Monday, August 20, 2007

History - Sarikei Part 4. World War II. 1941-1945

Just when Sarikei was on the path of growth in the late 1930's-1941, she couldn't escape the fate of World War II. On the morning of 25 Dec 1941, 9 Japanese bombers, in groups of 3, attacked Sibu. (Source: 1). The Japanese planes were likely the Zero, the feared fighter planes.

WS Buck was the District Officer of Lower Rejang (Sarikei District) at that time. After he escaped to Australia, he wrote a detailed account of events in a letter to the Sarawak Government in exile in Australia in 1942.

Japanese WWII Plane
Mitsubishi A6M2 "Zero"
How Stuff works

Japanese war planes were over Sarikei and Binatang daily in groups of 3 or 7 but both escaped bombing. WS Buck received instructions to destroy the Defence Scheme. Air raid shelters were built under each kampong house and in the quarters of Government servants. Wireless stations were sandbagged for protection. Food stocks were distributed throughout clerks' quarters and schools as a protection against malicious burning.

On 28th Dec at 6.20am, WS Buck was alerted by Inche Morshidi (Native Officer, Binatang) that a Malay had escaped from Sibu that night to Binatang and reported that Sibu has been captured. The Japanese (800 strong) were in Sibu and were coming down the Rejang River. Soon later that day, Fr. Quadekker (the founder of St Anthony's School) received a call from his ex-pupil in Binatang that the Japanese were already in Binatang and were heading for Sarikei.

WS Buck handed Sarikei and its treasury contents of $200K over to the Native Officer, Abang Hj. Abdul Rahim and the Treasury clerk, Siaw Ah Koon (the road in front of JKR is named after him). Mr Buck, Mr Murray (Settlement Officer), Fr. Quadekker and other Europeans fled on the ship, ML Slyvia, towards Selalang. By then, the Sarikei bazaar and kampong were evacuated.

It was an incredible 3-week escape by the group via Selalang-Roban-Saratok-Debak and to Ulu Saribas-Engkilili-Lubok Antu-Dutch Borneo-Batavia (Jakarta). Fr. Quadekker joined the local mission at Pontianak (Dutch Kalimantan) and was sent to Singkawang. You have to read the details at the website and decide for yourself whether they should have deserted Sarikei or stayed on to fight (and most certainly would have ended up as prisoners.)

(Source: 2. Submitted by Ikan Sembilang)

Pussy's in the well.
Japanese Occupation of Sarawak 1941-1945.
By Julitta Lim Shau Hua

On 27 Dec 1941, Sarikei denizens heard that a group of 100+ Dayaks were coming to town to loot. 1000+ Chinese and Malays armed themselves and when the Dayaks reached the river bank and saw the huge "army", they dared not go ashore. The Dayaks sent reps to negotiate with the Chinese and Malay leaders. As a pledge for peace, a pig was slaughtered as per native customs. The Chinese gave each Dayak $5 (not a small amount in those days) and a few katis of rice before the Dayaks departed. (Source: 1)

During the Japanese Occupation, there was 12 Japanese soldiers in Sarikei. 2 came to St Anthony's School brandishing swords & ordered all teachers to stand in a line. They ordered the teachers to start teaching Japanese the next day. The Japanese arranged Japanese language training. The Catholic fathers & sisters were imprisoned. St. Anthony's School was closed down & used as a store & office for the Japanese. The Japanese didn't use the Sarikei District Office because they were afraid of been bombed by the Allies. (Source: 3)

If the Japanese were not defeated by the Allies in 1945, the staple dish of Sarikei would have been udon noodles and not kampua.


(1) Pussy's in the well, Japanese Occupation of Sarawak 1941-1945, Chapter 5. By Julitta Lim Shau Hua.

(2) Sarawak Government in exile. By W.S. Buck.

(3) 1979 Anthonian. St. Anthony's School's magazine. Interview with teacher Mr. Hii Ing King.


Daniel Yiek said...

After the war, WS Buck was reprimanded for deserting Sarikei. One of the Europeans (WG Morrison - not Hedda Morrsion's husband Alastair Morrison who became assistant District Officer of Sarikei in 1947-48) returned to Sarikei and was captured. See his letter at

The book "Masa Jepun" will be a compelling read for those interested in WWII in Sarawak.

stlau said...

About the Dayak incidence in 1941, this confirmed what my grandpa told me about the Sarikei "army" stretching from the express wharf to the Methodist Town Church. (I think I wrote this in the comment column once?) Let's try to find out more about Sarikei during WW2.

Ikan Sembilang said...

Talking about Hedda’s husband, Alastair Morrison, I’ve just sent him a letter trying to find out whether he has any recollection of seeing glass window or door panels in the office he used to work in 1947/1948, which prompted our forefathers to call the building ‘po lay shu’. I am keeping my fingers crossed that at the age of 92, he is still young enough to remember and, hopefully, will give a reply that might help solve the ‘glass house’ puzzle.

Daniel Yiek said...

Does anyone know what role did "W.G." Morrison play in Sarikei? His name was featured a lot during the WWII days. The answer is likely in the book "Masa Jepun" (Japanese Times) because he provided a quote after the war. He didnt follow the rest of the Europeans to cross the border to Dutch Kalimantan but returned to Sarikei.

Since there's so much interest on history (there's a spike in readership), the next post on Thu will still be on history (part 5), a key event in Sarikei after the war. Still working on it.

Daniel Yiek said...

"Masa Jepun" book review at

Daniel Yiek said...

WG Morrison was the Assisant District Officer (ADO) at that time according to this book:

Rising Sun Over Borneo: The Japanese Occupation of Sarawak, 1941-1945 By Keat Gin Ooi. Page 34

Daniel Yiek said...

Ikan Sembilang wrote to Alastair Morrison, former Asst District Officer for Sarikei District. His wife, Hedda Morrison, took those old Sarikei pics. Click "Hedda" label on sidebar.

He remembers Mr. Ngu Ee King, the late owner of the textile shop and Southern Hotel at No. 21 Repok Road (Shop # 6, Block 3 Left from Rejang River), whom he had helped to obtain a 12-bore shotgun.

----- Original Message -----
To: (Ikan Sembilang - email address removed)
Sent: Thursday, August 30, 2007 4:55 PM
Subject: from Alastair Morrison

Thank you for your interesting letter. I never heard the name ' Glass House' nor do I remember glass windows. I well remember Mr Ngu EE King and I am delighted to know that his family are still running the textile business he founded after his success as a pioneer pepper planter.

I think there must be additional photos of Sarikei amongst the negatives stored in Cornell. I now have serious problems with my sight but I had my 92nd birthday on August 24.

With best wishes and kind regards, Alastair Morrison

This was dictated to me , his cousin, on the afternoon of August 30th.
Melissa McCarthy

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