Year 2022 marks the 80th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore, the National Museum of Singapore will be launching a new exhibition Dislocations: Memory and Meaning of the Fall of Singapore, 1942, from 29th January 2022 to 29th May 2022. This exhibition shares some of the memories and perspectives of the World War Two on Singapore.
For those that went through wartime experience, their first-hand personal accounts and experiences are vivid, enriching and frightening for those who never experienced it. That’s why it is very crucial and important that memories and stories of World War Two must be continued to be passed down to the current and future generations, on the horrors of war and why we must not take our peace and stability for granted.
Dislocations: Memory and Meaning of the Fall of Singapore, 1942, is the first exhibition that looks deep into the impacts of war memories on subsequent generations of Singaporeans up to the present generation. They will bring together different personal accounts, we can see how the World War Two had and continues to leave a lasting impact on Singapore consciousness in our nation building over the decades.
Chung May Khuen, Director of the National Museum of Singapore, said, “World War Two may be a distant memory for many of us, but it is a significant chapter in the story of Singapore’s history, and it is important that we continue to remember it. By piecing together diverse accounts from multiple voices and perspectives, we hope that Dislocations will spark conversations and intergenerational exchanges of memories and experiences on the devastating impact of the war, reminding us how the Fall of Singapore and its aftermath remains relevant today, and also serving as a reminder to never take peace for granted.”
To some people, this might just be another World War Two history exhibition on the Fall of Singapore. Dislocations: Memory and Meaning of the Fall of Singapore, 1942 is more than just another typical exhibition about the history of Singapore during World War Two. When you visit this exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore, the amount of personal stories, artefacts and collections, will bring you into the World War Two survivors world through their personal vivid stories, on what it was like for them living through the days during the Fall of Singapore, using a variety of AR technology, gamification video projections, immersive experiences and digital touch points, accompanying the historical artefacts on display.
Let me bring you on a short journey into Dislocations: Memory and Meaning of the Fall of Singapore, 1942
Section 1A: Prologue
You begin your visit with stories from the voices of people who were evacuated from Singapore, as well as from those who could not escape or did not manage to escape. The oral history recordings were taken from the National Archives of Singapore.
It’s pretty dark and moody, listen to the vivid stories, read some of their excerpts and you can begin to slowly and better understand and feel what it was like back then.
Observe the Chronometer from HMS Bulan (c. 1918-1919) on display at this section, from the collection of the National Museum of Singapore, it kind of brings you back in time to 1942.
Section 1B: Evacuations
Evacuations began before the Japanese invasion, how much do we know about the fear and chaos at that point in time, that was heightened in the week before the Fall of Singapore? The footages speak a thousand words.
You can’t miss the French Grandfather Clock from the early 19th Century, gift of Mrs Elisabeth Chan, from the collection of the National Museum of Singapore. Observe the details and read its story behind it.
Section 2: Preparing for War
Through our history lessons, we learnt about the preparations undertaken by the Allied troops and local’s defence preparations before the war. This section also highlights British military strategy against the Japanese forces.
This is a very enriching section, the photographs on display showed Singapore’s preparations from different perspectives and locations. There were some artefacts on display that blew me away such identify discs for civilians, something that you and me had never heard before in our history books.
For the digitally and technology savvy folks, have a go at the Defence Preparations Game on how you plan to defend Singapore against the Japanese invasion, if you were in their position at that juncture in time, what would you have done?
Section 3: The Battle of Singapore
We learnt about the fierce fighting that took place during the Battle of Singapore, the futility of the battle that led to the chaos in the first section prologue and evacuations.
How much do we know about the actual happenings on the ground level at that time? Every artefact on display tells its own story during the Battle of Singapore. Take your time to view, observe and read each story behind it.
For the digitally and technology savvy folks, there is an Augmented Reality (AR) experience waiting for you to learn more about eight of the items on board the Empress of Asia (1942) on loan from the UK Department of Transport.
Section 4: The Surrender
For us who never experienced the war, the Surrender might just be a date and time in history. For different communities in Singapore, the Surrender meant different things to them. Take a walk into the diverse emotions and perspectives on the Fall of Singapore, marking a day in Singapore that changed the course of history.
Similar to the Ford Factory settings where Singapore surrendered to Japan, take a seat, have a read of the various first-hand and personal experiences, diary entries, memoirs and oral history history interviews via an interactive experience through fragments of the surrender table.
The Deafening Silence
In between Section 4 and Section 5, there is a short “tunnel” that signifies the deafening silence when Singapore fell to the Japanese. Why not take the time to have a moment of silence, read the quote on the wall, reflect on the first few sections that you visited and feel the deafening silence on the Surrender and Fall of Singapore?
You just have to bear with the oral audio projections in Section 1A.
Section 5: The Aftermath
A section that offers a glimpse into the immediate impact of the Fall of Singapore on various communities, the human cost involved in the week-long battle and the experiences of the civilians during the war.
There is a display of many different artefacts at this special glass cabinet. Your initial impression might be, this is just another archaeological excavation and discovery. Observe each artefact closely, they belonged to the remains of Sook Ching victims in 1942. There are over 200 personal artefacts from Sook Ching burial site at Jalan Puay Poon on display.
Section 6: Memories
How have we and how do we remembered the Fall of Singapore? Through this section, the stories and experiences of the Surrender of Singapore were retold over time through culture and oral histories.
Look out for the photo scrapbook by Peter Chong (1942-1949), from the collection of the National Museum of Singapore and Geoffrey Tan’s typewriter on loan from Monica Tan for this exhibition, this typewriter was used by Geoffrey Tan who was 15 years old at the time of the war, recording this experiences with it.
Section 7: Inheriting the War
What does the Fall of Singapore means to the current and future generations of Singapore? In 20 years time, it would be the centennial of the Fall of Singapore. This interactive section encourages visitors to reflect on how they have commemorated the war in Singapore, they can also contribute ideas and stories on how they have remembered the war through their families.
Check out the National Museum’s Student Archivist Project, bringing together seniors shared accounts of the Fall of Singapore and 147 students from 11 secondary schools. The students recorded the seniors’ accounts of how the war and the events that followed affected subsequent generations born during or after the war. At this exhibition, three accounts were shortlisted and they will be featured in it.
AMX-13 SM1 Tank on display at the National Museum’s Front Lawn
A decommissioned and surviving AMX-13 SM1 tank is also on display at the National Museum’s Front Lawn. The Japanese Army paraded past City Hall to commemorate the occupation of Singapore with a procession of its Japanese Army tanks, a day after the British Surrender.
In 1969, 27 years after the Fall of Singapore, four years after Singapore’s independence, the first tanks of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) paraded past City Hall during the National Day Parade 1969.
Those tanks signified the fortitude, indomitable will and fighting spirting of our fledging nation, it also demonstrated SAF defence capabilities and the role of national servicemen during this period of Singapore’s newly independent history.
Remember, everyone has a part to play in the security and defence of Singapore.
Battle for Singapore 2022
Battle for Singapore 2022 is coming soon in February 2022, do keep a look for a series of public programmes across Dislocations, Changi Chapel and Museum (CCM) as well as Reflections at Bukit Chandu (RBC) that will provide a more holistic understanding of World War Two experiences in Singapore.
More than just another WWII and Fall of Singapore exhibition
Dislocations: Memory and Meaning of the Fall of Singapore, 1942, is more than just another World War Two and Fall of Singapore history exhibition. They have gone deeper into the memories and meanings from the people that survived the war, the impacts on the subsequent generations of Singapore till today.
I would like to encourage you to make a visit to Dislocations: Memory and Meaning of the Fall of Singapore, 1942 exhibition taking place at the National Museum of Singapore. Observe each and every artefact, they all had their own unique stories to be told and shared, for us to remember, Lest We Forget. Last but not least, we must not take for granted, our peace and stability that we in Singapore are enjoying today.
* Information courtesy of the National Museum of Singapore and Tate Anzur *