Wootton to Dunk

Memorandum (extract) 19 October 1945,


Death of Mr V. G. Bowden In company with Mr. V.G. Bowden [1] and Mr. J.P. Quinn [2] I left Singapore on the morning of Sunday, 15th February [1942], on the launch ‘Mary Rose’, under circumstances which have been referred to in a separate memorandum. [3]

The ‘Mary Rose’ was eventually brought to anchor in Muntok Harbour at about 10.30 a.m. on Tuesday, 17th February, having been picked up by Japanese patrol vessels in Banka Straits in the early hours of that morning.

At about 2.30 p.m. we were landed on Muntok Jetty. Our baggage was subjected to examination and I later learned that Mr. Bowden, who was not alongside Mr. Quinn and me at the time, had angry words with the Japanese guard in regard to some article which they proposed to take from him. He did not mention the matter to me or to Mr. Quinn when we later came together again.

We were then marched down the Jetty to a building on the foreshore-a cinema hall-where we found there was already a large number of British, Dutch, etc. captives, both civilians and services, being held. In this building a space had been barricaded off from the remainder of the hall and into this space were brought newcomers, who, after further examination of their baggage, were pushed through the barrier to join some hundreds of other people in the other portion of the hall.

Shortly after our entrance into the hall Mr. Bowden approached one of the Japanese guards with the intention of making known his status, and requesting that he be permitted to interview a Japanese officer. Just at that moment I was ordered by a guard to come forward to have my baggage examined, and following upon this examination I was pushed through the barrier into the main part of the hall and was not again in contact with Mr. Bowden. From that point, however, I witnessed an altercation taking place between one of the Japanese guards and Mr. Bowden. Apparently they were exchanging heated words and the guard was punching Mr. Bowden and endeavouring to throw him on the floor; he was also making passes at Mr. Bowden’s throat with his bayonet. It appeared to me that he was also endeavouring to remove Mr. Bowden’s gold wristlet watch and a gold bangle to which his gold identity disk was attached. I observed that the guard, after striking Mr. Bowden several times, went away to another part of the hall, but shortly afterwards he returned in company with another Japanese guard and indicated, by signs to Mr. Bowden, that he was to accompany them. It was impossible for me to make any contact with the party. I saw Mr.

Bowden remove his coat and a small golf ball bag which he wore over his shoulder, and which I knew contained his passport and various personal papers. He drew himself up, squared his shoulders and marched out of the hall between the two guards who were carrying their rifles with bayonets fixed. That was the last that I saw of Mr. Bowden, but about half an hour later I heard the sound of two shots being fired, and shortly afterwards the guards returned to the hall and were observed cleaning their rifles.

A short time after this Mr. Quinn was with a small party sent to fetch water from a house close-by for the use of the people being held in the cinema hall, and whilst he was with this party he was approached by the Japanese guard who had originally attacked Mr.

Bowden and who apparently recognised Mr. Quinn as being associated with him. He indicated, by signs to Mr. Quinn, that he had shot the ‘short man’ whom he had taken from the hall.

I consulted with a Captain Morgan, a Japanese language expert who was formerly a member of the special branch of the Malayan Police Force, and who was a member of our party on the ‘Mary Rose’, and also with Colonels Hill and Dalley who were also members of our party, as to whether it would be possible for me to take any action or make any enquiries or endeavour to contact a Japanese officer with a view to ascertaining what had happened to Mr.


These three officers were most emphatic in their opinion that I could not hope to achieve anything by adopting any of the courses which I had suggested and expressed their opinions that should I act in such a way, I would doubtless be endangering, not only my own life, but also that of Mr. Quinn and quite possibly other members of our party. They strongly represented to me that I should take no action which would let it be known that I was associated with Mr. Bowden, or had any inkling of the fate which we presumed had befallen him. I eventually agreed that the wisest course would be to take no further action in the matter.

[matter omitted]

A. N. WOOTTON Formerly Australian Commercial Secretary in Malaya


1 Australian Official Representative at Singapore from 29 September 1941.

2 Bowden’s Political Secretary, interned in Singapore 1942-45.

3 Dated 17 October. On file AA : A1066, H45/580/6/4. See also Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. V, Documents 322, 326 and 333.


[AA : A1066, H45/580/6/4]