Asia at war, World War 2 as described by USPG missionaries, 1914-1946

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War Material in the USPG Archives, 1914-1946

War Material in the USPG Archives, 1914-1946

The senior of the four men read out to me in English, "You are arrested on suspicion under the provisions of the safety of the Realm Act"". I thought ""Oh
Bishop S. HeaslettBishop S. Heaslett's account of his war experiences, 1941-1942; img 6

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During World War Two, these missionaries were often in the wrong country

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The outbreak of war between the Allies and Japan came at a time when the Society for The Propagation of The Gospel was very active in South East Asia. Missionaries in Japan were the first to be affected as the police came in the morning after war was declared and took most of them away to internment camps. Missionaries in Japan did report having realised that this might happen once the announcement was imminent. Missionaries in other countries had less warning of what would happen as Japan's empire spread. Some missionaries were able to flee once they heard Japan had invaded their country of residence, though their stories of escape are far from straightforward. Many missionaries did not manage tro escape and were interned in a variety of ways. These accounts cover house arrest, being held in a cell at a police station, finding a refuge of sorts in a school for the blind, and missionaries being sent to work camps. The narratives from work camps are the least detailed as writing records whilst in them appears to have been near impossible. The SPG at home faced their own challenges during this period, from the drop in donations to the loss of most of their investment when foreign buildings were either taken by the Japanese army or raised to the ground. Missionaries' locations needed to be traced as they were interned and the desire to return home after their release meant that a significant number of missionaries sought passage at the same time. The SPG Headquarters first saw many of their staff leave for the war, then had to reduce their numbers yet further, as missionary activity in South East Asia ground to a relative halt. The records from the First World War are significantly less numerous, but provide some detail not found elsewhere. Their focus is on the effect of the First World War upon the Society, with records of SPG staff fighting in the war and notes upon how the SPG's duties were continued in their absence. This collection is derived from the 'X Series' records of the USPG which are held at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.


Asia at war, World War 2 as described by USPG missionaries, 1914-1946...

Containing 823 pages belonging to 13 documents housed in 7 volumes...

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Burma - Missionary Accounts, 1942-1946

These papers contain a clear focus upon the fate of missionaries who were in Burma when the Second World War...

China - Prior to and during the Second World War, 1936-1946

These accounts of life in China cover both peacetime challenges between world wars and missionary life in China during the...

Japan - Collection of papers from H.P. Thompson, 1941-1945

These assorted accounts of internment provide details of what happened to missionaries from the moment of arrest until their release....

Malaysia - Labuan and Sarawak, 1941-1945

These papers from Malaysia were collected by H.P. Thompson. There are more accounts of escaping the Japanese invasion in these...


  • The USPG missionaries working in Asia often found themselves in the wrong place when World War Two broke-out. Their wartime reports are from Myanmar, China, Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore.
  • The Asian missionaries' reports reveal a range of experiences. Some describe evacuation and moving to escape military advances, others include experiences of capture and internment.
  • 'SPG - Staff and The War' covers two different periods. The Wartime Committee Minute Book describes how the SPG adapted to World War Two; the list of staff locations also covers 1918-1939.
  • 'World War Notes and Armistice Pamphlets' include a plane spotter's guide from World War Two. The recorded sightings within it include times, dates, directions, distances, and times of 'all clear'.
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