Posted by: iqbibal | November 10, 2009

Heroes Day

The Battle of Surabaya was fought between pro-Independence Indonesian soldiers and militia against British and Dutch troops as a part of the Indonesian National Revolution. The peak of the battle was in November 1945. Despite fierce resistance, British and Indian troops managed to conquer Surabaya, the second largest city in Indonesia, on behalf of the Netherlands. The Battle was the heaviest single battle of the Revolution and became a national symbol of Indonesian resistance. Considered a heroic effort by Indonesians, the battle helped galvanise Indonesian and international support for Indonesian independence. 10 November is celebrated annually as Heroes’ Day (Hari Pahlawan).

By the time the Allied forces arrived at the end of October 1945, the pemuda (‘youth’) foothold in Surabaya city was described as “a strong unified fortress”. Ferocious fighting erupted when 6,000 Indian troops landed in the city to evacuate European internees. Following the killing of the British officer Brigadier Mallaby on 30 October, the British retaliated with a punitive sweep beginning on 10 November under the cover of air attacks. Although the European forces largely captured the city in three days, the poorly armed Republicans fought for three weeks and thousands died as the population fled to the countryside.

Despite the military defeat suffered by the Republicans and a loss of manpower and weaponry that would severely hamper Republican forces for the rest of the Revolution, the battle and defence mounted by the Indonesians galvanised the nation in support of independence and helped garner international attention. For the Dutch, it removed any doubt that the Republic was not simply a gang of collaborators without popular support. It also had the effect of convincing Britain that wisdom lay on the side of neutrality in the Revolution; within a few years, in fact, Britain would support the Republican cause in the United Nations.

On September 19, 1945, a group of Dutch internees supported by the Japanese raised the Dutch flag outside the Hotel Yamato (formerly Hotel Oranje) in Surabaya, East Java. This provoked Nationalist Indonesian militia, who overran the Dutch and Japanese, and tore off the blue part of the Dutch flag, changing it into Indonesian flag. The leader of the Dutch group, Mr Pluegman, was killed because of mass anger.

Hotel Yamato

British forces brought in a small Dutch military contingent which it termed the Netherlands Indies Civil Administration (NICA). The British became worried about the increasing boldness and apparent strength of the nationalists, who attacked demoralized Japanese garrisons across the archipelago with rudimentary weapons such as bamboo spears in order to seize their arms. The main goals of British troops in Surabaya were the seizing of weapons from Japanese troops and Indonesian militia, taking care of former prisoner of war (POW), and sending the remaining Japanese troops back to Japan.

On October 26, 1945, Brigadier A. W. S Mallaby reached an agreement with Mr Suryo, the Republic of Indonesia’s governor of East Java that the British would not ask Indonesian troops/militia to hand over their weapons. An apparent misunderstanding about the agreement between British troops in Jakarta (led by Lieutenant General Sir Philip Christison) and Mallaby’s troops in Surabaya was to have have serious ramifications.



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