Franklin Charles Gimson

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Sir Franklin Gimson
Frank Gimson.jpg
Governor of Singapore
In office
1 April 1946 – 15 November 1952
Preceded by Lord Mountbatten of Burma (Military Government)
Succeeded by John Fearns Nicoll
Personal details
Born (1890-09-10)10 September 1890
Barrow-on-Soar, Leicestershire, England
Died 13 February 1975(1975-02-13) (aged 84)
Pickering, North Yorkshire, England

Sir Franklin Charles Gimson, KCMG, KStJ, (Chinese: 詹遜, 10 September 1890 – 13 February 1975) was a British colonial administrator, who served in Ceylon from 1914 to 1941, and later, the Colonial Secretary of Hong Kong and the Governor of Singapore.

Gimson assumed the post of the Colonial Secretary of Hong Kong in December 1941. However, his appointment was interrupted by the Battle of Hong Kong. He became a prisoner of war when then Governor Sir Mark Young surrendered to the Imperial Japanese Army on the Christmas Day of 1941. After spending more than three years in Stanley Internment Camp as an internee, Gimson was freed in August 1945, upon the Liberation of Hong Kong. He formed a short-lived provisional government and briefly declared himself "Acting Governor", but this administration was soon replaced when Rear Admiral Cecil Harcourt established the military government following in September.

Gimson was the first Governor of Singapore from 1946 to 1952 who reinstalled the civil administration in Singapore. During his governorship, he witnessed the establishment of both the Legislative Council and Executive Council in 1947. His governorship was also marked by the increasingly unstable political situation which was provoked by the Malayan Emergency, and the controversial legislation of the Internal Security Act.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Gimson was born on 10 September 1890 in Barrow-on-Soar, Leicestershire, England to the Rev. C. K. Gimson. He attended Balliol College, Oxford in his youth and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Early colonial service[edit]

Gimson entered the British Ceylon Civil Service as a cadet in November 1914. In the beginning he was attached to the Office of the Naval Intelligence Officer in addition to his own duties. Later on he became an Additional Police Magistrate in Colombo. In 1918 he was sent on military service during World War I and returned to the colonial administration as an Additional Assistant Colonial Secretary in July 1919. Two months later he was transferred to North Central Province as Assistant Government Agent.

Gimson was appointed Additional Assistant Colonial Secretary for the second time in March 1920 and was promoted to the post of 4th Assistant Colonial Secretary in September 1920. Subsequently, he was sent to Mannar as Acting Assistant Government Agent in February 1922. In February 1924, he was promoted to the Customs Department as Landing Surveyor and acted as Acting Deputy Controller from March to May in 1928. Gimson left the Customs in March 1929 and was appointed as an Additional Assistant to the Director of Education. Later in July 1931 he became Secretary to the Minister of Education.

In February 1932, Gimson was appointed Assistant Government Agent of Trincomalee and in December 1933, appointed Assistant Government Agent of Kegalle. In August 1935, he involved in a special duty to help organise the forthcoming general election of members of the State Council. Afterwards, he was appointed the Chairman of the Municipal Council of Kandy in June 1936 but was eventually given the post of Controller of Labour in 1937. Gimson held this office until 1941 and he gained the rank of class one officer in 1938.

Life as Colonial Secretary and internment in Hong Kong[edit]

Gimson was promoted to the post of Colonial Secretary of Hong Kong in 1941 and arrived at the colony on 7 December, just the day before the Japanese Army initiated its unexpected and sudden large-scale invasion to Hong Kong. The defence forces of Hong Kong soon lost in the Battle of Hong Kong and then Governor Sir Mark Young was forced to surrender on 25 December, which is now known as the Black Christmas. After the victory of Japan, all British officials were arrested and were under Japanese rule. Since the Governor was interned elsewhere, Gimson became the representative of the former government who was responsible to deal with the Japanese over the issue of transfer of power. For some time he even set up a provisional liaison office in Prince's Building, Central.

In March 1942, Gimson was finally sent to Stanley Internment Camp where most British colonial officials and expatriates were interned. During the internment, the British civilian internees established the "British Communal Council", which tried to limitedly maintain the life and order in the camp. As the highest ranking British official in the camp, Gimson became the chairman of the Council and was also responsible to negotiate with the Japanese on matters relating to the camp.

After three years and eight months of Japanese occupation, the Emperor of Japan finally announced an unconditional surrender to the Allies on 15 August 1945. Immediately after the unconditional surrender was made, the Japanese authority had to continue to maintain the order of Hong Kong as the Allies were still on the way to take over. However, all the prohibitions and regulations set by the Japanese were entirely lifted and abolished instantly. On the other hand, on the eve of the surrender of Japan, the British Ambassador to China, Sir Horace Seymour, had already tried to make contact with Gimson from Chongqing, urging him to exercise the sovereignty on behalf of the British government. Although Seymour's order arrived late on 23 August, Gimson had declared himself "Acting Governor" and had started to prepare for a "provisional government" on 16 August after knowing Japanese had surrendered. Receiving Seymour's order on 23 August, Gimson and other internees left the camp and took over the authority from Japan. Gimson was sworn as acting Governor by Chief Justice Atholl MacGregor. He and other former colonial officials set up the headquarters of the provisional government in the Former French Mission Building. On 27 August, Gimson made a further announcement through radio, stating the provisional government had been established. Nevertheless, at the beginning of the provisional rule, the government had to rely on the Japanese troops to maintain the order of Hong Kong since the power of the administration was limited.

On 30 August 1945, Rear Admiral Cecil Harcourt and his warships entered Victoria Harbour. Since Harcourt was asked to form a military government by London, Gimson transferred the power to him and the military government was officially formed on 1 September. Harcourt himself became the head of the military government and Gimson was appointed Lieutenant Governor by him. Yet, the creation of the office of Lieutenant Governor was deemed unsuitable by the Colonial Office and therefore Gimson was soon replaced by a Chief Civil Affairs Officer and his team sent from London on 7 September. Gimson himself was in fact in poor health as a result of more than three years of internment. For health reason, he left for the United Kingdom on 16 September. On the day before his departure, he commented in a radio programme that Hong Kong should undergo political reform in the future.

Governor of Singapore[edit]

After spending sometime in the United Kingdom, the recovered Gimson became Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Singapore on 1 April 1946. He abolished the military government which was set up by Lord Mountbatten of Burma and reinstalled the colonial civil administration. In the first two years of his governorship, the recovery of the economy in Singapore was slow and a large scale of riot broke out in 1947. In June 1947, Singapore became a separate Crown colony and both Legislative and Executive Councils were established. Following in March 1948, Gimson allowed six of the twenty-five seats in the Legislative Council to be elected.

In June 1948, an armed insurgency by communist groups in Malaya – the Malayan Emergency – broke out, and the British imposed harsh measures to control left-wing groups in both Singapore and Malaya; the controversial Internal Security Act, which allowed indefinite detention without trial for persons suspected of being "threats to security", was introduced at this time. Since the left-wing groups were the strongest critics of the colonial system, progress on self-government stalled for several years. The colonial government also tried to prevent contacts between Singaporean Chinese and China, which had just fallen under the rule of the Communist Party of China. Tan Kah Kee, a local businessman and philanthropist, was denied re-entry into Singapore after he made a trip to China in 1949.

A second Legislative Council election was held in 1951 with the number of elected seats increased to nine but the colonial administration was still obviously dominant. Gimson retired from the colonial service on 15 November 1952. The post of Governor was succeeded by John Fearns Nicoll, another Colonial Secretary of Hong Kong.

Later years[edit]

Gimson spent his time back in the United Kingdom in retirement. He died in Applegarth, Thornton-le-Dale, Pickering, North Yorkshire on 13 February 1975, aged 84.[1]

Family[edit]

Gimson was married to Margaret Dorothy Ward, MBE in 1922. The couple had two daughters. Margaret was the daughter of Canon Ward.

Honours[edit]

Others[edit]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

References[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Norman Lockhart Smith
Colonial Secretary of Hong Kong
1941
Vacant
Title next held by
David Mercer MacDougall
Preceded by
Hisaichi Tanaka
as Governor-General of Hong Kong
Japanese occupation of Hong Kong
Governor of Hong Kong
Provisional Government

1945
Succeeded by
Sir Cecil Harcourt
as Administrator of Hong Kong
Preceded by
Sir Shenton Thomas
as Governor of Straits Settlements
Governor of Singapore
1946–1952
Succeeded by
John Fearns Nicoll