Fred de Souza
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Frederick Benjamin de Souza (b.13 April 1918, Singapore - d. 10 July 1964, Singapore) was one of Singapores most successful marksmen, who won gold medals in the South East Asian Peninsular Games and the Asian Games of 1961 and 1962. It was hoped that he would win a medal for Malaysia at the 1964 Olympics but he died before the games were held.
De Souza was one of nine surviving children of George Frederick de Souza, a clerk in a law firm, and his wife Hilda Theodora Cornelius. They were descended from Malaccan Portuguese and Dutch Eurasians respectively. The family lived on St Michaels Road before moving to a more modest shop house on Queen Street and finally to Chancery Hill. De Souza attended St Josephs Institution then Raffles College, where he majored in maths and graduated in 1941.
Like many Eurasians at the time, he had an enthusiasm for shooting and enlisted in the Singapore Volunteer Corps in 1938, joining the D Company for Eurasians with his brother and some classmates and friends. Membership in the corps offered a chance to practice shooting, and members enjoyed competing with each other. De Souza known to his comrades as Moogie was one of a number who became a crack shot.
Prisoner of war and postwar activity
He was promoted to corporal in 1939 and later made a company sergeant major, but what began as an agreeable diversion became much more dangerous when the volunteers were mobilised in 1941, the Japanese invaded in 1942 and de Souza was captured as a prisoner of war. With his brother he was taken to labour on the construction of the Burma-Siam Death railway for most of 1943. Thousands of his fellow prisoners perished due to overwork, heat and disease, and de Souza himself beat cholera with nothing more than saline and prayer, but he and his brother survived and returned to Changi Prison in December 1943.
After liberation he assisted with the rehabilitation of POWs and joined the Singapore contingent of Londons victory parade in 1946. He became a school teacher in Kuala Trengganu but returned to London in 1949 to study law as a member of Middle Temple. Three years later de Souza went home and was a prosecutor for Singapore city council before resuming private practice, eventually becoming a partner in his own firm. However, it was for the marksmanship he had honed in the Volunteer Corps that he was to become celebrated.
At the second South East Asian Peninsular Games in Rangoon in December 1961 de Souza won a gold medal with a score of 576 points out of a possible 600 in the small bore prone-position category, the last event of the games. He improved his score at the September 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta, coming second in the first round, then tying his Japanese competitor in the second and taking the lead in the final four rounds for a total score of 583 out of 600. This was one point short of the Asian Games record, and his was the only gold among the three medals won by Team Singapore at the games.
De Souza played an active role in a number of charitable and sporting organisations: he was on the committee of the Eurasian Association from 1957 until 1963, and joined the management committee of the Singapore Recreation Club in 1961. In 1962 he became president of the Singapore Rifle Association, and was also vice president of the Shooting Association of Malaysia.
The 1963 South East Asian Peninsular Games were cancelled due to problems in the host country of Cambodia, but as Asias best shot in his event and one of the six top-ranked in the world de Souza was a leading medal hope for Malaysia at its first Olympics. During the trials for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, practising at the Gimson School rifle range on Clementi Road, Bulls Eye Fred, as he was known, scored over 590 and hit an exceptional 597 on one occasion.
Death and memorials
Sadly, he died at home of a heart attack on 10 July 1964, just before travelling to Kuala Lumpur for confirmation of his place in Malaysias shooting team for the Olympic Games that October. He was in the process of helping to establish the Singapore Shooting Association, a national regulatory body for all recreational shooting, and was president of its pro tem committee. De Souza was buried at Bidadari Cemetery.
Malaysia won no medals at the Olympic Games, though had he been able to replicate his score of 583 in Tokyo he would have finished eighth. Friends and admirers remembered de Souza as a quiet, generous, and gentlemanly figure. As an Asian Games gold medallist still Singapores only one in shooting he was posthumously inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame when it was instituted in 1983 and later included in the Singapore Sports Council Museum.
Wife: Olga von Bannisseht, a Dutch Eurasian refugee from Indonesia. They wed on 21 August 1946.
Children: John and Carol
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(Call no.: RSING 796.09225957 APL)
Ebert-Oehlers, A. (1992). For love of the game. In M. Braga-Blake (Ed.), Singapore Eurasians: memories and hopes (pp.147, 175). Singapore: Times Editions.
(Call no.: RSING 305.80405957 SIN)
Foenader, T. (2001). Roster of Singapore Volunteer Corps. Retrieved December 4, 2008, from http://www.tfoenander.com/svcroster.htm
Fred de Souza dies at 46 [Microfilm: NL 12159]. (1964, July 11). The Straits Times, p.22.
From Fred - gold for Spore [Microfilm: NL 12137]. (1962, September 1). The Straits Times, p.18.
The last gold to Singapore shooter [Microfilm: NL 12128]. (1961, December 18). The Straits Times, p.18.
Lew, H. K. (Ed.). (1985). SEA games records 1959-1985 (p.127). Selangor: Penerbit Pan Earth SDN BHD.
(Call no.: RSEA 796.0959 LEW)
Lim, J. (Interviewer). (2000, January 25). Oral history interview with Marie Cockburn (Cassette Recordings Nos. 002176/17/1, 3, and 16). Singapore: National Archives of Singapore.
(Not available in NLB holdings)
Mr. Frederick Benjamin de Souza in memoriam [Microfilm: NL 6580]. (1964, August). The Malayan Law Journal, 30(8), xciii-xciv.
(Call no.: RCLOS 340.05 MLJ)
Siebel, N. (1964, July 11). Fred was an aristocrat of the range [Microfilm: NL 12159]. The Straits Times, p.20.
Singapore Shooting Association (n.d.). Hall of fame. Retrieved December 4, 2008, from http://www.singaporeshooting.org/index_HallofFame.html
Singapore Recreation Club (2008). SRC celebrates: 1883-2007 (p.201). Singapore: Singapore Recreation Club.
(Call no.: RSING 796.0605957 SIN)
Tan, B. L. (Interviewer). (1986, June 26). Oral history interview with Carl de Souza (transcript of Cassette Recordings Nos. 000290/07/01, pp.1-3, 7-11; 000290/07/02, p.14). Retrieved November 15, 2008, from National Archives of Singapore Web site: http://www.a2o.com.sg
Volunteer C.S.M. weds [Microfilm: NL 4860]. (1946, August 22). The Straits Times, p.5.
The information in this article is valid as at 2009 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.