During the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng's grandfather had to hide in the cupboard to avoid becoming a victim of the Sook Ching massacre.
Mr Ng recounted the incident during the launch of an exhibition to commemorate Total Defence Day at the Singapore Discovery Centre (SDC) yesterday.
The Stronger Together exhibition, which will run until March 19, showcases the hardships suffered here during World War II and the threats that the Republic currently faces.
Speaking to about 500 primary, secondary and Institute of Technical Education students at the launch, Mr Ng shared anecdotes of wartime Singapore which he said his mother had told him.
"The fall of Singapore was an unimaginable event back in 1942, when Singapore was a jewel of the British empire in the far east, and perceived to be an impenetrable fortress."
But this idea was quickly shattered when the Japanese captured Singapore in a week, and then brutally occupied it for 31/2 years.
"My grandfather had to hide in the cupboard because they'd heard that men were taken away to beaches and executed," Mr Ng said.
Great powers, great relations are now in flux. You see the media reports on terrorism and new threats we face. If we are not prepared or ill-prepared, we will again be vulnerable.
EDUCATION MINISTER (SCHOOLS) NG CHEE MENG, on how Singapore's security cannot be taken for granted.
It is estimated that between 25,000 and 50,000 ethnic Chinese were killed in the Sook Ching operation.
Mr Ng said meals then consisted mainly of tapioca, as rice and meat were unavailable. The war also robbed his mother of the opportunity for an education, which had a lifelong impact, he said.
Stressing the importance of defence, Mr Ng said that Singapore's security cannot be taken for granted, particularly in today's fast- changing world.
"Great powers, great relations are now in flux. You see the media reports on terrorism and new threats we face. If we are not prepared or ill-prepared, we will again be vulnerable," said the former defence and air force chief.
As part of SGSecure's Keep Singapore Safe programme, two uniformed groups - the National Civil Defence Cadet Corps and the National Police Cadet Corps - have worked together to engage schools, said Mr Ng.
The SDC is now training teachers in charge of uniformed groups in designing and executing more projects related to SGSecure, he added.
In an effort to further engage students, decks of SG Unite!, a strategy card game developed by the SDC and Education Ministry, will be distributed to all Primary 6 pupils this year. Mr Ng played a round of the card game, which features different scenarios such as a school shooting and worsening haze, with pupils from St Hilda's Primary School.
One of the pupils, Medha Shridharan, 12, said that the game helped her to learn what the world is like.
"It's not a matter of if but when something will happen, so it's very important for us to know what to do," she said.
"The game encourages us to think on our feet, and the skills we learn can be applied in different situations, whether it's a surprise assignment due tomorrow or a terrorist attack in Singapore."