Papers of Sir Thomas S.W. Thomas

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Correspondence, memoranda etc. as Governor of the Straits Settlements and High Commissioner for the Malay States, regarding the fall of Singapore and Malaya's war effort.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Thomas Shenton Whitelegge Thomas, OBE (1919), CMG (1929), KCMG (1931), GCMG (1937), was born in London, England, on the 10 October 1879. He was educated at St. John's School in Leatherhead, and Queens' College, Cambridge (he was elected an honorary fellow of the College in 1935).

In 1909, Thomas was appointed Assistant District Commissioner in the East Africa Protectorate. He was transferred to Uganda in 1918, to Nigeria in 1921, and to the Gold Coast in 1927 where he was Colonial Secretary.

After holding the posts of Governor of Nyasaland (1929) and Governor of the Gold Coast (1932), Thomas was appointed Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Straits Settlements, High Commissioner for the Malay States, and British agent for North Borneo and Sarawak (1934). This appointment was due to end in September 1939 but Thomas agreed to continue in his post during the Second World War. During the war, the Straits Settlements (which comprised the four trade centres of Penang, Singapore, Malacca, and Labuan) were occupied by the Japanese and Thomas and his wife were interned in Changi Gaol in Singapore. Thomas was subsequently transferred to Formosa in Taiwan (August 1942) and to Manchuria (October 1944) where he was liberated by American forces in August 1945. In September of the same year he was reunited in Calcutta with his wife, who had been interned in Singapore throughout, and they returned to England.

Thomas tried, without success, to correct what he felt to be the bias and prejudice in the official history of the war against Japan and to include in it an adequate appreciation of the sufferings of the people of the Straits Settlements and Malay States during the Japanese occupation. His request that a report which he wrote should be published was refused.

After officially retiring in 1946, Thomas was Chairman of the Overseas League (1946-1949), Chairman of the British Empire Leprosy Relief Association (1949-1955), a member of the governing body of St. John's School in Leatherhead (from 1948), and Vice-President of the Fauna Preservation Society (from 1955). He died in London on the 15 January 1962.

Conditions Governing Access

Bodleian reader's ticket required.

Note

Collection level description created by Marion Lowman, Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House.

Administrative/Biographical History compiled with reference to the Dictionary of National Biography .

Other Finding Aids

The library holds a card index of all manuscript collections in its reading room and a handlist is also available for this collection.

Listed as no. 337 in Manuscript Collections (excluding Africana) in Rhodes House Library, Oxford, compiled by Louis B. Frewer (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1970).

Conditions Governing Use

No reproduction or publication of personal papers without permission. Contact the library in the first instance.