He was the fourth son of Henry White, of ‘Oakbark’, Shawford Close, Winchester. His three brothers were all in Morshead’s and he joined the House in September 1898. In 1903 he followed his brother Henry to University College, Oxford – though The Times stated New College in his obituary – where he took his degree with Second Class Honours in Theology in 1907. In the same year he was ordained by the Bishop of Durham. His first post was as Curate of St. Jude’s, South Shields (1907 to 1911), followed by three years (1911 to 1914) as Curate of Staindrop with Cockfield. Moving on to the curacy of St. Paul’s, West Hartlepool, in 1914, he also became a Chaplain to the Forces, serving in this capacity until 1920.
On June 17th 1919 he married Georgina, daughter of George and Agnes Anne Miller of 78 Holmfield Road, Leicester. From 1920 to 1925 he served as Vicar of St. Hilda and St. Helen, at the Dawson Colliery.
He then went to the Malay States, first as Chaplain of Ipoh in Perak, and in 1931 became Archdeacon of Singapore, in charge of St. Andrew’s Cathedral. He was active in education and local church work and in 1934 he bought a plot of land (with his own money) in Ceylon Road, Katong, on which stood the Bethel English School, and began a church there, St. Hilda’s. He also founded St. Hilda’s School. White was awarded the OBE in 1938 for his services to education in Singapore. White was also Vice-President of the Malayan Orchid Society.
During the Japanese invasion in 1942 his home, Cathedral House, Cavanagh Road, was damaged by bombing and shell-fire, but he and his wife decided to remain. They might have left Malaya during the period before the fall of Singapore, but elected to stay and were therefore interned, at first in the infamous Changi Jail.
In March 1943 White and the other internees were joined by the Bishop of Singapore, the Right Reverend John Wilson, one of 57 civilian internees later tortured by the Japanese in October.
On October 10th 1943 the Japanese started looking for evidence that the internees had assisted Allied commando canoeists in sinking Japanese vessels in Singapore harbour on September 26th. The atmosphere in Singapore had soured since the Japanese conquest, and the Japanese began to suspect that the Changi inmates were somehow co-ordinating resistance to the occupying forces. Of the fifty-seven internees taken for questioning, one committed suicide, one was executed, and twelve more died as the result of the treatment which they had received and conditions in which they had been kept. Those who returned from their interrogation were suffering from malnutrition, scabies, dysentery, ulcers, beri-beri and joint injuries sustained during beatings. After the war, Bishop Wilson gave evidence into the enquiry into this episode. Of twenty Japanese personnel brought to trial for their roles in this, eight were sentenced to be hanged and six to various custodial sentences.
In May 1944 the civilian internees were moved from Changi to a camp on the Sime Road, as the Jail was required for prisoners of war. It was there that both White and his wife were to die. The Archdeacon and his wife had led the spiritual life of the internees until the arrival of the Bishop and then again in the months during which he had been held by the Kempei Tai (the notorious Japanese equivalent of the Gestapo).
His wife died first, having been ill at intervals throughout their internment. White’s obituary in the Wykehamist War Service Record and Roll of Honour added that “his wife, ‘Nobbs’, as she was universally known, was the first to pass away. It was to her that all automatically confided their troubles. She grew terribly thin, but never lost her glorious smile.” A school-teacher called ‘Tiny’ Lewis recorded Georgina White’s illness in his diary: “September 11th 1944: Both Mrs Shelton-Palmer and Mrs. Graham-White (wife of the Archdeacon) are very ill in the Women’s Camp.”
‘Nobbs’ White died on January 21st 1945, aged sixty. Archdeacon White died of dysentery on May 8th 1945, also at the age of sixty.
The tombstone of the late Archdeacon Graham and Mrs White was relocated from the former Bidadari Cemetery to the Cathedral grounds in October 2002.
- Surname: White
- Forenames or initials: Graham
- House: E
- Years in School: 1898-1903
- Rank: Archdeacon of Singapore
- Regiment: NA
- Date of Birth: 12th June 1884
- Date of Death: 8th May 1945
- How Died: Died as a Prisoner of War
- Location in War Cloister: Inner D1
- Decoration: OBE
- Burial Site: No known grave. Bidadari Cemetery no longer exists but the tombstone of Archdeacon and Mrs White was relocated to the grounds of Singapore Cathedral in October 2002.