Changi Historic Area, 1942-2002
Reproduced with kind permission from Kevin Blackburn, 27th September 2002,
from the forthcoming book by Karl Hack & Kevin Blackburn, 2003.
Did Singapore have to fall?. London: RoutledgeCurzon.

Click on image for map notes.

Changi Historic Area 1942-2002: Map Notes

The Big Guns of Singapore

All that remains of the three gun sites of the big 15-inch guns of the Johore Battery is the underground ammunition bunker of the only gun in Singapore in 1942 that could not turn around and fire landward. This gun had a firing arc of 180°, and thus could only point out to sea. The other two big guns of the Johore Battery were on different naval turret type mountings, which enabled them to turn around and fire at the Japanese. If those guns were still around today they would stretch across the runways of Changi Airport.

The big guns were supported by smaller 6-inch gun batteries near Changi Village and at Bering Kusah. All the guns were directed by Changi Fire Command, which was on top of Changi Hill. In February 2002, the Singapore Tourism Board built a same-size replica of the big 15-inch guns of the Johore Battery above the ruins of the remaining ammunition bunker as a tourist attraction.

Near the site of the big guns of Singapore stood the "Changi Tree". This 76 metre tall tree, which was marked on maps at the time, towered above the surrounding landscape. In 1942, the British blew the top off the tree in order to remove a marker that could be clearly seen by the Japanese.

In February 2001, the Singapore Tourism Board planted a small sapling of a tree at the opening of the Changi Chapel and Museum in order to recreate the "Changi Tree". The tree was of the chengai species, which gave its name to the area. Back to top.

Read more about the Changi tree...

 

Sook Ching Massacre Sites

There are two documented Sook Ching massacre sites in the Changi Historic Area. On the evening of 20 February 1942 Japanese troops in their bloody purge of 'anti-Japanese' Chinese took 70 Chinese males out to Changi Beach and shot them at the water's edge. Four survived because they were mistaken to be dead. They fled after the Japanese left.

When POWs from Changi were ordered by the Japanese to dispose of the bodies the next day, they found another Chinese man alive and smuggled him out of the area.

At Tanah Merah Besar Beach, on which Changi Airport is built, according to two massacre survivors, Chua Choon Guan and Cheng Kwang Yu, between 400 to 600 Chinese were machine gunned by the Japanese at low tide on the evening of 22 February 1942. They testified at the 1947 war crimes trial into the Sook Ching Massacre that they had miraculously survived because the Japanese troops were not able to check that every victim was dead by bayoneting them all.

The Japanese are rumoured to have returned every evening for next three days after the first massacre to machine gun more Chinese at low tide so the sea would come in and take away their bodies. However, if there were any survivors of these massacres they never told their stories. See also: NHB's Heritage Hub: Changi Beach Massacare. Back to top.

 

Changi POW Historic Sites

The 50,000 Allied POWs were not, as popular myth has it, put into Changi Prison. The prison was built in 1936 to hold only 600 prisoners. From 1942 to 1944, about 3000 civilian internees were housed in Changi Prison. The POWs were placed in the former quarters of the troops of the garrison protecting the Changi area.

The Australian POWs were stationed in Selarang Barracks and the British POWs were in Roberts Barracks, which are now both barracks for the Singapore Armed Forces. Only in May 1944, would the POWs move into Changi Prison, and even then they were also housed in huts outside the prison walls. In 2004, old Changi Prison is scheduled to be demolished, and a new modern prison to hold 23,000 prisoners is to be built on top of it by 2008.

In 1942, a POW cemetery was created between Selarang Barracks and Roberts Barracks. After the war, it was moved to Kranji, because of the building of the Changi RAF airport, and now comprises part of the Kranji War Memorial.

At Roberts Barracks, the British POW Stanley Warren, from 1942 to 1943, painted the Changi Murals depicting the images of the New Testament in an indoor chapel at the hospital. These murals were restored after the war by Stanley Warren on his visits to Singapore in 1963, 1982, and 1988.

There were also outdoor chapels created by the POWs. There is a replica of one of these at the Changi Chapel and Museum. This replica was created in February 1988 outside Changi Prison by the Singapore Tourism Board, and moved, along with the museum, because of the commencement of the building of the new Changi Prison, to its present location in February 2001. Back to top.