Exterior View of Old Changi Prison Entrance Gate and Wall
Singapore, 15 February 2016 – On this day in 1942, Singapore was surrendered to the Japanese during World War II. Today, the National Heritage Board (NHB) gazettes the Changi Prison Entrance Gate, Wall and Turrets as Singapore’s 72nd National Monument in remembrance of Singapore’s wartime experience and as a grim reminder of this dark episode in our history.
Designed by the Public Works Department, Changi Prison was completed before World War II in 1936 and became operational on 4 January 1937. It was designed as a maximum security prison, with turrets serving as watchtowers and a high surrounding wall deterring escapes. During World War II, Changi Prison and its surrounding barracks formed the principal Prisoner-of-War (POW) camp in Southeast Asia. This chapter in the prison’s history remains one of its most poignant and is also an important part of Singapore’s World War II history.
Other World War II-related National Monuments include the former City Hall (1992), the former Cathay Building (gazetted in 2003), the former Ford Factory (2006), the former Command House (2009), the Esplanade Park Memorials (2010) and the Civilian War Memorial (2013).
Changi Prison Gate, Wall and Turrets
Changi Prison was designed to be a maximum security prison to house up to 600 criminals sentenced to long-term imprisonment in British Singapore. The remaining structures of the original prison – the entrance gate, wall and turrets – stand as an enduring symbol of the suffering of those who defended Singapore and the tumultuous years of the Japanese Occupation (1942-1945).
The Incarceration Systems of Early Colonial Singapore - Two decentralised systems of incarceration co-existed in Singapore between 1825 and 1873 – the Convict Prison which was supervised by the head of the Public Works Department and the Civil Prison which was managed by the High Sheriff. The Convict Prison at Bras Basah housed convicts who had been transported from India and the Civil Prison at Pearl’s Hill held local offenders awaiting trial. By modern standards, prison discipline was lax, allowing for infractions such as jailbreak.
Reforms were introduced after 1871, when a Prison Discipline Commission was convened to review prison issues in various British colonies. The commission published a report in 1872 which laid the foundation for a more organised prison administration. This translated to improvements in Singapore’s prison system, such as the Prisons Ordinance of 1872, which established the office of the Inspector of Prisons to oversee all jails in the colony, formalised regulations for prisons management, and established a more rigorous framework for prison discipline.
No lock-up for Changi Prison's historic 'face'
'ENDURING SYMBOL': Changi Prison's entrance gate, wall and turrets were gazetted by the National Heritage Board as a national monument yesterday. The 180m stretch of prison wall that goes back to 1936 is now hidden by a tall fence. The area in front of the monument will be redeveloped to give the public a better view from the road. (ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG)
THE Singapore Prison Service will redevelop the area in front of the historic Changi Prison entrance gate and wall over the next few years to make it more visible to the public.
The newly minted national monument, gazetted by the Preservation of Monuments Board yesterday, is now hidden by a tall fence and barely visible from the road.
A carpark for the modern Changi Prison Complex lies in between the fence and the structure.
Parts of Changi Prison gazetted as national monument
The entrance gate, wall and turrets of Changi Prison, where about 76,000 prisoners of war were marched through for their internment, have been gazetted as Singapore's 72nd national monument.
This was announced by the National Heritage Board's Preservation of Sites and Monuments division yesterday, on the 74th anniversary of the fall of Singapore. The monument serves as a reminder to treasure the peace and harmony we have today, said the board.
Two days after the fall of Singapore on Feb 15, 1942, European civilians were rounded up and marched to Changi. Inmates there suffered from diseases such as malaria, with many malnourished and emaciated at the end of the war.
Other national monuments in Singapore
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Alkaff Upper Serangoon Mosque gazetted as national monument
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Civilian War Memorial gazetted under newly named division
Tanjong Pagar station a national monument
Singapore Conference Hall a national monument
NHB: Restoration of 3 National Monuments
Singapore's 68 National Monuments
Singapore's 69 National Monuments
Singapore's 70 National Monuments
Singapore's 71 National Monuments
Singapore's 72 National Monuments