Monday 6 February 2012

Take a walk down new WWII history trails

3 leading from Kent Ridge, Fort Canning and Changi open on Feb 14
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 3 Feb 2012

HISTORY buffs will soon be able to recreate the past with five new walking trails.

The trails, which have different themes and are an average of 6km to 8km in length, are spread around the island.

Three will open on Feb 14.

One that leads from Kent Ridge Park to the old Keppel Harbour recalls the Japanese invasion of 1942 and the Malay Regiment's final stand at Bukit Chandu.

Another covers Changi Museum, the cannon at Johore Battery and the scenic Changi Boardwalk, close to the site of a brutal massacre by Japanese troops.

The third stretches from Fort Canning to the Cenotaph at the Padang, and seeks to trace Singapore's history from the 14th century to modern times.

The trails are part of a series of initiatives and events marking the 70th anniversary of the fall of Singapore on Feb 15.

They were announced yesterday by the National Heritage Board (NHB) and were developed with the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts and a private company, Singapore History Consultants.

'Many of the people who lived through the war are now in their 70s, 80s and 90s, and they are slowly dying out, their memories going,' said NHB chief executive Michael Koh, who added that sharing stories with future generations is important, since the battle for Singapore is such a crucial chapter in history.

Mr Jeyathurai Ayadurai, director of Changi Museum, agreed.

'The 70th anniversary of the fall of Singapore is an appropriate chance and opportunity to not only recall one's history, but also to honour, thank and show our appreciation to the men and women of a very special generation - a generation filled with ordinary people doing extraordinary things,' he said.

Two other trails will open next year, including one in the Kranji area retracing the Japanese invasion. But the mother of them all will be a 26km walk that starts at the Padang and ends in Changi, recounting the route marched by more than 10,000 Allied prisoners of war.

One of them was Mr George Prior, a gunner with the Royal Artillery when Singapore fell. He recalled: 'It was a long march that started in the morning and ended only in the late afternoon. We were taken prisoners of war at River Valley and from there, they made us march up to Changi.'

The 88-year-old Singaporean, who was at the launch yesterday, recalled how some POWs would fall from fatigue and malnutrition, and how their Japanese handlers would wield batons to punish the stragglers. Those who tried to escape were killed.

'Quite a few tried to run and they would get shot,' said Mr Prior, a retired policeman. 'The Japanese were very brutal to the POWs.'

Besides members of the public, secondary schools are encouraged to sign their students up to walk the trails. Other commemorative activities this month include student-led tours, talks featuring World War II survivors and a remembrance ceremony at Kranji War Memorial on Feb 15.

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