Even the Japanese sought to protect Botanic Gardens in WWII

As one who first set foot on the soil of the Botanic Gardens way back in 1953, as a science student with the then University of Malaya, and then as commissioner for parks and recreation, supervising work and research therein in the 1970s and early 1980s, I felt very happy and proud to hear of the good news about the Botanic Gardens ("Yes, Botanic Gardens is a World Heritage Site"; Sunday).

As a science student, the subjects I read included botany, and I have fond memories of lecturers taking us to the Botanic Gardens to talk about plant taxonomy and various other features.

Occasionally, we also had to study specimens in the herbarium, which was already stocked with thousands of plant specimens, collected from all over the Malayan region. Our professor of botany at the time was Richard Eric Holttum, who was once director of the Botanic Gardens.

The Botanic Gardens is not just a nice green area that people in Singapore and visitors have enjoyed over the decades. It has, in fact, been a research centre for plants of all sorts, and over the years, workers and directors have studied the botany of a wide range of plants found in the Malayan region and produced many books covering them.

The Botanic Gardens went through World War II peacefully.

It owes much to the Japanese government for appointing Professor Hidezo Tanakadate to look after it.

The professor was a very kind man. At the time, professors Holttum and Eldred John Henry Corner, who was assistant director of the Botanic Gardens, were both working at the Botanic Gardens and when the Japanese occupied Singapore, they were made prisoners of war.

However, Prof Tanakadate was able to get permission from the Japanese government to allow Profs Holttum and Corner to work in the Botanic Gardens during the day and go back to Changi Prison in the evening.

Wong Yew Kwan