Feb 12, 2019

6 Ways to Remember the Fall of Singapore's 77th Anniversary with the Kids

8 February 1942 nightfall marked the moment when Japanese forces began the invasion of Singapore. By 15 February, it was all over when the British officially surrendered Singapore to the Japanese.

This year marks the 77th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore, which is considered one of the darkest moments in Singapore's short history because for the 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 77th 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. Our Next Battlefront下一道战线 - Total Defence Special Exhibition

In commemoration of Total Defence Day 2019, S’pore Discovery Centre (SDC) has curated a special exhibition titled ‘Our Next Battlefront’. Key incidents over the past 200 years have reminded us that our nation’s peace is fragile and must always be protected. Fake news and cyber threats continue to be a key concern and are insidious threats to our sovereignty and survival. Be aware of our next battlefront as we play our part and become the first frontier to protect the peace in Singapore.

This special exhibition aims to heighten public awareness on how cyber threats and fake news can impact us and our survival as a nation. Lessons from the featured historical incidents of Singapore will also accentuate the efforts needed to combat the onslaught of modern day rumours, lies and propaganda initiatives in fake news.

Address: Singapore Discovery Centre
Dates: Now until 24 Mar 2019
Opening Hours: 9am to 6pm (Closed on Mondays except Public & School Term Holidays)
Free Admission for all Singaporeans and PRs

3. 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

4. Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies

Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies, 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. 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.

The exhibition space proper is broadly divided into three zones:

- 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
FREE Admission

5. Battlebox Tours

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)
Website: www.battlebox.com.sg

6. 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.

*This article first appeared in Feb 2015, and has been updated to include new exhibitions.

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