On 13 February 1942, the Japanese attacked the Pasir Panjang Ridge, a key location leading to the Allied forces’ main ammunition magazine, main ordinance depot, the Alexandra Military Hospital and other military installations. The Malay Regiment who defended the area put up a strong resistance but was eventually overwhelmed by the superior numbers and weapons of the Japanese in what became known as the Battle of Opium Hill (Bukit Chandu).
We chanced upon Reflections at Bukit Chandu (Malay for Opium Hill), a restored two-storied black and white colonial bungalow, when we were walking to the Kent Ridge (originally Pasir Panjang Ridge) Canopy Walk from Hort Park. We did not know what the place was about, I was feeling hot and wanted to step in to rest my feet and get some cool air. Then we found out that it is a World War II interpretative centre for visitors to reflect upon Singapore’s heritage of heroism – courage, loyalty and honour of the Malay Regiment in defending Singapore. And it is free to access for all visitors.
On level one, the exhibition is separated into three galleries with the first detailing the socio-political climate of the Malay Peninsula in the late 1930s and Japan’s invasion plans. At the second gallery, the Battle for Singapore unfolded before us through a multimedia presentation, narrating the various battles leading up to the British surrender. Stepping into the third gallery, we met the virtual host Corporal Din recounting the important scenes of the Battle of Pasir Panjang.
After spending a little less than 25 minutes on level one, we proceeded to level two. We approached the Well of Reflections to see ourselves amid the landscape of destruction and war.
As I mentioned earlier, the Centre commemorates the sacrifice and heroism of the Malay Regiment, a section on level two is dedicated to the Malay Regiment that fought one of the fiercest battles during the Battle of Singapore at Pasir Panjang Ridge. The Japanese invading troops encountered the Malay Regiment at the junction with Ayer Rajah Road (now the Ayer Rajah Expressway). The 1,400 brave soldiers of the 1st and 2nd Battalion Malay Regiment defended the west coast and Pasir Panjang area, the last stand against the advancing 13,000 strong Japanese army.
Led by Lieutenant Adnan Saidi, Commander of the Malay Regiment, men of the “C” Company of the 1st Malay Brigade held their ground and retreated to Bukit Chandu before being overrun by the Japanese Army on 14 February 1942. The British surrendered Singapore to the Japanese the next day.
The only Malay Regiment surviving witness was a Corporal Yaako, who pretended to be dead so the Japanese soldiers wouldn’t kill him.
Lt Adnan was recognised for his bravery posthumously by the British government and his heroic contingent is remembered for defending Singapore.
On the left of the bronze bust of Lt Adnan are the words of the final memories that his eldest son, Mokhtar Adnan, had of his father, he was only three years old then. Just before going into battle, Lt Adnan sent his family to Kajang at the Tanjong Pagar train station, the last train from Singapore to Kajang. His wife was pregnant with their third child and was due soon. It must have been painful for Lt Adnan to send his family away. This reminds me of a very old Chinese saying, “沒有國哪有家”, translated as if you lose your country, you lose your home.
Lt Adnan last words to his fellow soldier at the battlefield was, “Tuan, if I should die today, I am quite willing as long as someone can look after my family.”
My heart broke and tears welled up in my eyes when I read those words. As I am writing, my tears started welling up in my eyes.
I would encourage you to visit Reflections at Bukit Chandu to learn about the bravery of the Malay Regiment just before the surrender of Singapore. Do not miss it if you are taking the Kent Ridge trail walk.
Wrapping up this post with the words from BG (NS) George Yeo, Minister for Information & the Arts (1991-1999) at the launch of SCCI publication, “The Price of Peace”, 21 June 1997.
“If we do not remember our heroes, we will produce no heroes. If we do not record their sacrifices, their sacrifices would have been in vain…the greatest strength we have as a people is our common memories of the past and our common hopes for the future… For without those memories, the next generation will not have the fighting spirit to carry on.”
The Lowdown – Reflections at Bukit Chandu
Address: 31-K Pepys Road S(118458)
Getting There: The nearest train stations are Pasir Panjang MRT (CC26) and HarbourFront MRT (NE1) and parking is free and available at Carparks C and D at Pepys Road. Or access by foot from Harbour Front Centre via a series of nature walks and trails through the Southern Ridges.
Opening Hours: Tuesdays to Sundays (9:00 am to 5:30 pm) Closed on Mondays (Except on Public Holidays)
Admission: Free for all visitors regardless of nationality
Photography: All photos on this post were taken using iPhone 6
Time Required: 45 minutes to an hour to tour the museum
For more information on Reflection at Bukit Chandu, go to www.nhb.gov.sg.
Thank you for stopping by and happy Living for Experiences!