“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

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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

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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.

Excellent reviews on TripAdvisor – thank YOU

TripAdvisor 19 May

The Battlebox reopened on 13 February this year, and just after three months of operations, we have received excellent reviews on our TripAdvisor page. We are now ranked #76 out of 722 “things to do in Singapore”, and #12 out of 93 museums in Singapore!

We will like to thank each and every one of you who have visited the Battlebox for such a rousing stamp of approval. We will not have achieved this much in such a short period of time without your tremendous support.

Despite the odds and the challenges, we will continue to do our very best to serve every visitor who comes through our doors and make sure your visit to the Battlebox is a memorable one.

Thank you once again, and keep the reviews and feedback coming in!

No regular Battlebox tours for the morning of 24 and 25 May only; the Battlebox will be open on Vesak Day

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This is a latest update: The Battlebox will be closed to regular The Story of Strategy & Surrender tours on the morning of both Tuesday and Wednesday, 24 and 25 May.

This means the usual 9.45am and 11am tours will not take place on both days.

This is to allow school groups to visit the Battlebox en-masse.

The Battlebox will be open again to regular tours in the afternoon for both days, for the usual 1.30pm, 2.45pm and 4pm tours.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Meanwhile, this Saturday – 21 May – is Vesak Day, a public holiday in Singapore. The Battlebox will be open as usual on that day, as is the case for all public holidays, and it will run the five regular tours as per normal. See you!

No 1.30pm Battlebox tours for 12 and 13 May only

thewarbulletin-battlebox

This Thursday and Friday (12 and 13 May), the regular 1.30pm 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 on both days. That means business as usual for the 9.45am, 11am, 2.45pm and 4pm tours.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused, and also for the short notice.

No regular Battlebox tours for the morning of 25 May only

thewarbulletin-battlebox

The Battlebox will be closed to regular The Story of Strategy & Surrender tours on the morning of Wednesday, 25 May.

That means the usual 9.45am and 11am tours will not take place.

This is to allow school groups to visit the Battlebox en-masse.

The Battlebox will be open again to regular tours in the afternoon, for the usual 1.30pm, 2.45pm and 4pm tours.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Educating the next generation on our history is one of our sacred duties, and that is what we will be doing on the morning of 25 May!

Anzac Day

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To our friends from Australia and New Zealand – have a blessed Anzac Day.

May the sacrifices of all men and women in war never be forgotten.

Anzac Day (25 April) is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand to commemorate all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations.

25 April is the date of the start of the ill-fated Gallipoli Campaign in 1915 during the First World War, in what is now northwest Turkey. The campaign saw the deaths of more than 8,700 Australians and 2,700 New Zealanders, and marked the birth of national consciousness in Australia and New Zealand.

Lest we forget…