Eurasian family histories in Colonial Penang

This Cambridge University article on Eurasian families in Colonial Penang, published in a current issue of  ‘Modern Asian Studies’ journal should be interesting – so far as I can tell, it can only be accessed by either renting it for about $5 online, or buying it for about $30, from the online provider Cambridge Journals. For your info. See link below,
Ilsa Sharp, Perth

Story of Malacca by Elvan Tong


“Story of Malacca” appeared as a three-part series in AMSA’s magazine Passages during 2009 and 2010. For the convenience of readers this is now consolidated into a booklet for easy reading and printing.

“Story of Malacca” is not an exercise in futility. It is but one of several attempts in the search for truth about the demographic, social and economic history of Malaya. It covers several themes – the origins of the peoples of Malaya; the influence of India and China; the early Indianised empires; the Malacca Sultanate; the Hang Tuah legend; the Portuguese occupation of Malacca; the Peranakan heritage.

It can be downloaded from our website download page.


This very interesting read has been approved to be uploaded by Elvan Tong. Many thanks

The History of Malaya In The 40s and 50s

Admin note: 10.04.11 Note sure if any copywrite attaches to these pictures/words. Infringement (If any) is unintended and will happily include owners details and/or remove if/as required. Original passed to Webmaster by a well intentioned member.
Admin note: 24.10.12 – Post removed following input from original author.

Personal Singapore Eurasiana…

If you do not already have them, there are two books by Denyse Tessensohn of Singapore, Elvis Lived in Katong  and Elvis Still Lives in Katong, which are excellent collections of Personal Singapore Eurasiana. Both gems include many authentic food and desert recipes among featured personality profiles, heavy nostalgia, old buildings, jokes, music and historical stuff, across all Eurasian lines.
Too much to mention in fact!  
A celebration of Eurasiana in Singapore
“This is a vibrant cameo of Singapore at it’s best. Share in the abundant feast of growing up Eurasian in Singapore in the 50’s and 60’s. It’s heavy nostalgia stirs memories of “…before Rochore mee became Hokkien mee – Kid Pancho – Rose Chan…”  Vivid portraits are painted of people, places, the Singapore Ballet, Vernon Martinus, the legendary Walnut Torte Cake, Europeans vs The Rest… Rejoice in your Portuguese – Malay heritage, and unravels a concealed history that is astonishing. Cook from authentic Eurasian family recipes. A book to keep and savour. Enjoy!…”
With a forward by David Kraal
Celebrating Eurasiana in old Singapore
“What did you do in the Flying Ant Season? And surely you remember Canal # 5, that low tide fragrance of the Singapore River circa 1967? Were you at the real Bugis Street? Where have Ayer Gemuroh and Beting Kusa vanished to? How would you enjoy being dazzled for the first time by the glorious art of the world famous Errol Le Cain? This is another intriguing collection of Singapore Eurasiana  to be treasured and savoured…”

Both titles published by Dagmar Books in Singapore and illustrated by Steve Hogan, with many B & W photos. To order online, click on the links above or contact :
Ng San May
Select  Books Pte Ltd                                         Malaysia  :  Kinokuniya Bookshop @ Level 4 KLCC

19 Tanglin Road # 03-15                                        Tel : ( 03 )  2164 – 8133   
Tanglin Shopping Centre                                        Customer Service Department or email      
Singapore 247909                                                        mys@kinokuniya.com       
Tel: +  65-6732-1515   
Fax: + 65-6736-0855
Some other links regarding her books :
Do please forward this on to any others who may be interested.
Robert Leembruggen
Pascoe Vale, Melbourne, Australia

Penang Shimbun Newspapers – Various Issues from the year 2605

Thanks to Eustace Boudville we now have from our download section 17.5 issues of the Penang Shimbun Newspaper from WWII. A fasinating insight into a quite different world from that we know today.

Of course in the days it was published the Japanese used a different calender from most of the rest of the world. 2605 was I understand 1942.

I am sure some of you will find these extremely interesting reading. On some there are death notices as well which might prove useful for some family trees.


I also found another interesting site with quite a few more such newspapers:

Down Memory Lane

WebMasters note: Interesting but not too sure about the advertising on the right hand side of the linked blog. Link send to me by CR.

I can relate to some of these memories , we ‘ve come a long long way ….

Especially for those of you who can remember those pre independence days

Thought you might like to take a stroll down memory lane…. this blog site takes a trip back to  yesteryears in Malaya. Do check it out…. it’s worth a read and also to see the photos. 

WW2 – Japanese Occupation – Dr Stanley Esq – RIP…

Thought you all might be inteested in this sad but interesting reading   Bidadari cemetry was my favourite walkabout place   It used to be walking distance from where I used to live in Braddel road  I used to go there so much I remember much of the graves, headstones and interesting stories talked about below  I dont remember this particular grave and story but gee he was a handsome man!  What a wasted talent   Glad it had a happier outcome for the family 

From: claricel
Subject: WW2 – Japanese Occupation – Dr Stanley Esq – RIP…
Date: Sun, 19 Sep 2010 21:06:13 +1000


THE headstone of a well-known English doctor who joined a Singapore medical practice in 1929 and the Malayan Medical Service three years later and was killed by the Japanese in 1943, is now standing at the Garden of Remembrance in Old Choa Chu Kang Road.

Dr Cuthbert Arthur Stanley, who worked in hospitals in Singapore, Muar and Penang, specialising in eye diseases, was accused by the Japanese of being a “master spy” during the war years and brutally tortured to death although there was no evidence to incriminate him…”


- For the full article and photo, go to the link below :


From: andrew hwang  
Sent: 17 September 2010 10:26

Subject: Western Road Cemetery


Dear friends,

The following link is to an article about a Singaporean Eurasian doctor whom most of you have probably heard of. He was buried at the Bidadari Cemetery in Singapore which was later developed. Only his gravestone was saved.



Singapore : Through Sunshine And Shadow By John Van Cuylenberg

1982 – Heinemann Publishing 


Extract from chapter 4   – ”Occupation”



“The most frightful news was soon to come from Johore Bahru. The blowing-up of the Causeway at the Johore end cut us off completely from folk there. A few weeks after they entered the town, the Japanese insisted on the return up-country of all those people who had evacuated with the retreating forces to Singapore. These unfortunate people were compelled to return to KL and other Malayan towns by goods-wagons on the railway, by lorries or even on foot. Be it remembered that the postal and telegraph services only functioned much later, so families that had been split up by the retreat and evacuation were in terrible straits.


Out of all this mix-up, rumours of the terrible massacre by Japanese soldiers of almost the entire Eurasian population of the state of Johore seeped through to us in Singapore. Prior to the entry of the enemy into Johore Bahru before the Causeway was blown up, and before this town itself was subjected to shell fire, it’s inhabitants were in the habit of visiting Singapore regularly. My wife’s two music pupils, Clarice, aged eighteen, and Vida, aged fourteen, continued with their lessons right up to within two weeks of the blowing up of the Causeway. We advised them to stop, pro tem, as the shelling became intense. They told us that it was their intention to remain in JB as their father, who was a clerk-of works in the PWD, was friendly with the authorities. We never saw them again.


Those who wended their way through JB on their way home, upcountry, passed the word round that only a few Eurasians had survived the onslaught of the Japanese. It was only in 1944 when my wife and I were ill at the Seremban Hospital – we were interned at the Roman Catholic Camp at Bahau, 35 miles away – that we heard the full story of the Johore massacre from the lips of one who had been on the verge of being executed, but who through a miracle had been spared – namely a daughter of the rubber planter managing Temiang Estate. Cecil (the planter) was known to me in my boyhood days as a state cricketer. His daughter gave us a very vivid account of the events leading up to the massacre.


It appeared that most of the Eurasians of Johore had congregated at Ulu Tiram Estate, some few miles out of JB; they occupied the manager’s bungalow and outhouses, whilst fighting occurred further north. They felt secure with the Australian troops around them, but this was shortlived. Soon the Australians started their retreat, but before doing so they left some arms and ammunition on the estate. These weapons were retrieved and hidden in the ceiling of the bungalow.


It was not very long before the first Japanese soldiers on bicycles arrived – these patrols always preceded the main attacking force – and panic broke out in the midst of the trapped Eurasians. The men were still concealing the weapons in the ceiling when the enemy arrived. There was some commotion when on Japanese soldier became obnoxious. There was no firing, but the advancing hordes soon rounded up all the unfortunate people they found in the house. One person escaped to tell the tale, a youth of eighteen years. Our informant could not tell us how he escaped…


It must be stated here that before the retreat of the A’s, two of the Eurasians on the estate – one a well known cricketer whose family had evacuated before Singapore fell – decided to leave for Ulu Tiram for JB, the idea being to find out what was happening in the town. These two men were never seen again, but it was aid that the Japanese lured them somewhere and put them to death.


All the males at Ulu Tiram were killed under harrowing circumstances. First, these men were made to dig a long trench, which to all intents and purposes was to be their common grave. They were made to kneel facing the trench with their hands tied behind their backs. Japanese soldiers with fixed bayonets, uttering heinous yells, charged and bayoneted these unfortunate men to death. These executions were repeated, each batch being finished off with Japanese swords. The women and children suffered likewise. The cruel and heartless beast had ordered the gardeners and estate coolies to witness this butchery, and many were the distressing tales told by these individuals…


The last batch of women and children was mercifully spared; and our informant was in this group. She told us that they were all – women and children – kneeling by the newly dug trench, hands tied behind their backs, awaiting the order of the senior Japanese soldier to his underlings to proceed with their nefarious task of murdering innocent women and children when, at the critical moment, the cry of a four year old girl: “Mummy! Mummy! I want to go home, I want to go home” resounded amidst the low sobs of those awaiting death. Then almost at once a loud voice in Japanese shook the soldiers who were at the ready with the fixed bayonets. Immediately the trembling women and children were untied by these same soldiers, and they were ordered to go to the bungalow. The little girl had been instrumental in saving the lives of the last batch to be butchered. The rest lay dead in the various trenches, which were covered up by the kebuns and tappers on orders from the murderers.



After this tragedy, the Japanese left the womenfolk and their children alone for a few days. In the meantime early on morning, Rev Father Louis A., who was in Singapore, had somehow heard of the massacre and he immediately contacted Shinozaki at the Welfare Office of the Tokubetusi. A pass to enable Father A. to proceed to Johore was obtained from the military authorities, and the good Father proceeded by car on his mission of mercy. The shock he received on arrival at Ulu Tiram Estate can better be imagined than described. He had other information obtained on his way to Ulu Tiram, and this he imparted to his listeners, the women who had escaped death. This information was to the effect that the Japanese were making arrangements to take the women and girls to JB ‘comfort houses’ where a life worse than death awaited them. Time was getting short. The women hesitated. They were afraid to leave the bungalow, feeling they would be intercepted on their way to Singapore – and then butchered. Father A. could not delay any longer, and he put it to them finally that he would take away those who wanted to go with him. No other car was available and after much hesitation Father A. was able to get the remains of what had been the whole Eurasian community of Johore away in two overloaded cars. Mercifully they were allowed through the various road blocks – the military pass proved sufficient to ensure their safe conduct.  


Singapore and safety was their destination, and they made it.”




Special Note :  The late John Van Cuylenberg was Ursula Oehlers’ father, who is featured and mentioned by her husband Jock Oehlers’ in his book ‘That’s How It Goes’.

                        Both books compliment each other very well, especially where several specific occurrences can be compared.

“That’s How It Goes” by F.A.C. (Jock) Oehlers


Hi Gerry and Alan

Hear that Jock Oehlers has joined AEAWA as a member. Please feel free to utilize any of the info herein on your website if you see fit.

Best regards


Details from “Jazz In The Jungle” per the previous jAZZrOUNDuP version 

Please note the additional [+] info and links included, the reader’s comments, a list of places to go with the faces, the jazz websites and the special notes at the end…

What do all these persons have in common? 


Sir Ralph Richardson – Lt Gen Arthur Percival – Dr John Van Cuylenberg – Gen Tomoyuki Yamashita – Lionel Goodall – Ms Grace Fox – Dr George Allen – Jean Leembruggen nee Koch – Barbara Kay – Prof JK Munro - Dr Walter Poulier – Gordon Scott – Ong Wee Lee – AJ Braga – HE Woodford – WH Mosbergen – G Shelley – Reikieto Yano – Barbara Van Cuylenburg – Adrian de SilvaBrother Cronan – Sir Archibald McIndoe – Dr Kurt Thoma – Brother Robert – Tan Sri Tay Teck Eng – Dr Lee Khee Wee  +Maideen + Bing Crosby +Carl Schubert  +Augusta Leicester +Mortenson +Dr Barry Pereira - Joseph Conrad – Dr CJ Paglar – Capt Tom Lingard – Nellie Lingard – Colonel Watanabe – Julia Cavalho – Malcolm MacDonald – James Clarke – Wilhemina Cashin – Somerset Maugham – Hazel Van Geyzel – EW Barker – Kenny Leembruggen – Noel Coward - Billy Mayerl ( Britain’s top jazz pianist of the day )Dr Benjamin Sheares – Canon Adams – Lloyd Valberg – Daphne Pye –  Bishop Adrian Devals – Prof EK Tratman – ‘Lulu’ Fitpatrick nee De Souza – Mamoru Shinozaki – Charlie Bolar – Herman de Souza Sato – Philip d’Almeida – Albert Clarke – Harry Trollop – Herman Hoedon – Mr & Mrs Sokolov – Clare & Tony Ryan – Monteiro – Ray O’Hara – Matron Carroll - Benedict de Souza – Cyril Schelkis – John d’Almeida – Charlie Bateman – Ossie Corderio + Glen Miller - Father Becheras – Santokh Singh – Shibayama – Lord Louis Mountbatten – Mr & Mrs Mervyn Koch – Doreen & Ivan Newman - Laura de Souza – Dr Choo Teck Chuan – Major KRR Heine – Dr Henry Goldman – Dr Jaswant Singh Sodhy - Ivor Kramer – Sir William Kelsey Fry – Edmund Hilary & Sherpa Tensing – Lester Piggott – Shirley Bassey – Maria Hertogh – Chong – Dr. Harold Chan – Ronald Lam - David Marshall – Lee Kuan Yew – Perry Como – Erroll Garner – Rose Kennedy – Paul Revere – Ethel Merman – Dr Jamie Robertson  - Sir William Goode – Dr BR Sreenivasan – Tuanku Abdul Rahman – Nan Tessensohn – Dierdre Lauder – Gussie Xavier – Jacob Ballas  Dr Lee Ek Chong +Norman Bell + Dr Harry Spira + Lorraine Meyer + Teoh Eng Hong  +  Elizabeth Somerfield  +  Stafford Somerfield  +  Dr Tan Hwa Luck  +  Joy Malcolm  +  Dr. William Shafer…   and many others…


 They are all mentioned in a new book titled “That’s How It Goes” by Dr Jock Oehlers of Singapore. The book provides fascinating insights into the life and times of the Oehlers family in Singapore and Malaya prior to, during and after the fall of Singapore in 1942. It paints vivid pictures of the Japanese Occupation and it’s effects on the local and expatriate populations, covering those who went to form the Bahau Catholic Colony in Negri Sembilan, Malaya, and those who stayed behind or tried to leave Syonan


Imagine, as a dental student having to give up your patent rights for “Kulene” tooth powder to an executive from the Matsusakaya Department Store, which had taken over Robinson’s in Raffles Place. Imagine a Japanese soldier playing love songs on his sister-in-law’s piano. Imagine that same much loved piano travelling from a family home in Singapore into the muddy and deep jungles of Bahau… And imagine the formation of a four piece jazz band in this new colony, stemming from their common love of music despite very harsh conditions, which included food shortages and malaria!  Jock then became the dentist of Fuji-go ( Bahau ). Those who did survive, finally and happily made their way back home to Singapore…as did some of the Japanese, who were in fact good-guys, back to Japan…


Jock Oehlers’ excellent autobiography also covers time spent in Malacca where a second jazz band was formed, and in Britain and the USA after World War 2…and is named after an original song that he wrote as a young man.  It is indeed a labour of love!


+ The music is reproduced in the book with a new arrangement by his grandson, jazz saxophonist, Jamie Oehlers. Glen Miller’s famous dance piece ‘In The Mood’ is also referred to, and Jamie and Australian jazz pianist Mark Fitzgibbon have collaborated to produce a further score of “That’s How It Goes”.


A copy of this historical and motivational book should reside in the library of every club, school and university in Singapore, Malaysia, and beyond!


Robert Leembruggen




Some places mentioned in this book:


Raffles Hotel : Kandang Kerbau Market : Singapore Island Country Club : The SRC : Itzehoe, Schleszwig-Holstein, Danish Protectorate : Oehlers Lodge : FMS Hostel : St Paul’s Church : St Andrew’s School : Newton Rd : Sungei Road Thieves Market : King Edward VII College of Medicine : Singapore Cricket Club : Aurora Dept Store : Kuala Pilah : Malacca General Hospital : The Stadthuys : Heeren Street : Penang : “Moon Gate “ – Cameron Highlands : Eastman Dental Hospital : Raffles Girl’s School : Tanglin Road Shopping Centre : Montreaux Jazz Festival : The York Hotel : The Koninklijke Pakevart Maatschappij Building : Portman Mansions : Bukit China : Perth Modern School : “Grofmo” – Tanah Merah : The Siam Death Railway


In addition, several warships and passenger liners of the era are also mentioned…





“That’s How It Goes…”  

Available on Amazon.com


+ Front and back covers, and an extract are viewable on this link, together with endorsements by author Martha Scully – Sheperdson, Councillor Ron Ravenhall, Rugby Borough, UK, and a inspirational foreword by Prof. Arthur Lim, MD (Hon), FRCS, as they appear in the book. 


Review from The South China Post…



And what some readers have to say…


“F.A.C. “Jock” Oehlers’ autobiographical book “That’s How it Goes” is an engaging account about the experiences of a member of Singapore’s minority Eurasian community from pre-WW2 to the post war years.  The book’s cover photo of a car parked at the side of a narrow road, which leads through deserted jungle vegetation, poignantly captures Oehlers’ journey back to the dark years of his wartime internment at Bahau, Malaysia.  It is but a part of the story of his revisiting his life, for the book also captures his heartfelt memories.


Oehlers uses the language of his generation, (definitely not ‘Singlish’) which reinforces the values of those times: the British system of education, hard work, aspirational goals, the encouragement of sporting prowess (certainly a tension release for the colonised); and enjoyment and expertise in music.  This latter value was simply taken to be a quality almost innate to a Eurasian.


As Oehlers’ life story was originally meant for his immediate family, the wider audience of readers are therefore provided with a very personal insight into the fear and hardships of the wartime occupation years in particular.


Oehlers’ formative years were when race or ethnicity determined one’s place in the social hierarchy, and from his various comments through the book, the reader is able to grasp the humiliation of being subject to the colonial system (whether British or Japanese).  The book does not engage in lengthier comment and debate on this issue, rather it is limited to Oehlers’ dilemma as a Eurasian in the immediate post war era: which side do you most passionately argue for – the colonised or the colonisers?


Oehlers’ recollection of his wife’s conversion to Catholicism, and then the necessity of her reverting back again to her original Protestantism, was an interesting contrast to their being invited by friends to co-enjoy the festivals of the other religions: Hari Raya, Deepavali and Thaipusam. The end of colonialism left religious difference to fill the vacuum as the active divider of communities and disadvantage, which was a factor in the Oehlers’ quitting of Singapore.  He left his lifestyle of servant help and Eurasian friends, but in keeping with the theme of ‘That’s How It Goes’ the reader is left in no doubt that he made the right decision. - Dr Diane Kraal, Research Fellow, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia



“I found “That’s How It Goes” by Dr Jock Oehlers to be an excellent book about what happened during World War II when the Eurasian community or a good portion thereof, were sent to Bahau, in Negri Sembilan for enforced settlement in an agricultural colony.


As you may be aware, many of my family and friends died when they were interned in South Sumatra, after the sinking of the Vyner Brooke, and it is of tremendous interest to me, and other survivors to learn what happened in Bahau.  Jock Oehlers tells his story vividly and clearly. It is only through his book that we are able to learn what actually happened during those dreadful days in such detail.  It is a book well worth having.” – Ralph E H Armstrong, Author of “Short Cruise On The Vyner Brooke”, Queensland, Australia



“I enjoyed ‘That’s How it Goes’ by Jock Oehlers immensely. His account of a fascinating upbringing in Singapore before World War 2 followed by the grueling experiences he and his young wife and children experienced after the fall of Singapore, I’m sure will interest most readers. Jock’s limited experience during this time, as a student of Oral Surgery [ of which he eventually became a Professor ], made him indispensable [ and to the Japanese as well ] and enabled the family to stay afloat and cope.  His ability and skills as a musician also helped to keep everyone in the prisoner of war camp’s spirits up and somehow he managed to find enough musicians to form a dance band!


Following the war, Jock’s three sons were eventually sent to Perth for higher education and many years later Jock and his wife joined them there in retirement.  As a result of all this, Perth and Australia have had the immense pleasure of his grandson Jamie’s musical brilliance. Jamie Oehlers’ great talent is now recognised worldwide……….and that’s how it goes! 


This book is a credit to it’s author, and will hopefully inspire others to record their memoirs for posterity.  Thank you Jock for a great read!” – Diana Allen, Director, Jazz Australia, Melbourne


+ To order ONLINE :  http://www.selectbooks.com.sg/getTitle.aspx?SBNum=045464