The mutineers attempted to seize control of the islands and disable the British garrison. It was claimed that the mutineers also planned to transfer the islands to the Empire of Japan
However, the mutiny was defeated, the mutineers punished, and the three ringleaders executed; the only British Commonwealth
servicemen to be executed for mutiny during the Second World War.
With the Japanese successes, public sentiment on Ceylon increased in favour of the Japanese; encouraged by successful Japanese-trained and -directed rebellions in Indonesia and support for Japanese forces in Thailand, Sinkiang
and the Philippines, many Ceylonese hoped that the Japanese would help them gain independence. At this time a young J.R. Jayawardene
, later to be President of Sri Lanka, held discussions with the Japanese with this aim in mind. However, this was immediately stopped by D S Senanayake
who collaborated with the Colonial Government, being rewarded with the Premiership, being hand-picked to lead the post-colonial government after 1948.
On the night of 8 May, 30 out of 56 personnel of the Ceylon Garrison Artillery on Horsburgh Island
in the Cocos Islands
mutinied, intending to hand the islands over to the Japanese. The plan was to arrest Captain Gardiner, the British Battery Commanding Officer and his deputy, Lieutenant Stephens, disarm the troops loyal to the British Empire
, turn the 6-inch guns on the CLI troops on Direction Island, and to signal the Japanese on Christmas Island
, which the Japanese had occupied on 3 March 1942.
However, the soldiers all proved to be poor shots with small arms: one soldier, Gunner Samaris Jayasekera was killed, and Lieutenant Stephens wounded by them, and the rebels' sole Bren gun
jammed at a crucial moment as Gratien Fernando
, the leader of the mutiny, had it aimed at Gardiner. The rebels then attempted to turn the 6-inch guns on Direction Island, but were overpowered.
Messages sent by Fernando were received in Ceylon, indicating that there was co-operation between him and both the CLI troops and the Australian signalers on Direction Island, however, none of them took part in the mutiny. The CLI helped to put down the mutineers. He declared he had surrendered on condition that he would be tried in Colombo
; it may be that he intended to give a speech from the dock to inspire his compatriots. However, the 15 mutineers were court-martialed on the Cocos Islands by Gardiner. Seven of the men who were found guilty were sentenced to death, with four of these sentences commuted to terms of imprisonment.
Gunner Samaris Jayasekera was buried with full military honours on Horsburgh Island on the evening of 10 May and later reburied in Singapore's Kranji War Memorial
Fernando was defiant to the end, confidently believing that he would be remembered as a patriot, and refused a commutation of punishment. He was executed on 5 August 1942 at Welikada Prison, and two other mutineers shortly thereafter. Fernando's last words were "Loyalty to a country under the heel of a white man is disloyalty".
The three mutineers were the only British Commonwealth troops to be executed for mutiny during the Second World War. The CDF detachment in Cocos Islands
returned just before Christmas 1942, these veterans had their promotions suspended and denied the campaign medals for active war service. No Ceylonese combat regiment was deployed by the British in a combat situation after the Cocos Islands Mutiny. However, support units were deployed, most notably in North Africa. The defences of Ceylon were increased to three British army divisions
because the island was strategically important, holding almost all the British Empire's resources of rubber
that remained after the fall of Malaya
. Rationing was instituted so that the Ceylonese were comparatively better fed than their Indian neighbours, in order to prevent disaffection among the natives.
's anti-colonial agitation now included references to the Cocos Islands Mutiny as public opposition at British colonial rule continued to grow. Sir Oliver Ernest Goonetilleke
, the Civil Defence Commissioner complained that the British commander of Ceylon, Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton
called him a 'black bastard'.
- ^ a b L, Klemen (1999–2000). "Cocos Islands during World War II". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942.
- ^ L, Klemen (1999–2000). "The Mystery of Christmas Island, March 1942". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942.
- ^ Journal
- Arsecularatne, SN, Sinhalese immigrants in Malaysia & Singapore, 1860-1990: History through recollections, KVG de Silva & Sons, Colombo, 1991
- Crusz, Noel, The Cocos Islands Mutiny, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, Fremantle, WA, 2001
- L, Klemen (1999–2000). "Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942". Archived from the original on 26 July 2011.
- Muthiah, Wesley and Wanasinghe, Sydney, Britain, World War 2 and the Sama Samajists, Young Socialist Publication, Colombo, 1996
Last edited on 28 April 2021, at 02:05
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