On 21 October 1945, Lord of Thailand Tengku Abdullah Osman sent a letter to “Mr. D. Headley, Lieutnent (sic) Colonel & Chief Commander Civil Affairs, Trengganu Government.” Headley probably found the letter difficult to read, but the Lord of Thailand’s intent was easy to comprehend.
Before I came across this letter, I had never known that there had been a “Lord of Thailand” by the name of Tengku Abdullah Osman. After a quick google search, however, I was able to get a sense of the background to this letter, but I am still not sure who exactly Tengku Abdullah Osman was.
In the beginning of the twentieth century there was a sultanate on the eastern side of the Malay Peninsula under British protection called Terengganu. The sultan from 1920-1942 was Sulaiman Badrul Alam Shah.
In 1942, Sultan Sulaiman Badrul Alam Shah died of blood poisoning. At that time Terengganu was under Japanese occupation. The Japanese military authorities appointed Sultan Ali Shah, the son of Sultan Sulaiman Badrul Alam Shah, as his successor.
Not long after that, the Thai government took over the administration of Terengganu. The Thais were allies of the Japanese during the war, and the Thai authorities took advantage of this wartime relationship to extend the area of their control in the region.
Then when the war ended and the British sought to retake their colonial possessions in Southeast Asia, they refused to recognize Sultan Ali Shah. My guess would be that this was in large part because he had come to power with the approval of the Japanese, and the British likely suspected, or perhaps had evidence, that he had been close to the Japanese.
As a result, and presumably under British influence or pressure, the Terengganu State Council dismissed Sultan Ali Shah on 5 November 1945.
The letter that Lord of Thailand Tengku Abdullah Osman sent to Lieutenant Colonel D. Headley on 21 October 1945 must be related to this issue. I’m assuming that Headley was granted the task of re-establishing a pro-British government in Terengganu, and I’m assuming that Tengku Abdullah Osman was trying to get on Headley’s good side.
That said, I’m still not sure who exactly Tengku Abdullah Osman was, but I would assume that he was a member of the ruling elite in Terengganu.
I’m also not sure what his letter achieved, because it is quite difficult to follow, but one can guess what the purpose of this letter was. To quote, this is what Tengku Abdullah Osman wrote:
“My best Congratualtion”
I have the honour to mentioned, that which yesterday-evening, were the “Ceremony for two Brother-Army,” was “Death-corpse.” And just have buried in honestly “Silence Memorial.”
Do as, I willingly having prayed of my Mission-Mosque, to those, I addressed, May thee Almighty God-blessing, the “Soul-Heaven” which, to receipt the “Humance” being just going to his end worthy of its “World happies.”
With honestly spiritual in Scouting for, “Britain Army’s.” I have sincerely hearted, just have wishes for “Mourning” with worn dress – for their brotherhoods, two-days time, from instead.
I have the honour
To be Sir,
Your excellency remains.
Wow!! I can see that this has something to do with honoring the war dead, and maybe it made sense to Headley at the time, but it’s definitely difficult to understand now. Nonetheless, it is obvious that Tengku Abdullah Osman was seeking to get on good terms with Headley.
It is interesting, however, that Tengku Abdullah Osman held the title of “Lord of Thailand.” Was he granted this title by the Thai authorities during the war when they were administering Terengganu?
If so, and if he was trying to get on Headley’s good side, I would think that such a term would have served the opposite purpose, as it pointed to the fact that certain members of the Malay ruling elite had worked together with the Japanese and Thais during the war.
[This letter can be found in the National Archives of Australia. NAA: A10822, 22 Captain J L Chapman (South East Asia Command – Malaya – Force 136 – Operation Pontoon) – Letter of congratulations from Tengku Abdullah Osman, 21 October 1945.]