'Behind the scenes' at Battle of S'pore

Museum tours, heritage walks among events to mark 74th anniversary of Japan's surrender

In Japanese film footage depicting the surrender of Singapore, General Yamashita Tomoyuki, who sat across from British Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival, is a picture of power.

The commander of the Japanese 25th Army is shown nodding vigorously and looking menacing, compared with the British officer commanding Malaya, who was edited to appear indecisive.

The speed of the Feb 15, 1942, surrender footage from the boardroom of the Ford Factory in Upper Bukit Timah Road had been tinkered with and produced as Japanese propaganda.

The historical footage is now on display at the National Museum to mark the 74th anniversary of the Battle of Singapore.

Visitors to the museum will also get to see the long teak table on which the surrender documents were signed. The surrender marked the largest military defeat of British and Commonwealth forces in Britain's military history.

The display is part of the National Museum's new WWII history gallery guided tour.

The National Heritage Board (NHB) is presenting 30 other WWII tours with its partners such as heritage experts, community groups and its Museum Roundtable members from Feb 12 to 28.

Ms Norsaleen Salleh, deputy director of the Museum Roundtable unit at NHB, said the programmes are "valuable opportunities for Singaporeans to learn more about the war period in Singapore's history".

The National Museum will also host a public lecture on Feb 28, called Voices From The Ground, featuring four speakers who will present their personal experiences and research on the war.

It will shed light on the pre-war and post-war experiences of the small Japanese community in Singapore, and include stories of the war dead at Bukit Brown Cemetery.

The history gallery tour will also take in artefacts such as an anchor from the RMS Empress of Asia - a pre-war passenger liner that was converted into a troopship. It was bombed by the Japanese on Feb 5.

Another sombre and heartbreaking display is a collection of personal artefacts, such as wedding rings and identity tags, from an execution site during the Sook Ching massacre, which claimed the lives of between 25,000 and 50,000 ethnic Chinese across Singapore and Malaya.

Other activities include a tour conducted by the Singapore Discovery Centre which will cover sites such as the Army Museum, Reflections at Bukit Chandu and the Kranji War Memorial.

In total, the heritage board recognises 50 WWII sites all over Singapore.

The National University of Singapore's History Society, Nanyang Technological University's Heritage Club and the Singapore Armed Forces Veterans' League are also conducting guided trails of Pasir Panjang Ridge.

This tour traces the march of the Japanese Imperial Forces and the resistance they encountered from defence forces, including the Malay Regiment, in one of the fiercest battles fought before the surrender.

The vice-president of NTU's Heritage Club, Mr Yeo Zhi Zheng, 23, a Year Three undergraduate, said the tours will provide an immersive experience for visitors.

He added: "The battle for Singapore shows how we had fought to our last breath even in the face of death. History shows that people made their stand to protect their country."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 04, 2016, with the headline ''Behind the scenes' at Battle of S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe