We are number one, and it’s thanks to you

Top Museum

Just ahead of the 75th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore on 15 February, after just one year of reopening, the Battlebox has achieved the feat of becoming the #1 museum in Singapore on TripAdvisor!

We are also ranked #12 out of 787 “things to do in Singapore”.

We will like to thank each and every one of you who have given the Battlebox such wonderful reviews. Your compliments and feedback continuously spur us on to give the best in our tours and service.

Despite the odds and the challenges, we will continue to do our very best to ensure your visit to the Battlebox is a fruitful and memorable one.

Once again, thank you for your support – your ticket price goes entirely towards paying for the maintenance and survival of the Battlebox as a crucial historical site in Singapore.

Please keep the reviews and feedback coming in!

The Battlebox – now the 2nd best museum in Singapore

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The Battlebox has reopened for only 10 months, but on TripAdvisor, we have now accumulated almost 300 reviews, and are now ranked #15 out of 779 “things to do in Singapore”, and #2 out of 98 museums in Singapore!

We will like to thank each and every one of you who have given the Battlebox such wonderful reviews. Your compliments and feedback continuously spur us on to give the best in our tours and service.

Despite the odds and the challenges, we will continue to do our very best to ensure your visit to the Battlebox is a fruitful and memorable one.

Once again, thank you for your support – your ticket price goes entirely towards paying for the maintenance and survival of the Battlebox as a crucial historical site in Singapore.

Please keep the reviews and feedback coming in!

The Battlebox’s first ever Instameet

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On 5 November, heritage tour company Journeys Pte. Ltd. organised an “Instameet” for 25 photography / Instagram enthusiasts. They embarked on one of its tours, Through Fog & Fire – The Battle for Singapore 1942, which brought them from the Battlebox to Kranji War Cemetery.

Some of our visitors posted pictures of the Battlebox on their Instagram accounts. Thank you for spreading word about this historical monument on your social media platforms!

Check out mentions of the Battlebox through the hashtag #battleboxsg on Instagram. 

The Battlebox also has its own Instagram account. Follow us here!

This event was jointly organised by Journeys, the Singapore Tourism Board, Edelman and Explore Singapore.

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Lest we forget…

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Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day as it is known throughout the Commonwealth, is commemorated on 11 November every year to honour the brave men and women in uniform who have fallen in battle.

It was on this day in 1918 that the Armistice between the Allied Powers and the German Empire was signed, bringing the hostilities of World War I (WWI) to an end.

Today, many nations throughout the Commonwealth commemorate Remembrance Day by holding solemn memorial services, of which the red poppy has become an established symbol.

The red poppy is reminiscent of the fields of Flanders, a site of brutal battles that took place on the Western Front in WWI. After the battles, poppies bloomed in the area; the poppies became a symbol of the blood shed in war.

We at the Battlebox honour those who have fallen by wearing red poppies on our clothing through the month of November.

Lest we forget…

The Battlebox’s first ever Instameet

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This Saturday, 5 November, heritage tour company Journeys Pte. Ltd. will be organising an “Instameet” for 25 photography / Instagram enthusiasts, embarking on one of its tours, Through Fog & Fire – The Battle for Singapore 1942.

The tour, which will start at 10am and end at 1.30pm, will take participants to the Battlebox and Kranji War Cemetery. Transport will be provided.

Interested? Sign up here!

Check out the event post on Explore Singapore’s Instagram account.

The Battlebox also has its own Instagram account. Follow us here!

This event is jointly organised by Journeys, the Singapore Tourism Board, Edelman and Explore Singapore.

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“Inside Singapore’s Battlebox bunker”

Published online by Stuff Destinations (New Zealand) 

Byline: Gary Maddox

Deep beneath a hill in Singapore, in a series of musty corridors and cramped rooms, there is a powerful sense of history.

A wartime bunker known as the Battlebox, forgotten for decades before it was rediscovered in the 1980s, is potent memorial to the turmoil of World War II on the tropical island nation.

Reached through a hillside door in Fort Canning Park, it was where British and Allied military leaders desperately tried to hold off attacking Japanese troops.

In less than 70 days, Lieutenant General Tomoyuki Yamashita’s forces swept through the Malayan Peninsula and into the British military stronghold in February, 1942.

Nine metres below ground, lit by an emergency generator and no doubt sweltering given the poor ventilation, the bunker must have been a bleak as it was tense when Lieutenant General Arthur Percival, the British commander in Singapore, was forced to surrender. It remains one of the British military’s worst defeats.

Our guide at the newly reopened Battlebox, Gabriel Tay, outlines what a dramatic time that was as we examine the bunker, room by sparse room.

The tour is aimed at explaining to both tourists and Singaporeans – many of whom grew up knowing little about the country’s wartime history – just what happened and why the British surrendered.

With only limited air and naval defence, Japanese planes, artillery and advancing tanks battered Allied troops and civilians, causing heavy casualties and leaving the island’s defenders exhausted and, in many cases, demoralised.

Amid communications breakdowns, there was confusion as the Japanese landed and advanced inland. Water, fuel and ammunition supplies were low. Telephones barely worked.

As Romen Bose writes in Secrets of the Battlebox, which sells in the visitor centre, part of the problem was that Singapore was thought to be relatively safe from Japanese invasion.

“It was the immense bureaucracy and red tape of the civil administration and their lack of willingness to prepare fully for the war that led to the huge suffering of the local population and the total unpreparedness for the Japanese bombings and attacks,” he writes.

Inside the bunker, historic signs on the walls give a sense of the drama: “Hitler will send no warning so always carry your gas mask,” one reads. Others say “Keep it under your hat! Careless talk costs lives” and “Smash Japanese aggression”.

Maps, old typewriters and an ancient air filtration plant all give a strong sense of the times. In one corner is a secret escape hatch that leads to the surface. Giving perspective to the fall of Singapore are photos on the walls of great wartime battles in the Pacific.

It’s easy to imagine the tension as more than 500 officers and troops crowded into 29 rooms, without airconditioning in the tropical heat.

There is a telephone exchange that, no doubt to the frustration of operators needing urgent communication, had no dedicated military phone lines. A life-sized model of one of those operators, sits at a mocked-up exchange.

There is a signal room that was linked to bases in Hong Kong, India, Indonesia and London. And a cipher room where messages were decoded.

The most striking room in the Battlebox though is what is now known bleakly as the “surrender conference room”, where the pain of defeat became a reality. Models of Percival and other senior military figures are hunkered over a table, planning their next grim move.

Once they had decided to surrender, a delegation was sent to the Japanese headquarters on the island carrying a Union Jack and a white flag. Then Percival met Yamashita to hear the terms of the surrender.

Shortly afterwards, a Japanese flag was raised on Singapore’s tallest building. A reputed 80,000 to 100,000 British, Indian and Australian troops became prisoners of war. For 3½ years, the Japanese occupied what they called Syonan-To.

Following the Japanese surrender at the end of the war, the Battlebox was looted by civilians. It was sealed then forgotten.

Only in 1988 was the underground communications centre rediscovered. After partial restoration, it was opened as a museum in 1997.

After further work, what’s now considered a national treasure was officially opened for tours this year, with newly discovered artifacts being added. Already evocative, it will be even more so when it is upgraded with more interactive exhibits within the next year.

“Underground insight into Australian history”

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Published online by the Seven West Travel Club (Australia) 

Byline: Stephen Scourfield

We’re always looking for new experiences in familiar places, and have discovered an insight into Australian history in Singapore.

Battlebox in Singapore is a former WWII-era underground command centre in the heart of the city, which was used by the British and Allied forces during WWII.

It was where the British decided to surrender Singapore to the Japanese on February 15, 1942 — the largest capitulation in British military history, including the surrender of some 15,000 Australian soldiers.

After the Battlebox closed a few years ago, Singapore History Consultants, a private heritage consultancy, took over the bunker premises a couple of years ago. After a titanic effort resolving maintenance and structural issues with the ageing place, they reopened the Battlebox in February.

Now, they are encouraging Australians to visit. Entrance into the Battlebox is through guided tours only; there are up to five guided tours a day, each lasting about 60 to 75 minutes.

“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

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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!