“Battlebox bunker officially opens after 2-year revamp”

Published online by ChannelNewsAsia, 29 June 2016

Byline: Nadia Jansen Hassan

SINGAPORE: The Battle Box bunker located at Fort Canning officially reopened on Tuesday (Jun 28), after a change in theme and a different layout.

The former British underground bunker from World War II was discovered in 1988, and was then reopened as a museum in 1997.

Previously, its content focused on the functions of the bunker’s underground communications centre, and Singapore’s surrender to the Japanese during the war. After the revamp, it will also include the military reasons for Singapore’s defeat.

One of the exhibits tells the story of Major-General Frank Keith Simmons and his team, who were taken as prisoners of war for surrendering Singapore to the Japanese during World War II. That choice tore Major-General Simmons away from his family for years.

“It would have been almost two years – we didn’t know whether he was alive or dead. We were in Australia and we had no messages, no letters, nothing. Eventually things started coming through – little messages saying he was alive,” said Major-General Simmons’ daughter, Anna Chirnside, who is now 82 years old.

As part of the revamp, more educational materials have been added to the walls. Recently-discovered artefacts are also on display.

The purpose of the shift is to further educate the public on the country’s past, according to the Singapore History Consultants, which manages the bunker.

“The primary focus is to share a very important part of history that’s not usually covered. Today’s Battle Box focuses on the military reasons for defeat, the strategies and tactics that were employed in the Second World War, why the Japanese were able to capture Singapore so quickly, and why the defeat for the allied army was so comprehensive,” said Mr Jeya Ayadurai, the director of Singapore History Consultants and The Battle Box.

“The greatest lesson is for our young Singaporeans to understand history, to understand where they come from. Singapore did not just appear suddenly. Singapore was built up through the years, and especially after our independence in 1965, lots of hard work, blood and soil and sweat went into building up Singapore. And young Singaporeans must know this,” said former Chief of Defence Force Winston Choo.

The revamp took more than two years and cost around S$800,000. The bunker was originally set to reopen on Mar 28, but the research team uncovered new artefacts which needed time for research and curation. This new reopening date also ties in with SAF Day, which is on Jul 1.

The Battle Box will undergo a second phase of renovation which will include incorporating technology in the exhibitions, and introduce interactive activities for students and families. This is estimated to be completed by 2017.

“New exhibit at Battlebox tells ‘real’ story of Japanese occupation”

Straits Times 29 Jun 2016

Published in The Straits Times print edition, 29 June 2016

With their heavy guns pointed uselessly to the south, British forces under the command of Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival failed to anticipate a Japanese invasion from the north.

The Imperial Japanese Army, riding in on bicycles, took the British by surprise and managed to capture Singapore in just 70 days.

Or so many falsely believed. While the 70-day time period is correct, this version of events is one of several popularly-held myths debunked at the refurbished Battlebox at Fort Canning Hill.

According to historical sources, Lt-Gen Percival had anticipated a northern attack on Singapore as early as 1937.

He stationed six brigades of troops in the north-east, but the north-west, where the Japanese struck with the bulk of their total forces, was only lightly defended by two less experienced brigades.

The new operator of Battlebox – Singapore History Consultants – officially reopened it yesterday with new generators and air-conditioning. Information panels and guided tours have also been reworked to present a more balanced and coherent narrative.

“For too many years, our schoolchildren have focused on getting a deep appreciation of the years of Occupation,” said Mr Jeya Ayadurai, director of Singapore History Consultants. “We’ve understood what it means to be victims, but there has been little understanding of what caused that occupation.”

The narrative will also touch on the military prowess of Lt-Gen Tomoyuki Yamashita and the Japanese army. Tour guides will emphasise that the fall of Singapore was inevitable, and that Lt-Gen Percival had little choice but to surrender.

“Telling more than one side of a story is really the only reasonable way to present history,” said Professor Brian Farrell, who specialises in military history at the National University of Singapore.

Yesterday’s opening event was also attended by Japan’s Ambassador to Singapore, Mr Kenji Shinoda.

He said: “I am reminded of the significance of working together for the cause of enduring peace for humankind, to ensure that what happened 75 years ago will never be repeated.”

Official Launch of the Battlebox

Launch

On 28 June 2016, the Battlebox was officially launched by Guest-of-Honour Lieutenant-General (Retired) Winston Choo, Singapore’s first Chief of Defence Force from 1974 to 1992. He is pictured above unveiling a plaque commemorating the Official Launch (left), with Battlebox Director Jeya Ayadurai (right).

The Launch took place at the Fort Canning Centre and Battlebox on Fort Canning Hill. Among other events, the Launch featured speeches by General Choo and Mr Ayadurai, the sounding of an air raid siren and a minute’s silence to honour the men and women who gave their lives defending Malaya and Singapore during World War II, and a specially curated Battlebox experience, bringing visitors through the newly-revamped Battlebox.

The Launch was attended by around 60 guests, including many ambassadors, high commissioners and dignitaries.

For news coverage on the Launch, please check out the Blog section of this website. 

Everyone here at the Battlebox is honoured to be part of a team that is keeping alive a very valuable, historic monument!

No Battlebox tours on selected dates and times

thewarbulletin-battlebox

Over the next seven days, some regular slots for The Story of Strategy & Surrender tour will be closed.

This is to 1) allow a significant number of tour groups to visit the Battlebox, or 2) prepare for the Battlebox’s Official Launch next Tuesday, 28 June!

The Story of Strategy & Surrender tour will NOT be held at the following time slots on the following days:

– Thursday 23 June, 1.30pm;

– Friday 24 June, 1.30pm;

– Monday 27 June, ALL time slots;

– Tuesday 28 June, 9.45am, 11am, and 1.30pm.

The Battlebox will be open for all other regular tour slots.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Renovation works in parts of the Battlebox for June

thewarbulletin-battlebox

From today – 10 June – until 27 June, there will be daily renovation works going on inside parts of the Battlebox from 8am to 10pm.

This is to prepare the Battlebox for its Official Launch on Tuesday, 28 June, and also to make the former underground command centre ready for free-and-easy visitors to enter after 28 June.

In the meantime, if you are visiting the Battlebox through its The Story of Strategy & Surrender tours, we beg your understanding in bearing with some noise and the presence of workers in parts of the Battlebox.

The works are a necessity to make the Battlebox a better place for the portrayal and learning of history.

Thank you!

No 2.45pm Battlebox tour for 14 June

thewarbulletin-battlebox

Next Tuesday (14 June), the regular 2.45pm slot for The Story of Strategy & Surrender tour will be closed.

This is to allow a significant number of tour groups to visit the Battlebox.

The Battlebox will be open for all other regular tour slots that day. That means business as usual for the 9.45am, 11am, 1.30pm and 4pm tours.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused.