Oct 05 2012

Itineraries: Singapore for World War II buffs

Published by at 1:42 pm under Sightseeing & activities


Singapore may be a long way from Europe, but this little island played a pivotal role in World War II. Whether you’re a war buff or just want to learn more about this chapter of history, here’s an itinerary that will take you to Singapore’s most important WW2 sites and memorials. Note that these sites are spread across Singapore — you’ll need to start early and take a few taxis to see them all in one day, or spread it out over two days.

Fort Siloso is Singapore's only surviving British fort - guns included.

Fort Siloso is Singapore’s only surviving British fort — guns included.

Start the day bright and early on Sentosa Island at Fort Siloso. Records show the British started construction on this hilltop fort in the 1880s, and what remains has been turned into Singapore’s largest WW2 museum.  The barracks now house collections of old newspaper clippings, army maps, and black and white photographs, and mannequins of important generals sit at tables devising attack strategies. The hillside around Fort Siloso is still dotted with the artillery guns that were infamously pointed the wrong way when the Japanese attacked in 1942.

The remains of another British fort called Fort Pasir Panjang can be found a couple of MRT stops away in what is now Labrador Nature Reserve, but it lies in ruins and the tunnels are off-limits to the public.

Visit the underground command centre where the decision to surrender Singapore was made.

Visit the underground command centre where the decision to surrender Singapore was made.

Next on the itinerary is the Battle Box in Fort Canning Park. This lush hill in central Singapore may not look like it holds any war secrets, but nine metres below the ground is the secret bunker where the senior British generals holed up during the Japanese attack on Singapore. It’s believed that about 500 men were living in the Battle Box during the last days of the battle for Singapore and, running out of drinking water and seeing no chance of victory, the decision to surrender was made right here. The tunnels are as dim and musty as they must have been during Singapore’s last stand, and the animatronic soldiers add to the creepiness.

Right this way into Singapore's WW2 tunnels and bunkers.

Right this way into Singapore’s secret WW2 tunnels and bunkers.

Next on the itinerary is the Changi Museum & Chapel in Eastern Singapore. This museum is named for Changi Prison where thousands of Allied prisoners of war, as well as Singaporean civilians, were interned during the Japanese occupation from 1942 to 1945. It contains a collection of mementos of life during occupation, including photographs, journals and the new currency and new flag introduced by the Japanese. The adjacent chapel is a replica of one built by POWs during the war.  Many former POWs have returned to Singapore and visited the museum to make peace with their experience, and their stories are shared through write-ups and photographs.

Make peace with the atrocities of war at the Changi Museum & Chapel

Make peace with the atrocities of war at the Changi Museum & Chapel.

End the day with a sobering reminder of the human loss from World War II. The Kranji War Cemetery and Memorial is a monument to the 4,461 Allied soldiers who died during the Battle of Singapore and the Japanese Occupation from 1942 to 1945 and the tens of thousands more who gave their lives defending Southeast Asia.

Fort Siloso: 33 Allanbrooke Road, Sentosa Island, T: 1800-SENTOSA
Open daily 10:00–18:00, admission S$8 adults / S$5 children
The Battle Box: 2 Cox Terrace, Fort Canning Park, T: 6333 0510
Open daily 10:00–18:00, admission S$8 adults / S$5 children
Changi Museum & Chapel: 1000 Upper Changi Road North, T: 6214 2451
Open daily 09:30–17:00, free admission
Kranji War Memorial: 9 Woodlands Road
Open daily 07:00-18:00, free admission

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One response so far

One Response to “Itineraries: Singapore for World War II buffs”

  1. Bernard Grayon 08 Nov 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Two very important museums not included in above are the old Ford Factory on upper Bukit Timah Rd where the British signed the surrender document to the Japanese and “Reflections at Bukit Chandu” on Pepys Rd, just off Pasir Panjang Rd.

    Both well worth a visit.

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