An enhanced retelling of the Battle of Pasir Panjang
Reflections at Bukit Chandu has reopened its doors to the public following a three-year redevelopment. The museum takes visitors back to the desperate final days before Singapore fell in February 1942, when the Malay Regiment made a heroic last stand against 13,000 soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army in the Battle of Pasir Panjang.
Bukit Chandu means Opium Hill, and the museum is housed in a large bungalow built in 1930 for British managers of an opium packing plant. There are three new spaces that offer a broader historical context beyond the Japanese invasion. A room on the second floor recreates an opium packing station, with hydraulic machines suspended over long benches where female workers prepared the drug for export. A lounge with original furniture helps visitors imagine how occupants of the bungalow would have relaxed after work as they enjoyed a view of the Singapore Strait.
The centrepiece is a multimedia room, which will have augmented reality features in the near future. It shares the story of C Company’s do-or-die defence of Point 226 – the exact location of which, suitably, is now the museum’s Car Park C. It was here that Second Lieutenant Adnan Saidi and his 42 Malay soldiers bore the brunt of the final Japanese assault; the culmination of three days of fighting along Pasir Panjang ridge.
Having been thrown back again and again, the Japanese finally launched an all-out banzai charge with artillery and tank support. Amid nightmarish hand-to-hand combat, Point 226 was overwhelmed.
If the fighting was vicious, the aftermath was worse. When seriously wounded Adnan was taken prisoner, he was beaten, stabbed to death and hung upside down from a tree. The fall of Bukit Chandu allowed the Japanese access to the Alexandra area, leading to the Alexandra Hospital massacre in which some 200 sick and wounded soldiers, orderlies, nurses and doctors were murdered.
The exhibits do full justice to the Malay Regiment’s valourin the chaos of imminent strategic defeat. Just one day after Point 226 fell, captured British generals were marched along Upper Bukit Timah Road to sign the instrument of surrender at the old Ford car factory.
The reopening of Reflections at Bukit Chandu comes not long after the Battle of Pasir Panjang passed from living memory into history with the death of 100-year-old Ujang Mormin in Selangor, Malaysia. He was the last of the survivors of the battle he fought in as a 21-year-old private in the Malay Regiment. Having come through the ravages of war, Mormin succumbed to COVID-19 in February 2021.
Entry to the museum, now wheelchair-accessible, is free for all visitors until 26 Sep, after which complimentary admission will still be available for Singapore Citizens and PRs.
Find out more about Reflections at Bukit Chandu here.