Bahau settlement



Bahau was an agricultural settlement established during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore (1942–45) at Bahau in the Malayan state of Negeri Sembilan. It was also known as Fuji-Go, which means “Fuji village” or “beautiful village”.1 The settlement, which was specially set up for Eurasians and Chinese Roman Catholics in November 1943, was formed under a self-sufficiency scheme initiated by the Japanese authorities. The scheme was introduced to ease the food supply problem in Singapore, which was largely attributed to the blockade of Japanese-controlled territories by Allied forces.2

Background
Under the self-sufficiency scheme, the Japanese encouraged the people in Singapore to resettle outside of the city, in areas where they could farm and live off the land.3 By encouraging voluntary migration to populate new agricultural settlements, Chief Welfare Officer Mamoru Shinozaki also hoped to avoid another massacre in addressing the problems of food scarcity and rising discontent among the populace.4

Shinozaki had raised concerns on the viability of the Bahau settlement.5 Unlike its Endau counterpart – set up in Johor in September 1943 for Chinese settlers6 – which could rely on help from Singapore, Bahau would have to depend on the Negeri Sembilan government for food and other supplies as well as administrative support. Furthermore, he argued that the vegetation in Bahau was difficult to clear. The land was also unsuitable for agriculture as the soil consisted of mainly clay.7 However, the Eurasian community wanted to leave Singapore as they were constantly under the watch of the Kempeitai, the Japanese Military Police. Roman Catholic bishop, Adrian (also spelled as Adrien) Devals, and Herman De Souza Sr, a representative from the Eurasian community in Singapore, visited Bahau to assess its suitability. With the consent of the community and assurances from the authorities, it was thus decided that Bahau would become the settlement outside of Singapore for the Eurasian community.8

Life in Bahau
The Bahau settlement was located five miles (8 km) away from the town of Bahau.9 To reach the settlement, the settlers had to first travel by train to the town and then either take a lorry ride or walk several hours to their destination.10


The first group of migrants were mostly bachelors who were specially selected by the Japanese to help lay the foundation for the new settlement.11 They were also tasked to set up a model farm and impart farming techniques to the settlers, who were predominantly white-collar workers and thus had no farming experience.12 When the first group arrived at the settlement, they found that the site had already been cleared by locally contracted loggers. There were burnt and fallen tree trunks on the ground as the loggers had cut and cleared the forests but did not remove the debris.13 There were also several shabby-looking communal longhouses at the site. The settlers slept in these longhouses for many months before they built better lodgings and public amenities for themselves.14

The prospects of escaping from the watchful eyes of the Kempeitai attracted many to relocate from Singapore to Bahau.15 Between December 1943 and April 1944, some 2,000 Eurasians left their homes for Bahau, taking along items such as curtains and pianos to furnish their new homes.16 Devals was assigned the responsibility of administering the settlement’s affairs.17 C. J. P. Paglar, president of the Eurasian Welfare Association, and Shinozaki also visited the settlement frequently, bringing with them medicine, food and entertainment to boost the morale of the settlers.18

Once in a while there would be parties organised in the settlement, with singing and dancing.19 Most of the settlers, however, had little knowledge of farming and found life tough at Bahau.20 Many of them suffered from malnutrition and diseases such as malaria, owing to poor sanitation conditions, mosquito infestations and lack of medicine.21

It is not known how many had lost their lives in Bahau, although some estimated it to be between 300 and 1,500 people. Among the deceased was Devals, who had accidentally cut his foot with a hoe and died from tetanus in January 1945.22

By the end of the Japanese Occupation, the number of settlers in Bahau was estimated to be about 3,000.23 Besides Eurasians and Chinese Roman Catholics, a small group of Protestant Europeans and neutrals from countries like Switzerland, Denmark, Romania and Russia had also lived in the settlement.24

After the Japanese surrendered in August 1945, the settlers returned to Singapore.25



Author
Joshua Chia Yeong Jia




References
1. Rodrigues, K. (1992). Trial and tribulation. In M. Braga-Blake (Ed.), Singapore Eurasians: Memories and hopes (pp. 109–117). Singapore: Times Editions, p. 113. (Call no.: RSING 305.80405957 SIN); Hodgkins, F. (2014). From Syonan to Fuji-Go: The story of the Catholic settlement in Bahau in WWII Malaya. Singapore: Select Publishing, p. 13. (Call no.: RSING 307.212095957 HOD)
2. Lee, G. B. (1992). Syonan: Singapore under the Japanese 1942–1945. Singapore: Singapore Heritage Society, p. 168. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 LEE-[HIS]); Shinozaki, M. (1973). My wartime experiences in Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 66–67. (Call no.: RSEA 959.57023 SHI-[HIS])
3. Tan, B. L., & Quah, I. (1996). The Japanese Occupation 1942–1945: A pictorial record of Singapore during the war. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 135. (Call no.: RSING q940.5425 TAN-[WAR])
4. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, pp. 205, 215. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS]); Shinozaki, M. (1973). My wartime experiences in Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 66–67. (Call no.: RSEA 959.57023 SHI-[HIS])
5. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 205. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS]); Rodrigues, K. (1992). Trial and tribulation. In M. Braga-Blake (Ed.), Singapore Eurasians: Memories and hopes (pp. 109–117). Singapore: Times Editions, p. 113. (Call no.: RSING 305.80405957 SIN)
6. Murfett, H., et al. (1999). Between two oceans: A military history of Singapore from first settlement to final British withdrawal. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 258. (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 BET)
7. Rodrigues, K. (1992). Trial and tribulation. In M. Braga-Blake (Ed.), Singapore Eurasians: Memories and hopes (pp. 109–117). Singapore: Times Editions, p. 113. (Call no.: RSING 305.80405957 SIN)
8. Shinozaki, M. (1973). My wartime experiences in Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 81. (Call no.: RSEA 959.57023 SHI-[HIS]); Hodgkins, F. (2014). From Syonan to Fuji-Go: The story of the Catholic settlement in Bahau in WWII Malaya. Singapore: Select Publishing, p. 9. (Call no.: RSING 307.212095957 HOD); Rodrigues, K. (1992). Trial and tribulation. In M. Braga-Blake (Ed.), Singapore Eurasians: Memories and hopes (pp. 109–117). Singapore: Times Editions, p. 114. (Call no.: RSING 305.80405957 SIN); Chandran, K. (2006, April 15). When paradise became prison campThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Chua, S. K. (Interviewer). (1982, August 11). Oral history interview with Philip Carlyle Marcus [Transcript of cassette recording no. 000183/09/06, p. 63]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; Low, L. L. (Interviewer). (1983, December 29). Oral history interview with George Edwin Bogaars [Transcript of cassette recording no. 000379/13/05, p. 59]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; Negri governor assures Catholic settlers of every possible assistance. (1943, December 21). The Syonan Shimbun, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Rodrigues, K. (1992). Trial and tribulation. In M. Braga-Blake (Ed.), Singapore Eurasians: Memories and hopes (pp. 109–117). Singapore: Times Editions, p. 113. (Call no.: RSING 305.80405957 SIN); Chua, S. K. (Interviewer). (1982, August 11). Oral history interview with Philip Carlyle Marcus [Transcript of cassette recording no. 000183/09/06, p. 63]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; Low, L. L. (Interviewer). (1983, December 29). Oral history interview with George Edwin Bogaars [Transcript of cassette recording no. 000379/13/05, pp. 60–62]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
11. Rodrigues, K. (1992). Trial and tribulation. In M. Braga-Blake (Ed.), Singapore Eurasians: Memories and hopes (pp. 109–117). Singapore: Times Editions, p. 113. (Call no.: RSING 305.80405957 SIN)
12. Rodrigues, K. (1992). Trial and tribulation. In M. Braga-Blake (Ed.), Singapore Eurasians: Memories and hopes (pp. 109–117). Singapore: Times Editions, pp. 113–114. (Call no.: RSING 305.80405957 SIN); Shinozaki, M. (1973). My wartime experiences in Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 82. (Call no.: RSEA 959.57023 SHI-[HIS])
13. Rodrigues, K. (1992). Trial and tribulation. In M. Braga-Blake (Ed.), Singapore Eurasians: Memories and hopes (pp. 109–117). Singapore: Times Editions, p. 113. (Call no.: RSING 305.80405957 SIN)
14. Lee, G. B. (1992). Syonan: Singapore under the Japanese 1942–1945. Singapore: Singapore Heritage Society, pp. 106, 169–170. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 LEE-[HIS]); Low, L. L. (Interviewer). (1983, December 29). Oral history interview with George Edwin Bogaars [Transcript of cassette recording no. 000379/13/06, pp. 71–79]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
15. Lee, G. B. (1992). Syonan: Singapore under the Japanese 1942–1945. Singapore: Singapore Heritage Society, p. 169. (Call no.: RSING 959.57023 LEE-[HIS])
16. Chandran, K. (2006, April 15). When paradise became prison campThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Rodrigues, K. (c1992). Trial and tribulation. In M. Braga-Blake (Ed.), Singapore Eurasians: Memories and hopes (pp. 109–117). Singapore: Times Editions, p. 114. (Call no.: RSING 305.80405957 SIN)
18. Rodrigues, K. (1992). Trial and tribulation. In M. Braga-Blake (Ed.), Singapore Eurasians: Memories and hopes (pp. 109–117). Singapore: Times Editions, p. 115. (Call no.: RSING 305.80405957 SIN); Shinozaki, M. (1973). My wartime experiences in Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 84–85. (Call no.: RSEA 959.57023 SHI-[HIS]); Low, L. L. (Interviewer). (1983, August 25). Oral history interview with Eric Charles Pemberton Paglar [Transcript of cassette recording no. 000299/12/04, p. 47]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
19. Chandran, K. (2006, April 15). When paradise became prison campThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Lee, G. B. (1992). Syonan: Singapore under the Japanese 1942–1945. Singapore: Singapore Heritage Society, p. 171. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 LEE-[HIS])
21. Rodrigues, K. (1992). Trial and tribulation. In M. Braga-Blake (Ed.), Singapore Eurasians: Memories and hopes (pp. 109–117). Singapore: Times Editions, pp. 115–116. (Call no.: RSING 305.80405957 SIN); Tan, B. L., & Quah, I. (1996). The Japanese Occupation 1942–1945: A pictorial record of Singapore during the war. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 139. (Call no.: RSING q940.5425 TAN-[WAR])
22. Chandran, K. (2006, April 15). When paradise became prison campThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Shinozaki, M. (1982). Syonan – my story: The Japanese Occupation of Singapore. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 135. (Call no.: RSING 959.57023 SHI-[HIS]); Lee, G. B. (1992). Syonan: Singapore under the Japanese 1942–1945. Singapore: Singapore Heritage Society, p. 171. (Call no.: RSING 959.57023 LEE-[HIS])
23. Lee, G. B. (1992). Syonan: Singapore under the Japanese 1942–1945. Singapore: Singapore Heritage Society, p. 171. (Call no.: RSING 959.57023 LEE-[HIS])
24. Hodgkins, F. (2014). From Syonan to Fuji-Go: The story of the Catholic settlement in Bahau in WWII Malaya. Singapore: Select Publishing, pp. 171–172. (Call no.: RSING 307.212095957 HOD)
25. Chandran, K. (2006, April 15). When paradise became prison campThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resources
Chandran, K. (2006, April 15). Retelling the Eurasian WWII storyThe Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.


Conceicao, J. F. (2004). Flavours of change: Destiny & diplomacy: Recollections of a Singapore ambassador. Singapore: Horizon Books.
(Call no.: RSING 327.59570092 CON)

Miller, D. (2014). Bahau, the elephant & the ham. Singapore: DMbooks.
(Call no.: RSING 940.54815957 MIL-[WAR])

O’Donovan, P. (2008). Jungles are never neutral: War-time in Bahau: An extraordinary story of exile and survival: The diaries of Brother O’Donovan fsc. Ipoh, Malaysia: Media Masters Publishing.
(Call no.: RSING 940.5308827178 ODO-[WAR])

Pilon, M., & Weiler, D. (2011). The French in Singapore: An illustrated history (1819–today). Singapore: Editions Didier Millet.
(Call no.: RSING 305.84105957 PIL)

Shelley, R., & Chen, F. (2010). Dr Paglar: Everyman’s hero. Singapore: Published for the Eurasian Association by Straits Times Press.
(Call no.: RSING 610.92 SHE)

Sidhu, H. (1991). The bamboo fortress: True Singapore war stories. Singapore: Native Publications, pp. 233–245.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57023 SID-[HIS])



The information in this article is valid as at 2006 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Heritage and Culture
Singapore--History--Japanese occupation, 1942-1945
Ethnic Communities
Events>>Historical Periods>>World War II and Japanese Occupation (1939 - 1945)
History>>Asia>>Southeast Asia>>Malaysia
History>>Asia>>Southeast Asia>>Singapore
Malaya--History--Japanese occupation, 1942-1945
1942-1945 Japanese occupation