Friday, 15 February 2013

From school to fields of battle

Officer cadets visit WWII sites in new programme
By David Ee, The Straits Times, 14 Feb 2013

OFFICER cadets are venturing out of the classroom and onto Singapore's historic battlegrounds as they learn about the struggle against the Japanese during World War II.

They are being sent into the field to trace the main route of the 1942 invasion - from Kranji towards Labrador Park - as part of a new half-day programme launched yesterday.

The cadets use mobile learning apps to guide them on the history trail, which is designed to teach them how the island was defended at battlegrounds including Sarimbun Beach, where Japanese forces landed 71 years ago this month.

More than 100 of them took part in the new programme yesterday.

Organisers hope that it will give them a better understanding of the fall of Singapore and the tactical lessons to be gleaned from it.

"What they went through today gives them a glimpse of what happened in the past," said the Officer Cadet School's chief instructor, Senior Lieutenant-Colonel Chandrasekaran. "They must understand the purpose for defence - what is their role and their contributions. That is the most fundamental. If they don't... they won't be actively contributing in their service to their nation."

The school's commander, Colonel Chua Boon Keat, said the programme is part of its drive to "explore new ways of teaching" and to engage cadets who are technologically savvy and comfortable with mobile devices.

Taking lessons out of the classroom could help them to "better appreciate concepts like the importance of defending our country, so as to strengthen their commitment to defence", he said. Cadets use two apps created by the National Heritage Board and developer Learning & Development Resources.

At each stop along the trail, historical facts and questions about the war are triggered by global positioning system technology. If feedback from the cadets is positive, the school may formally introduce the trail and apps into its curriculum, said Senior Lt-Col Chandrasekaran.

Officer cadet Malcolm Chan, 20, got a real buzz from the outfield history lessons. "In the classroom, we're just fed slides," he said. "Here, it's fun, but we also learn."

Officer cadets follow the trail of history

CADETS begin the trail with a period of silent reflection at the Kranji War Memorial, where about 4,500 Allied troops who died defending Singapore against the Japanese are buried.

The monument is also inscribed with the names of more than 24,000 others whose bodies were never found. Heading west, cadets are taken to the secluded Sarimbun Beach in Lim Chu Kang and Kranji Reservoir Park, where invading forces first attacked on Feb 8, 1942.

They then proceed to Tengah Airfield - captured by the Japanese the following day - and the site of the former Ama Keng Village, where General Yamashita of the Japanese 25th Army set up his headquarters.

Winding through Bukit Panjang, Bukit Batok, Bukit Timah and Pasir Panjang, cadets go on to learn about some of the war's fiercest battles, as Indian and Malay regiments fought in vain to hold their ground.

They also visit the old Ford Factory in Bukit Timah, where the British formally surrendered on Feb 15 - just a week after the initial assault.

The trail ends at Labrador Park on Singapore's southern coast. Here, artillery batteries originally pointed south were swung round to aid Singapore's defence, but to no avail.

Members of the public can download the National Heritage Board's Battle For Singapore mobile app free from iTunes.

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