Changi Museum honouring the fall of Singapore

Prisoner's chapel

When Japanese forces conquered Singapore on 15 February, 1942 it not only confirmed Japanese domination of the Pacific but heralded a very sad era in the history of Singapore.

That occupation meant the loss of freedom for many Singaporeans; death, torture and virtual slavery for many of its citizens, and the horrific treatment of allied soldiers by their Japanese counterparts.

The Changi Museum and Chapel honours the memory of those who lived and died through that horrendous era, and reminds us of some of the despicable acts carried out by the merciless Japanese soldiers.

The Museum and Chapel has been on its present site at 1000 Upper Changi Road North since 2001.  I had visited the previous Museum and Chapel, and the present Museum is a vast improvement on the old, particular as all exhibits can now be found in the one location.  

Entrance to the Museum and Chapel is free, but visitors can join an audio tour if they wish.

The Museum contains many photos and artefacts which show the tragic effects of Japanese occupation, and also the ingenious ways that prisoners and civilians were able to provide comforts for themselves and to keep records of life in Changi prison.

Many of the murals that were painted by prisoners have also been preserved.

One of the simplest, yet most harrowing, exhibits is a full scale outline of a cell that has been painted on the floor.  The Japanese interred four prisoners into each of these cells, yet there is barely room for just one person to remain comfortable.  When you consider live in this cramped cell, with its high heat and humidity and a starvation diet and tiny water rations, you get some understanding of just how horrific life must have been.  Yet, other exhibits show how many of the prisoners used humour to get them through each wretched day, and you get to understand just how resilient the human condition and will to survive can be.

There can be no doubt that given the huge feeling of optimism, wealth and comfort which pervades Singapore a visit to the Changi Museum and Chapel can be a rather dour experience.  But then, you look at how Singapore has survived the terrible part of its recent history, and has thrived to produce one of the world’s most successful economies, and you realise that the human spirit can overcome any tribulation.

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