The Adventures of Lt. Col. Thurston Humphrey Sweeny OBE.
Royal Army Pay Corps
ONE OF OUR FAVOURITE LIFE STORIES AT THE AGC MUSEUM IS THAT OF T.H.SWEENY, SO WE HAVE DECIDED TO DO A SERIES OF POSTS ABOUT HIM AND HIS VARIED AND INTERESTING CAREER!
After a couple of weeks away THIS IS the final part OF OUR BLOG SERIES on Sweeny. IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN OUR other posts YOU CAN FIND them HERE. TODAY WE ARE GOING TO TALK ABOUT Sweeny’s final few weeks in east Asia.
It was only a matter of time before French forces were organised in sufficient numbers to take responsibility for security in French-Indo China. With the river now cleared of mines and sunken vessels to allow navigation, Commission No1 planned its withdrawal. At a cocktail party held a week before departure Sweeny was asked by the French General Leclerc what would happen to the booty in the bank. Sweeny replied that the cash would be handed over to the French Finance Department upon agreement that they would supply Malaya with the equivalent in rice; with the rest being returned to Singapore. Nothing more was said but Sweeny suspected that the French would be planning something, a situation not helped by the current plan that had Sweeny and the booty leave the day after the majority of forces had left.
The timetable was changed so that Sweeny would leave on the last ship but this would depart after a number of official ceremonies had been performed on the dockside at 11 o’clock. Sweeny was also allocated the services of the 7th MG Jats, with whom he had arrived in Saigon many months before. In the meantime, the bank was still guarded by British forces.
Sweeny was woken at 0630 (an hour before his own lorries were due to arrive) to be told that French soldiers were preventing access to the bank, although the Indian soldiers were still between them and the door. Sweeny asked for the Jats to be ready for 7.30 and went to the bank.
French soldiers were loitering in front of the bank, their NCO said that he had orders that no-one was to approach the bank, in particular Sweeny, who was to be stopped by any means short of death. Sweeny called for their officer to attend, who Sweeny described him as slovenly and ill kept. The officer repeated his orders to Sweeny, at which point he was asked to turn around whereupon the French saw that they were now covered by the weapons of the Jats. Sweeny pointed out that it would be a waste for everyone to die obeying orders., and suggested that the French put down their weapons and sit in the adjacent café for coffee. Sweeny gave them all the piastres he held and they sat, whilst the bank vault was emptied onto the waiting lorries.
Sweeny retired from the Army in 1956, settling in Bournemouth and turning to golf and local politics to occupy his time, firstly as a councillor in Lymington and then on the County Council where he chaired the Finance Committee 1962-63, Parks 1963-64 and Sea Defences 1966-68. He was forthright with his views of local government as he was in his dealings with the Japanese, speaking against the use of high interest loans to fund council operations and of his fellow councillors who when he had had enough said in his retirement speech had ‘ judged too many issues based upon personalities instead of merits’. Tim Sweeny was also a staunch supporter and fundraiser of the ‘not forgotten’ association which assisted disabled servicemen and women.
Tim Sweeny died from cancer in January 1969.
We hope you have enjoyed our series on T.H. Sweeny!