Shenton Thomas

Sir Thomas Shenton Whitelegge Thomas GCMG KStJ OBE (10 October 1879 – 15 January 1962), commonly known as Sir Shenton Thomas, was a British colonial administrator most notable for his role as Governor of the Straits Settlements in Singapore.

Shenton Thomas
21st Governor of the Straits Settlements
In office
12 September 1945  31 March 1946
Preceded byVacant
Succeeded byPosition abolished
In office
9 November 1934  15 February 1942[lower-alpha 1]
Preceded bySir Cecil Clementi
Succeeded byVacant
Governor of the Gold Coast
In office
30 November 1932  13 May 1934
MonarchGeorge V
Preceded byGeoffry Northcote (acting)
Succeeded byGeoffry Northcote (acting)
Governor of Nyasaland
In office
7 November 1929  22 November 1932
Preceded bySir Hubert Winthrop Young
Succeeded byWilfred Bennett Davidson-Houston
Personal details
Thomas Shenton Whitelegge Thomas

(1879-10-10)10 October 1879
Southwark, London, United Kingdom
Died15 January 1962(1962-01-15) (aged 82)
London, United Kingdom
Lucy Marguerite (Daisy) Montgomery
(m. 1912)
ChildrenMary Bridget Thomas (daughter)
OccupationColonial administrator

He served from 9 November 1934 to 15 February 1942, during which time the Second World War broke out, and again from 12 September 1945 to 31 March 1946, when the Straits Settlements was dissolved and Singapore became a crown colony.

He was a prisoner-of-war (POW) during the Japanese occupation of Singapore, having decided to stay in Singapore during the war.

Early life

Thomas Shenton Whitelegge Thomas was born on 10 October 1879, in Southwark, London to The Rev Thomas William Thomas and his wife Charlotte Susanna (née Whitelegge) Thomas.[1][2][3]

He was educated at St. John's School, Leatherhead[4] and Queens' College, Cambridge.[5]


Thomas taught at Aysgarth School in Yorkshire prior to entering the Colonial Service.


In 1909, Thomas was appointed as Assistant District Commissioner, East Africa Protectorate (Nairobi, Kenya).[6][7] In 1919, he was appointed Assistant Chief Secretary, Uganda and in 1920 as Chairman of the Uganda Development Commission.[6][7]

In 1921, he was appointed Principal Assistant Secretary, Nigeria and in 1923, was appointed Deputy Chief Secretary, Nigeria.[6][7] In 1927, he was appointed Colonial Secretary, Gold Coast Colony (Ghana) before he was appointed Governor of Nyasaland in 1929. In 1932 he was appointed Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Gold Coast Colony (Ghana).[6][7]


In 1934, he was appointed Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Straits Settlements and High Commissioner of the Federated Malay States.[6][7]


Thomas was a prisoner-of-war (POW) during the Japanese occupation of Singapore (15 February 1942 – 15 August 1945) having decided to stay in Singapore during the war. He was imprisoned in Cell 24 of Changi Prison along with missionary Ernest Tipson.

After the war, Thomas remained as the 11th British High Commissioner in Malaya (9 November 1934 – 1 April 1946), until the Malayan Union was established and succeeded the British administration in the Straits Settlements (except for Singapore, which was created as a distinct crown colony), Federated Malay States and Unfederated Malay States, where the post of Governor-General of the Malayan Union was created. Shenton Way, a road in Singapore, was named after him.

Personal life

He married Lucy Marguerite (Daisy) Montgomery (1884-1978) daughter of James Montgomery[8] on 11 April 1912 at St Jude's Church, Kensington, London.[3]

Thomas died on 15 January 1962, at his home in London. He was 82.


Thomas is widely associated in his role as governor with the loss of Singapore and his civilian administration's apparent failures to properly assess the growing Japanese threat and make appropriate defences.[9] Singapore's capture by the Japanese, in conjunction with other events at the time such as the sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse, severely undermined British prestige and contributed to the eventual end of colonialism in the region.

During the 1950s, Shenton Way, a road in Singapore's central business district, was named after him as recognition of his decision to remain and become a prisoner of war (POW) at Changi Prison when the Japanese occupied Singapore.[10]


See also

  • Elizabeth Choy – Singaporean educator and resistance worker during World War II


  1. The fall of Singapore and subsequently the Japanese occupation.


  1. 1881 UK Census: Aged 1 of St John Villas, Park Lane, Heigham, Norfolk - RG11/1951 f.9 p.11 - Thomas Shenton Whitelegge Thomas born Southwark
  2. 1901 UK Census: Aged 21 of The Vicarage, St Barnabas Road, Cambridge - RG13/1530 f.32 p.14 - Thomas Shenton W. Thomas born London
  3. GRO Register of Marriages: JUN 1912 1a 348 KENSINGTON - Thomas S. W. Thomas = Lucy M. Montgomery
  4. 1891 UK Census: Pupil, aged 10, of St John's School, Leatherhead Surrey - RG12/549 f.98 p.8 - Thomas Shenton Thomas born St Bride's London
  5. "Thomas, Thomas Shenton Whitelegge (THMS898TS)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  6. "New Governor a Keen Sportsman". The Straits Times. 15 June 1934. p. 11.
  7. "Shenton Thomas". National Library Board, Singapore. 5 August 2014.
  8. "Lucy Marguerite (née Montgomery), Lady Thomas". National Portrait Gallery.
  9. Ronald McCrum (28 February 2017). The Men Who Lost Singapore, 1938-1942. NUS Press. ISBN 978-981-4722-39-1.
  10. "Shenton Way". Singapore Infopedia. National Library Board.
  11. "No. 31422". The London Gazette. 27 June 1919. pp. 8088–8093.
  12. "No. 33472". The London Gazette (Supplement). 26 February 1929. p. 1439.
  13. "No. 33675". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1930. p. 5.
  14. "KING'S JUBILEE MEDAL AWARDS IN MALAYA". Straits Budget. 30 May 1935. p. 16.
  15. "No. 34365". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 January 1937. p. 692.
  16. "CORONATION MEDALS FOR MALAYA". Morning Tribune. 26 May 1937. p. 23.
  17. "No. 34525". The London Gazette. 24 June 1938. p. 4070.
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