The Kranji Memorials, located off Woodlands Road, about 22 km from the city, is made up of three cemeteries: the Kranji War Cemetery, the Kranji Military Cemetery and the State Cemetery.1
Kranji War Cemetery
Before World War II, Kranji was an ammunition dumping ground for the British military. It was not far from here, by the mouth of the Kranji River, that the Japanese Imperial Guards landed on 9 February 1942. They established a prisoner-of-war camp in Kranji, with a hospital situated not far away.2
The Kranji War Cemetery began as a small cemetery started by the prisoners, which was later endorsed by the Army Graves Service after the re-occupation of Singapore in 1946.3 The cemetery was designed by Colin St Clair Oakes, and built and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.4 It is laid out in a geometric pattern of stones spread out on a gently sloping green hill, which offers a commanding view of the Straits of Johor to the north, and the hills of Singapore to the south.5 There are 4,461 burials in the cemetery. These include the graves of prisoners interned at Changi and Buona Vista camps during the Japanese Occupation, World Wars I and II graves from the Bidadari Christian Cemetery, as well as many from other parts of Singapore. The World War II graves from the Saigon Military Cemetery in French Indochina (now Vietnam) were also transferred here. More than 850 graves are of unidentified personnel. The Chinese Memorial in plot 44 is a collective grave for 69 Chinese members of the British Commonwealth Forces who were killed when Singapore fell in February 1942.6
The main avenue of the cemetery rises gently from the Stone of Remembrance near the entrance to the Cross of Sacrifice, beyond which are flights of steps leading to a hill-top terrace. On this terrace are four memorials. The largest memorial is the Singapore Memorial with the names of 24,346 soldiers and airmen who died during the campaign in Malaya and Indonesia, or in subsequent captivity, and have no known grave. A register bearing these details is kept by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.7
The huge central pylon of the Singapore Memorial rises through the roof to a height of 80 ft (24 m), with a star at its top. To the east of this memorial is the Singapore Civil Hospital Grave Memorial, which commmemorates the 107 servicemen who had died at the Singapore General Hospital and whose remains were buried in the hospital grounds. To the west is another memorial, the Singapore (Unmaintainable Graves) Memorial, commemorating 255 casualties of the Malayan Campaign whose graves elsewhere in Malaya could not be maintained. Finally, to the south, behind the Singapore Memorial is the Singapore Cremation Memorial which commemorates 789 soldiers of the Indian Army who died, and were cremated according to Hindu rites.8
Memorial services are held annually at the Kranji War Cemetery on Remembrance Day and ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Day. The Remembrance Day ceremony is traditionally held on the second Sunday of November, the Sunday closest to Remembrance Day on 11 November, which is also the anniversary of the end of World War I in 1918. Also known as Remembrance Sunday, it commemorates and honours those who had sacrificed their lives in war.9
ANZAC Day on 25 April was originally held to honour members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who had died in Gallipoli, Turkey, during World War I. Now, the day honours all Australians and New Zealanders who had lost their lives for their countries in times of war.10
Kranji Military Cemetery
The Kranji Military Cemetery is predominantly a non-world war site that adjoins Kranji War Cemetery. The cemetery was built in 1975, when graves from the Pasir Panjang and Ulu Pandan cemeteries had to be relocated there. The Kranji Military Cemetery comprises 1,422 burials of servicemen and their families.11
The State Cemetery has two graves. Yusof bin Ishak, who served as Singapore's president from August 1965 to November 1970, and died on 23 November 1970, was buried here. Benjamin Henry Sheares, who succeeded Yusof bin Ishak as the second president of Singapore on 2 January 1971, was also buried here after he died on 12 May 1981.12
1. “Kranji War Cemetery,” Commonwealth War Graves Commission, accessed 6 October 2016; “Kranji War Memorial,” Singapore Tourism Board, accessed 6 October 2016.
2. Commonwealth War Graves Commission, “Kranji War Cemetery”; “Weighty Plaques to Commemorate S’pore War Sites,” Straits Times, 19 June 1995, 24. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Arthur Lane, Kranji War Cemetery, Singapore (Cheshire: Lane Publishers, 1995), preliminary pages (Call no. RSING 940.54655957 LAN); Commonwealth War Graves Commission, “Kranji War Cemetery.”
4. National Heritage Board, “Remembering Our Forefathers’ Contributions in World War II,” press release, 15 February 2012. (From National Archives of Singapore document no. 20120222007)
5. Norman Edwards and Keys Peter, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 19 (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA]); Commonwealth War Graves Commission, “Kranji War Cemetery”; Lane, Kranji War Cemetery, preliminary pages.
7. Judith Holmberg, “For Those Who Fell,” New Nation, 21 June 1975, 7. (From NewspaperSG); Lane, Kranji War Cemetery, preliminary pages.
8. Lane, Kranji War Cemetery, preliminary pages; Romen Bose, Kranji: The Commonwealth War Cemetery and the Politics of the Dead (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2006), 15–16. (Call no. RSING 940.54655957 BOS); Commonwealth War Graves Commission, “Kranji War Cemetery.”
9. Lau Fook Kong, “Remembering Those Who Died in War,” Straits Times, 10 November 2008, 28 (From NewspaperSG); Singapore Tourism Board, “Kranji War Memorial.”
10. “Anzac Day,” Straits Times, 20 April 1962, 9; “Dawn Service,” Straits Times, 26 April 2008, 55. (From NewspaperSG)
11. “Kranji Military Cemetery,” Commonwealth War Graves Commission, accessed 6 October 2016.
12. Dhoraisingam S. Samuel, Singapore's Heritage: Through Places of Historical Interest (Singapore: Elixir Consultancy Service, 1991), 155–56 (Call no. RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS]); Lim Suan Kooi, “Nation Pays Its Final Tribute,” Straits Times, 25 November 1970, 1; Philip Lee and Irene Ngoo, “Moving But Dignified Ceremony,” Straits Times, 16 May 1981, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
The information in this article is valid as at 2017 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.