Life was tough for my grandparents when they first arrived in Singapore. My grandfather came from a wealthy family, he didn't have a skill. He learnt to sew from an old tailor. He wasn't paid much. My grandmother was used to hardship, she took on odd jobs so as to support the family. Just when the family was settling down comfortably in their new country, World War II started.
When the Japanese defeated the British and took over Singapore, the Imperial army carried out an operation to eliminate people who were seen as anti-Japanese. That was the Sook Ching massacre (肃清大屠杀).The Japanese were angry with the Chinese who had supported the war effort in China through fund-raising campaigns and boycotting Japanese goods. They also volunteered in the defence of Singapore and Malaya.
All Chinese males between the ages of 15 and 50 were gathered at various locations, many were dragged out of their homes at bayonet point. My grandfather was dragged from his shop and there was no news of him for days. Many of those men were never seen again.
Scared, my grandmother bundled her three young children into two baskets and fled inland with neighbours to hide in the jungle. Left on her own, pregnant with my father and not knowing if my grandfather was dead or alive, she wept daily.
At the centres, the men were kept waiting in the open for days, with no food, drinks or toilet breaks, while waiting to be screened and classified. No standard procedure was followed. The Japanese based life-or-death decisions on pure whim. Men, and even boys, were tied and taken on trucks to face the machine-gun firing squad.
I will never understand how decisions affecting life and death could be taken so capriciously and casually.
Mentor Minister Lee Kuan Yew in "The Singapore Story - Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew"
Some lucky ones who passed the screening were issued with passes or had the Chinese character "Jian" (检, meaning examined) stamped on their bodies or clothes. My usually quiet and soft-spoken grandfather had a stamp on his arm when he returned. *Hooray!! Yippee!!*
The 'purging' went on for two months. Many innocent civilians were executed. Nobody knows how many people were actually killed. Operation Sook Ching only marked the beginning of the horrendous Japanese Occupation .........
Changi Beach/ Changi Spit Beach: Victims from Bukit Timah/Stevens Road (Sook Ching point).
Changi Road 8 ms 300 acre plantation (Samba Ikat village): 250 victims from Changi 8 ms (Sook Ching point).
Hougang 8 ms: Six lorry loads of people were said to have been massacred here.
Katong 7 ms: 20 trenches were dug.
Beach opposite 27 Amber Road: Two lorry loads of people were said to have been massacred here; the site is now a car park.
Tanah Merah Beach/Tanah Merah Besar Beach: 242 victims taken from Jalan Besar Sook Ching point; currently a runway of Changi airport.
Thomson Road: Sime Road, near golf course and the villages in the vicinity.
Katong, East Coast Road: 732 victims from Telok Kurau School (Sook Ching point).
Siglap area, Bedok South Avenue/Bedok South Road: Previously known as Jalan Puay Poon.
Blakang Mati Beach, off the Sentosa Golf Course: Many bodies of the massacred victims were washed ashore and were buried.
Watch a documentary on The Sook Ching Massacre at the Singapore Art Museum. It is based on accounts of survivors. It inspired me to research and write my grandparents' story.
Singapore Art Museum
71 Bras Basah Road, Singapore 189555. Tel: 6332 3222
Student (with valid student card): $4.00
Senior Citizen (above 60 years): $4.00
Family (3 Adults and 2 Children): $20.00
Group admission: 20% off admission for group of 20 or more adults
(Free admission on Friday night, 6pm – 9pm)
To catch a glimpse of life during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore in World War II.
Memories at Old Ford Factory
351 Upper Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 588192
Student pass Holder S$2.50
Senior Citizen (55 years & above) S$2.50
Viewing of documentaries only S$1.00
Take part in the National Heritage Board's first Heritage Star Blogging Competition