Never-Seen-Before Private Collections At The New Light on an Old Tale: 80th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore



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The National Archives Singapore opens a new exhibition “New Light on an Old Tale: 80th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore", featuring about 150 artefacts from three Singaporean collectors who have a passion for heritage.

Venue: National Archives Singapore, Oldham Theatre
Dates: 15 Feb - 30 Jun 2022
Admission: Free

New Light on an Old Tale: 80th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore chronicles Singapore’s history during the Japanese invasion and occupation, and opens on 15 Feb 2022, the exact day 80 years after the British surrendered Singapore to the Japanese on 15 February 1942.

The exhibition is held at the NAS Building Atrium outside Oldham Theatre. It features World War II-related artefacts on display for the first time publicly, complemented with oral history interviews and images from the National Archives Singapore (NAS) collection.

One of the private collectors who contributed to the exhibition, Ms Cheng Lai Yee said “For a long time, private collectors like myself have been accessing National Archives resources to corroborate historical facts and details on the artefacts we collect, so this exhibition is an excellent showcase of the synergistic relationship between a public institution and local history buffs sharing a common mission – to reclaim Singapore’s heritage.”

A Chronological Display Of Artefacts

Explore the exhibition in a chronological manner as the exhibit shares how 2 former allies (British and Japanese), turned into foes. You can expect the following sections when visiting. 

  • Between Two World Wars explores the tension between Britain and Japan, who were once allies under the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902. The alliance to assist each other in safeguarding their interests against the Russians came to an end in 1923.

    At this section, you will see a collection of Japanese Sake Cups, some of which commemorated the alliances between Britain and Japan.

  • War On The Horizon sheds light on the galvanising of defence forces when the reality of a Japanese invasion of Malaya and Singapore became imminent in 1937.

    Spot the original wooden plaque of the Singapore Volunteer Rifle Corps (SVRC), the first volunteer corps to be established in Singapore in 1854.

  • Fall Of The Fortress traces the fall of Singapore. By 9 December 1941, the Royal Air Force (RAF) had lost nearly all of its front-line aeroplanes after the Japanese attacked RAF fields in Singapore, destroying any hope of aerial support for the army.

    General Tomoyuki Yamashita had planned to capture Singapore by 11 February 1942 to celebrate the “kigensetsu” or National Foundation Day. It is no wonder that the battle at Bukit Timah (10 to 12 February 1942) had been fought so fiercely by the aggressors.

  • Masters Of Our Fate portrays the different facets of life in Singapore during the 44 months under Japanese rule after Britain surrendered

    You will see a Kempeitai Armband. The Kempeitai was the military police arm of the Japanese Imperial Arm and were distinguished by an armband bearing the Japanese characters for Kempeitai (憲兵隊). The Kempeitai were especially feared for their cruel acts during the occupation period.

  • Conclusion marked the change of tides after Japan formally surrendered in September 1945, as momentum gathered among Singaporeans in the fight towards self-governance.

Family-Friendliness

Having visited the exhibition during the preview, we do not think this is a suitable exhibition for those with young kids. Instead, we feel that it might be suitable for parents and older kids, especially if they have read and learned about the history of Singapore or have a keen interest on the topic. 

Complementary Programmes

In conjunction with the exhibition, NAS has also organised programmes that tell the stories of World War II and the Japanese Occupation of Singapore. This includes an “Archives Invites” talk in March by Mr Bennett Sng Siak Keng, one of the collectors, on some of the significant artefacts featured and the stories behind them. There will also be specially curated film screenings by the Asian Film Archive (AFA).

For more details and ticketing, please visit https://www.eventbrite.com/cc/new-light-on-an-old-tale-104819


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This article is prepared by

Jiarong Yu
Daddy to 2 adorable little ones. Misses them the moment they are not around, regrets missing them the moment they are around.

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