When Singapore Fell 75 Years Ago

By now, most of you would be aware of the media buzz surrounding the Fall of Singapore 75 years ago, which happened at 6.20pm on 15 February 1942. WWII was a defining part of human history, so if you’re not as clued up to history as you should be, here are a few pointers to help you along:

  1. It took the Japanese just one week to take control of Singapore. On the 8th of February, about 13,000 Japanese troops crossed the Johor Straits into Singapore in collapsible boats. Within 3 days, they took Bukit Timah (with its reservoirs, food depots and ammunition stocks), and overcame the brave Malay regiment during the infamous Battle of Pasir Panjang on 14 February.
  2. The British surrendered to the Japanese on 15 February. The British, led by Lieutenant Percival and his surrender party, met General Yamashita at the Ford Factory in Bukit Timah to officially surrender Singapore to the Japanese forces.
  3. Singapore was renamed Syonan-To. Singapore was renamed ‘Light of the South’ on Feb 16, 1942. Seventy five years later on the exact date of the surrender, the Ford Factory reopened as a museum documenting life in Singapore during the occupation – ironically renamed ‘Syonan Gallery‘, a fact that doesn’t sit well with many Singaporeans. So, on Feb 17 they renamed the gallery “Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies” – and had to change all the signages.
  4. Japan ruled Singapore for 44 months. These months of Japanese rule caused great upheaval for the people of Singapore.
  5. Sook Ching Massacre happened. The Japanese military carried out Operation Sook Ching to eliminate anti-Japanese elements specifically within the Chinese community, but also among Eurasians and other groups, in Singapore from 21 February to 4 March 1942. It’s estimated that over 50,000 people were killed, with many of the victims made to dig their own graves. There were numerous massacre sites, including Changi Beach, East Coast Road, and Tanah Merah Beach, which later became part of Changi Airport’s runway.
  6. Japanese language was mandatory at schools. By the end of 1943, all subjects at schools were taught in Japanese. Singapore followed the calendar of Japanese festivals and anniversaries.
  7. Japan surrendered on 15 August 1945. Following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan officially returned Singapore to British colonial rule on 12 September 1945. The formal signing of the surrender instrument was held at City Hall, then known as “Municipal Hall”. Today, it’s part of the National Gallery.

If you’re interested in this portion of history, the National Heritage Board is organising a number of activities under the banner of Battle for Singapore, from 16 February to 12 March 2017.

You can check out the WWII trails by downloading the guide here. Each site marks either a battle area, or commemorates a significant event during the Occupation, such as the Sook Ching massacre sites. Find out about WWII-era buildings – like The Cathay and YMCA – that were once used by British and Japanese forces before and during the war.

Check www.museums.com.sg or roots.sg for more.

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