National Archives (Kew, United Kingdom)

The British involvement in the Netherlands East Indies was most intense in the period 1940-1946. Great Britain was part of the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command, the Allied joint command which was set up to stop the Japanese advance in Southeast Asia. The Allies failed in their goal, however, and the Netherlands East Indies were forced to surrender to the Japanese. During the Japanese occupation Sumatra was part of the British South East Asian Command zone (SEAC) under the command of Admiral Lord Mountbatten. On 15 August 1945 the remainder of the Netherlands East Indies was added to his command zone as well.
After the Japanese surrender Great Britain continued to play a vital role in Java and Sumatra. British forces were sent to maintain order until the Dutch administration could re-take control. However, it was not until 28 September 1945 that the first British units arrived in Java and Sumatra. In the meantime the Republic of Indonesia had declared its independence on 17 August 1945, creating a power vacuum. The British troops found themselves in fierce conflict with Indonesian forces, which allowed the Republic to increase its political and military power. Many Indo-Europeans consider this period to be crucial in the decolonisation process, hence the decision to reproduce documents dealing with the period from August 1945 - when the archipelago was transferred from the SWPA to the SEAC operational zone - until November 1946, when the British forces left the Netherlands East Indies.

The selection

Reproductions have been made of documents from the following series:
Foreign Office 371: Events leading to the independence of Indonesia: political developments 1945 (inv. no. 60 to 77); Situation in the Netherlands East Indies, 1945-1946 (inv. no. 78 to 117).
War Office 172: documents from the collection of the Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia, the so-called Mountbatten Diaries (inv. no. 118 to 160). From this series all documents dealing with the Netherlands East Indies have been reproduced.
War Office 203: a selection of documents dealing with operations conducted by Indian Divisions in Java and Sumatra.