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Watch a dramatisation of the Fall of Singapore, among other activities to commemorate the war

The Straits Times | Lea Wee | Friday, Feb 17, 2017

Mr Alvin Tan (far left), group director of policy at National Heritage Board (NHB), with World War II survivors (from left) Samuel Dhoraisingam, William Gwee, Helen Joseph, Joseph Conceicao and Chia Siok Hew, looking at a Japanese machine gun recovered in 2002.

Photo: The Straits Times

Madam Helen Joseph was only 12 years old when World War II broke out. But the plucky child risked her life to make sandwiches and secretly pass them, under a fence, to famished prisoners of war at Rangoon Road Camp.

The 88-year-old, a retired Robinson's sales assistant, and three other Eurasians, will share their experiences of the war and how they struggled to survive, with visitors at the Eurasian Heritage Centre in Ceylon Road this month and next.

Visitors can also join a tour of the World War II gallery at the heritage centre to get an insight into the history of the fall of Singapore and what the Eurasian community endured during those tumultuous years.

Eurasians here were sent to toil and perish on the Thailand-Burma Death Railway and some were forced to resettle in the jungle area of Bahau, Negri Sembilan, in Malaysia, where many died of malaria and other diseases due to the harsh conditions.

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The sharing sessions and tour are part of the annual event, Battle For Singapore, held to commemorate the fall of Singapore to the Japanese on Feb 15, 1942, and the period in Singapore's history known as the Japanese Occupation of Singapore.

To mark the 75th anniversary of the event this year, the National Heritage Board (NHB) has lined up a series of activities that run until March 12.

There are as many as 11 guided tours of outdoor sites such as the old Command House, Gillman Barracks and Alexandra Barracks, as well as talks and exhibitions at museums and heritage centres under the Museum Roundtable, where people can learn more about the events leading up to the fall of Singapore and stories of the Japanese Occupation

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Ms Angelita Teo, director of the Museum Roundtable division at NHB, says the tours and programmes celebrate "poignant stories of survival and courage".

"These shared memories are an invaluable part of our intangible heritage and must be passed down through the generations."

While the guided tours to the outdoor sites are fully booked, there are still slots for some indoor tours, talks and exhibitions.

On the tour, Seventy Days To Syonan-To, at the National Museum of Singapore in Stamford Road, participants will learn about the battle that led to the fall of Singapore.

According to the late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, The Battle of Singapore is the worst defeat in the history of British arms and resulted in many British and Commonwealth troops being killed or captured.

To bring the event to life, the museum volunteers group has put together a special dramatised tour of the battle, where participants can engage with imagined characters, each of whom has a story to tell.

One fully booked tour, however, is the newly launched Syonan Gallery, operated by the National Archives of Singapore. Its name had received strong reactions from members of the public and signs now reflect its full name, Syonan Gallery: War And Its Legacies, and include the phrase "An Exhibition at Former Ford Factory".

For more information, go to www.museums.com.sg. Tour slots are available on a first-come, first-served basis.


This article was first published on Feb 17, 2017.
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