75 years since Singapore fell

Recruits presented with rifles at site of British surrender

LTC (Ret) Swee (at left), 2 SIR's CO from 1973 to 1974, handing over a rifle to LTC Choy, the battalion's current CO, yesterday - a symbolic passing of the baton. Yesterday's weapon presentation ceremony for 2 SIR recruits also marked the 75th annive
LTC (Ret) Swee (at left), 2 SIR's CO from 1973 to 1974, handing over a rifle to LTC Choy, the battalion's current CO, yesterday - a symbolic passing of the baton. Yesterday's weapon presentation ceremony for 2 SIR recruits also marked the 75th anniversary of the fall of Singapore.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

On Feb 15, 1942, British-led forces surrendered to the Japanese at the site of the Former Ford Factory in Upper Bukit Timah Road, starting a 31/2-year occupation of Singapore.

That was 75 years ago.

Yesterday, shouts of "With my life, sir!" echoed on the same grounds as 407 national service recruits received rifles from their superiors and swore to defend the country.

To mark the 75th anniversary of the fall of Singapore, a weapon presentation ceremony - a rite of passage for recruits - was carried out by the 2nd Battalion of the Singapore Infantry Regiment (2 SIR).

Those attending the ceremony, which was also to commemorate Total Defence Day, observed a minute of silence that was followed by a lone bugler playing the Last Post to remember the fallen.

The weapon presentation ceremony is typically observed in camps.

While the ceremony has been held at the Former Ford Factory before, yesterday's event was symbolic for the passing of the baton from a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) veteran to a present-day soldier.

Lieutenant-Colonel (Ret) Swee Boon Chai, 71, dressed in his vintage Temasek Green uniform, handed over a rifle to the commanding officer (CO) of 2 SIR, Lieutenant-Colonel Choy Yong Cong.

The former, who joined the SAF in 1966 and was 2 SIR's CO from 1973 to 1974, said: "I am proud to represent my generation handing over the defence of the country to the next generation."

Mr Seow Chan Chee, 85, who attended yesterday's event, was 10 years old when Singapore fell to the Japanese. He described the Japanese Occupation as an "awful" period, with jobs hard to come by and food scarce. His grandson, Mr Malcolm Chow, 19, was one of the 2 SIR recruits yesterday.

In a speech after the event, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim urged the recruits to always remember the soldiers of different nationalities and races who had fought together against the Japanese, and "be inspired to a deeper sense of purpose and commitment to defending our nation".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2017, with the headline 'Recruits presented with rifles at site of British surrender'. Print Edition | Subscribe