Colony of Singapore

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Colony of Singapore

Koloni Singapura  (Malay)
காலனி சிங்கப்பூர்  (Tamil)
Kālaṉi Ciṅkappūr
新加坡殖民地  (Chinese)
Xīnjiāpō zhímíndì
Singapore in its region (zoom).svg
Location of Singapore in the Malay Archipelago
Status Crown Colony
and largest city
1°17′N103°50′E / 1.283°N 103.833°E / 1.283; 103.833
Official language
and national language
Common languages Chinese, Malay, Tamil
Government Constitutional monarchy
George VI
Elizabeth II
 1946–1952 (first)
Franklin Charles Gimson
 1957–1959 (last)
William Goode
Chief Minister / Prime Minister  
David Marshall
Lim Yew Hock
Lee Kuan Yew
Historical era British Empire
 Dissolution of the Straits Settlements
1 April 1946
 Sovereignty of Cocos (Keeling) Islands transferred to Australia
 Sovereignty of Christmas Island transferred to Australia
 Autonomy within the British Empire
 Merger with the Federation of Malaysia
16 September 1963
1963 [2] 670 km2 (260 sq mi)
 1963 [3]
Time zone UTC+07:30 (Malay Standard Time (SST))
Driving side right
ISO 3166 code SG
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg British Military Administration (Malaya)
Flag of the British Straits Settlements (1925-1946).svg Straits Settlements
Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg Japanese occupation of Singapore
Singapore in Malaysia Flag of Malaysia.svg
Cocos (Keeling) Islands Flag of Australia.svg
Christmas Island Flag of Australia.svg
Today part of
Part of a series on the
History of Singapore
Flag of Singapore.svg Singaporeportal

The colony of Singapore was a British Crown colony that existed from 1946 until 1963, when Singapore became part of Malaysia. When the Empire of Japan surrendered to the Allies at the end of World War II, the island was handed back to the British in 1945. In 1946, the Straits Settlements were dissolved and Singapore together with the Cocos-Keeling and Christmas islands became a separate Crown colony. [4] The colony was governed by the British Empire until it gained partial internal self-governance in 1955.[ citation needed ]

Empire of Japan Empire in the Asia-Pacific region between 1868–1947

The Empire of Japan was the historical nation-state and great power that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 to the enactment of the 1947 constitution of modern Japan.

Surrender of Japan surrender of the Empire of Japan during the World War II

The surrender of Imperial Japan was announced on August 15 and formally signed on September 2, 1945, bringing the hostilities of World War II to a close. By the end of July 1945, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) was incapable of conducting major operations and an Allied invasion of Japan was imminent. Together with the British Empire and China, the United States called for the unconditional surrender of the Japanese armed forces in the Potsdam Declaration on July 26, 1945—the alternative being "prompt and utter destruction". While publicly stating their intent to fight on to the bitter end, Japan's leaders were privately making entreaties to the still-neutral Soviet Union to mediate peace on terms more favorable to the Japanese. Meanwhile, the Soviets were preparing to attack Japanese forces in Manchuria and Korea in fulfillment of promises they had secretly made to the United States and the United Kingdom at the Tehran and Yalta Conferences.

Allies of World War II Grouping of the victorious countries of World War II

The Allies of World War II, called the United Nations from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.



Post war period: return of British rule

After Japan surrendered to the Allies on 15 August 1945, there was a state of anomie in Singapore, as the British had not arrived to take control, while the Japanese occupiers had a considerably weakened hold over the populace. Incidents of looting and revenge-killing were widespread.

Anomie concept of a lack of social norms, popularised by Émile Durkheim

Anomie is a "condition in which society provides little moral guidance to individuals". This evolves from conflict of belief systems and causes breakdown of social bonds between an individual and the community. In a person this can progress into a dysfunctional ability to integrate within normative situations of their social world e.g., an unruly personal scenario that results in fragmentation of social identity and rejection of values.

Looting Indiscriminate taking of goods by force

Looting, also referred to as sacking, ransacking, plundering, despoiling, despoliation, and pillaging, is the indiscriminate taking of goods by force as part of a military or political victory, or during a catastrophe, such as war, natural disaster, or rioting.

When British troops returned to Singapore in September 1945, thousands of Singaporeans lined the streets to cheer them. Singapore was ruled by a British Military Administration (BMA) between September 1945 and March 1946, during which it also served as the headquarters of the British governor general for Southeast Asia. However much of the infrastructure had been destroyed, including electricity and water supply systems, telephone services, as well as the harbour facilities at the Port of Singapore. [5]

British Military Administration (Malaya) Postwar administration of Malaya before its independence

The British Military Administration (BMA) was the interim administrator of British Malaya from August 1945, the end of World War II, to the establishment of the Malayan Union in April 1946. The BMA was under the direct command of the Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia, Lord Louis Mountbatten. The administration had the dual function of maintaining basic subsistence during the period of reoccupation, and also of imposing the state structure upon which post-war imperial power would rest.

Water supply Provision of water by public utilities, commercial organisations or others

Water supply is the provision of water by public utilities, commercial organisations, community endeavors or by individuals, usually via a system of pumps and pipes. Irrigation is covered separately.

Port of Singapore port

The Port of Singapore refers to the collective facilities and terminals that conduct maritime trade, and which handle Singapore's harbours and shipping. It is ranked as the top maritime capital of the world, since 2015. Currently the world's second-busiest port in terms of total shipping tonnage, it also trans-ships a fifth of the world's shipping containers, half of the world's annual supply of crude oil, and is the world's busiest transshipment port. It was also the busiest port in terms of total cargo tonnage handled until 2005, when it was surpassed by the Port of Shanghai. Thousands of ships drop anchor in the harbour, connecting the port to over 600 other ports in 123 countries and spread over six continents.

There was also a shortage of food including rice, and this led to malnutrition, disease and rampant crimes and violence. Unemployment, high food prices, and workers' discontent culminated into a series of strikes in 1947 causing massive stoppages in public transport and other services. By late 1947, the economy began to recover, facilitated by the growing demand for tin and rubber around the world. But it would take several more years before the economy returned to pre-war levels. [5]

Establishment of the colony

On 1 April 1946, the Straits Settlements was dissolved and Singapore became a Crown Colony with a civil administration headed by a Governor and separated from peninsular Malaya. In July 1947, separate Executive and Legislative Councils were established and provisions were made to allow for the election of six members of the Legislative Council the next year. [6]

Straits Settlements former group of British territories located in Southeast Asia

The Straits Settlements were a group of British territories located in Southeast Asia. Originally established in 1826 as part of the territories controlled by the British East India Company, the Straits Settlements came under direct British control as a Crown colony on 1 April 1867. The colony was dissolved in 1946 as part of the British reorganisation of its Southeast Asian dependencies following the end of the Second World War.

Merger with Malaysia

The failure of the British to defend Singapore had destroyed their credibility as infallible rulers in the eyes of the locals in Singapore. The decades after and during the war saw a political awakening amongst the local populace and the rise of nationalist and anti-colonial sentiments, including a cry for Merdeka , roughly translated to "independence" in the Malay language. The British, on their part, were prepared to embark on a program of gradually increasing self-governance for Singapore and Malaya. [5] The Crown colony was dissolved on 16 September 1963 when Singapore became part of Malaysia, which ended the 144 years British rule of the island.


Merdeka is a word in the Indonesian and Malay language meaning independent or free. It is derived from the Sanskrit maharddhika (महर्द्धिक) meaning "rich, prosperous and powerful". In the Malay archipelago, this term had acquired the meaning of a freed slave.

Self-governance, self-government, or autonomy is an abstract concept that applies to several scales of organization.

On 9 August 1965, Singapore officially left Malaysia to become the independent Republic of Singapore, due to political and economical disputes.


First Legislative Council (1948–1951)

The first Singaporean elections, held in March 1948 to select members of the Legislative Council, were rather limited. The right to vote was restricted to adult British subjects, of which only 23,000 or about 10 percent of those eligible registered to vote. In addition, only six of the twenty-five seats on the Legislative Council were to be elected; the rest were chosen either by the Governor or by the chambers of commerce. [5]

Three of the elected seats were won by a newly formed Singapore Progressive Party (SPP), a conservative party whose leaders were businessmen and professionals and were disinclined to press for immediate self-rule. The other three seats were won by independents.

Three months after the elections, an armed insurgency by communist groups in Malaya – the Malayan Emergency – broke out, and the British imposed harsh measures to control left-wing groups in both Singapore and Malaya; the controversial Internal Security Act, which allowed indefinite detention without trial for persons suspected of being "threats to security", was introduced at this time. [5]

Since the left-wing groups were the strongest critics of the colonial system, progress on self-government stalled for several years. The colonial government also tried to prevent contacts between Singaporean Chinese and China, which had just fallen under the rule of the Communist Party of China. Tan Kah Kee, a local businessman and philanthropist, was denied re-entry into Singapore after he made a trip to China. [5]

Second Legislative Council (1951–1955)

A second Legislative Council election was held in 1951 with the number of elected seats increased to nine. This election was again dominated by the SPP which won six seats. This slowly contributed to the formation of a distinct government of Singapore, although colonial administration was still dominant.

In 1953, with the communists in Malaya suppressed and the worst of the 'Emergency' period over, the government appointed a commission, headed by Sir George Rendel, to study the possibility of self-government for Singapore. The commission proposed a limited form of self-government.

The Legislative Assembly with twenty-five out of thirty-two seats chosen by popular election would replace the Legislative Council, from which a Chief Minister as head of government and Council of Ministers as a cabinet would be picked under a parliamentary system. The British would retain control over areas such as internal security and foreign affairs, as well as veto power over legislation.

The government agreed with the recommendations, and Legislative Assembly elections were scheduled for 2 April 1955. The election was a lively and closely fought affair, with several newly formed political parties joining the fray. In contrast to previous elections, voters were automatically registered, expanding the electorate to around 300,000. The SPP was soundly defeated in the election, winning only four seats. The newly formed, left-leaning Labour Front was the largest winner with ten seats and was able to form a coalition government with the UMNO-MCA Alliance, which won three seats. [5] Another new party, the then leftist People's Action Party (PAP), won three seats.


On 1 April 1946, the colony of Singapore was formed with Cocos-Keeling, Christmas islands after the dissolution of the Straits Settlement. As a Crown colony, Singapore inherited the hierarchical organisational structure of the Straits Settlements government with a governor, who was assisted by an Advisory Executive Council, a Legislative Council and a Municipal Council. [7] In July 1946, Labuan became part of the Crown Colony of North Borneo. [8] The sovereignty of the Cocos (Keeling) islands was transferred to Australia in 1955. The administration of Christmas island was also transferred to Australia in 1957 at the request of the Australian government.

Governors of Singapore (1946–1959)

The Governors of Singapore ruled Singapore. The men that held this position governed the Crown Colony of Singapore from 1946 to 1959, on behalf of the Colonial Office until Singapore gained self-governance in 1959 in where the Office of the Governor was abolished.

#Governor of SingaporeTerm of office
Took officeLeft office
1 Frank Gimson.jpg Sir Franklin Charles Gimson, KCMG 1 April 194620 March 1952
No image.svg Wilfred Lawson Blythe
20 March 19521 April 1952
2 John Fearns Nicoll2.jpg Sir John Fearns Nicoll, KCMG 21 April 19522 June 1955
William Allmond Codrington Goode.jpg Sir William Goode, GCMG
2 June 195530 June 1955
3 No image.svg Sir Robert Brown Black, GCMG 30 June 19559 December 1957
4 William Allmond Codrington Goode.jpg Sir William Goode, GCMG 9 December 19573 June 1959


  1. There is no authorised version of the national anthem as the words are a matter of tradition; only the first verse is usually sung. [1] No law was passed making "God Save the Queen" the official anthem. In the English tradition, such laws are not necessary; proclamation and usage are sufficient to make it the national anthem. "God Save the Queen" also serves as the Royal anthem for certain Commonwealth realms. The words Queen, she, her, used at present (in the reign of Elizabeth II), are replaced by King, he, him when the monarch is male.

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Malayan Union federation of the Malay states and the Straits Settlements of Penang and Malacca

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Federation of Malaya former country

The Federation of Malaya was a federation of what previously had been British Malaya comprising eleven states that existed from 1 February 1948 until 16 September 1963. The Federation became independent on 31 August 1957, and in 1963 Malaysia was formed when the federation united with the Singapore, North Borneo, and Sarawak Crown Colonies.

Crown colony, dependent territory or royal colony were dependent territories under the administration of United Kingdom overseas territories that were controlled by the British Government. As such they are examples of dependencies that are under colonial rule. Crown colonies were renamed "British Dependent Territories" in 1981, and since 2002, Crown colonies have been known officially as British Overseas Territories.

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Legislative Council of Singapore

The Legislative Council of the Colony of Singapore was a Legislative Council in Singapore that assisted the Governor in making laws in Singapore. It officially came into existence in 1946, when the Repeal Act abolished the Straits Settlements, and Singapore became a Crown Colony on its own that would need its own Legislative Council. Based on existing systems already in place when the council operated under the Straits Settlements, it was partially opened for public voting in 1948, before being replaced by the Legislative Assembly in 1953.

The Legislative Council of the Straits Settlements was a legislature formed on 1 April 1867, when the Straits Settlements was made a Crown colony. This allowed laws to be made swiftly and efficiently, as it was directly responsible to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in London, instead of being placed under a legislative hierarchy and answering to the Calcutta government based in India.


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History of Singapore Aspect of Southeast Asian history

The written history of Singapore may date back to the third century. Evidence suggests that a significant trading settlement existed in Singapore during the 14th century. In the late 14th century, Singapore was under the rule of Parameswara, who killed the previous ruler and he was expelled by the Majapahit or the Siamese. It then came under the Malacca Sultanate and then the Johor Sultanate. In 1819, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles negotiated a treaty whereby Johor allowed the British to locate a trading port on the island, leading to the establishment of the British colony of Singapore in 1819.

Self-governance of Singapore

The self-governance of Singapore was carried out in several stages. Since Singapore's founding in 1819, Singapore had been under the colonial rule of the United Kingdom. The first local elections on a limited scale for several positions in the government of Singapore started in 1948 following an amendment to the Constitution of Singapore.

William Henry Macleod Read was an active participant in the commercial, political and social life of Singapore and the Malay states between 1841 and 1887.

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Chief Secretary, Singapore Wikimedia list article

The Chief Secretary, Singapore, known as the Colonial Secretary, Singapore, before 1955, and the Colonial Secretary, Straits Settlements, before 1946, was a high ranking government civil position in colonial Singapore between 1867 and 1959. It was second only to the Governor of Singapore in the colonial government.


  1. "National Anthem". Official web site of the British Royal Family. 15 January 2016. Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  2. "Singapore - Land area". Index Mundi. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  3. "Singapore - Land area". Index Mundi. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  4. Colony of Singapore. Government Gazette. (1946, April 1). The Singapore Colony Order in Council, 1946 (G.N. 2, pp. 2–3). Singapore: [s.n.]. Call no.: RCLOS 959.57 SGG; White paper on Malaya (1946, January 26). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tan, K. Y. L. (Ed.). (1999). The Singapore legal system (pp. 232–233). Singapore: Singapore University Press. Call no.: RSING 349.5957 SIN.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Singapore – Aftermath of War". U.S. Library of Congress. Retrieved 18 June 2006.
  6. "Towards Self-government". Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, Singapore. Retrieved 18 June 2006.
  7. Electoral representation for new Singapore Council. (1946, April 2). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tan, T. Y. L. (1999). The Singapore legal system (pp. 40–42). Singapore: Singapore University Press. Call no.: RSING 349.5957 SIN.
  8. N. Borneo becomes a colony. (1946, July 16). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Coordinates: 1°22′N103°48′E / 1.367°N 103.800°E / 1.367; 103.800