Reflections at Bukit Chandu Hot
The museum commemorates the brave defence given by the vastly outnumbered soldiers of the Malay Regiment against the Japanese in the Battle of Pasir Panjang. Downstairs, documentary material is gathered in display cases, while the upstairs rooms recreate the building’s military past. Alongside familiar facts about how the Japanese swept down through Malaya, there’s some intriguing information about the role of British racism in an initial reluctance to train and arm the local Malays.
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On a warm Saturday afternoon, I ventured down the nature trail off of Kent Ridge Park and stumbled into the war museum.
I was immediately struck by how quiet its surroundings were. The colonial-style compound rests comfortably on the crest of Pepys Road, enveloped by a blanket of thick foliage. It was incredibly serene, and apart from the tarmac road leading up to the museum, the area seemed largely undisturbed.
Armed with my student pass, I was able to gain entry into the museum for free (Students and NSmen are granted free entry, Singaporeans enter for $1 and non-Singaporeans enter for $2). What greeted me was a surprisingly well-maintained exhibition of wartime Syonan-to, with each development of the 7-day Japanese siege recorded down to its finest detail.
The presentations were not only informative, but refreshing in its methods; in 2 short hours, I was able to traverse into the annals of time, from the carnage of the Alexandra Hospital massacre that were miraculously captured on film and to the staggering illustrations crafted by ex-POWs within the confines of their cell. You will be amazed by the stark contrast between the current serenity of Kent Ridge Park (to which Pepys Road is linked by a wooden bridge) and the pure brutality of the accounts the museum had to offer of the Battle of Pasir Panjang, and more.
Perhaps it is the little publicity that the museum receives or the inaccessibility of its location, but there were few other visitors during my stay there. As a result, I was greeted with the most hospitable staff - a team of elderly visitor officers who were most excited to receive us.
On the whole, I'd recommend this spot for any history buff, or anyone looking for a meaningful escape from the hubbub of the city on a budget.
Meaningful learning journey
The only and only time I visited Reflections at Bukit Chandu was 2 years ago, on a school learning journey. I must say the experience was pretty awesome and it was one of the many learning journeys that managed to bring history alive to me.
Unlike many other war museums, Reflections at Bukit Chandu is not scary and haunting at all but is ironically a very peaceful and quiet place. The interactive displays statues and videos that reenact the how the soldiers fought valiantly against the Japanese is just what you need to dive back into history and experience for yourself the anguish and pain the soldiers went through.
War heroes such as Adnan bin Saidi and his sense of duty and patriotism remain vividly etched in my mind even till today. This is exactly what all of us need to truly appreciate the struggles that Singapore went through to be where she is now. It’s a great way to learn history too!
In your face, but gently.
I am not a fan of war museums. This place, though, is exceptional. Interactive. Gently informative, it is still in your face with its depictions of the horrors of war. Reflections is a wonderful choice of word to describe the place and what it shows you of the conflict with the invading Japanese in Singapore. Absorbing dioramas and video presentations and helpful, friendly staff make this probably the best in Singapore. It is not huge, but its setting on Kent Ridge, in a lovely old home set in magnificent gardens overlooking Jurong Island and the Malacca Straits beyond provides a surreal counterfoil to the horrors it portrays. I have visited several of Singapore’s other museums and sites including the Battle Box, Changi Chapel, Fort Siloso, Labrador Park, and the war cemetery at Kranji: this is arguably the most impressive.
As with any such museum, the cemetery excluded, this is history from the perspective of the victors, and jingoism inevitably raises its ugly head occasionally, particularly in its perhaps biased adulation of the 'bravery' of the Malay regiments. But, who is to really know? Who can lay blame if some of the British were accused of abandoning Singapore? Who can explain the atrocities of the Japanese? Who can understand if they alone were capable of evil? Was not the bomb evil in its most extreme? After all the war had been won before it was dropped.
Forget the anonymity of bombers dropping atomic bombs from the safety of height. What Bukit Chandu does is somehow make the conflict personal. It paints war in a focused, individual way that makes it all the more horrific. Even an avowed pacifist needs to take a reality check every so often.
The horrors of war aside, there is little to glorify in when it comes to mass death. There is instead, so much to think about.
This place is well worth a look. Altogether, a sobering and fascinating visit awaits you at Reflections.
poignant lesson in honour and duty
You would love this place if you are a history buff and is familiar with the Battle of Singapore. The battle that took place here was the closing stages of the Battle of Singapore.
The museum is housed in a nicely conserved colonial bungalow. Upon arrival you could not help but notice the statues of a mortar team of the Malay Regiment. Behind them, is a glass wall of all the soldiers who fought in battle on the side of the Allies. Almost all of them were killed in the action.
I loved the static displays in the museum. I remembered seeing artifacts that belonged to that era, though they were not excavated from the battleground. It is highly unlikely as much of the area is already built up in the decades after the war.
I feel proud of the Malay soldiers, they proved that Malays could actually fight for a cause despite being under the yoke of colonialists they despise but did so out of a sense of duty and honour. They went down in a blaze of glory and proved there is nothing to fear of a race of people who have a sense of honour.
A worthwhile trip down memory lane
Reflections at Bukit Chandu will serve you well if you are looking for a rich source of historical information- particularly with regards to Singapore's experience in World War Two.
With powerful illustration to portray Singapore's involvement in the war- there are numerous statues, strategically placed to give an idea of how the Malay soldiers had actively fought the battle with determination. For instance, there is a set of three Malay soldiers, with guns slung at the back, one getting ready to launch its weapon, while one was giving the signal. This represented the soldiers' dedication to protect their territory, at the very risk of their own lives.
At the same time, there was a feeling of melancholy when you observe the statues, as it dawns on you that ' they' represent Singapore's very own soldiers who sacrificed their lives! It does make me reflect as to how passionate they were for their country- as opposed to my generation today.
History aside, the place itself has a serene and pretty clean environment, despite being near to a park- where litter and fallen leaves are commonly found. Indeed it is somewhat a sacred ground for our roots - so it is better that we don't litter ourselves!
With that said, Reflections At Bukit Chandu will quench your thirst for Singapore's historical knowledge for World war 2 anytime.