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Siam Basic Handbook (1945)

Siam Basic Handbook (1945)

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Copy No. 986
March 1945


A rare, original, WW2 British Ministry of Economic Warfare secret intelligence handbook, produced in March 1945. This was a ‘Restricted’  document with a limited circulation, each copy being individually numbered. This is copy number 986. It includes a wealth of contemporary intelligence material on every aspect of Siam in 1945. The list of subjects covered is comprehensive and detailed, with sections on: the country and its population, climate, communications, geography, politics, history, administration, government, legal system, education and culture, religion, press, radio and propaganda, foreign policy, nationalism, situation at the time of the Japanese invasion, events since 1941, civilian internees and POWs, and the Armed Forces. There are also appendices on Siamese names, Personalities and weights and measures. The handbook is illustrated with several coloured fold-out maps, and a large map in a pocket at the rear. This book is a fascinating insight into the Allied intelligence operations in the Far East in the last year of the war.

Siam In WW2: Thailand, known formerly as Siam and officially as the Kingdom of Thailand, is a country in Southeast Asia located at the centre of the Indochinese Peninsula. Thailand is bordered to the north by Myanmar (Burma) and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by the Andaman Sea and Myanmar. Bangkok is the nation's capital and largest city. Throughout the era of Western imperialism in Asia, Siam remained the only nation in the region to avoid being colonized by foreign powers, although it was often forced to cede both territory and trade concessions in unequal treaties. In WW1, Siam sided with the allies. Following a bloodless revolution in 1932, Siam became a constitutional monarchy and changed its official name to Thailand. In 1941, Thailand was engaged in a brief conflict with Vichy France resulting in Thailand gaining some Lao and Cambodian territories. On 8 December 1941, the Japanese launched an invasion of Thailand, and fighting broke out shortly before an armistice was arranged. Japan was granted free passage, and on 21 December Thailand and Japan signed a military alliance with a secret protocol, wherein the Japanese government agreed to help Thailand regain lost territories. The Thai government subsequently declared war on the United States and the United Kingdom. The Free Thai Movement was launched both in Thailand and abroad to oppose the government and Japanese occupation. After the war ended in 1945, Thailand signed formal agreements to end the state of war with the Allies. The main Allied powers had ignored Thailand's declaration of war. 

Thailand was one of the least known covert battlegrounds of WW2, with both the OSS and SOE active in the country. Besides intelligence gathering, the OSS and SOE worked to organize resistance against the 50,000-strong Japanese occupation force. One of SOE's Thai agents recalled. “Practically all the government officials and the civilian population were with us - there was no hide-and-seek with the Japanese counterespionage. Once established in our respective areas, all we had to do was state what we required: the categories of men for the different types of work and the number of recruits we required. The underground responded promptly. Guerrilla and subversive activities would have been well-nigh impossible had it not been for the organization inside Siam. Without local help we would not have lasted long.”

Ministry of Economic Warfare Basic Handbooks: This series of handbooks covered enemy and occupied countries and was compiled from April 1943 onwards, at the request of the Joint Intelligence Committee. Classified as secret, this comprehensive collection of numerous highly detailed volumes was intended to reflect official British understanding and thinking, rather than an being an exercise in propaganda. Countries and regions were provided with historical and political introductions, often covering the period from antiquity to recent 20th century politics. Discussions of recent events were often more sophisticated than anything which would have been publicly permissible during the war. MEW’s links with SOE, OSS, and other intelligence organisations are highlighted in the anecdotal nature of some of the information, which would have been based on agents’ reports, intercepts, and captured documents.


In very good condition. The hardback binder boards are in very good condition, with minor signs of wear and use, and some marks. There is a bookplate and some library markings on the inside of the front board and inner cover page. The laced binding is good and secure. The text, illustrations, and maps are in very good condition. The large folding map in the pocket at the rear is in very good condition.
Published: 1944
Khaki loose leaf binder boards, with laced binding
Illustrated with coloured fold out maps
Dimensions: 180mm x 225mm
Pages: 147 (plus large fold out maps at rear)