Roland St John Braddell

Singapore Infopedia


Roland St John Braddell (Dato) (Sir) (b. 20 December 1880, Singapore–d. 15 November 1966, London, United Kingdom),1 a prominent lawyer in the region, was the author of numerous legal and historical publications. He was also joint editor of and a contributor to Singapore’s centenary celebration publication, One Hundred Years of Singapore.2 Braddell was the eldest son of Thomas de Multon Lee Braddell, Chief Justice of the Federated Malay States (1913–17), and grandson of Thomas Braddell, the first attorney-general of the Straits Settlements (1867–82).3

Education and legal career
Roland St John Braddell received his education at King’s School, Canterbury (1894 – 1899). Following that, he read law in Worcester College, Oxford, where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in the Honours School of Jurisprudence in 1904.4

Braddell was called to the Middle Temple Bar in 1905, and the Straits Bar the following year.5 A prominent lawyer in the Straits Settlements, Johor and the Federated Malay States, Braddell practised in Braddell Brothers, the law firm established by his father and his uncle Robert Wallace Glen Lee Braddell.6

In addition, he served as Sultan Ibrahim of Johor’s private legal adviser for many years.7

Public services
On several occasions, Braddell was commended by the colonial government for his active participation in public affairs.8 He was also knighted in 1948 for his services to Malaya.9

He was appointed a member of the Statute Revision Commission in 1910, and municipal commissioner from 1914 to 1929. Braddell was also a member of the Raffles Museum and Library Committee.10

Braddell participated in the Housing Commission to look into Singapore’s housing needs in 1917,11 and was a member of the Executive Council and Council of State, Johor from 1932 to 1940 as well as a member of the Singapore Executive Council from 1949 to 1950. In the early post-war years, Braddell contributed his time generously on matters related to the University of Malaya, serving as Chairman of its Council in the initial years.12

Shortly before Braddell’s retirement from Singapore in 1951, the university conferred on him the Degree of Honorary Doctor of Letters in honour of his contributions. Braddell also contributed to13 a study commissioned by the University of Malaya in 1953. The study, which culminated in a report published in April 1955, was done jointly with Professor R. G. D. Allen, who was then Professor of Statistics at the University of London. Popularly known as the Allen-Braddell Report, it recommended the establishment of a separate Faculty of Law at the University of Malaya in Singapore to provide training for future lawyers of Malaya.14

Braddell also played a significant role in the negotiations leading to the formation of the Federation of Malaya in 1948.15 When the British idea of a Malayan Union was implemented in April 1946, it was met with strong protests from the Malay community, including the Malay sultans, as the proposed system required them to relinquish their sovereign powers to the British Crown.16 In March 1946, over a hundred representatives from 42 Malay organisations met at the Pan-Malayan Malay Congress in Kuala Lumpur and decided to form the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) to lead the opposition against the Malayan Union.17 UMNO was formally inaugurated on 11 May 1946,18 and Braddell served as UMNO’s legal adviser (1946–1948).19 He helped its leaders draw up a proposal for an alternative arrangement to replace the Malayan Union.20 The British eventually conceded to local protests and abolished the Malayan Union, supplanting it with the Federation of Malaya in February 1948.21

Braddell also served as legal adviser to the Conference of Rulers, Malaya from 1948 to 1951.22

Scholarly activities
Braddell was a scholar of Malayan history and an authority on old Singapore and trade with Malaya from its early days.23

He authored many legal and historical publications on Singapore and Malaya, including A Commentary on the Common Gaming Houses Ordinance of 1888 (1911), The Law of the Straits Settlements: A Commentary (1915), The legal status of the Malay states (1931) and The Lights of Singapore (1934). He was also one of three editors, along with Walter Makepeace and Gilbert Edward Brooke, of the centenary work One Hundred Years of Singapore (1921).24

In addition, Braddell was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts,25 as well as member of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.26                 

Braddell married Dulcie Sylvia, the only daughter of Dr Lyttelton Forbes Winslow, in 1906. They had one son, Thomas Lyndhurst Braddell, who was born in Singapore in 1908.27 There is no information about when Sylvia passed away, except that it was before their son’s marriage to Patricia Enid A Beckett in 1936. The elder Braddell later had a daughter, Joan Estell Braddell, by his second wife. Joan married Leonard Grange Hobbs in 1945.28

Other interests
Braddell was also actively involved in the theatre. A member of the Singapore Amateur Dramatic Committee, he co-wrote a musical farce called The Rajah of Stengahpour. Staged at the Teutonia Club in July 1907, the drama performance was reportedly a great success. The pantomime, The Babes in the Wood, and a musical skit, The Pirates of Pulau Brani, were also written by him. Both were well-received when they were staged in August 1908 and March 1909 respectively.29

Collecting fine Chinese antique porcelain was one of Braddell's interests too. His collection, which was loaned to the Raffles Museum in 1913, included blue and white dishes, a vase from the late Ming period as well as various specimens of vases, bowls, cups and plates from the Qing dynasty.30

Retirement and death 
Braddell left Singapore for Britain in July 1951 but returned to Kuala Lumpur two years later at the age of 72 to resume his law practice with the Kuala Lumpur firm of Braddell and Ramani. In 1959, Braddell helped with the establishment of the law faculty at the University of Malaya in Singapore.31

He retired to England in November 1960 after 54 years of practice in the Federation and Singapore. With his departure, no members of the Braddell family were left in Malaya. Braddell celebrated his 80th birthday during the sea voyage back to England and passed away in London on 15 November 1966 at the age of 85.32

Four years later in 1970, the Faculty of Law at the University of Singapore (now National University of Singapore) inaugurated a public lecture series called the Braddell Memorial Lecture in his memory.33

Joshua Chia Yeong Jia & Alex Ong

1. Walter Makepeace, Gilbert E. Brooke and Roland St. J. Braddell, One Hundred Years of Singapore, vol. 2 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1991), 430 (Call no. RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS]); “Death in London of Sir Roland Braddell,” Straits Times, 17 November 1966, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
2.  R. Ramani, “Memoriam: Dato Sir Roland St John Braddell (20.12.1880–15.11.1966),” Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 41, no. 1 (July 1968): 7. (From JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website) 
3. “
Death in London of Sir Roland Braddell”; Kevin Y. L. Tan, ed., Essays in Singapore: Legal History (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Academic & Singapore Academy of Law, 2005), 213. (Call no. RSING 349.5957 ESS)
4. “Death in London of Sir Roland Braddell”; K. R. Menon, ed., Who’s Who in Singapore and Malaya, 1947 (Singapore: Oriental Publishers, 1947), 48. (Call no. RCLOS 920.05957 WHO)
5. Makepeace, Brooke and Braddell, One Hundred Years of Singapore, 430.
6. Tan, Essays in Singapore, 213; Tommy Koh, et al., eds., Singapore: The Encyclopedia (Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with National Heritage Board, 2006), 71. (Call no. RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
7. J. de V. Allen, The Malayan Union (Connecticut: Southeast Asia Studies, Yale University, 1967), 117. (Call no. RSING 959.506 ALL)
8. Menon, ed., Who’s Who in Singapore and Malaya, 1947, 48.
9. Koh, ed., Singapore: The Encyclopedia, 71; “Death in London of Sir Roland Braddell.”
10. J. W. Dossett, ed., Who’s Who in Malaya, 1918 (Singapore: Dorset & Co., 1918), 18 (Call no. RRARE 920.9595 WHO; microfilm NL6705); Who’s Who in Malaya, 1925 (Singapore: Fishers in conjunction with Mass Printers, 1925), 42. (Call no. RRARE 920.9595 WHO; microfilm NL 6705)
11. Makepeace, Brooke and Braddell, One Hundred Years of Singapore, 564.
12. Koh, ed., Singapore: The Encyclopedia, 71.
13. Ramani, “Memoriam,” 7.
14. Cheong Suk-Wai, “This Small Faculty Packs a Big Punch,” Straits Times, 26 October 1999, 2 (From NewspaperSG); Kelvin Y. L. Tan, Change and Continuity: 40 Years of the Law Faculty (Singapore: Times Editions for the National University of Singapore, 1999), 10–11 (Call no. RSING 340.07115957 CHA); Tan, Essays in Singapore, 162–63.
15. Koh, ed., Singapore: The Encyclopedia, 71.
16. Mohamed Noordin Sopiee, From Malayan Union to Singapore Separation: Political Unification in the Malaysia Region 1945–65 (Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaya Press, 2005), 16. (Call no. RSING 959.5 MOH)
17. Sopiee, Malayan Union to Singapore Separation, 22.
18. A. J. Stockwell, “The Formation and First Years of the United Malays National Organization (U.M.N.O.) 1946–1948,” Modern Asian Studies 11, no. 4 (1977): 492. (From JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website)
19. De V. Allen, Malayan Union, 117; Simon C. Smith, British Relations with the Malay Rulers from Decentralization to Malayan Independence 1930–1957 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 39. (Call no. RSEA 959.5105 SMI)
20. Albert Lau, The Malayan Union Controversy 1942–1948 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1991), 188, 198. (Call no. RSING 320.95951 LAU)
21. Smith, British Relations with the Malay Rulers, 201–22.
22. Smith, British Relations with the Malay Rulers, 39.
23. “Death in London of Sir Roland Braddell.”
24. Ramani, “Memoriam,” 7, 9.
25. “Death in London of Sir Roland Braddell”; Menon, ed., Who’s Who in Singapore and Malaya, 1947, 48.
26. Menon, ed., Who’s Who in Singapore and Malaya, 1947, 48.
27. Makepeace, Brooke and Braddell, One Hundred Years of Singapore, 430.
28. “Mr. T. L. Braddell Married,” Malaya Tribune, 10 July 1936, 12; Vera Ardmore, “A woman Peeps at Singapore,” Sunday Tribune, 2 March 1947, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
29. Makepeace, Brooke and Braddell, One Hundred Years of Singapore, 399–01.
30. Song Ong Siang, One Hundred Years’ History of the Chinese in Singapore (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1984), 497. (Call no. RSING 959.57 SON-[HIS])
31. “Death in London of Sir Roland Braddell.”
32. “Braddell Retires, Cuts Last Link,” Straits Times, 26 November 1960, 9; “Death in London of Sir Roland Braddell.”
33. “Milestones,” National University of Singapore, accessed 22 March 2019. 

Further resources
Roland St. J. Braddell, The Lights of Singapore (London: Methuen & Co., 1934). (Call no. RRARE 959.57 BRA; microfilm NL25437) 

The information in this article is valid as at May 2019 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


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