The Battle of Surabaya, Independent or Dead

Heroism has existed in Indonesia even long before the founding of the Republic of Indonesia as a unitary nation. It is proper if monuments of heroism have been set up in all areas known for their historical struggles. But the Battle of Surabaya on November 10, 1945 astonished the world.

The battle started after the landing of the Allied forces under the command of Brig-Gen. A.W.S. Mallaby in Surabaya on October 25, 1945. However, behind the Allied forces which formerly were said to disarm the Japanese military, there were obviously the Dutch NICA forces. The Allied also did not honor the Indonesian sovereignity, which proclaimed its independence on August 17, 1945. They often provoked the Indonesian people and Government in Surabaya . This led to small revolts during two days (October 27, 1945) following the landing of the Allied forces, continuing until November 3, 1945.

During the last combat, the commander of the Allied forces, Brig-Gen. Mallaby was killed. The incident, which resulted in the killing of Brig-Gen. Mallaby near the Red Bridge, swept up the heated atmosphere. Without prior negotiation with President Soekarno, as was agreed before the landing, the Allied command issued an ultimatum aimed at forcing the Surabaya people to surrender their arms. Similiar threats were also issued to Indonesian leaders and officials in Surabaya. The Allied ordered them to surrender and hand over their arms at specific locations before 18.00 on November 9, 1945. If on November 10, 1945 at 16.00 the order was not met with, the Allied forces would shell Surabaya from the air, sea and ashore.

The Government leaders in Surabaya refused to capitulate. After consultations with the central government leaders in Jakarta, the decition was entrusted to leaders in Surabaya. East Java Governor Suryo then formally announced the refusal to surrender, which was welcomed by all layers of the fighters and people of Surabaya with the independence yell : Merdeka !

The November 10 combat then broke out as the culmination of small clashes after the landing of the Allied troops. The Allied forces, spearheaded by the British (Gurkha) troops, equipped with modern arms, attacked Surabaya from all sides. In addition to the infantry which invaded th city with tanks, bombers swept from the air. From the seaside at Tanjung Perak harbor gunfire was directed at the center of the city. The battle was considered the most violent in the history of the Indonesian people against the British troops.

The Surabaya youngsters held out three weeks, before the Allied took over the city. Lieut-Col. A.J.F. Doulton said in this book “The Fighting Cock”: “the Indonesian people i Surabaya did not care about the victims. If one fell, another one came forward. Bren firing continued to arrive in greater numbers, pushing on and on …”. Major R.B. Houston of the “Gurkha Rifles” wrote in his book “What happened in Java”: “The Indonesian people were pushed back from Surabaya after being raided from the air and gunfire from the sea”. This happenned after 2 days of battle. At this moment the fire resistance spreaded over all over Java like bush fire. The London Times reported on November 13-14, 1945: “The resistance of the Indonesian people in Surabaya became violent”. On Sunday night the Indonesian women came out their homes, saving the dead bodies of the male fighters.

The violence of the Indonesian resistance in Surabaya was also indicated by the decision of General Mansergh, requesting for 8 more Thunderbolts and four Mosquitoes as well as 21 Sherman tanks and a great number of carriers. The British troops described the battle as ‘hell’ after counting the great number of carriers. Ktut Tantri tried to picture the battle poetically in her book “Revolution on Peace Island”, but could not avoid the tragic and heroic nuance.”….Surabaya was continuously bombarded by the Allied for three nights. Hundreds of victims fell down. The streets were moisted by blood. Women and children died in the drains. Campongs became seas of fire, and the people ran bewildered to the ricefields to save their lives. But the Indonesian people refused to capitulate….”

After three days and nights of the insolent assault by the British troops, the hospitals and roads were full of victims. Due to the continuous attack, no medical assistance could reach Surabaya . This event was later decided upon as Heroes Day, without minimizing the meaning of the battles and heroic spirit in other areas of Indonesia.

During the Battle of Surabaya several names of Indonesian leaders were mentioned to be active. They included Governor Suryo, Resident of Surabaya Soedirman, Doel Arnowo, dr. Moestopo, Roeslan Abdulgani, the commander of the Army Unit, Soengkono and Bung Tomo.


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