Poor deployment of troops, confused leadership and flawed communications led to the rapid fallback of the Allied forces1. Singapore was surrendered unconditionally on 15 February 1942 and entered 3½ years of Japanese Occupation. By 1945 however, the tide had turned, and on 12 September 1945, the Japanese officially surrendered their forces in Singapore. Today, some of Singapore’s World War II sites include:
The Kranji War Cemetery began as a small prisoner-of-war cemetery during the Japanese Occupation, but later became the official resting ground of the many Allied soldiers who had perished in South-east Asia. Officially opened on 2 March 1957, it is home to some 4,500 graves, of which about 850 are unidentified. The columns of Kranji Memorial are engraved with the names of some 24,000 war dead whose remains were never found.
Forts and Bunkers
In southern Singapore, large guns guarded Keppel Harbour and prevented enemy landings along the coast. From as early as 1880 though, the strategic value of Labrador Park was already recognised so a fort was constructed there, where old gun emplacements can still be seen today, along with ammunition chambers that were only discovered in 2001. Across by a narrow channel of water, another fort was on neighbouring Sentosa island to work in tandem with Labrador Park. Today, Fort Siloso is Singapore’s largest military-themed attraction, original barracks still existing alongside a replica of the 6-inch gun used in World War II.
In the heart of the city, Fort Canning Hill was named after an actual fort that was built on the summit in 1861. The site continued to serve an important military function even after the fort was demolished in 1926, and in 1938, a bombproof underground bunker was completed and served as a command centre. It was here that General Percival made the historic decision to surrender Singapore. Reopened in 1992 as The Battle Box, the bunker is currently undergoing renovations and will open later in the year.
Originally a pretty seaside village, Changi became a military base in the 1920s, but is more associated with being a major prisoner-of-war (POW) camp during World War II, where 50,000 British and Australian POWs and 3,500 civilian internees were incarcerated here. Opened in 2001, the Changi Museum tells the story of POWs and civilian internees during those dark times of the Japanese Occupation via artefacts, pictures and letters of their experiences. In the vicinity, the Johore Battery was one of six gun batteries that protected the eastern approach to Singapore and were destroyed by the Japanese. Today it contains a replica of the famous 15-inch ‘Monster Guns’, and below you can still see the underground chambers which used to contain ammunition and supplies.
1Allied forces fighting in Singapore included units from Australia, New Zealand, Britain, India and Malaya (which included Singapore)