FINDING ARTHUR (THAM YIN HONG)
When I first encountered the case, I noticed that there were some things that were quite unusual about it when compared to other trial cases I had examined. To begin with, the victims were not only named but there were details such as the addresses of their homes. The fact that the Japanese raids had been conducted simultaneously on both the victim's homes confirmed that he had prominent standing in Singaporean society at that time.
On a whim and a hunch, I decided to search the address listed and this brought me in touch with a gentleman named Ian Tham. What followed was a few correspondence emails, during which I discovered that the Tham Ying Hong listed in trial reference WO235/821 involving Sugimoto Heikichi was his great grandfather. Also, that he had an English name, it was Arthur. In the case, Arthur's son, Tham Keng Yan, is also a named victim. Unlike Arthur, he survived, and he was Ian's grandfather.
I was really blown away, for several reasons. In my experience analysing the trials, you don't often get much of a sense of who the victims really are, their background, or why they were victimised. Also, it turns out that both the named victims' names are wrongly recorded. (Gaaah!) Lastly, to be able to hear from surviving relatives is such an amazing Godsend. To be able to learn a bit more about the victim's background helps clarify circumstances.
So, for the record, Tham Ying Hong's name is actually Tham Yin Hong. He was born 15 July 1894. He was the director of the Fisheries Department in Singapore. (The trial transcript refers to him as 'Chinese Inspector of Fisheries Department'.) So he was a high-ranking civil servant in the British civil service, which is why he was targeted by the Japanese occupying force. That he also has an English name, Arthur, suggests that he was well educated and would most likely have been seen as among the 'King's Chinese,' as British civil servants have referred to the elite, English-speaking Chinese who thought of themselves as loyal to the crown. The reason why he had two homes was because he had two wives. Also for the record, Arthur had only one son -- Tham Keng Tan, erroneously recorded as Tham Keng Yan in the trial transcript. He too had an English name -- Kenneth.
I forwarded Ian the transcript of the case involving his great grandfather and grandfather. I asked him if he had any further information, documents or photos from that time. He said he would ask around his relatives. And then, everything went silent.
What a wonderful surprise! Ian sent me an email, four years since we last corresponded. He attached a collection of photos; they were of a younger Arthur looking very dapper and smart in a variety of outfits, some with Kenneth as a child, including one with his wife. Finally, to be able to put a face to a name. These are the moments that really mean a lot to me. Because they remind me that these folks aren't just names on yellowed paper, but real people. I am also secretly glad that Kenneth survived and his clan has grown. If he hadn't, Arthur's bloodline would have ended that tragic November night in 1943. He was only 50 years old.
If you'd like to read more about the case involving Arthur, please click here.