Singapore in the War: Changi WWII Trail

Overcrowded: 15,000 POWs in a prison built for 600. No toilet facilities. Only two taps.

What is it?

Changi WWII Trail is a guided walk and bus tour by The Original Singapore Walks commemorating the brave men and women who fought WWII in Malaysia and Singapore and their subsequent cruel internment by the Japanese army.

Where?

The meeting point is at exit B of the Paris Ris MRT station. The tour drives past Changi prison to Changi Chapel. Then onto to Johore Battery (a replica of the WWII 15 inch gun battery). The next stop is Changi beach – the site of mass murders by the Japanese soldiers. Drive past Selarang Barracks ( a WWII Japanese PoW internment camp) to Kranji War Cemetery. The final stop is at the Cenotaph near City Hall.

Changi Chapel

When?

Wednesdays 2pm to 6pm and Saturdays 10am to 2pm. I joined the Wednesday afternoon tour and we finished a little later at 6:30pm.

How much?

Adults $58 Children (7-12 years) $30 includes tour guide, private AC bus, snacks and water. Advanced booking is not required and you can just turn up at the meeting place and pay in cash.

The Trail

Changi is on the east side of the island and is near the airport. It was once the site of many prisoner of war camps during the Japanese occupation. The pain, suffering and cruelty that people suffered at the hands of the occupying Japanese forces are really horrific and it is difficult to understand. It is believed that more Australian POWs died in incarceration than in battle. The mass slaughter of local male citizens on the beach is incomprehensible. The real cruelty of war is explained through history and family stories from the extremely knowledgeable guide. The accounts of incidents recalled by grandparents are the stories that reveal the true horror and fear of living under Japanese occupation.

The fun barrel is 16m long, weighs 800kg, has 15inch shells which travel 34km. The gun can turn 270 degrees.

Changi beach – the site of the mass murders of local men

This is followed by the solemnity of the Kranji War Cemetery, the final resting place of thousands who perished in Singapore and Malaysia. The stories of bravery and commitment of those who died is inspiring and terribly tragic in equal measure.

There is then a 30 minute drive into the Central Business District to the Cenotaph were we spent moments in contemplation thinking about what we had heard and discovered over the afternoon. The tour ended with a minutes silence remembering those who lost their lives so we might be free. It was truly sobering (despite the hustle and bustle of a city preparing for a Grand Prix).

Final thoughts

I can highly recommend this tour trail. It was a real history lesson about the suffering endured in Singapore during the Japanese occupation. People here really suffered and every family was affected by cruelty and the death of a loved one. It also offers a different perspective for those of us who grew up in the west and were taught a western view of Singapore’s surrender to the Japanese. As with all things in life, there are always two sides to the same story and this one is worth hearing.