the country undoubtedly proved of great value to them during the campaign, especially in the fighting round Batu Pahat, where there were very large Japanese- owned rubber estates. Although access to the defence areas was forbidden to the public and restrictions were imposed on photography and similar activities, it was quite impossible to maintain secrecy as regards the location and the general nature of the defences being constructed. Many people have wondered why the Japanese were allowed such freedom in Malaya in the pre-war days. The answer is that it was the policy of the British Government to treat all foreigners alike and that it is likely to lead to trouble if discrimination is shown against the nationals of any particular country. It was only under the pressure of the events of 1941 that departure from this well-proved policy was authorized. As a matter of fact, it is unlikely that the Japanese would in any case have had much difficulty in obtaining any information, topographical or otherwise, which they might have required from Malaya, in view of the cosmopolitan character of the population.

Enough has already been said in this book to show that the sense of citizenship in Malaya was not strong nor, when it came to the test, was the feeling that this was a war for home and country. Undoubtedly more might have been done in pre-war days to develop a sense of responsibility for service to the State in return for the benefits received from membership of the British Empire.

The problem as to how much each part of our Empire should contribute to imperial defence is almost as old as our Empire itself. Was it not one of the contributory causes of the American War of Independence? And is it not still one of the main problems to-day? Malaya has often been accused of not being sufficiently generous in her contributions, but such accusations are not altogether justified. There are many ways in which overseas parts of the Empire can make their contributions. In the first place there is the annual monetary contribution from various parts of the Colonial Empire assessed according to their revenue. Under this heading Malaya with its great wealth contributed more than most other parts of the Colonial Empire. Then there is the maintenance of local forces. In principle, each part of the Empire is responsible for its own local defence, but what exactly does that mean? And, where you have a country like Malaya of great strategical importance, where does local defence end and Imperial defence begin? That is the problem which it is always so difficult to solve. Malaya, it is true, maintained many local forces. In addition to the Malay Regiment, maintained and paid for by the Federated Malay States, there were the volunteer forces in the Straits Settlements, in the Federated Malay States and in several of the Unfederated States. There was also the Malayan Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and the Malayan Volunteer Air Force. The State of Johore maintained its own military forces. Further, in times of affluence, special gifts were made to imperial defence. The Federated Malay States, for instance, gave as a free gift the battleship Malaya, the Sultan of Johore gave the battery of 15-inch guns, which came to be known as the Johore Battery, and the Straits Settlements gave some local naval craft. Nobody could deny that these were generous gifts. Where some criticism might be levied is as regards the way in which the volunteer forces were maintained. It is one thing to raise forces but it is quite another to maintain them at a proper state of efficiency. Modern military units are expensive luxuries, and the volunteer units in Malaya never reached a really satisfactory standard of efficiency. For many years the Government of the Straits Settlements allotted a fixed lump sum for its volunteer forces which then had to be apportioned between the three Services. There was never really enough for any of them, especially as the cost of maintenance rose each year. The result, as far as the army was concerned, was that the Straits Settlements volunteer force was never properly equipped or trained for war. As regards training, only once was part of the force called up for training. That was in the spring of 1941 when things began to look threatening. It had been intended to call up the other part of the force later in the year but strikes on the rubber plantations intervened. The plantation owners asserted that these strikes were made possible by the absence of a number of Europeans on volunteer training, and the remainder of the training was cancelled at the request of the Government. Thus it came about that volunteer training was almost without exception confined to week-end and evening work, and anybody who has had any experience of volunteers knows that this cannot be adequate.

A factor which had a considerable influence on the preparations fox war in Malaya was the role allotted to that country for its participation in the Second World War. It was to produce the greatest possible quantities of rubber and tin for the use of the Allies. In fact, the view of the Colonial Office appears to have been that the output of rubber and tin was of greater importance than the training of the local forces, for in December 1940 the Governor was instructed that “the ultimate criterion for exemption (from volunteer service) should be not what the General Officer Commanding considers practicable but what you consider essential to maintain the necessary production and efficient labour management.” The Government could hardly be blamed there¬fore if it insisted on the production of these commodities to the prejudice of defence, but neither could the General Officer Commanding be blamed for the volunteer forces not being in a more efficient state.

Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War there was a Defence Committee Malaya, modelled on the Committee of Imperial Defence at home. The Governor was chairman of the Central Committee, while the members were the heads of the fighting services and the leading civil officials. There were a number of sub-committees, the members of which were as a rule partly military and partly civil. A great deal of useful planning work, which was invaluable when war came, was done by these sub-committees. In particular, the proper utilization of available man-power, a most difficult problem in all parts of the Empire, had been carefully examined. It was clear that in time of war, as in time of peace, the government of the country must be carried on and that many business firms must continue to operate. In addition, special war-time officials would be required. On the other hand, there was no leisured or retired class in Malaya which could be called upon for war-time expansion.

Soon after the outbreak of the Second World War the Defence Committee Malaya and its sub-committees were dissolved and were replaced by a War Committee and Controllers. Then the Governor and High Commissioner, under the powers conferred upon him, ordered that all European males resident in Malaya between certain ages should be liable for service in one of the volunteer corps. Exemption tribunals were set up throughout the country and many men had to be granted exemption from military service, even after allowing for the fact that government and business could be carried on temporarily with reduced staffs.

There was always potential friction in these claims for exemption, as the military authorities naturally wanted all they could get while government departments and business managers were equally naturally disinclined to risk cutting their staffs too much. The real trouble was that there were not enough men to go round. No liability to military service was imposed upon the Asiatic population. Many of them were of a type unsuitable for training as soldiers, sailors, or airmen, and the difficulties of nationality, of registration, and of selection would have been great. Moreover, there were no rifles or other arms available with which to equip Asiatic units.

Passive air defence in Malaya had a slow start. In the United Kingdom preparations had started in the middle ‘twenties, first in a small way under the direction of the Committee of Imperial Defence and later, as political tension increased, as a department of the Home Office. In Malaya they only started under the impetus of the Second World War. It was unlikely, people said, that war would ever come to Malaya, so why spend a lot of money on air-raid precautions which would probably never be required? And so there was a lot of lee-way to make up. A great deal of work was, it is true, done as soon as the danger began to be realized. Organizations for passive air defence, based in general on those at home, were built up in the large towns, warning sirens were installed at the main centres, and some air-raid shelters were constructed. The situation as regards these needs some explanation because it has from time to time been the subject of much adverse comment. It is true that what was provided was very inadequate throughout Malaya for the needs of the civil population, but the construction of air-raid shelters in Singapore and in some other low-lying places was not an easy matter. The water- level was near the surface so that in most places the digging of trenches was not only useless but dangerous because they soon became filled with water and became breeding-places for mosquitoes. Many of the streets were narrow and there was little room for the building of shelters above ground. Apart from the blocking of traffic, the medical authorities advised against the building of shelters in streets on the ground that, by stopping the circulation of air, they would be dangerous from a health point of view. In some of the streets, however, shelters were provided by filling in the space between pillars supporting overhanging buildings, but in general the policy was to provide accommodation in attap camps built in open spaces outside the town. It was hoped that in this way some dispersion from the crowded areas of the town would be brought about—a very sound idea in theory, but in practice it did not work too well because the camps provided were built of very inflammable material and became death¬traps under aerial bombing or artillery bombardment. Perhaps with a little more determination and a little more expenditure of money some more adequate shelters could have been provided in the shape of above-ground shelters constructed on the open spaces similar to those which were to be seen in nearly all the large towns of Great Britain. I am of opinion also that a great deal more could have been done in the way of provision of shelters for their employees by government bodies, by private firms, by hospitals, and by organizations such as the Singapore Harbour Board.

“Black-out” in Malaya was also a difficult problem. Complete “black-out” means shutting out most of the ventilation and everybody who has lived in the tropics knows how extremely disagree¬able that is. The alternative during “black-outs” was to live in great discomfort or in complete darkness. Neither of these are very good for the morale. When war started the standing orders at the combined Army and R.A.F. operational headquarters were to turn out all lights during air-raid alarms, and I well remember during the first air attack on Singapore sitting in darkness for the best part of an hour. This was obviously quite hopeless as, apart from discomfort, it caused great interference with the work, so we immediately had the orders altered and thereafter we always kept the lights on and did our best with the “black-out”. To alleviate the situation a modified system of “brown-out” was introduced throughout the country, the “black¬out” only being applied when the hostile aircraft were actually approaching a given area. This allowed normal activities to continue with a minimum of risk and was on the whole satisfactory.

In view of the scorched earth policy which was ordered during the campaign, and which will be discussed later, it is of interest to note at this stage that a “denial” scheme to provide for the invasion of Malaya had been prepared and necessary instructions issued. This scheme was directed principally to the destruction or removal of everything that might facilitate the movement of invading forces. It laid down, for instance, that on receipt of special code words all vehicles and water craft must be destroyed or removed from specified areas and that essential parts of machinery should be removed. Careful plans also were worked out for the removal of civilians when the time came from certain areas which were thought to be most exposed to attack, such as the south coast of Singapore Island and the east coast of Johore. In Johore part of these plans were put into effect, resulting unfortunately in much congestion in the western areas of that State to which the evacuated people were moved and in which the heaviest fighting eventually took place.

A matter which had certainly not been tackled sufficiently thoroughly before war broke out was the control of civil labour, the failure of which was to have a crippling effect during the operations. Incidentally, this experience was not confined to Malaya only. It was common in the countries of most of our Allies in the Far East. Before the war the matter had been dis-cussed on many occasions and draft proposals had been put before the Government. It was contemplated that in time of war the large labour forces which would be set free on the estates would become available and would be used, still under their own fore¬men, under the general supervision of the Director of Public Works. The question of conscription of labour had been dis¬cussed on more than one occasion but, in accordance with the advice of those best acquainted with labour in Malaya, had been rejected as unworkable. Knowing the intricacies of the Chinese labour system and the independent outlook of the Chinese, I agreed with this view. I thought we should get more out of them by letting them run their own show than by exercising too much compulsion which might result in a feeling of hostility. The Chinese are notorious as great workers if properly handled, and I still believe that the failure of our policy was due more to a lack of unity and leadership among the Chinese themselves and, to some extent, to the evils of the system of contracting than to any inherent faults in the policy. At the same time, the problem should have been tackled on much broader lines and more con¬crete plans drawn up than was actually the case.

Generally speaking the relations between the Services and the civil government were much better in 1941 than they had been when I was previously in Malaya. On the highest levels a friendly atmosphere existed and in all grades, both in Singapore and up-country, there was more combined examination of problems than I had known before. We were particularly lucky to have a Secretary for Defence, Mr. Dawson, who was always ready to join in our deliberations and who was universally liked and respected. At the same time, the war machine was far from being geared up to concert pitch. Matters requiring quick decision were still the subject of lengthy correspondence and, even when decisions had been taken, there were sometimes long delays before they were implemented. It requires something more than the mere threat of war to change a bureaucratic system, especially in the East, which has been built up laboriously through several generations. I believe that the machinery of planning might have been expedited at that time if there had been more round-table conferences at which decisions could have been taken and if there had been more regular meetings of the War Committee with a proper agenda and a quick circulation of minutes. Actually this committee only met when it was required to consider some special matter and that only occurred at irregular intervals. Both the Services and the civil government were represented on this committee and problems affecting the defence, both military and civil, could have been discussed frankly and more expeditiously than by routine methods. Similarly reports on the work of the controllers could have been made and the information could thus have been disseminated to all concerned. The great importance of real team work between the civil and the military has been amply demonstrated in this war, but it requires a war to bring these lessons home and, once again, let us not forget that Malaya had been free of war for many years.
Within the Services there was no trace of friction. At all levels there were joint conferences and constant interchange of visits both official and unofficial. Probably never before in the history of Malaya had things been so harmonious.

When discussing the relationship between the Services and the civil government it is only right to state that I was myself, as General Officer Commanding Malaya, an ex officio member of both the Executive and Legislative Councils of the Straits Settlements though there was no military representation in the governments of the Federated Malay States or of the Unfederated Malay States. In the councils of the Straits Settlements the General Officer Commanding was responsible for representing the views of all the Services. He attended the meetings of these councils and dealt with documents circulated for the views of members but of course he took no part in the work of the secretariat. There were some who held that the General Officer Commanding should be free of these commitments which inevitably caused some dis¬traction from his military duties, but personally I feel that the advantages gained from the joint deliberations with the civil authorities which the arrangement made possible far outweighed any disadvantages which accrued from it. I would indeed go further and say that there should be some military representation also in the Central Government of the Federated Malay States so that all matters affecting the defence of the country, civil as well as military, can be certain of receiving full and proper consideration.

I come now to that somewhat delicate subject—the Press in Malaya. The local Press in Malaya was divided into two categories, i.e. the English Press and the vernacular Press, in which each Asiatic community had its own paper or papers. Incidentally this at once introduced a complication because the vernacular Press included a Japanese newspaper so that at Press conferences we either had to request the representative of that paper not to attend—a rather invidious thing to have to do—or else be very careful what we said. When the war clouds gathered, war correspondents began to arrive in Malaya, their numbers increasing as the situation worsened. Naturally these war correspondents were not content to kick their heels about in Singapore doing nothing. They wanted news for their papers. And so it became apparent early in 1941 that some special organization to deal with the Press was necessary. This was worked out and came into operation in May. The Commander-in-Chief China assumed responsibility for Press relations and a Commander R.N., called up from the reserve, was put at the head of the Services Press Bureau. This had the undoubted advantage that the Press relations of all three Services were grouped under one head, but I am inclined to think that it was unfortunate that the responsibility rested with the navy because most of the matters about which the Press required information concerned either the army or the air force. The Commander-in-Chief Far East would in point of fact probably have taken over the responsibility, which he actually did in December, had he had a strong enough staff to handle the matter.

The Press wanted news. That was the crux of the thing. Unfortunately a defended area, such as Malaya was becoming, is not the sort of place where you can easily give away news without prejudicing security. Moreover, the Service commanders are tied by their responsibilities to their own ministries for preserving military secrets. In Malaya the position was further complicated by the delicate political relationship which had developed between the British Empire and Japan, when any false step might further embarrass our Government. In such circumstances a Service commander is naturally, and quite rightly, apt to be very cautious. Nevertheless, we did what we could to meet the requirements of the Press by showing them what we were allowed of the defences, arranging visits to the troops, and holding Press conferences. As regards the latter, I have myself always been a firm believer in taking the Press into one’s confidence as much as one can because I believe that it is better to give newspaper correspondents accurate data upon which to work than to leave them to base their reports on data which may be only half true or even entirely false. For this reason I agreed to give Press interviews at regular intervals as also did some of the other Service commanders. But in this matter there must be reciprocity on both sides. You cannot expect a commander to give information or express opinions which are going to receive world-wide publicity unless he can be certain that his statements are going to be accurately quoted. My friends of the Press will, I feel sure, forgive me for saying that in Malaya this was not always the case, either as regards the local or the world Press. In saying this I have no wish to generalize, but it only requires one indiscreet correspondent, attempting to create a little extra sensation, to queer the pitch for the rest. This was in fact what almost invariably happened in spite of the most careful arrangements for circulating official precis of what had been said, and I always read the papers on the mornings following my conferences with some fear and trepidation as to what trouble I might have created for myself. Towards the end of 1941 all Press conferences were, for this reason, forbidden by the Commander-in-Chief Far East on instructions, I believe though I am not certain, from higher authority. In consequence, I was not at liberty to hold Press conferences during the campaign and only once in the closing stages did I take the law into my own hands when the situation was becoming critical.

It may be of interest to record here a talk I had with Cecil Brown, one of the leading American representatives. There had been some trouble with the censor over some telegrams he wished to send about the situation in the Pacific and I thought, as a matter of interest, that I would like to get to the bottom of the matter, so I invited him to come and have a private talk with me in my office. He told me that the corporation which he represented was one of the biggest and most influential in the Middle West of the United States; that he had realized how much the Far East meant both to his own country and to ours and how weak the Allied forces there were; that in his opinion the situation could only be saved if the United States stood firmly behind the British Empire in Far Eastern policy, but that the people of the Middle West who had a big say in American policy were still woefully ignorant, taken as a whole, about the problems of the Far East. He therefore conceived it his duty to do all he could to ensure that the situation was put fairly and squarely before the people of the Middle West. Although it may not have been an excuse for attempting to break through the censorship regulations in a foreign country, that was at least logical reasoning and showed a breadth of vision which was not at that time universal among our friends across the Atlantic. Later, Cecil Brown had the good fortune to be one of the survivors when the Prince of Wales and Repulse were sunk and no doubt went home with a good story.

It was a pity that some of the war correspondents only reached Malaya a short time before the Far Eastern War broke out and that some of our leading newspapers had not up till then been directly represented. Enough has been said already to show the great complexities of the situation in that country, and it was only at the end of my first two years there that I myself began to feel that I knew something about it. First impressions, both of men and of things, are not invariably correct and, when given world publicity, may sometimes mislead the public. In my experience of life I have found that men with the most impressive personalities are often the first to crumple up in face of adversity whereas the least impressive often turn up trumps. I would almost go so far as to say that you don’t’ know what a man is worth until you have lived with him in a prisoner-of-war camp. The more I see of life the more convinced I become that it is necessary to be fully acquainted both with men and with things before one can with fairness make public statements about them.

I have seen it stated in print that I made extravagant statements as regards the strength of the defences of Malaya. That I deny categorically. I doubt if there are any records now of the statements I made but, if there were, they would show that I always took the same line, i.e. that we would do our best with whatever forces might be available. This seemed to me to be the only sound line to take because if one had expressed concern about the weakness of the defences one would have been giving information to the enemy while, if one had been over-optimistic, one would have been misleading one’s own people with serious consequences when the truth became known.

In Singapore were established the Ministry of Information Far East, under Sir George Sansom, and the Malayan Information Bureau. In the same building as the office of the Public Relations Officer were the offices of the Chief Censor with his staff of subordinates, i.e. press censors, cable censors, mail censors, etc.

Nevertheless, an atmosphere of unreality hung over Malaya. In the restaurants, clubs, and places of entertainment, peace-time conditions prevailed. Having just come from England, where austerity had already become the fashion, I must confess to rather an uncomfortable feeling when provided with an almost unlimited amount of food in the hotels and restaurants. It is true that there was little shortage of food at that time in Malaya, but most of the foodstuffs consumed by Europeans had to be imported and one knew how scarce shipping was. In connection with food, committees had twice been appointed to draw up schemes for rationing of food in time of war but had reported that the difficulties were so great that food rationing was impracticable. Eventually a modified scheme was drawn up to cover European foodstuffs, but there was never any proper scheme for Asiatic foodstuffs. I could not believe that a scheme was impracticable although the difficulties in the way of producing a perfect scheme were undoubtedly great. That this view was correct was shown by experience in other parts of the Far East where satisfactory schemes were introduced and carried out. I am afraid it is true that long immunity from war had made it difficult to face realities in Malaya.

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