Bukit Batok Memorial



The Bukit Batok Memorial, which consisted of the Syonan Chureito and British Memorial Cross, was built during the Japanese Occupation to honour dead soldiers of the Japanese and British forces.Located at Bukit Batok Hilltop (present Bukit Batok Nature Park) in Lorong Sesuai, off Bukit Timah Road, the memorial was destroyed by the end of World War II.2 Today, all that remains at the memorial site is a flight of steps leading to where the monuments once stood.3

Syonan Chureito
After the Japanese took over Singapore, commander-in-chief of the Japanese forces, Lieutenant-General Tomoyuki Yamashita, ordered the construction of a memorial for the Japanese soldiers who had died in battle.4 A site on the Bukit Batok Hilltop – overlooking the Bukit Timah area where some of the fiercest battles between the Japanese Imperial Army and the British forces took place – was chosen.5 The site was also near Ford Motor Factory at which the British had surrendered to the Japanese on 15 February 1942.6

British Memorial Cross
When a memorial for the dead Japanese soldiers was decided, Allied prisoners-of-war (POWs) sought permission from the Japanese to search for the remains of their compatriots. This request was conveyed to Lieutenant Toshiyuki Nekemoto, a liaison officer with the POW workforce, who raised the matter to his superior, Major Tamura. In keeping with Japanese tradition, Tamura proposed that a memorial be built for the dead soldiers of the opposing forces. General Takuro Matsui, commander of the fifth division of the Battle of Singapore, was initially resistant to the idea. He finally relented when he realised that the publicity would give the Japanese an opportunity to show their magnanimity.7

Purpose of the memorial
On 8 May 1942, The Syonan Times reported that the purpose of erecting the Syonan Chureito was “to perpetuate the memory of the Nippon heroes who laid down their lives at the battle fronts of Malaya and Sumatra; also to enable the Nippon-zin and the newly attached nationals of different races in the southern Co-Prosperity Sphere to respect the ideal of the founding of the Dai-Nippon Empire.” The same newspaper article also mentioned that the purpose of building the British Memorial Cross was “to commemorate the spirit of the enemy troops who died at the battlefront and those civilians who were victims of the war".8


Construction of the memorial
The foundation stone of the Syonan Chureito was laid by Yamashita on 7 May 1942.9 Thereafter, 500 Australian POWs from the Royal Australian Artillery encamped at Sime Road and Adam Park were put to work with the Japanese engineering company responsible for the project.10

Surrounded by a wooden fence, the Syonan Chureito was a 12.2-metre wooden pylon crowned with a brass cone that sat on two tiers of earth and cement. Immediately behind the monument was a small shed-like shrine that contained the ashes of dead Japanese soldiers. Further back stood a three-metre high wooden cross, which was the monument for dead Allied soldiers.11

The unveiling ceremony
The Syonan Chureito (also called the Syonan Memorial to the Spirits of the Loyal Soldiers who died in the Battle for Singapore) was unveiled at 11 am on 10 September 1942, followed by a religious ceremony carried out according to Shinto rites.12 Representatives from the four main communities – Lim Boon Keng  for the Chinese, S.C. Goho for the Indians, Ibrahim bin Haji Yaacob for the Malays and C. J. Paglar for the Eurasians – were in attendance.13

The British Memorial Cross was unveiled the following day. Lieutenant-Colonel C. A. McEachern of the Australian army gave an address, expressing  appreciation to the Japanese for the opportunity to pay homage to their fallen comrades.14

Propaganda tool
During the Japanese Occupation (1942–45), frequent ceremonies were held at the Syonan Chureito to honour dead Japanese soldiers. These ceremonies usually took place on the anniversaries of events such as the Battle for Singapore and the Yasukuni Jinja Shuki Rinji Taisai (Extraordinary Autumnal Festival of Yasukuni Shrine).15

Students were coerced to participate in marches to the Syonan Chureito and, together with community leaders, attend ceremonies that commemorated the Japanese war dead. These forced displays of obedience and allegiance to the Japanese were reported in the press.16 They were also recorded on film by the local Military Propaganda Unit as well as the Japanese Newsreel Company, which was under the Ministry of Greater East Asia Affairs. The films were then broadcasted to the Japanese back home to ensure their continued support of the war efforts in Asia.17

Destruction of the memorial
By the end of World War II, the Japanese had destroyed the Syonan Chureito for fear of desecration by enemy forces. The ashes of the Japanese soldiers were transferred to the Japanese Cemetery Park at Chuan Hoe Avenue.18 The British Memorial Cross was left untouched but was later removed under unknown circumstances.19 Today, all that remains at the memorial site  is a flight of steps leading to the former monuments. A television transmission tower currently occupies the site.20

In 1995, a memorial plaque was placed at the site by the National Heritage Board to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II.21



Author

Joshua Chia Yeong Jia




References
1. Shrine & pagoda for Syonan. (1942, May 8). The Syonan Times, p. 6; Memorial erected to fallen enemy soldiers. (1942, September 12). The Syonan Times, p. 4; Shinto shrine on Singapore island. (1946, October 17). The Straits Times, p. 6; Memorial plaque ensures war lessons are remembered. (1995, July 10). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. Blackburn, K., & Lim, E. (1999, November). The Japanese war memorials of Singapore: Monuments of commemoration and symbols of Japanese imperial ideology. South East Asia Research, 7(3), 321–340, pp. 327–328. (Call no.: RSING 959.005 SEAR)
2. Yap, S. Y., et al. (2004). Fortress Singapore: The battlefield guide. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 53. (Call no.: RSING 959.5703 FOR-[HIS]); Pugalenthi, S. (1999). Singapore landmarks: Monuments, memorials, statues & historic sites. Singapore: VJ Times International, p. 200. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 PUG-[HIS]); Bose, R. (2006). Kranji: The Commonwealth war cemetery and the politics of the dead. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 50. (Call no.: RSING 940.54655957 BOS-[WAR])
3. Yap, S. Y., et al. (2004). Fortress Singapore: The battlefield guide. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 53. (Call no.: RSING 959.5703 FOR-[HIS]); Pugalenthi, S. (1999). Singapore landmarks: Monuments, memorials, statues & historic sites. Singapore: VJ Times International, p. 200. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 PUG-[HIS])
4. Pugalenthi, S. (1999). Singapore landmarks: Monuments, memorials, statues & historic sites. Singapore: VJ Times International, p. 198. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 PUG-[HIS])
5. Shrine & pagoda for Syonan. (1942, May 8). The Syonan Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Shinto shrine on Singapore island. (1946, October 17). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Blackburn, K., & Lim, E. (1999, November). The Japanese war memorials of Singapore: Monuments of commemoration and symbols of Japanese imperial ideology. South East Asia Research, 7(3), 321–340, pp. 327–328. (Call no.: RSING 959.005 SEAR)
8. Shrine & pagoda for Syonan. (1942, May 8). The Syonan Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Shrine & pagoda for Syonan. (1942, May 8). The Syonan Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Pugalenthi, S. (1999). Singapore landmarks: Monuments, memorials, statues & historic sites. Singapore: VJ Times International, p. 198. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 PUG-[HIS]); Yap, S. Y., et al. (2004). Fortress Singapore: The battlefield guide. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 50. (Call no.: RSING 959.5703 FOR-[HIS]); Roll-of-honour.com. (2002–2017). Singapore Japanese invasion memorials. Retrieved 2017, January 3 from Roll of Honour website: http://www.roll-of-honour.com/Overseas/SingaporeJapaneseInvasion.html
11. Memorial plaque ensures war lessons are remembered. (1995, July 10). The Straits Times, p. 2; Syonan memorial to our fallen heroes unveiled. (1942, September 11). The Syonan Times, p. 1; Memorial erected to fallen enemy soldiers. (1942, September 12). The Syonan Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Syonan memorial to our fallen heroes unveiled. (1942, September 11). The Syonan Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Syonan memorial to our fallen heroes unveiled. (1942, September 11). The Syonan Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Memorial erected to fallen enemy soldiers. (1942, September 12). The Syonan Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. War dead enshrined at Syonan Chureito. (1944, July 15). The Syonan Times, p. 1; Reverent homage paid to war dead at Syonan Chureito, Jinja. (1945, February 16). The Syonan Times, p. 2; Glorious war dead enshrined at Syonan Chureito last night. (1943, October 15). The Syonan Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Pitt, K. W., & Leong, W. K. (Eds.). (2009). Syonan years 1942–1945: Living beneath the rising sun. Singapore: National Archives of Singapore, p. 128. (Call no.: RSING 940.53074595957 TAN-[WAR])
16. Syonan manning to celebrate war anniversary in fitting manner. (1942, November 29). The Syonan Times, p. 4; Syonan en fete on first anniversary of war. (1942, December 9). The Syonan Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Blackburn, K., & Lim, E. (1999). The Japanese war memorials of Singapore: Monuments of commemoration and symbols of Japanese imperial ideology. South East Asia Research, 7(3), 321–340, p. 328. (Call no.: RSING 959.005 SEAR)
18. Blackburn, K., & Lim, E. (1999). The Japanese war memorials of Singapore: Monuments of commemoration and symbols of Japanese imperial ideology. South East Asia Research, 7(3), 321–340, p. 335. (Call no.: RSING 959.005 SEAR); Tan, K. Y. L. (Ed.). (2011). Spaces of the dead: A case from the living. Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 190–192. (Call no.: RSING 363.75095957 SPA); Yap, S. Y., et al. (2004). Fortress Singapore: The battlefield guide. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 111. (Call no.: RSING 959.5703 FOR-[HIS])
19. Bose, R. (2006). Kranji: The Commonwealth war cemetery and the politics of the dead. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 50. (Call no.: RSING 940.54655957 BOS-[WAR])
20. Yap, S. Y., et al. (2004). Fortress Singapore: The battlefield guide. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 52. (Call no.: RSING 959.5703 FOR-[HIS])
21. Memorial plaque ensures war lessons are remembered. (1995, July 10). The Straits Times, p. 2; Marking of WWII sites to serve as reminder. (1995, June 9). The Straits Times, p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resources
Hamzah Muzaini & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2016). Contested memoryscapes: The politics of Second World War commemoration in Singapore. London; New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.
(Call no.: RSING 940.546095957 MUZ-[WAR])

Lee, G. B. (2005). The Syonan years: Singapore under Japanese rule 1942–1945. Singapore: National Archives of Singapore and Epigram, pp. 132—133.
(Call no.: RSING 940.53957 LEE-[WAR])

Memorial on heights of Bukit Timah to be unveiled to-day. (1942, September 10). The Syonan Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Sacred remains of friend & foe. (1942, September 13). The Syonan Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Samuel, D. S. (1991). Singapore's heritage: Through places of historical interest. Singapore: Elixir Consultancy Service, pp. 302–303.

(Call no.: RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS])

Uma Devi, G., et al. (2002). Singapore’s 100 historic places. Singapore: Archipelago Press in association with National Heritage Board, p. 126.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])

War memorial to be built on Bukit Timah Hill. (1942, July 11). The Syonan Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.




The information in this article is valid as at 2006 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
1942-1945 Japanese occupation
Events>>Historical Periods>>World War II and Japanese Occupation (1939 - 1945)
Singapore--History--Japanese occupation, 1942-1945
War memorials--Singapore
History>>Asia>>Southeast Asia>>Singapore