We’ve heard quite a bit about the Japanese Occupation of Singapore during World War II. Now, the National Museum of Singapore has curated a slightly different exhibition, this time focusing on the fall of Singapore in 1942 and its aftermath.
What’s special about this new exhibition, titled “Witness to War: Remembering 1942”, is that it showcases never-before-seen artefacts relating to the historical event that remains ingrained in everyone’s minds 75 years later.
From General Yamashita’s samurai sword to Lim Bo Seng’s diary, here are the top five items to look out for when you visit the exhibition.
1. General Yamashita’s samurai sword
This is the first time this steel samurai sword, or katana, belonging to Lieutenant General Tomoyuki Yamashita, is being displayed outside of the United States since Japan’s surrender. The sword was surrendered to the US forces in the Philippines on Sept 2, 1945, and was subsequently given to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.
The sword blade was made by a famed swordsmith, Fujiwara Kanenaga, sometime between 1640 and 1680. The blade is so sharp, it cut through the tissue it was wrapped in while being transported over here, revealed the curator.
However, visitors will not be able to see the blade at all as it is sheathed to represent that the sword is “at rest and not active”, said the curator.
The red and gold tassels on the sword handle indicates that the owner is a Lieutenant General and that the sword is ceremonial, and not used in battle.
General Yamashita was known in Japan as the “Tiger of Malaya” for his swift victories against British forces in World War II.
2. 25-pounder field gun used in battle during WWII
This 25-pounder field gun was the standard field artillery weapon of the British and Commonwealth armies in WWII. It was designed to replace the 18-pounder and 4.5-inch howitzer that were used during WWI. It remained in use through the 1960s and 70s.
The field gun was recently acquired by the National Museum of Singapore collection. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to see a 2.5-minute sound and light immersive experience that surrounds this artefact.
The museum has even gotten international perfumery Givaudan to re-create the smell of gunpowder near the display.
3. Lim Bo Seng’s diary showcases his lesser known side
War hero Lim Bo Seng’s anti-Japanese activism has been well-documented, but this diary, which has never been displayed, tells of his emotions and longing for his wife and children during his evacuation from Singapore to Calcutta, India. The entries stretch from Feb 11 to April 4 in 1942 and reveal how his family was constantly on his mind.
The diary is on loan from Lim Bo Seng’s family.
4. Poster of Bruce Lee’s grandfather
Besides artefacts that tell the story of Singapore’s fall in 1942, some items on display at the exhibition show how the Japanese invasion affected the region.
This poster of Hong Kong etrepreneur Ho Kom-Tong, who is Bruce Lee’s grandfather, shows him taking part in various opera performances in Hong Kong to raise funds for anti-Japanese resistance activities.
The poster is currently on loan from Hong Kong Museum of History, Leisure and Cultural Services Department, one of the 10 overseas museums and institutions that the National Museum of Singapore worked with for the exhibition.
5. Union Jack flag bearing date of British surrender
Currently on loan from the council of the National Army Museum in London, this Union Jack flag was captured from a government building by a Japanese solider in Singapore in 1942. It bears the date of the British surrender and the soldier’s name, Sergeant-Major Uchiyama.
The flag was recaptured by a British Army officer in Burma in 1944.
There are a total of 130 objects on display at the Witness to War: Remembering 1942, including stories from war survivors and veterans. For those who want a taste of wartime, Food for Thought cafe on level 1 of the museum is featuring a special wartime-inspired menu.
Witness to War: Remembering 1942 starts from Sept 23, 2017 to March 25, 2018. Admission is free.