Revamped Reflections at Bukit Chandu Reopens with enhanced retelling WWII stories

Reflections at Bukit Chandu (RBC) reopens its doors to the public on 9th September 2021 after going through renovations and revamp. It’s managed by National Museum of Singapore (NMS) under National Heritage Board (NHB), the revamped Reflections at Bukit Chandu reopens with enhanced retelling World War II (WWII) stories of the Malay Regiment in the Battle of Pasir Panjang during which they they were heavily outnumbered by the 13,000 strong Japanese force and they made a heroic last stand against them.

I last visited RBC during 2017, on the the 75th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore. I went for a Battle for Singapore tour organised by NHB, titled Battle of Pasir Panjang Trail. Starting off from Kent Ridge Park, a guided walking trail to RBC for another guided tour inside RBC, using the Southern Ridges Trail. 

There were significant renovations and revamp to RBC, taking on an expanded role in the narrative segment of site-specific Pasir Panjang and Bukit Chandu before WWII. How many of us knew that RBC that was first opened in 2002, was a bungalow that was originally built in 1930 for senior British staff of an Opium Packing Plant down the hill?

Chung May Khuen, Director of the National Museum of Singapore, said: “Reflections at Bukit Chandu commemorates the tenacity and heroism of the Malay Regiment in the battle of Pasir Panjang, a key moment in Singapore’s World War Two history. With this revamp, we also hope to share with visitors more insights into the pre-war character of Pasir Panjang and Bukit Chandu. RBC complements the National Museum’s World War Two galleries and the recently revamped Changi Chapel and Museum’s story of the prisoners of war and civilians interned at Changi prison camp – together, these interlinked narratives piece together the story of World War Two in Singapore. The stories of courage and resilience shared in these three institutions remain relevant to our lives today and we hope that they will continue to inspire and resonate with visitors, especially as we commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore in February next year.”

Immersive Experience in Bukit Chandu: Battle Point 226

Upon entering into RBC, an immersive and learning experience awaits you.

The RBC bungalow stands close to Battle Point 226, a military position that was the Malay Regiment’s last stand against the Imperial Japanese Army on 14th February 1942.  The galleries on the first floor of the revamped RBC charts the regiment’s beginnings and pays homage to the courage and sacrifice by the Malay Regiment during the Battle of Pasir Panjang in the exhibition Bukit Chandu: Battle Point 226.

There are three sections inside this exhibition:

  1. The Malay Regiment

In this section, you can learn more about the Malay Regiment, tracing their origins, from the equipment that they used, to the specially designed uniform that they wore. 

2) Into Battle

An immersive multimedia display and experience awaits you in this section whereby you can trace the regiment’s story during the defence of Malaya and Singapore against the Japanese invasion and finally the Battle of Bukit Chandu on 14th February 1942 where the story of “C” Company’s defence of Point 226.

3) Aftermath 

By the time Singapore surrendered, more than 100 men of the Malay Regiment had been killed in action. There were about 600 members of the Malay Regiment who were detained, they were ordered to remove their uniforms and join the Japanese forces or be released as civilians. A number of them were executed for refusing to take off their uniforms. In this section, a special tribute is paid to these men who embodied the regimental motto, Ta’at Setia (“faithful and true” in Malay), to the very end.

When you are viewing the various sections inside the exhibition, keep a lookout for the artefacts on display such as 

  • Bullets from the Battle of Pasir Panjang that were found around Pasir Panjang Ridge in the 1970s
  • Bullet cases recovered from the eastern side of the bungalow’s compound during an archaeological excavation in 2019.
  • Rare archival pre-war film footage featuring Lieutenant Adnan at a ceremonial parade
  • A tin cup belonging to Lieutenant Ibrahim Sidek, who was detained after the surrender and killed by the Japanese for refusing to remove his uniform, is also featured alongside an excerpt of an interview with his widow

Learning about and tracing the legacy of Bukit Chandu

The revamped RBC has taken on a new narrative to allow visitors to know more about the region and surroundings through the galleries on the second floor as well as on the grounds of RBC, informing visitors of the history behind Bukit Chandu (“Opium Hill” in Malay) and Pasir Panjang (“Long Beach” or “Long Sand” in Malay). 

  1. Packing Chandu

How much do you know about the history of opium production in Singapore? Have you heard of the Opium Packing Plant was located at the foot of the hill? Raw opium was first processed in a factory at Telok Blangah after which it was sent to Pasir Panjang to be packed, before it was being sold to opium smokers in Singapore, Malaya and other countries in the region.

2) The Lounge

When you are at the second floor of the RBC bungalow, look out through the windows, experience how former occupants of the house would feel when they looked out at the view of the Singapore Strait and the sea breeze. 

3) On the Lawn

There are outdoor installations on the lawn whereby visitors can learn about the local landmark 龙牙门 (“Dragon’s teeth gate in Mandarin” ) at Labrador Park and the pineapple plantations which used to be in this area.

Opening Weekend programmes at RBC

The opening weekend for RBC will take place from 11th to 12th September, this also coincides with the anniversary of the surrender of the Japanese on 12th September 1945. Visitors can look forward to a self-guided scavenger hunt through the RBC galleries and complimentary live-streamed tours by the curators of RBC and Changi Chapel and Museum on Facebook Live.

To commemorate the reopening of RBC, all visitors will enjoy free admission from 9th to 26th September 2021. For Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents, they will continue to enjoy complimentary admission beyond this period. 

If you are planning to visit RBC, you are encouraged to pre-book your museum admission tickets and sign up for the weekend programmes ahead of your visit.

Planning a visit to Reflections at Bukit Chandu with a DIY short walking trail of Battle of Pasir Panjang 

In 2017, on the 75th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore, I went for a Battle for Singapore tour organised by NHB, titled Battle of Pasir Panjang Trail. Starting off from Kent Ridge Park, a guided walking trail to Reflections at Bukit Chandu, using the Southern Ridges Trail.

You may choose to start off first by visiting Reflections at Bukit Chandu, learning and understanding more about the heroic battles that took place during WWII, as well as the early history of this region before WWII. After that, you can go on a short walking trail using the Southern Ridges to Kent Ridge Park, the entrance to the the Southern Ridges trail is just in front of the main gate of RBC. You will be walking along the battleground – The Battle of Bukit Panjang that took place during WWII.    

Year 2022 would be the 80th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore, I feel that the Battle for Singapore tour – Battle of Pasir Panjang Trail would make a comeback, a guided walking trail from Kent Ridge Park to Reflections at Bukit Chandu where a guided tour would take place inside before you can explore more on your own. 

Reflections at Bukit Chandu Visiter Information

Reflections at Bukit Chandu

31-K Pepys Road

Singapore 118458

Opening Hours

9:30am to 5pm (Tuesdays to Sundays)

Closed every Monday except Public Holidays

Last admission at 4:30pm

Website: https://www.nhb.gov.sg/bukitchandu 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/reflectionsatbukitchandu/ 

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/reflectionsatbukitchandu 

YouTube: Reflections at Bukit Chandu 

* Information courtesy of National Museum of Singapore and Tate Anzur *

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