Singaporean Historian awarded Honorary Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire; dedicates the award to Singapore
Mr Jeya Ayadurai - local historian and heritage entrepreneur - is now on an exclusive list populated by only a handful of his countrymen: the prestigious Honorary Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE).
The honour was conferred upon the 61-year-old during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in June 2022, celebrating the British monarch’s historic 70-year reign.
Mr Ayadurai was recognised for his services to preserving Singapore, British, and Commonwealth military history and war remembrance in Singapore.
The Queen confers this award on non-British citizens around the world who have made significant contributions to advance Commonwealth and British interests. In getting the award, Mr Ayadurai joins not more than 10 Singaporeans in the nation’s post-war history who have received the MBE. Past recipients of British honours include Lee Kuan Yew (GCMG), Elizabeth Choy (OBE) and Paul Abisheganaden (MBE).
Mr Ayadurai dedicates the award to Singapore and his team who have worked tirelessly to uncover and highlight Singapore heritage, including its military past.
A Passion for Singapore Heritage
Mr Ayadurai, on his return to Singapore in 1988, joined the Department of Strategic Studies in the Singapore Command and Staff College as a military history lecturer. In 1995, he began the first of many private sector heritage firms - Singapore History Consultants Pte Ltd, to focus on local history and heritage. Since then, he and his team have created several associate firms such as Journeys Pte Ltd, Haw Par Villa Pte Ltd and The Changi Museum Pte Ltd. These firms not only undertake primary research and programme development, but also manage significant heritage sites in Singapore today.
“We are dedicated to educating Singaporeans and the world about Singapore history and conserving Singapore heritage for future generations,” Mr Ayadurai said.
“However, I also recognise that history must be inclusive. Singapore history includes a shared history with Britain and the Commonwealth, and any telling of our history must not exclude other countries who were joint participants with us, particularly in regards to the Second World War.”
This philosophy has shone through in his relentless efforts to promote a Culture of Remembrance in Singapore. For more than 25 years, he has tirelessly organised and called for Commemoration Ceremonies to mark important war anniversaries and remember the millions who had sacrificed their lives for peace.
From 2015, these Commemoration Ceremonies were the first in the world to bring together former World War II combatants such as Singapore, Japan, and the Commonwealth countries in a united message of hope for peace. Subsequently, the Japanese Embassy has been included in commemoration committees organising war remembrance ceremonies in 2017, 2020, and the latest in 2022 for the 80th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore. These ceremonies show that it is possible for former combatants to come together to honour the war dead, and are an example for nations around the Pacific, particularly in Northeast Asia, to emulate.
Mr Ayadurai is the founder and director of multiple award-winning Singaporean firms, such as research house Singapore History Consultants (SHC), and heritage specialist Journeys.
For almost three decades, these companies have made immense contributions to Singapore heritage. These include research projects, school heritage trails (later known as Learning Journeys) which were pioneered by SHC in 1995, and various educational programmes and events.
SHC and Journeys also specialise in reviving heritage sites that were in danger of destruction or marginalisation - examples include Labrador Battery, Changi Museum, Battlebox at Fort Canning Hill, Chinatown Heritage Centre and Haw Par Villa.
With the aid of relevant government organisations, the firms poured in their own significant resources to redevelop these sites. They became award-winning, top-ranked museum experiences. The Changi Museum and Battlebox became #1 museums in Singapore on TripAdvisor, while Hell’s Museum in Haw Par Villa is currently the #1 museum in Singapore on TripAdvisor.
Having brought the museums up to a high standard, some of the museums were later transferred back to State agencies which now manage them directly.
Future Goals - UNESCO World Heritage Award for Haw Par Villa
Far from resting on his laurels, Mr Ayadurai is determined to build on these achievements. His long-term plans on the horizon include the building of museums and memorials at Kranji War Graves and other historic war sites. He also intends to pursue a campaign for the inscription of Haw Par Villa as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The MBE will be conferred on Mr Ayadurai in a ceremony officiated by the Queen’s representative, the British High Commissioner, HE Kara Owen. The ceremony will take place at Eden Hall, a historically significant black-and-white bungalow in Nassim Road. The date of the ceremony will be announced at a later time.
Requests for Interviews
For interview requests for Mr Ayadurai, please contact the following below with your interview questions:
Ms Cherylyn Tok
Manager, Research and Consultancy
Singapore History Consultants Pte Ltd
Ms Bernice Teo
Marketing Communications Executive
Journeys Pte Ltd
A - Curriculum Vitae of Mr Jeya Ayadurai
B - Basic Information on SHC and JPL
C - Contributions to Heritage by SHC and its Associate Firms
D - About the British Honours System and post-war Singaporean Awardees
To access the annexes, click here
15 February 2022, a Commemoration Ceremony was organised at Kranji War Cemetery to mark the 80th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore.
The Ceremony, which started at 7.30am and lasted around 50 minutes, was organised by the Singapore-led Commemoration Committee for the 80th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore.
Exactly 80 years ago, on 15 February 1942, Lieutenant-General Arthur Ernest Percival, General Officer Commanding of Malaya Command, the Allied army which defended Malaya and Singapore during World War II, made the decision to surrender to the Japanese 25th Army at the Battlebox in Fort Canning Hill. The surrender that took place at the Ford Factory in Bukit Timah came after 70 days of ferocious fighting in Malaya and Singapore. It heralded the start of three and a half years of military occupation.
A Symbol of Reconciliation for the Region: Former Combatant Nations in Commemoration Committee
The Ceremony paid tribute to the thousands of men and women from many nations who had fought and died in the defence of Malaya and Singapore. It also recognised the suffering and sacrifice made by civilians of all combatant nations involved in the Pacific War.
Today’s event was the fourth time since 2015 that representatives of former combatant nations – Singapore, Allied nations in the Commonwealth, and Japan – collaborated to organise a Commemoration Ceremony in the spirit of reconciliation and healing. Their collaboration acknowledges that all nations have suffered in World War II, and that after 80 years, former combatants are moving into the future as friends and firm partners in peace.
The Commemoration Committee is an example of how war anniversaries and remembrance ceremonies can play a positive role in enhancing peace and friendship rather than being a source of division. Said Mr Jeya Ayadurai, Chairman of the Committee: “Here in Southeast Asia, we reflect hope and peace for the future. We show that it is possible for former combatants of the Pacific War to come together to commemorate – that while we do not ignore the past, we are not mired in it.”
The Committee comprises the High Commissions of Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom; the Embassy of Japan; Commonwealth War Graves Commission; Singapore Civil Defence Force and Sport Singapore; the Battlebox and Singapore History Consultants Pte Ltd; Haw Par Villa and Journeys Pte Ltd.
The Guest-of-Honour for the Ceremony was Mr Dileep Nair, a former diplomat with over 40 years of experience in public service, international diplomacy, financial services, and corporate leadership.
Commonwealth High Commissioners, the Japanese Ambassador, and Singapore representatives laid wreaths at the Singapore Memorial.
Members of the Japanese community laid tsuru or paper cranes alongside the wreaths. These tsuru were hand-crafted by students of The Japanese School Singapore, to reflect the universal wish to heal the wounds of war and continue on the road of reconciliation. Laying of tsuru was also carried out by the Japanese community during Commemoration Ceremonies to mark the end of the Pacific War in September 2015 and 2020, and the Fall of Singapore in February 2017.
In compliance with COVID-19 restrictions, physical participation in the Ceremony was by invitation only; attendance at the Cemetery was around 120.
Watch the full video of the Commemoration Ceremony for the 80th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore below.
Want to learn about how Singapore fell? Visit the Battlebox to find out!
Starting from 1st December 2020, our Battlebox website will allow online bookings, and redemption of the SingapoRediscovers Vouchers!
In line with this exciting launch, our Battlebox experience will also be upgraded just for you.
From 1st December 2020, admission to the Battlebox will be done via a 30-minute guided tour, and visitors will be allowed to explore the underground bunker on their own after the tour. There are 11 time slots for you to choose from!
Our current self-guided admission will only be available till 29 November 2020.
For visitors who have already booked a ticket for a self-guided admission dated beyond 1st December 2020, our wonderful team will soon reach out to you to choose a timeslot.
If you want the best of both Fort Canning Hill and the Battlebox, rejoice!
Our popular tour - Of Graves, Guns & Battles™ - is now back!
Be led by our captivating tour guide on the stories of Fort Canning Hill, and enjoy a 45-minute guided tour through the Battlebox. Retain your ticket after the tour to revisit the Battlebox on your own within the same day.
We are absolutely excited to welcome you to our treasured historical site.
Have queries about the SingapoRediscovers Campaign and Vouchers?
Seven Former Combatant Nations Recognise the 75th Anniversary of the End of World War II at the Singapore Cenotaph
Wreaths placed at the Cenotaph by representatives from seven nations, Australia, Canada, India, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the Battlebox, an award-winning museum in Singapore run by Singapore History Consultants. Students of The Japanese School Singapore also made 2,000 tsuru (paper cranes symbolising peace and reconciliation), which members of the Japanese community laid alongside the wreaths.
Today, Saturday, 12 September 2020, representatives from seven nations separately turned up at the Cenotaph in Singapore city to recognise the 75th Anniversary of the End of World War II (WWII), and pay respects to the fallen.
Due to COVID-19, a multi-national remembrance ceremony originally planned for the anniversary at Kranji War Cemetery had to be called off at the eleventh hour.
Commemoration Committee for the 75th Anniversary of the End of World War II
The original ceremony was organised by the Commemoration Committee for the 75th Anniversary of the End of World War II. It comprises the High Commissions or Embassies of Australia, Canada, India, Japan, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, and Singaporean representatives from the Battlebox, an award-winning war museum in Singapore managed by private heritage consultancy Singapore History Consultants (SHC).
Laying of Wreaths and Tsuru
High Commissioners, Ambassadors, and representatives from these seven nations – former enemy combatants in the Pacific theatre of WWII but now close partners – honoured the significance of the date on their own, laying wreaths at the Cenotaph at varying times.
Students of The Japanese School Singapore also made 2,000 tsuru or paper cranes symbolising peace and reconciliation. Staff members laid them alongside the wreaths at the war memorial.
Keeping Alive the Spirit of Reconciliation
While these nations could not come together in an official ceremony this year, the spirit of post-war reconciliation and peace was maintained.
Today’s multi-national observances continue years of efforts to bring together former combatants to pay respect to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in WWII.
In 2015, Japan joined the remembrance ceremony for the 70th Anniversary of the End of WWII at Kranji War Cemetery.
Two years later in 2017, Japan became a member of the organising committee for the 75th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore, a move that was unanimously supported by other Commonwealth countries in the committee. The ceremony was again held at Kranji War Cemetery on 15 February 2017.
Maintaining the tradition, Japan is also a member of the organising committee for this year’s ceremony.
Impact of COVID-19 on 75th Anniversary of End of War
The Commemoration Committee had convened as early as December 2019, planning not only for a major remembrance ceremony at Kranji War Cemetery, but many supporting events such as exhibitions and book launches. All these had to be cancelled because of the pandemic.
The committee had intended to hold a scaled-down version of the ceremony at Kranji War Cemetery. However, the sudden closure of the cemetery to the public because of COVID-19 on 11 September 2020 – one day before the event – forced the committee to cancel the ceremony.
Consequently, the committee decided to pay respects as individual members at the Cenotaph, a National Monument dedicated to those who died in World War I and World War II. This was to ensure that this important day did not go unmarked in Singapore.
The Significance of Remembrance Ceremonies
The date 12 September is significant, because the surrender of the Japanese Southern Army to South East Asia Command in Singapore on that day in 1945 was the last major surrender ceremony of WWII. It terminated not only Japan’s military occupation of Southeast Asia, but also the Pacific War and, as a result, the Second World War.
The intention of this year’s observances was to honour all – both military and civilian – who had sacrificed their lives in WWII.
“Remembrance ceremonies can rehash painful memories of the war, as evidenced by the tensions war anniversaries raise in Northeast Asia. Remembrance ceremonies can also have an amazing capacity to enhance reconciliation and peace,” said Mr Jeya Ayadurai, chairman of the Commemoration Committee and Director of the Battlebox and SHC.
“This is why the work of the Commemoration Committee and the remembrance ceremonies it organises are important. They provide an alternative example of how these ceremonies can heal and strengthen relationships among former combatants.”
What was Planned at Kranji
This year’s remembrance ceremony at Kranji War Cemetery would have featured, among other things, public readings of war poems to encourage reflection on war and peace, the courage of those who bear nobly the call to duty, and those who have made the supreme sacrifice.
There would also have been an observance of two minutes of silence, to honour the fallen in war; a special bell would have been rung seven times to signify each year of the seven-year global war.
The ceremony would have concluded with the singing of Singapore’s National Anthem, Majulah Singapura, a fitting reminder that the defence of the city-state today lies in the hands of Singaporeans.
What Happened at the Cenotaph
Despite COVID-19 restrictions scuppering the remembrance ceremony, the representatives of the committee ensured that the memories of the fallen were kept alive.
Mr Jeya said: “While we were disappointed not to go ahead with the ceremony, it would have been wrong not to mark the day with a dignified gesture. Representatives from the seven nations decided that they would hold individual observances at the Cenotaph, keeping in line with COVID-19 safe management measures.”
Keeping the Memories Alive
To ensure that a permanent record was made of the observances, photos and footage were shot, which were assembled into videos. A digital Commemorative Booklet has also been created. These will be shared on social media and other online platforms to ensure awareness of the suffering of war and the need for peaceful solutions can be appreciated around the world.
Lastly, the primary reason for the ceremony is to help heal the wounds of conflict, not only among nations, but also offers the families of the men and women who were lost in this global conflict an opportunity for remembrance and closure.
Seventy-seven years ago, inside the Battlebox, the momentous decision to surrender Singapore to the invading Japanese was made by Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival, General Officer Commanding Malaya Command.
On 4 February, Lt Gen Percival’s son, Brigadier (Retired) James Percival, retraced his father’s footsteps in the World War II-era underground command centre, currently managed by Singapore History Consultants Pte Ltd. He was accompanied by his wife Ann, and his daughter and son-in-law, Lady and Lord Acton.
The Battlebox team was honoured to host them on a tour of the Battlebox - A Story of Strategy & Surrender™. Of the tour, Brigadier Percival gave it a solid stamp of approval. He said: "The portrayal of the campaign is infinitely better now than it was when I was here before. It's totally different. It's more comprehensive and I think it's a fairer assessment of what went on than it had been before."
For more information about The Battlebox Tour - A Story of Strategy & Surrender™, visit www.battlebox.com.sg.