Mutiny in Singapore, 15-20th February, 1915

Ian Jones


At 1530 hours on Monday 15th February, 1915, 815 men of the Indian Army's 5th Light Infantry Battalion with 100 men of the Malay States Guides Mule Battery mutinied. They broke out of their barracks and fired on a group of five British officers, killing three. The other two escaped and ran off to get help. They managed to get sufficient force together from other units in the barracks to drive off the mutineers.

A party of 100 mutineers went to Tanglin Barracks where 309 Germans were interned, including members of the Emden's crew. The mutineers fired on the guards without warning, killing all of them, but not before one brave guard managed to run across the courtyard under heavy fire to raise the alarm. The mutineers tried to persuade the Germans to join them but only 17 plus 3 Dutchmen joined them. The rest refused to have anything to do with what they considered a dishonourable act, and stayed where they were.

Other mutineers went on a killing spree at Keppel Harbour and Pasir Panjang killing many men and women including a judge. It was getting dark by this time and the authorities finally were getting organised. Marines and crew from HMS Cadmus came ashore and were mobilised with other garrison troops who had not mutineed. A radio message was sent to India and any allied warship for help.

In the meantime, the mutineers were laying siege to the bungalow of the commander, Colonel Martin, which was effectively blocking the way into Singapore Town. The Colonel and some men held out all night until they were relieved at daybreak by armed volunteers and civilians. They were so successful that they captured a fair amount of the mutineers' artillery. This action cost one killed and five wounded. The mutineers scattered and despite heavy sniper fire from the mutineers, the general population stayed calm as the militia fought sporadic battles with the mutineers.

On Wednesday 17th February, the French cruiser Montcalm followed by smaller Russian and Japanese warships arrived. They immediately unloaded a large number of Marines who immediately advanced on the mutineers. A sharp battle ensued in which the mutineers came off second best. A large number of them surrendered immediately, the rest scattered into the jungle. A large number tried to escape across the Strait of Johore but were immediately rounded up by the Sultan of Johore's army. In the meantime, the mutineers who had scattered continued to wage a sniping war on the allies.

On Saturday 20th February, six companies of the 5th Shropshire Territorials arrived from Rangoon, relieving the sailors and Marines. They rounded up the last of mutineers in a short time.

Monday 22nd February saw the opening Courts Martial. These resulted in a large number of the mutineers being shot in public. The largest of these executions saw a firing party of 110 shooting 22 mutineers. The mutineers who surrendered early were sent to fight in Africa against Von Lettow Vorbeck. A leading Indian merchant was implicated in the plot and was proved to have sent messages to the Turkish Consul in Rangoon offering him help by encouraging the Indian garrison in Singapore to mutiny. He was shot for his actions.

Final casualties were:

British -- 33 military, 14 civilians
French -- 1 wounded
Russian -- 3 wounded

The mutiny lead to the compulsory military training of all Britons aged 18 to 55 in Singapore. See: The Great War, Volume 6, edited by H.W. Wilson and J.A. Hammerton, London: The Amalgamated Press Ltd., 1916.

Created: 4 May 1996, 07:30:39 Last Updated: 4 May 1996, 07:30:39