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Photo credit: COMMONWEALTH WAR GRAVES, NATIONAL LIBRARY BOARD SINGAPORE

Dark tourism sites in Singapore

Get in touch with the darker side of Singapore's history.

Ruth Chan

Enjoys solitude. Finds comfort in watching the sunset and drinking milo.


Published: 2 March 2021, 2:55 PM

When mentioning dark tourism sites, places like the Auschwitz concentration camp and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial often come to mind.

Dark tourism, the travel to places associated with death and suffering, may evoke feelings of shock and anger for some. To others, it may elicit a sense of wonder and fascination.

It is undeniable, however, that the sobriety that surrounds such places makes us think. It honours our past and is a motivation for us to be better individuals.

Such sites are not only present in other countries. Singapore has sites associated with dark tourism too.

Here are five of such sites: 

1. Former Ford Factory

The Former Ford Factory is the site where the British forces surrendered to the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.

It is now a permanent World War II exhibition that includes oral history accounts, archival records and other published materials pertaining to the war.

You can join complimentary walk-in tours led by volunteer guides to learn more about the war and its legacies as well as find out more about the rich collections on display.

 

Singapore was renamed Syonan-to, or “Light of the South” by the Japanese after the surrender of the British. PHOTO CREDIT: FORMER FORD FACTORY

 

Address: 351 Upper Bukit Timah Rd, Singapore 588192
Opening hours: Tues to Sun 9am to 5.30pm

2. Fort Canning Hill

Formerly known as Bukit Larangan, or “Forbidden Hill” in Malay, Fort Canning Hill has been a local landmark since Singapore’s earliest recorded history. It was once the palaces of 14th-century kings and the location for the residence of colonial governors.

During World War II, it served as Lieutenant-General Arthur Ernest Percival’s command post of the Malayan Command.

The decision to surrender Singapore to the Japanese was also made on the hill, in the Underground Far East Command Centre, more commonly known as the Battle Box.

 

Today, Fort Canning Park’s expansive and sprawling lawns often host concerts, theatre productions, festivals and weddings. PHOTO CREDIT: NATIONAL PARKS

 

You can download the augmented reality (AR) trail, BALIKSG: The Fort Canning Trail, which enables you to explore the hill at your own pace.

Address: River Valley Rd, Singapore 179037
Park lighting hours: 7pm to 7am daily

3. Kranji War Memorial

The Kranji War Memorial is a hillside cemetery that honours the men and women who died in the line of duty during World War II. 

On Feb 8, 1942, the Japanese forces crossed the Johor Straits and landed at the mouth of the Kranji River, about 3km from the place where the memorial now stands.

After the fall of Singapore, the Japanese established a prisoner-of-war camp at Kranji, and eventually a hospital.

 

Its serenity and beauty offer the perfect atmosphere for you to pay respects to the men and women who gave up their lives to defend Singapore. PHOTO CREDIT: COMMONWEALTH WAR GRAVES

 

There are now 4,461 Commonwealth casualties from World War II buried or commemorated at Kranji War Cemetery.

Address: 9 Woodlands Rd, Singapore 738656
Opening hours: Mon to Fri 9am to 4pm

4. Johore Battery

Built in the late 1930s as part of Singapore’s coastal defense system, the Johore Battery consisted of three 15-inch guns. The guns were called 15-inch guns because the shells they fired were 15-inch in diameter.

The battery was meant to stop enemy attacks from the sea, but two of the guns could be fired landward. Between Feb 5 and Feb 12, 1942, a total of 194 rounds were fired at the Japanese forces.

 

These guns were also known as “monster guns” for their sheer size. PHOTO CREDIT: NATIONAL LIBRARY BOARD SINGAPORE

 

Before the fall of Singapore, the British destroyed the guns to prevent them from falling into the enemy’s hands.

The former site of the Johore battery now includes a replica of the 15-inch gun and a dummy 15-inch ammunition shell weighing over 800kg.

Address: 27 Cosford Road, Singapore 499549
Opening hours: 24 hours daily

5. Labrador Park

Labrador Park played a significant role in the history of Singapore during World War II. Known as Fort Pasir Panjang, it was one of 11 coastal artillery forts built by the British in the 19th century to defend Singapore’s water.

Completed in 1878 with two gun emplacements, Fort Pasir Panjang was upgraded to a six-gun battery, with underground ammunition storage, living spaces and tunnels in 1892.

In 1938, it was further armed with two six-inch guns that could fire more than 40kg shells to a distance of about 15km.

 

During the war, the guns were reversed almost 180 degrees and used by the Malay Regiment against the Japanese. PHOTO CREDIT: NATIONAL PARK

 

Today, it is a nature reserve that offers an oasis of tranquillity and natural wonders, and is a favourite haunt for nature lovers.

Address: Labrador Villa Rd, Singapore 119187
Opening hours: 7am to 7pm daily


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