British Military Hospital

The British Military Hospital (BMH) was established in 1938 by the British Armed Forces, serving as the principal hospital for the British in the Far East during World War II. At the time of its opening, it was considered “the most up-to-date and one of the largest military hospitals outside Great Britain”, with 356 beds and accompanying medical, surgical and officer wards. The 32nd Company of the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) and 30 Queen Alexandra Nursing Sisters served as hospital staff.1

With the onset of the Japanese Occupation in 1942, the hospital had to see to a large number of patients – approximately 900 of the wounded were packed into its premises with just 550 beds (increased from 356 beds in 1942), with a severe shortage of water and medical supplies.2

The BMH was the scene of violent bloodshed on 14 and 15 February 1942 when the Japanese entered the hospital and massacred 200 staff and patients in cold blood.3 This incident is also known as the Alexandra Hospital massacre. Gunfire from retreating Indian troops on the hospital’s grounds was possibly what provoked the Japanese attack on the hospital. On 15 February 1942, the British surrendered to the Japanese and the hospital was left in ruins.4

The British reinstated the hospital to its original role when the Japanese surrendered in 1945. During the Malayan Emergency in the 1940s and 1950s, the hospital played a major role in attending to British casualties of the jungle warfare against communist rebels.5

When British troops withdrew from Singapore in 1971, the Singapore government took over the hospital after presenting a token sum of $1 to Britain on 11 September. It was renamed Alexandra Hospital and converted to a general hospital to serve the population living in the western sector of Singapore.6

1938: Construction of the BMH begins.
14–15 Feb 1942: The BMH is attacked by the Japanese.
Aug 1945: The BMH is re-occupied by the British after the Japanese surrender.
Jun 1971: The BMH is handed over to the Singapore government in return for $1.
Sep 1971: The BMH is renamed Alexandra Hospital.


Phyllis Wee & Ambika Raghavan

1. Jeff Partridge, Alexandra Hospital: From British Military to Civilian Institution 1938–1998 (Singapore: Alexandra Hospital and Singapore Polytechnic, 1998), 7, 20, 22. (Call no. RSING 362.11095957 PAR)
2. Partridge, Alexandra Hospital, 50.
3. “Recognition: History of Hospital, Singapore Linked,” Straits Times, 16 September 1998, 24. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Partridge, Alexandra Hospital, 68.
5. Partridge, Alexandra Hospital, 76.
6. Partridge, Alexandra Hospital, 98.

The information in this article is valid as at 2016 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.

Historic buildings--Singapore
1942-1945 Japanese occupation
Historic buildings