World War Two comes alive in the backyards of suburban Singapore

A quiet, serene expat housing complex in suburban Singapore is the last place you would expect to find reminders of World War Two, but an archaeologist from Changi Museum, is revealing the area’s, and entire island’s, experience of those war years by digging in its backyards.

Before the war the Adam Park estate in Bukit Timah, Singapore, was an exclusive expat residence with 19 large colonial style homes, away from the hustle and bustle of the main city.  But during World War Two the Japanese saw Singapore as a pivotal location in South East Asia that they wanted to control. So in 1942 the Japanese invaded and many expats were evacuated.

The Adam Park estate was the scene of a massive three day battle. The 1st Battalion Cambridgeshire Regiment held off the Japanese 41st Regiment for as long as possible, but the entire island eventually fell to the Japanese.

The Allied troops were imprisoned at Changi Prison and the Adam Park estate was converted into a prisoner of war camp, and the homes turned into a base for Japanese soldiers. The Kranji War Cemetery, only nine miles from the estate, shows photographs and evidence that it was also used as an ammunitions store and a hospital, The Telegraph reports.

Singapore was finally liberated when Japan surrendered to the Allies in 1945, after America dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was then that the estate was cleared up, and their houses became expat homes again.

Today, remnants of the battle and Japanese occupation still remain in the expat backyards.

The Changi Museum has sought permission from the residents to investigate their gardens, which has found many remnants from gas masks andbullet cases, to shell and grenade parts. Nothing has been found that would be a threat or live ammunition.

From these backyards, the museum is able to tell a story of the battlefield to people from the Allied countries, but who have never actually experienced what the battlefield is like. The estate has become ‘The Adam Park Project’ through which the museum is preserving and memorialising the World War Two fight for Singapore.

Today Singapore takes pride in being one of the greatest and wealthiest cities in the world. Occasional tours of the Adam Park estate are run by The National Heritage Board particularly around the anniversary dates.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE