On 12th September 1945, Singapore was liberated when the Imperial Japanese Army officially surrendered to the Allies. Most of us would be familiar with this date and official surrender ceremony in our Singapore’s history books and records. However, do you know that there was a Japanese Surrender Agreement that had been negotiated and signed a week earlier on 4th September 1945 aboard the HMS Sussex at Keppel Harbour? This Japanese Surrender Agreement signed aboard the HMS Sussex is the latest artefact displayed the Changi Chapel and Museum (CCM).
This rare Japanese Surrender Agreement document is a timely addition to the exhibition at CCM this September as Singapore commemorates the Imperial Japanese forces’ unconditional surrender to the Allied Powers 76 years ago in the year 1945. This rare document displayed at CCM is on a six-month loan from National Museums Scotland, which received it through a donation.
From our history books and lessons, we would learn about the official surrender ceremony that took place at the Municipal Building (now known as City Hall) on 12th September 1945. The Instrument of Surrender signed by Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander in Southeast Asia, officially marked the end of the Japanese Occupation of Southeast Asia.
However, the terms of surrender for Singapore had been negotiated and signed a week earlier on 4th September 1945 onboard HMS Sussex at Keppel Harbour, that effectively marked the end of the Occupation in Singapore and Malaya. Within 24 hours of the signing, Allied troops had reoccupied Singapore and clocks were set once again to Malayan time. This document was signed by Japanese representatives General Seishito Itagaki and Vice Admiral Shigeru Fukudome, as well as Allied representatives Rear Admiral Cedric Holland and Lieutenant General Sir Philip Christison, the document outlines a set of instructions to be adhered to, as part of the surrender agreement.
Discovery of the Surrender Agreement by the National Museum of Singapore’s curator
This Surrender Agreement was previously thought to be lost, it was a chance discovery by Rachel Eng, an assistant curator with the National Museum of Singapore, who was conducting research on Singapore’s history in the National Museums Scotland’s collection.
The original documents were often said to be challenging to locate and only copies of the various texts could be found. This discovery is a testament to the research that curators undertake when piecing Singapore’s history together. The National Museum of Singapore, which manages CCM, is also exploring the possibility of presenting a reproduction of the surrender agreement at CCM after its loan period.
CCM reopened its doors in May 2021 after it was closed in 2018 for a major redevelopment to enhance the museum’s infrastructure and content. This Surrender Agreement artefact is available for viewing at CCM, if you are planning to visit, you are required to pre-book your museum admission tickets ahead of your visit in view of limited gallery capacity.
* Information and pictures courtesy of National Museum of Singapore, Changi Chapel and Museum and Tate Anzur *