November 11th is celebrated as Remembrance Day, which was originally to recall the end of World War One and for sombre recollection of the terrible slaughter. Ever since then, it has been used for reflection upon the slaughter of all wars.
In Surabaya, East Java, on this date in 1945, fierce fighting continued between Indonesian nationalists and British troops who’d been sent there to release former prisoners of the Japanese (who’d occupied the Dutch East Indies, as the country was then) and to keep the peace until Dutch was government reinstalled. However, local nationalists suspected the Brits of wanting to hand their land back to colonial rule, and armed conflict broke out. On 9 November, the Allied command issued an ultimatum that all unauthorised arms must be handed in immediately. The Republicans refused to be cowed, and next morning the British forces commenced operations to occupy the whole city.
There was savage fighting, including hand-to-hand combat, but the Indonesians rarely seemed to lose courage. Allied artillery and aircraft tore holes in business districts and residential areas alike, while British warships shelled the northern and eastern parts of the city. By the end of the day, hundreds of Allied troops and many thousands of Indonesians lay dead. Regrettably, it was just the start of three weeks of serious fighting and ongoing conflict after that.
To find out what happened before and after this fateful day, see my posts “DUTCH EAST INDIES October 1945” and “DUTCH EAST INDIES November 1945”.
The East Indies in the late 1940s forms the setting for a major strand of my novel, Shadow Chase. Check it out at http://www.shadow-chase.com, where you can also find other material related to Indonesia.
IN AUSTRALIA, two important events occurred on this date:-
Back in 1880, 25-year-old NED KELLY was hanged in Melbourne Gaol, his decapitated body thrown into a mass grave and his skull taken to be used as a paper-weight! Why? The murder of three policemen, who were out to capture him for horse-stealing. Ned and his three henchmen went on to commit bank robberies and at least one more murder.
Knowing they were surrounded by police, the gang finally took innocent people hostage in a small pub, but the building was set on fire. The hostages nearly all escaped or were released, but two gangmen died in the blaze and one was shot in the groin. Ned escaped and confronted police in home-made armour, but was gunned down (also in the groin) and brought to trial.
He had become a celebrity while alive and his legend continued to grow. Even now, he is often depicted as a sort of Robin Hood standing up for little people, especially those of Irish blood like him. This overlooks that he did not spread stolen wealth around (except perhaps to his mum and sisters) and that the brave cops he killed were also Celtic, but facts rarely get in the way of a good story.
Also remembered in Australia on this date is the sacking of the Labor Government in 1975. Under Australia’s complicated political system, it has an elected executive government headed by a Prime Minister, a monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth) who is its symbolic head of state, and, since she’s rather busy elsewhere, a nominated ‘Governor-General’ (GG) who undertakes ceremonial duties in her stead. The GG is meant to follow the convention of accepting the advice of the Prime Minister on what he/she should do.
It had long been assumed that this was all the GG would or could do. However, the federal government under Prime Minister Gough WHITLAM got itself into trouble, in that it could not secure the legislation needed to get money to run the country and was becoming increasingly desperate as funds ran out.
The GG, Ian KERR, exercised his ‘reserve powers’ (till then assumed to be dormant), revoked the Whitlam government’s commission, installed a caretaker government and forced an election, held a month later. It caused an uproar at the time and hot debate for many years. It is ironic that Australia’s system of checks and balances on executive power caused the nation to have an unelected government for a month – something it can never erase from its history as a democracy.