The Changi prison was built by the British in the 1930s. During WWII it was used by the Japanese to house POWs. In all, around 5000 prisoners, including men, women and children, were kept in the prison designed for 600. This is the chapel from the prison that was dismantled by Australian soldiers at the end of the war. It now stands in Duntroon in Canberra Australia. A replica is kept in the Changi War Museum.
Fort Canning, named after the first Viceroy of India, was the place of Raffles’ first residence in Singapore. He dedicated the land to the military who built a fort here including offices, stores, barracks and a hospital. During the Second World War, an underground bunker was created to protect those in the fort from air raids. The two entries to the ‘battle box’ can be seen here. Later, after the British surrender, the Japanese also used the fort.
The Singapore Commonwealth War Graves includes the Imperial war monument, the tall structure represents the Coning tower of a submarine for the Navy, the wings represent the Airforce and the pillars represent the army marching in rows. People of many Commonwealth countries are buried here but mostly Indian soldiers; the Indian army was trained for fighting in desert warfare and not jungle warfare, they had the most troops posted here, and they were young and mostly poorly trained. Most graves are from the Second World War but the first Australian to die in the Vietnam War is buried here according to the Australian policy at the time to bury Australian dead in the Commonwealth War Cemetery in the nearest friendly country.
Following the Battle of Singapore in 1942, the Japanese ordered all Chinese men to report to them. Men who were ‘hostile’ to the Japanese, for example those deemed literate (who wore glasses or who had soft hands), were massacred in what was later known as the Sook Ching massacre. No official records were kept but the estimated number of deaths is between 5000 and 50,000.
Two of these guns were placed in Changi by the British to protect Singapore from attack by the sea. Unfortunately the Japanese attack came from the north and so the guns were facing the wrong direction. They could be manipulated to face inland but were designed to fire across flat ocean not hilly terrain, and as they fired armour piercing shells, designed to penetrate the steel hull of a battleship before exploding, they were useless against invading troops. The gunners of this gun also forgot to bring enough turning cable to turn their gun anyway. Later, when the Japanese surrendered, in a scorched earth policy they disabled both guns, this is a replica.
This sketch ‘Two malaria with cholera’ was done by Ray Parkin, a POW on the Death Railway. The Japanese told the sick POWs they could work as long as they could crawl. This sketch shows the three men in a wonky tripod supporting each other. It’s now the symbol of the Singapore war museum to represent the spirit and determination it takes to survive such times.