Friday, September 17, 2004

Changi Museum

The Changi Museum is dedicated to all those who lived and died in Singapore, in particular the Changi area, during the dark years of World War II. Through the documentation of significant events of the Japanese Occupation, the Museum also serves as an important educational institution and resource centre. As for the Prisoners-of-War (POWs) and their families, it is a site that allows for closure of the many emotional scars inflicted by the war years.

I have made two trips to this museum, and I must say it has been a humbling learning experience for myself.

These exhibits have left a deep impression on me. I suppose the guides who had given me the guided tour to the museum have also done a very good job in relating the stories behind these exhibits to me. (There is a fee for the guided tour, but please believe me, it will be value for your money. Rarely do you get a guided tour that is backed up by extensive research, at such an affordable amount. )

The drawing entitled “Two Malarias with a Cholera” drawn by Mr. Ray Parkin.

There is a touching story behind the drawing, and I think it illustrates one of the positive sides of humanity. The spirit of self-help, that is. To my best recall (please correct me if I were to be wrong), this is a story of two POWs who had collapsed with malaria in a rural area, and could only shuffle with great difficulty. Then there's another POW who had cholera, and could not walk, and needed treatment badly. When the artist, Mr Ray Parkin, saw this, and wanted to help bring them back to the POWs' camp for treatment.

He asked the Japanese Corporal if someone could help them. The Corporal said, "none: the other sick could do it", but not Mr Parkin who was healthy. So Mr Parkin got the two POWs with malaria up and then got the POW with cholera between them with his arms around their necks. Mr Parkin asked if the two POWs with malaria could try get the POW with cholera to a cave about 500 yards away, leave him (POW with cholera) there and go to the camp to ask for help.

Slowly, the two POWs with malaria dragged and staggered along the cutting, with the POW with cholera in between them, until they reached the cave. Later, the stretcher team came and picked the POW with cholera back to the camp for treatment.

Replica of the Changi Murals

The Changi Murals were drawn by a man named Stanley Warren, who was incarcerated by the Japanese. Despite being ill, Stanley Warren began drawing the murals in October 1942. During that time, materials such as paint and brushes were not readily available.

Despite all these difficult conditions, Stanley Warren persisted and completed the murals. I think the story behind Stanley Warren's drawing of the murals to be a good demonstration of how one could find strength and meaning despite the very harsh conditions.

The murals at the Changi Museum are replica of the originals. The originals are in Changi Camp Block 151. (There is estricted entry to the site where the original murals are found.)

For more information about the Changi Murals, you could read this book: Stubbs, P. W. (2003). The Changi Murals - The Story of Stanley Warren's War. Landmark Books. ISBN: 981-365-84-2

There are more exhibits that have touched me, but I shall not elaborate further. If you happen to be in Singapore, and if you are keen to know more about WWII history of Singapore, this is a museum you should really consider.

Its location: 1000, Upper Changi Road North, Singapore 507707

Its website:

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