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The Battle of Surabaya

Following the Japanese surrender at the beginning of September, 1945 British forces were in action in French Indochina and the former Dutch East Indies, Indonesia. One empire was collapsing – another was struggling to be born… By September Mountbatten could no longer put off tackling the tumult in Indonesia. Although the SOE was being wound down, SEAC was receiving misleading reports from Dutch agents, known as ‘Flying Dutchmen’, that the situation in Java was calm. SEAC had set up RAPWI (Recovery of Allied Prisoners of War and Internees) to locate the POW and internment camps in Java and Sumatra and provide assistance and support to the prisoners. An agreement had been hammered out with the Dutch on 24 August that handed responsibility for Java and Sumatra to the British and the outer islands to the Australians. They would work towards the ‘Netherlands Indies Civil Affair Administration’, the NICA, that had been established in Australia by the Dutch colonial government in exile. In the Netherlands Queen Wilhelmina was under pressure from the Dutch business elite to ‘sort out the Indonesians’. The Queen obliged by insisting that her kingdom was ‘indivisible’. With an eye on the Americans the Dutch government made a […]
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Britain’s War in Vietnam

THE BRITISH VIETNAM WAR The modern nations of Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos occupy the former imperial realm of Indochine. The French had first taken an interest in the bulbous peninsula that lies wrapped around the Siamese border east of India and southeast of China when the British had begun squeezing them out of India at the end of the eighteenth century. French Catholic missionaries were the vanguard of conquest and from the mid-nineteenth century Gallic colonisers chipped away at the local kingdoms under the pretext of protecting its missionary expeditions. Saigon, the main city of Cochin China (Southern Vietnam), was captured early in 1859 and, with British connivance, the French carved out an eastern empire. Following war with China in the 1880s French Indochina was formally established in October 1887 from Annam, Tonkin, Cochin China, which occupied the territory of modern Vietnam, and the Kingdom of Cambodia. Laos was added after a war with Siam. The building of ‘Indochine’ was a very nasty business. According to Governor-General Albert Sarraut, ‘Indochina is from all points of view, the most important, the most developed and the most prosperous of our colonies…’ Although the French maintained a façade of Annamite sovereignty by coercing […]
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