Romano Archives: Japanese footage from the Battle of Singapore, Feb 1942

Coloured WW2 footage by Romano Archives, from The Battle of Singapore, without sound or narration.

The footage features air, ship and artillery bombardment, amphibious landings, infantry movement, banzai, tanks rolling into the city past the statue of Sir Stamford Raffles and “Tiger of Malaya,” General Tomoyuki Yamashita.

You can see some of the footage used in this documentary, WWII Battlefront Pacific: Fall of Singapore (2001; Madacy Entertainment):

Footage of the Japanese army from the Battle of Singapore (and Malaya)

This “Romano Archive” footage uploaded in 2013, features Japanese manoeuvres in Malaya.

You see Japanese troops making amphibious landings, trudging through mud, engaged in bridge construction at Sungei Bekok (Johor), engage in lots of artillery action as they bombard distant targets, there is Yamashita at a field camp, infantry movement through rubber plantations and belly crawls under arti fire.

It ends poignantly with Japanese tanks rolling past the statue of Sir Stamford Raffles into Singapore city, Yamashita and other senior Japanese officers walking and troops cheering “banzai!”

Learn more:
The Battle of Singapore, 8 – 15 Feb 1942, see Infopedia

Do they remember the 15th of February?

There have been several references to the results of this roadside poll by The Straits Times, mostly as a result of the last paragraph in “Fall of Singapore remembered by survivors,” by Lindsay Murdoch. The Age, 16 Feb 2012 [pdf], which reads:

“A street poll conducted by the Singapore Straits Times found that many Singaporeans did not recognise the date while others confused it with Racial Harmony Day or joked it was Valentine’s Day.”

That was artfully inserted, I thought, and many indeed decried the ignorance of our youth or the way they are taught as a result. Well, I wanted to find out just how much “many was”. But it was difficult to find the article, even for an ST subscriber like myself. Eventually though, I did and here it is below, for you to judge. Nice idea to try the poll, I must say.

As it turns out my reaction when reading the article was one of pleasant surprise – of 100 youth polled, 36 knew 15th February was the date Singapore fell while 25 identified it as Total Defence Day.

Sure, we need to improve they way we tell the stories, and get past our conflicts about how and what we tell about the events surrounding World War II. Then I think back and realise I was not taught about Singapore’s history in school! I wonder how long ago that gap lasted – I did read the books older students were using and in those I learnt about the Fall of Singapore.

This year, on the 14th of February, I watched as primary school kids learn about the Battle of Singapore in Reflections of Bukit Chandu. I think they’ll remember.


“What Feb 15 means to young people,” by Kenneth Goh, Chen Shanshan and Denise Cheong. The Straits Times, 15 Feb 2012.

“On the 70th anniversary of the fall of Singapore, four World War II survivors, now in their 70s and 80s, recall how the wartime experience wiped out their childhood innocence and honed their survival skills

Mention Feb 15, 1942, and some young Singaporeans do not associate it with the day that Singapore fell to Japanese troops during World War II.

In a Life! street poll of 100 Singaporeans between the ages of 15 and 25, 39 did not recognise the date.

However, 36 people did know that was the date Singapore fell, and 25 recognised Feb 15 as Total Defence Day. Those how did not know the significance of Feb 15 confused the date with Racial Harmony Day on July 21 and some even joked that Feb 15 is not Valentine’s Day.

Those who do remember the historical significance of the date attribute their awareness to social studies and history lessons in school.

Singapore Management University student Lorraine Loh, 21, who is studying political science, says: ‘Most people don’t remember it well because all we know is that Singapore was this ‘impregnable fortress’, which we learnt in primary and secondary school social studies. If I were not studying history recently, I would not really remember the significance.’

Entrepreneur Mohamad Saddiqi, 23, on the other hand, takes the day quite seriously. The history buff sets aside a few minutes of his time on this day each year to reflect on the tragic chapter in Singapore’s history.

‘It happened on the first day of Chinese New Year, which is considered an auspicious day,’ he says. ‘But if you look at it in a different light, it is also a good wake-up call for Singaporeans not to be over-dependent on outsiders.’

Student Lisa Tan, 21, from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) shares the same view. She says: ‘We are always celebrating the rise and success of Singapore, but no one seems to talk about the fall, which is actually more significant.’

Those who know this day as Total Defence Day mostly recall how it was commemorated during their school years with food- and water-rationing activities and the sounding of the siren five minutes after noon.

Some schools also simulate the tough living conditions of wartime with canteen vendors selling only steamed sweet potatoes and tapioca on the day.

Some students are also given ration coupons to ‘buy’ these food.

Another NTU student Luo Xi En, 21, remembers ordering a bowl of sweet potato porridge at the canteen during a Total Defence Day when she was attending Zhonghua Secondary School.

She recalls: ‘It was a strange experience as we do not eat such simple fare usually and I still felt hungry after finishing the bowl of porridge.’

According to the Ministry of Education National Education website, Total Defence Day is remembered in schools every year to mark Singapore’s fall to the Japanese in 1942. It serves to remind students that Singapore is defensible and is worth defending and citizens must defend the island themselves.

NTU student Pang Ruiting, 21, remembers that the lights and fans in her primary school, Ai Tong School, were switched off to commemorate Total Defence Day.

‘Most of us would have forgotten by now because we are too comfortable with our lives,’ she says. ‘National education is emphasised in primary school, but after that, studies become more important.'”

Singapore Free Press, 26 Jan 1942

“He courageously relived the dark years to inform and educate us” – Jimmy Chew POW, RIP

In the letter below, published today, Mrs Yoko Natsume of Tokyo, who learnt about ‘Syonan-to’ only after coming to Singapore in 1992, says of Jimmy Chew, POW, “He courageously relived the dark years to inform and educate us. … May he rest in peace”

It reminds me of this statement that I read in “The Syonan Years” after the opening of Memories of Old Ford Factory in 2006,

“We meet not to rekindle old fires of hatred, nor to seek settlement for blood debts. We meet to remember the men and women who were the hapless victims of the one of the fires of history.”

– PM Lee Kuan Yew at the unveiling of the Civillian War Memorial, 15th February 1967 .

“Japanese teacher’s gratitude to Singaporean POW,” Letter by Yoko Natsume. The Strait Times Forum Page, 16 Feb 2012.

“I WAS saddened to learn of the death on Feb 1 of Mr Jimmy Chew, 88, a World War II prisoner of war (POW) during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore.

A group of Japanese high school students and I owe him a debt of gratitude for describing to us his personal ordeal (‘Remembering the thousands who lost lives’; Dec 9, last year).

Yesterday marked the 70th anniversary of the Occupation and many Singaporeans must have bitter war memories.

Unfortunately, relatively few Japanese of my generation or younger are familiar with the Occupation, when an earlier Japanese generation inflicted untold misery on the people of Singapore. It was not until I had a chance to live in Singapore in 1992 that I learnt of the suffering inflicted by the occupiers: renaming Singapore ‘Syonan-to’, forcing Japanese culture on Singaporeans, and committing many atrocities.

All Japanese citizens remember Dec 8, 1941 as the day of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in the United States.

But there is little mention in Japanese history classes of the simultaneous strike on the Malayan Peninsula and the subjugation of Singapore.

When I returned to Japan in 2002, I was convinced that my fellow Japanese, especially the younger generation, should learn about the dark years of the Occupation because we cannot close our eyes to the past.

I organised study tours to Singapore for my students, which included visiting a survivor of the Occupation.

Mr Chew willingly accepted my request and for six years until his death, he invited me and representatives from my school to his flat each March to share his experiences as a POW of the Japanese.

He courageously relived the dark years to inform and educate us. His telling inevitably filled us with guilt and remorse.

Yet, he would assure us unfailingly that while he remembered the suffering, he no longer harboured ill feelings towards the Japanese. He said he realised that the Japanese must have suffered in their own way; that the trauma and absurdity of war made victims of both Singaporeans and the Japanese.

His remarks never failed to move us.

Now that Mr Chew is no longer with us, I feel it is my duty to pass on what we learnt from him to my fellow Japanese. May he rest in peace.”

Yoko Natsume (Mrs)

Tokyo

“Singapore in World War II – A Heritage Trail” – 50 war sites in Singapore, and the Rimau 10 Execution Site

Tue 14 Feb 2012 – The National Heritage Board unveiled six new permanent plaques at the Cenotaph near the Padang in conjunction with the 70th anniversary of the start of the World War II. These six add to the 14 existing plaques unveiled in 1995 as part of the 50th anniversary of the end of the war.

These 20 permanent plaques are part of 50 war sites all over Singapore and are presented in the succinct booklet, “Singapore in World War II – A Heritage Trail,” which was researched and authored by Singapore History Consultants and produced by National Heritage Board.

In the booklet, the 50 sites are organised into six themes (“*” indicates a new marker):

    1. Northwest: Invasion and the First Battles (8 war sites)
      • Sarimbun beach landing
      • Lim Chu Kang landing site
      • Ama Keng Village
      • Tengah Airfield
      • Jurong-Kranji defense line
      • Kranji beach battle
      • The Causeway*
      • Kranji War Cemetery

 

  • Northeast: The Defense Strategy and its Consequences (5 war sites)

 

    1. The Singapore Naval Base
    2. Sembawang Airfield
    3. Seletar Airfield*
    4. Punggol Beach massacare
    5. Japanese Cemetry Park

 

  • Central: Battle for the Heart of Singapore (4 war sites)

 

    1. Battle for Bukit Timah
    2. Ford Factory (MOFF)
    3. Bukit Batok Memorial
    4. Force136* & Grave of Lim Bo Seng

 

  • South: Final Battles and the Consequences (9 war sites)

 

    1. Pasir Panjang pillbox
    2. Kent Ridge Park
    3. Reflections at Bukit Chandu
    4. Alexandra Military Hospital
    5. Labrador Battery
    6. Siloso Battery
    7. Sentosa Beach massacare
    8. Keppel Harbour*
    9. Rimau Commandos execution site*

 

  • City: Remembering the Occupation Years (15 war sites)

 

    1. Sook Ching screening centre (Hong Lim Complex)
    2. Fort Canning Command Centre*
    3. The Cathay
    4. Kempeitai Headquarters (YMCA)
    5. Raffles Library and Museum (National Museum of Singapore)
    6. Former St. Joseph’s Institution (Singapore Art Museum)
    7. Padang
    8. Municipal Building (City Hall)
    9. St. Andrew’s Cathedral
    10. Lim Bo Seng Memorial
    11. Cenotaph
    12. Indian National Army monument
    13. Civillian War Memorial
    14. Singapore Volunteer Corps headquarters (Beach Road camp)
    15. Kallang Airfield

 

  • East: The Guns of Singapore and Captivity (9 war sites)

 

  1. The Changi Museum
  2. Changi Prison
  3. Johore Battery
  4. India Barracks
  5. Selarang Barracks
  6. Robert’s Barracks
  7. Kitchener Barracks
  8. Changi beach massacare site
  9. Pulau Ubin

One of the new permanent plaques is the Rimau 10 Execution Site. Ten commandos of the team who raided occupied Singapore to sabotage shipping were beheaded on 7th July 1945 in the vicinity of this site. The men were subsequently buried at the Kranji War Memorial.

The marker indicating their execution site is located close to the Dover Road entrance of University Town, NUS. It was installed today [Tue 14th Feb 2012] and when I twittered the impending installation, undergraduate David Tan went down to take a look. He took these photos below and said, “According to one of the guys there, the text and medallion on the marker are still unfinished and will be replaced with the real thing next week.”

Links

  • NHB Media Release: Six new markers and five resilience trails in commemoration of the battle for Singapore. link
  • New World War II markers – Yesterday.sg, with links to the existing 14 permanent markers – link.
  • Infosheet: “Success and failure in the port of Singapore— Z Special Unit and the Jaywick and Rimau raids” – Ryebuck Media and ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee of Queensland, 2003 – link
  • “Rimau Historic Marker,” by Lynette Ramsay Silver. Date unknown.link