SINGAPORE: The Changi Prison entrance gate, wall and turrets on Monday (Feb 15) were gazetted by the National Heritage Board (NHB) as the Republic’s 72nd National Monument.
The move is in remembrance of Singapore’s wartime experience and also serves as a "grim reminder" of when Singapore was surrendered to the Japanese during World War II (WWII), said NHB in a press release.
“Changi Prison stands today as an enduring symbol of the suffering of those who defended Singapore during the tumultuous war years between 1942 and 1945," said Ms Jean Wee, Director of the Preservation of Sites and Monuments division at NHB.
"We hope that this monument will serve as an important reminder to all Singaporeans of the tremendous sacrifice by prisoners of war (POWs) and to treasure the peace and harmony we have today, and continue to safeguard it with resilience and courage.”
One of Changi Prison's turrets. (Photo: Singapore Prison Service)
Completed in 1936 to help relieve prison overcrowding, Changi Prison was acclaimed "as the most modern institution of its kind in the East, boasting a comprehensive alarm system and electrical lights in its cells", NHB said.
After the fall of Singapore on Feb 15, 1942 during the Japanese Occupation, the area of Changi - including Changi Prison, as well as Kitchener, India, Orbers and Selarang barracks - was used as the main POW camp in Southeast Asia. Designed to hold only 600 prisoners, as the Occupation wore on, the Changi Prison's living conditions deteriorated with more than 5,000 prisoners packed into the cells.
The prison returned to civilian control in October 1947.
Other World War II-related National Monuments include the former City Hall, the former Cathay Building,the former Ford Factory, the former Command House, the Esplanade Park Memorials and the Civilian War Memorial, added NHB.
What the Changi Prison complex used to look like. (Photo: Singapore Prison Service)
In addition to gazetting the site, the NHB is presenting Singapore's war stories through a series of guided tours to WWII sites, special programmes at Museum Roundtable museums and institutions, as well as public talks, from Feb 12 to 28.
"This annual commemorative project, known as the Battle for Singapore, not only observes the significance of this period in Singapore’s history, but also serves as a channel for Singaporeans today to understand the resilience and unity of our forefathers during the tumultuous war years," said NHB.