The Changi Museum
1000 Upper Changi Road North, Singapore 507707
Opening hours: 9.30am to 5pm daily. Last admission is at 4.30pm (including Sundays and Public Holidays
Directions: By public transportation – take MRT to Tanah Merah or Tampines station; take public buses, stop at Upper Changi Road North. By car – exit TPE at Upper Changi Road North.
A poignant reminder of the Second World War that took place on our shores exists today in the form of The Changi Museum, dedicated to all those who lived and died in Singapore during those war-torn years.
The original museum was located in the Changi Chapel, which was part of Changi Prison before the museum was relocated. Built by the British in 1936, the prison was designed to hold some 450 prisoners. In 1942, however, the Japanese made 3,500 civilians, men, women and children walk to the prison to commence an internment from which many of them would not return.
On 5 September, 1945, the relieving 5th Indian Division arrived outside the prison to find some 17,000 former prisoners-of-war (POWs) waiting for them. Changi Chapel would later come to represent an important symbol of that period – standing as a monument for those who would not buckle under Japanese rule, and who kept their faith and dignity in the face of seemingly hopeless odds.
The Changi Chapel, which bore witness to these events then and was a comfort to the POWs interned at the prison, is thus an important symbol of this period standing as a monument for those who would not buckle under Japanese rule, and who kept their faith and dignity in the face of seemingly hopeless odds.
The Chapel’s design itself is an architectural memory of the period, and echoes many of the chapels that were built during World War II. Rebuilt in 1988 next to the Changi Prison, and when the prison was expanded in 2001, both the Chapel and the Changi Museum were relocated to a new site a kilometre away and officially established on 15 February, 2001, at its current location.
Through the documentation of these significant events that took place during the Japanese Occupation, the museum and chapel functions as an important educational institution and resource centre for generations of Singaporeans today.
For many former POWs and their families, the museum is a site that allows for the closure of the many emotional scars of the war years. The museum contains a range of exhibits – pictures, artifacts and audiovisual displays – donated by former POWs who were interned there.
The displays and artefacts in the museum do not just tell the horrific story of the war, but how amidst the daily struggle against humiliation, loss of freedom, hunger and disease during the imprisonment here, it was here, where conditions were at their worst, that stories of heroism arose.
Among the many letters, photographs, drawings and personal effects in the museum’s collection is a series of paintings and sketches by one heroic POW named William Haxworth, whose artwork sheds valuable insight on the daily life of the internees during the occupation. In 1986, Haxworth's wife donated a collection of over 400 paintings and sketches to the National Archives of Singapore.
The highlight of the museum is a series of magnificent wall paintings called The Changi Murals, painstakingly recreated from the originals painted by former bombardier Stanley Warren during his internment there.
Warren had produced five large murals at the chapel, using only human hair as brushes and crushed billiard cue chalk as blue paint.
There are also screenings of videos such as Changi Through The Eyes of Haxworth and one on war heroine Elizabeth Choy. The museum also houses the The Changi University, a research area that contains a collection of rare books and literature depicting life during the war years.
Did you know?
One of the original P.O.W. Chapels from Changi was taken to Australia after the war, and in 1988 was erected in the grounds of the Royal Military College, Duntroon, Canberra.
Changi Museum has collected nearly 5,000 records of registered Civilian Internees who were interned in Singapore during the Japanese Occupation in 1942-1945. Changi Museum has now offered an online search database where families and friends can search for information on their love ones at the museum website.