Academic journal article Borneo Research Bulletin

From British Military Intelligence to Financial Secretary of Sarawak: John Pike 1945-1967

Academic journal article Borneo Research Bulletin

From British Military Intelligence to Financial Secretary of Sarawak: John Pike 1945-1967

Article excerpt

After raiders from Indonesian Kalimantan killed the Chief Minister's brother on 27 June 1965, retribution fell on the local Chinese, although Special Branch investigations indicated they had not been directly involved in the raid on the 18th Mile police station. British military leaders and the head of the Malaysian Police Force pressed for the immediate resettlement of some 60,000 Chinese in areas where there were communists. Fortunately for many Chinese, the voice of an Acting Chief Secretary prevailed and resettlement was limited to some 8,000 living in the vicinity of the raid. (1) The Acting Chief Secretary was John Pike.

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The ending of World War Two in Europe (4 May 1945) signaled the beginning of the end for Japanese supremacy in the Far East. By then John Pike, who had studied Japanese at university, was a captain in the Intelligence Corps. (2) He had been commissioned in late 1943 upon his arrival in India, attached very briefly to the Rajputana Rifles, then posted to Advanced HQ, 11 Army Group, Ceylon, where he was sworn in to the Ultra [secret] list. (3) He worked on the Japanese Order of Battle, which was essential for the planning of Operation Zipper to oust the Japanese occupying forces from Malaya. (4) After leave and more study of Japanese, Pike was about to begin parachute training to go with the paratroopers on Operation Zipper when the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. (5) Immediately the airdrop part of Operation Zipper was canceled and Pike was posted to Pegu in Burma. After the Japanese surrender on 2 September 1945, he became involved in looking into war crimes with an emphasis on segregating Japanese soldiers who were to be tried for war crimes from those to be repatriated.

At that time the Merdeka (freedom from Dutch rule) movement was sweeping through Indonesia. After the Japanese surrender, the Japanese 2nd Guards Division in Northern Sumatra handed over most of their weapons to the local Acehnese, assuming they would turn the weapons against the incoming British and Dutch troops. (6) But the Acehnese turned on the Japanese instead, driving them out of their barracks and pinning them down in a 1,000-meter perimeter trench on the beach. Responding to urgent calls for help, Pike and a small group were sent to help extricate the Japanese safely, culminating in his group calling on HMS Caprice, a British frigate, to provide covering firepower while the Japanese were withdrawn by sea. Pike then spent the next 72 hours in non-stop interrogation of Japanese prisoners while returning to Singapore in a Japanese ship in rough seas. (7) In late 1945 following a short stint in the translation section in Singapore dealing with captured Japanese documents, Pike was posted to Kuching, Sarawak, as the second-in-command of the South East Asian Translation and Interrogation Center (SEATIC) Detachment, Borneo. (8) En route, he was briefed in Labuan, the HQ of the 32nd Infantry Brigade, and then flown to Kuching, where he was attached to the 9/14 Punjab, one of the 32nd Infantry Brigade's three battalions.

Travel outside towns in Sarawak was mostly by river and on foot due to lack of roads. (9) One of Pike's early assignments was to recapture two Japanese POWs who were suspected of war crimes and had escaped. Both were armed. The trail led into Dutch Borneo (Kalimantan) through tropical rainforest in undulating terrain where Pike and his patrol group of soldiers and police faced a constant hazard of possible ambush. However, everyone returned to base safely but empty-handed after discovering that Dayaks had already decapitated both POWs. (10) On another occasion, Pike escorted six Japanese POWs suspected of war crimes from Pending to Pontianak in Dutch West Borneo by Sunderland flying-boat. (11) After leaving them at Pending on the Sunderland under only a light guard, Pike belatedly realized the POWs could take over the plane in flight as one was a licensed pilot; so he organized more guards before take off. …

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