A couple of weeks ago, I revisited the Changi Chapel and Museum. The first time I visited the Changi Chapel and Museum was by chance and that was more than ten years ago. I happened to stop by the cafe next to the Chapel for brunch after a business meeting at Changi and visited the Chapel and Museum.
At the Chapel, I saw messages written on small notepads pinned on the board. A note wrote by a girl from Australia to her grandfather stuck in my mind since my first visit until today. It read something like –
“Grandfather, I have finally seen the country you fought for.”
The Changi Chapel and Museum is dedicated to all who suffered during the darkest period of Singapore’s history, the Japanese Occupation (1942 to 1945). The current Chapel is a replica built in 1988. Then in 2001, the Chapel and Museum was relocated to a new site a kilometre away when the Changi Prison expanded.
The Changi Museum chronicles the story of Prisoners-of-War and civilian internees during their years of captivity through letters, drawings, photographs and personal artefacts along with an audio-visual theatre about the life of POWs.
The Museum allows for the POWs and civilian internees and their families to find closure of the emotional scars by the war. The original Changi Chapel, built by the Australian PoWs in 1944, was relocated to Canberra.
The Changi Prisoners-of-War Historic Sites
The Changi Prison was built in 1936 to hold 600 prisoners. From 1942 to 1944, about 3,000 civilian internees were housed in the Changi Prison.
The Australian POWs were stationed in the British Army’s Selarang Barracks and the British POWs were in Roberts Barracks, which are now both barracks for the Singapore Armed Forces. In May 1944, the POWs were moved and housed in huts outside the prison wars.
In 1942, a POW cemetery was created between Selarang Barracks and Roberts Barracks. The cemetery was moved to Kranji after the war and now part of the Kranji War Memorial.
At Roberts Barracks, the British POW Stanley Warren, from 1942 to 1943, painted the Changi Murals depicting the images of the New Testament in an indoor chapel at the hospital. Now the Changi Murals located at Block 151 of Changi Camp is restricted to access. For public interest, replicas of Stanley Warren’s murals are on display at the Changi Chapel and Museum.
The Allied POWs, mainly Australians, built a chapel at the prison in 1944 using simple tools and found materials. Another British POW, Sgt Harry Stogden built a Christian cross out of used artillery shell.
After the war, the chapel was dismantled and shipped to Australia and the cross was sent to the UK. The chapel was reconstructed in 1988 and is now located at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, Canberra.
Ex-POWs have not seen Changi as a site of horrors and were surprised that Changi became known as the most notorious camp in Asia. Out of 87,000 POWs, 850 POWs died during their internment in Changi which was relatively low compared to the overall death rate of 27% for POWs in Japanese camps.
Many of the fatalities at Changi were the result of battle wounds the men had suffered before being taken as prisoners. Many died after being transferred from Changi to various labour camps outside of Singapore, particularly the Siam-Burma Railway.
The Changi Chapel and Museum is the Museum to visit after visiting The Battlebox at Fort Canning Hill.
For more on Changi Chapel and Museum, visit Changi Museum official site for a virtual tour.
The Lowdown – Changi Chapel & Museum
Address: 1000, Upper Changi Road North, Singapore 507707
Getting There: By MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) and Bus SBS Bus No. 2 from Tanah Merah MRT Station (EW4), or SBS Bus No. 29 from Tampines MRT Station (EW2). Alight at the bus stop at the Changi Museum (after Changi Women’s Prison/opposite Changi Heights condominium)
Opening Hours: 9:30 am – 5:00 pm daily; last admission at 4.30pm (Including Sundays and Public Holidays)
In-House/Audio Tours: Visitors can take a 45-minute guided In-House tours (in English) around the site – 9:45 am, 11 am, 1 pm, 2 pm and 3 pm, the regular rate at S$12.00 per adult and S$8.00 per child. For audio tours, available anytime between 9.30 am to 4 pm, the regular rate at S$8.00 per adult and S$4.00 per child and sharing rate at S$6.00 per adult and S$3.00 per child
Note: No photography in the Museum
Thank you for stopping by, happy Living for Experiences!