Friday, 10 January 2014

Malayan Union: Sir Shenton Thomas

I have an old photograph of Sir Shenton Thomas in 1939, before the Malayan Union was formed. This photo belonged to my late grandfather, Mohd Yusope bin Haji Mohd Sharif, who was called Walid by his children. Walid was then an entomologist in Kuala Lumpur, and was a keen photographer. He had photographed a lot of things and events during his lifetime (1897-1954). After WWII in Malacca, Walid and his Malay men were against the Malayan Union and they had set up UMNO Melaka, and elsewhere, to fight back and hold on to a Malay-owned Tanah Melayu. Unfortunately, he passed away before Merdeka, after UMNO was formed in 1946.

Jawi caption: Tuan Gabenor Shenton Thomas 1939.
Rear of ppc: Governor of SS & FMS.
Photograph and caption by Mohd Yusope bin Haji Mohd Sharif (Walid)
Enlarged portrait of Sir Shenton Thomas 1939.
Photograph by Walid.


Sir Thomas Shenton Whitelegge Thomas (1879-1962), GCMG, GCStJ, commonly known as Sir Shenton Thomas.

Shenton Thomas was born on 10 October 1879, in Southwark, London to The Rev Thomas William Thomas and his wife Charlotte Susanna (Susie) née Whitelegge. He was educated at St. John's School, Leatherhead and Queens' College, Cambridge.

Before he went to Malaya as the colonial administrator, Thomas was the Governor of Nyasaland from 1929 to 1932. He was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (GCMG) in 1930.

He was the last Governor of the Straits Settlements. He served from 1934 to 1942 during which time World War II began.

Thomas was a prisoner-of-war during the Japanese occupation of Singapore, 15 February 1942 - 15 August 1945, having decided to stay in Singapore during the war. He was imprisoned in Cell 24 of Changi Prison along with Ernest Tipson.

After the war, Thomas remained as the 11th British High Commissioner in Malaya (9 November 1934 - 1 April 1946), until the Malayan Union was established and succeeded the British administration in the Straits Settlements (except for Singapore, which was created a separate colony), Federated Malay States and Unfederated Malay States, where the post of Governor-General of the Malayan Union was created.

Thomas established the King George V Park in Malaya (later renamed the National Park of Malaysia).

Today, Shenton Way, located in Singapore's business district, is named after him.

Thomas died on 15 January 1962, at his home in London. He was 82.


He married Lucy Marguerite (Daisy) Montgomery on 11 April 1912 at St Jude's Church, Kensington, London, with issue.

His daughter, Mary Bridget Thomas (1914 - 1998), born in Nairobi, Kenya, married 1st Lt-Col Jack Leslie Harry Lotinga, and married 2nd in 1965 Nicholas Eliot, 9th Earl of St Germans.

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