Visitors to Singapore will find that many of its buildings and public places have been touched by World War II. As the location of the British Malaya Command Headquarters the city was heavily involved in war time activity even staging their own stoic defense against invaders. The World War II heritage of the country provides a poignant reminder of the futility and cost of war and to curious modern day tourists an interesting insight into history more than half a century old.
Whether a war veteran or simply a curious tourist the cityâ€™s World War II trail is of considerable interest filled as it is with interesting monuments, forts, underground bunkers and other buildings directly associated with the war.
Some of the key WW II heritage sites include the Kranji War Memorial that honours the many men and women from commonwealth countries who lost their lives. The site has war graves, military graves and memorial walls. The poignant inscription on the memorial â€œthey died for all free menâ€ says it all.
An interesting site that will catch the fancy of many visitors is the Battle Box. Located nine metres underground in Fort Canning Park, this complex was the actual British Malaya Command Headquarters. Realistic sound effects such as bombs bursting overhead accompany visitors during the tour of the 22 underground rooms of the bomb proof complex. The use of audio-visual animatronics, special effects and lifelike figures enable visitors to relive the bustle of the place during war time.
The Civilian War Memorial, east of the Padang commemorates the four ethnics groups who fought and died during the occupation and is a sad reminder again of the cost of war.
A WW II site occupying a large area is Singaporeâ€™s only remaining coastal defense, Fort Silso originally built to protect the western entrance to Singaporeâ€™s harbor still with four coastal gun batteries now manned by lifelike effigies, houses a large collection of WW II memorabilia and 17th century artillery. Dioramas depict the life of prisoners of war housed in the fort during WW II.
The site of the British surrender to the Japanese in 1942, the former Ford automotive assembly plant is another point of interest. This quaint art deco building is a museum now with artifacts, photographs and news paper clipping from the era.
The memorial at Bukhit Chandu commemorates the Malay Regiment soldiers who fought and died to at the Battle of Bukhit Chandu.
Alexandra Hospital is another poignant war memorial, the scene of an atrocity where staff and military casualties were killed by invading forces. The hospital retains much of the original architectural features including now walled up entrances to underground shelters.
The Cenotaph built in 1922 to honour the dead of WW I was converted to honour the dead of WW II as well. The sixty foot high granite monument has the words â€œthey died so we may liveâ€ inscribed to commemorate WW II fallen. Several other memorials honouring Asian warriors of WW II dot the city.
Singapore City Hall, the site of many highpoints of the countryâ€™s history, is where the British accepted the surrender of Japanese forces in 1945.
The Japanese Cemetery Park in Hougang is the largest such facility in South East Asia. It holds the graves of about 910 Japanese men and women who lost their lives during the war. It also has monuments dedicated to the various units of the invasion forces.
Many sites with WW II associations have been demolished to make way for the new.
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by Pushpitha Wijesinghe