“Underground insight into Australian history”

battlebox-entrance

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.

National Day promotion for the month of August

Flag_of_Singapore

This month, on 9 August, Singapore celebrates its National Day, the day it left the Federation of Malaysia in 1965 to become an independent city-state. Every National Day, Singaporeans remember our past and how far we’ve come in just 51 years.

On selected dates in August, the Battlebox will be extending a special offer to all Singaporean citizens and Permanent Residents:

(Updated) National Day Promo

No 2.45pm Battlebox tour for 1 August

thewarbulletin-battlebox

Tomorrow (1 August), the regular 2.45pm slot for The Story of Strategy & Surrender tour will be closed.

This is to allow a school group to visit the Battlebox.

The Battlebox will be open for the other two time slots on that day – 1.30pm and 4pm.

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

No 4pm Battlebox tours for 20 and 22 July

thewarbulletin-battlebox

For tomorrow and this Friday (20 and 22 July), the regular 4pm slot for The Story of Strategy & Surrender tour will be closed.

This is to allow a significant number of school groups to visit the Battlebox for educational purposes.

The Battlebox will be open for all other regular tour slots on both days. That means business as usual for the 9.45am, 11am, 1.30pm and 2.45pm tours.

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

Singapore Armed Forces Day promotion

SAF Day

Today, 1 July, Singapore celebrates Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Day, a day dedicated to commemorating the growth of the SAF from a small volunteer force into one of the most advanced and sophisticated military forces in the world.

To do our part in honouring our men and women in green, the Battlebox will be extending this special offer to all Singaporean NS men and women for today, tomorrow and the day after:

SAF DAY PROMOTION

Thank you for your service to the nation!

“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!