Malaysiakini : The 11 men of the MSG were given sentences of simple imprisonment –
ranging from nine months to two years – for having arms in their
There are also a few renowned academicians who stated
erroneously that all of the men of the 5th Light Infantry joined the
The truth is the 1915 Singapore Mutiny was started and
conducted almost entirely by less than one-half of the 5th Light
Infantry regiment - the right wing comprising Rajput Muslims.
The left wing of the regiment consisting of Pathans and Muslim Jats remained largely loyal.
a local history professor writing in an international journal (2014)
about the 1915 Singapore Mutiny stated ridiculously that “...sepoy
Ismail Khan fired the first shot killing the truck’s crew as well as
those of the other remaining trucks.”
How can a single shot kill a number of people? The truth is Ismail Khan’s shot did not even kill a single person.
Causes of the mutiny
to the causes of the 1915 Singapore Mutiny, it was the result of the
interaction of various internal and external factors.
authorities tried their utmost to blame the outbreak of the mutiny on
internal factors, primarily regimental jealousy, while downplaying the
disruptive influences from outside, particularly that of the Ghadar
In the words of Philip Mason, an authority on the Indian
Army: “The mutiny at Singapore had the classic ingredients of any
Indian mutiny – ineffective officers, disruptive influence from outside,
[and] a military grievance.”
According to the Court of Inquiry’s
findings, the prime cause of the mutiny had been “the very
unsatisfactory state of discipline which had prevailed in the 5th Light
Infantry apparently for some time.”
There was a low state of
morale in the regiment. The Indian commissioned officers had scant
admiration for the Commanding Officer of the regiment,
He also meddled in almost every disciplinary case, often reversing judgements given by officers in Orderly Room cases.
actions of Martin naturally angered the officers for it undermined
their authority over the sepoys. Additionally, the British officers
themselves were divided into two hostile camps.
Another cause was
that the mutinous Rajput Muslims were distressed by rumours that the
regiment was to be sent to Europe to fight against the Turks who were
In November 1914, Sultan Mehmed V of Turkey -
Ottoman Empire - declared a jihad or holy war against Britain and her
allies wherein all Muslims were obliged to support Turkey and Germany.
Britain had earlier in August 1914, declared war on Germany.
Ridout, General Officer Commanding the Troops in the Straits
Settlements, whilst inspecting the regiment on the morning of Feb 15,
1915, did not mention the destination - Hong Kong - of the 5th Light
Infantry when referring to their departure the next day at the call of
The agitators and rumour mongers stirred dissatisfaction by
spreading the news that the regiment was bound for Turkey and arguing
that Muslim soldiers should not be battling one another when the real
enemies were Britain and France, and not Turkey or Germany.
to Rene Onraet, a former Inspector-General of Police, Straits
Settlements, the 5th Light Infantry was “corrupted by German agents.”
Jan 23 till Feb 12, 1915 - relieved by men of the Johore Military
Forces - about 50 men of the 5th Light Infantry, including Sepoy Ismail
Khan who fired the first shot to signal the beginning of the mutiny,
were ordered to guard the German prisoners-of-war at Tanglin Barracks.
Lauterbach, a German prisoner of war, apparently stirred up sedition
among some of the Indian soldiers by regaling that the Germans and their
allies were winning the war in Europe and that the stories about
British victories in France were false.
He also apparently told
Jemadar Chisti Khan that the European cold climate would kill all the
soldiers for Indian troops in Europe “do not die gloriously in battle;
they die like sick dogs.”
German propaganda also deviously
declared that the Kaiser had embraced Islam, made his pilgrimage to
Mecca, and was the special protector of Islam.
There is also
substantial evidence to prove that the Singapore Mutiny was not an
“isolated incident” but rather a part of the Ghadar movement’s history.
Ghadarites who played a major role in inciting the Indian troops at
Singapore to rebel include Mujtaba Hussain @ Mul Chand, Gian Chand, Hira
Singh, Giani Vir Singh, and Santokh Singh.
In the words of FC
Isemonger and J Slattery who were Punjab police officials: “There is
little reason for doubt, however, that without the incitements and
misrepresentations of the Ghadr party the mutiny would have been most
improbable, whatever grievances or indiscipline there might have been in
Indeed, it was part of the Ghadar movement’s
strategy to seduce men of the British Indian Army to rebel as they not
only had access to weapons but knew how to use them as well.
conclude, the 1915 Singapore Mutiny was a rebellion against the British
Raj brought about largely by the twin extraneous factors of Pan-Islamism
and Ghadar propaganda which found favour in an ill-disciplined regiment
characterised by ineffective leadership, disruptive factionalism among
both the British and Indian officers, and low morale.