This year is a significant year because not only does it mark the 75th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore, it is also the 50th year of National Service (NS50).
The Fall of Singapore is considered one of the darkest moments in Singapore's short history where for the next 3 years and 7 months, life in Singapore was a period of constant fear and hardship. Which is why come every 15 February (also known as Total Defence Day), we remember the sufferings of our forefathers during the Japanese Occupation, and remind ourselves that NEVER AGAIN shall Singapore fall. We can only trust ourselves to defend Singapore and protect all that we hold dear.
The current world we live presents different forms of threats - terrorism, cyber-attacks, and regional tensions - so they serve important reminders that we should never our peace for granted.
But it is tough to expect the kids of today to fully understand the tough living conditions back in the days of the Japanese Occupation. Even for me, who have only heard horror stories about World War II from my grandparents.
But that does not mean we do not try to expose the kids to a grimmer aspect of our nation's history.
I do know that some schools have commemorated Total Defence Day by having the school canteens sell only white porridge or sweet potatoes on that day. My kids' school had switched off the fans for a few school periods as well, just to let the kids experience what it felt like to have minimal comforts.
On this 75th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore, it makes for a good teaching moment to educate our kids on the history and the importance of defending what is important to us. Here are a few recommendations:
1. Re-live the hardships
Try water rationing at home, or try to cook a meal without the usual gas cooker. The latter was something that the monkies attempted over the weekend. I only provided them with a limited amount of water and other resources and they had to cook their own instant noodles for lunch.
Other than the fact that they actually do love instant noodles, a huge takeaway for them was how troublesome it was to share the water among themselves.
Maybe I will try something different next year and cut off the WiFi at home.
2. Battle for Singapore Activities
To commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore, the Natonal Heritage Board and its Museum Roundtable partners will be organising a slew of activities over the next few weeks. While all of its guided tours have been fully booked, there are still many other activities happening at the various museums. For more information, visit HERE.
3. Stronger Together - Total Defence Exhibition 2017
Specially curated to commemorate Total Defence 2017, Stronger Together features the hardship experienced in Singapore during World War II, discusses clear and present threats to Singapore and shares how our friends and community play their part to help protect our peace.
While you are there, pop over the neighbouring Army Museum to visit the 'Celebrating 50 Years of National Service' exhibition too. Happening from now until 1 Oct 2017 (10am - 6pm), the exhibition is FREE for all.
Address: Singapore Discovery Centre
Dates: Now until 19 Mar 2017
Opening Hours: 9am to 6pm (Closed on Mondays except Public & School Term Holidays)
4. Kranji War Memorial
The Kranji War Memorial in Singapore honours the men and women from the Commonwealth who died in the line of duty during World War II. More than 4,400 white gravestones are erected in rows on the cemetery’s gentle slope. The Chinese Memorial, in plot 44, marks a mass grave for 69 Chinese servicemen who were killed by the Japanese when Singapore fell in February 1942. Next to the Kranji War Memorial is the Kranji Military Cemetery, with more than 1,400 burials of soldiers who died after World War II.
The Singapore State Cemetery, where the country’s first and second presidents, Encik Yusof Ishak and Dr Benjamin Henry Sheares, are buried is situated nearby as well.
Address: 9 Woodlands Road, Singapore 738656
Opening Hours: 8am - 6.30pm daily
5. Syonan Gallery
Syonan Gallery, which was formerly known as Memories at Old Ford Factory, is the site of the surrender of Singapore by British forces to the Japanese Imperial Army. Re-opening on 16 Feb 2017 and a national monument, its contents have been revamped and now features refreshed content and a new focus. Syonan or Syonan-to, meaning “Light of the South”, was the name given to Singapore by its Japanese rulers between 18 February 1942 and 12 September 1945. The gallery subtitle highlights a new area of focus for the exhibition by looking at the impact of the war and the Occupation years, including the immediate and longer-term legacies of this period on Singapore and the region.
- Fall of Singapore: Outlines the events leading up to that fateful moment where British forces surrendered unconditionally to the Imperial Japanese Army in the Ford Factory boardroom.
- Becoming Syonan: Captures the diverse experiences of people during the Japanese Occupation.
- Legacies: Highlights the various legacies of war and Occupation in Singapore, from the political and social changes that arose and the ways we remember the war in Singapore today.
Address: 351 Upper Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 588192
Opening Hours: Mondays to Saturdays, 9am – 5.30pm | Sundays, 12 noon – 5.30pm
6. Reflections @ Bukit Chandu
Bukit Chandu (Opium Hill) was the site of one of the last battles in Singapore. The battle lasted 48 hours and the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Malay Regiment bravely but unsuccessfully attempted to defend the hill in the Battle of Pasir Panjang against Japanese in 1942. Housed in a restored black and white colonial bungalow close to the former battle site, the centre is a place for visitors to reflect upon Singapore’s heritage of heroism.
The centre combines first-hand accounts, personal artefacts, maps and historical footage to recount the brutal fall of Singapore. In particular, Reflections pays homage to the heroism of ‘C’ Company, 1st Battalion in their battles against the Japanese at Bukit Chandu. The story of 2nd Lieutenant Adnan Saidi is also highlighted as he had foiled Japanese attempts by disguising themselves as Punjabi troops and inspired his men to fight to the very end. Their courageous defence of Bukit Chandu cost the Japanese many lives.
Address: 31-K Pepys Road, Singapore 118458
Opening Hours: Tue - Sun 9am – 5.30pm | Closed on Mon (except on PHs)
Price: Free Admission for Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents | $1 - $2 for Tourist & Foreign Citizens
The Battlebox is a former WWII British underground command centre inside Fort Canning Hill in the heart of Singapore City. It was part of the headquarters of Malaya Command, the army which defended Malaya and Singapore in WWII. It was inside the Battlebox that the British decided to surrender Singapore to the invading Japanese on 15 February 1942.
Today, the Battlebox is a museum that unveils the true causes behind “the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history”. The Battlebox Tour, A Story of Strategy & Surrender, tells two stories - the fall of Malaya and Singapore in WWII, and how an underground command centre functioned during the war.
Address: 2 Cox Terrace, Singapore 179622 (Fort Canning Park)
Opening Hours: 9.30am - 5.30pm
Admission: From $18 (adult) and $9 (child, 7-12 yrs old)
8. Go on a World War II Heritage Trail
Launched in 2013. the World War II Trail consists of 13 spots that mark great historical events that occurred during World War II. It identifies war sites all over the island with each site marking either a battle area, such as the invasion sites at Sarimbun beach, or commemorates a significant event during the Occupation, such as the Sook Ching massacre sites.
The trail is free to explore at your own time so do download the guides before you set off to explore with the family:
Download World War 2 Trail Booklet
Download World War 2 App for iOS device
Download World War 2 App for Android device
At the end of the day, exposing our kids to Singapore's history can only do so much. Because beyond that, we can pledge to be more security conscious, to pick up lifesaving skills, or to strengthen community bonds in our personal capacity.
#NeverAgainSG will we let Singapore fall. Together, we can keep our country strong.