In October 1943, the Japanese Kempeitai arrested and detained 57 members of the civilian population in Singapore. These civilians were accused of being involved in Operation Jaywick, a special operation conducted by Allied forces in September 1943 which resulted in the sinking of several Japanese vessels in Singapore Harbour. They were subsequently interrogated and tortured, resulting in the deaths of 15. This spate of interrogations and deaths came to be known as the Double Tenth Incident, in reference to the date when the arrests began.
Of the 57 civilians detained during the Double Tenth Incident, several were detained in the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) building on Stamford Road, which had served as the Kempeitai headquarters during the Japanese Occupation. One such victim was Thomas Ernest Fernando, a civilian of Ceylonese descent who had worked for Messrs. Kodak Ltd before the war.
On the morning of 1st October 1943, Fernando was arrested by the Kempeitai at his home and taken to the old YMCA building. There, Fernando was accused of being a British spy, a charge which he immediately denied. As a result, Fernando was held in custody for a few weeks, during which he was repeatedly subjected to torture, interrogation, and ill-treatment. Fernando testified that he would be forced to kneel on the ground as his interrogators whipped him with various instruments, such as knotted ropes, military leather belts and rubber hoses, each time he denied the accusations. Fernando also testified that, on one occasion, the Japanese whipped him so hard that he had fainted twice in one night. On another occasion, as Fernando recalled, he was asked by an interrogator if he (Fernando) had strong knees. When Fernando replied that he did, he was repeatedly thrown down in a judo throw, before the whipping ensued.
At one point during his detention, Fernando was condemned to death by his interrogators, and told to write a letter to his wife and children to say goodbye. When Fernando was ordered by his interrogators to write three letters to his best friends, he refused, claiming that all his friends had returned to Ceylon. In response, the Japanese reinforced their accusations of Fernando being a British spy, alleging that he was “the spy who was left behind”.
Towards the end of his testimony, Fernando mentioned another incident where an interrogator would rub his shoe on Fernando’s bleeding back while he was down on the ground. This was allegedly done for the purpose of aggravating the wounds on Fernando’s back. Such actions resulted in Fernando suffering from 68 cuts on his back.
Despite all the torture and ill-treatment he suffered during his detention, Fernando remained defiant and refused to admit to his interrogator’s accusations. For his actions, Fernando was conferred with an MBE after the end of the Second World War.