The British Empire Library

From Syonan to Fuji-Go: The Story of the Catholic Settlement of Bahau in WWII Malaya

by Fiona Hodgkins

Courtesy of OSPA

David Brent (Asst Superintendent of Police, Malaya 1952-58)
From Syonan to Fuji-Go is the fascinating saga of the self-supporting Catholic settlement which was established for the Eurasian Catholic community of Singapore in Bahau, a jungle hinterland district in the southeast section of Negri Sembilan state in Malaya, during the Japanese occupation of Singapore and Malaya.

It is a masterpiece of story-telling with accounts of courage, vision, determination and dedication by all those involved in the settlement's organization and its ultimate success and survival of so many in the community.

The narrative covers a wide range of events in Bahau and in Singapore during the extremely difficult years including home building, water resources, farming, animals, food, local Chinese residents, medical infrastructure and problems including malaria and lack of medicines, education of children, communications, transport and travel, security, the Japanese presence and officialdom, the Bahau office in Singapore, contact with members of Force 136 and the aftermath of the Japanese surrender and the community's return to Singapore.

As Paul Madden, British High Commissioner to Singapore 2007-11 commented - 'It is a story of heroes, victims and the tragic death of some 500 of the 3000 settlers'.

The author, Fiona Hodgkins, is the daughter of Mary Alethea de Souza who as a child with her mother and family lived in Bahau during those very difficult and dangerous years.

The 269 page book contains many interesting photos of people and places and has to be a significant record of part of the turbulent history of Singapore and Malaya during the second World War.

Most coincidentally, aged eleven, I was in Penang when the Japanese attacked and was evacuated with my mother to Australia. In 1952 I returned to Malaya as an Assistant Superintendent of Police at the height of the Emergency and in 1953 commanded the Police District of Triang in the state of Pahang which was adjacent to Bahau District in Negri Sembilan. During this period I visited Bahau via the connecting railway for liaison purposes during operations against the communist terrorists.

I greatly admired and enjoyed this outstanding record of events during the tragic years of the Japanese occupation and commend it to those interested in such an inspiring account of great fortitude and survival.

British Empire Book
Fiona Hodgkins
Select Books Pte Ltd


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