Monday, September 22, 2008

Sook Ching massacre in Singapore - RT n WW

Sook Ching - purging of Chinese

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" (, 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

Massacre sites
Ponggol Beach.
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

Adult $8.00
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

Individual Admission
Adult S$3.00
Student pass Holder S$2.50
Senior Citizen (55 years & above) S$2.50
Viewing of documentaries only S$1.00

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Take part in the National Heritage Board's first Heritage Star Blogging Competition



  1. Thanks for this post. Understanding one's forefather's past is a key to appreciate one's present.

    Perhaps it is because I was on holiday away from Singapore for the past fornight, I didn't realised there's a documentary on The Sook Ching Massacre at the Singapore Art Museum. Thanks for the mention.

    Wishing you good luck for the Heritage Star Blogging Competition.

  2. ecl,
    I never know got such thing. But I know most of the people during the WWII suffered a lot. My grandpa almost killed by the Japanese soldiers. He was tied up on top of the tree. And just when they wanted to shoot him, thanks God that the British soldier came and rescue.

  3. Eh not first commenter la, he he he shy only! ;)

    I had goosebumps reading abt ur grandfather, I am so relieved that he was stamped free! Can imagine ur grandmother being worried sick, some more had to escape to the jungle, poor thing!!!

  4. I just did a compre passage w my kids recently about Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbour. War atrocities. I believe for the baby boomers, it must be tough forgiving, let alone forgetting what the Japs had done in the past.

  5. oceanskies,
    The documentary on the Sook Ching Massacre was there for some time. I watched it in July.

    I'm thankful I don't have to go through such a dark period in my life. My grandparents really suffered a lot.

  6. Wah... I've read about these stories in my history textbook and even went on a guided "tour" about the Jap occupation...looking at pictures of men's heads sitting on a table..

    My grandparents were lucky to escape all of these. They lived in the Kampong. And my grandma told me how she hid under the bridge while she watched the Jap soldiers marched over head.. (Clop clop clop..) She told us that was the most frightening experience in her life!

  7. Kok,
    The atrocities against the people of Malaysia and Singapore by the Japanese Imperial Army was recorded and documented. Can find lots of photos and newspaper cuttings in our museums.

    My grandmother who passed away, and older relatives talk about it often.

  8. Mariuca,
    hehe... you too anxious to be first lah!

    I was gripping onto the edge of my seat when my grandmother told me this story of my grandfather. I never saw him, he died when I was a few days old.

    He survived this horrible ordeal and lived to see his grandchildren. He died of old age.

  9. sho,
    Until the day my grandmother died, she never forgave the Japanese Imperial Army, for what they did and how they made her suffer.

    For the younger generations who have Japanese friends and business dealings with them, we don't blame the whole Japan. We understand it was only the work of the Japanese Imperial Army.

  10. SheR,
    I guess every grandparent or parent has a story to tell about the Japanese Occupation. Some are of lucky escapes, some are unfortunate stories. Most are tales of horror.

    Going through the archives and stories of survivors of the Japanese Occupation, I got depressed and couldn't help wondering why mankind can do such cruel things to one another.

  11. Yes, the japanese haven't been tender occupants in WW II it was repeated. Your grandpa was very lucky that he survived !
    Here it is still Monday so I will publish my ruby picture tomorrow.

  12. Thanks for the information, ECL. In the Philippines Japanese during the WW II was there too..My Grandpa was 6 years old during the War and had vivid memories..He always said, it was a nightmare that he doesn't want to remember..So sad :(

    Anyway, nice post as always!~

  13. ECL, i've enjoyed reading yr post! i've nvr heard any story about my grandparents. It's great to know something like yours, im meant so detailed. :)

  14. Well written, ECL. It teaches us a lot.

  15. What a scary and sad moment for your grandmother ECL. I'm glad all went well though..

    Thanks for such an informative post dearie :)

  16. excellent post, what makes people so evil, this always happens in war. America is not exempt, we had Mia Lia in Vietnam. Throughout history man has reverted to his animal nature during war.

  17. Gattina,
    Indeed my grandpa was very very fortunate. Many of those who were at the checkpoints that day were never seen again. Where the Imperial Army went, they left a trail of horror and sufferings.

  18. Yen,
    The Japanese Imperial Army left their footsteps all over South-east Asia. I hope such a tragic event will not repeat itself again.

    It wasn't easy for my grandmother to speak of her sufferings during the Japanese Occupation too.

  19. Jean,
    Thanks. :)
    I'm glad I have at least attracted the interest of several young readers.

    This is not a hate post on the Japanese, but a reminder to the young what our older generations went through to make life better for us.

  20. Thanks, Capt Picard! I'm happy to have your praise. :D

  21. LadyJava,
    I can imagine hoe painful and suffering it was for her. She never forgot. She kept talking about it. She lost one baby son during that time too.

  22. Sarge Charlie,
    There is an animal in each and every one of us. And to think how evil one can become, gives me the shudders.

    It's important we should never have wars. The damage is extensive.

  23. this didnt only happened there. we in the philippines experienced pain from them too. but now its history.

  24. How awful! This is all news to me. I am just now realizing how Eurocentric is my understanding and knowledge of that war. Thanks for this information. How startling and sad and humbling.

  25. The area we're living around is mentioned *Hair.Stands*
    .........I'm watching Jap paranormal stuff on DVD now some more! *freaks.out*!!!

  26. I wasn't aware of these massacres but it does not surprise me that the Japaese of the time would do such things. That said they are still horrifying.

  27. the donG,
    It happened in Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, China....

  28. Sandy,
    People from Asia remember this dark age.
    It was 44 months of Hell for those who were going through that.....

  29. napaboaniya,
    You want to know the exact execution locations in our area!?

    I was at a Japanese executive site today to take photos and had a hair-raising experience. :P

  30. jams,
    Seems like readers from the States and Europe don't know much about this bit of our history.
    Well, now you know. :P

  31. The cruel Japanese, the devastated history. Hope history wouldn't repeat itself in the future.

  32. Doreen,
    I pray not. I dare not imagine, with such advance technology in the world these days, the effect would be terrible.

  33. We lived in Okinawa for 3 years. It is very hard for any Japanese to admit guilt in those areas. Perhaps the same could be said for America and others who held slaves. Thank you for sharing.. History is my favorite subject because we have to know where we have been to try and make sure we don't go back there again on many things.

    God bless,

  34. It must have been a time of fear and panic. It's a sad plight. Your grandfather was fortunate to escape the hands of death.

  35. Wow, I've actually seen a feature of this somewhere and I didn't pay much attention to it because my granparents also had horror stories about the Japanese brutality during WW2. But reading it from your blog really got me into how your grandmother would have felt! I'm so glad to read that this ends in a happy ending with your grandfather returning!


  36. intersting post for wordless... Hope you'll visit my corner too...

  37. Sadness.

    Anyway, my great grandma was a scholar / officer back in the previous Chinese dynasty. So said my dad.

  38. I am truly happy for your grand father, but feel sorry for others.

  39. Hi Sallie,
    We want to remember this part of history to serve as a reminder to the people of Singapore, extremities brought out the worst and the best in people. We want to remember the courage, resilience, survival skills, determination and the selfless acts of others.

    We should value life.

  40. Rachel,
    Fear, trauma.... I could only imagine what my grandparents went through. My grandmother never forgot the darkest times of her life.

  41. Carver,
    Thanks. Lucky I don't have to go through that.

  42. Hi the spool artist,
    It was a documentary on the survivors of WWII that inspired me to write my grandparents' story.

    Not many men escaped that fateful day, my grandfather was very lucky!

  43. Wilfrid,
    Your Great grandma was a scholar/officer!? Wow, impressive. Any story to share? :P

  44. Indrani,
    I feel sorry for those who didn't survive that fateful day too.

  45. I'm glad your grandfather made it. I pray for a day when no grandchild from any culture will have such stories to tell. When will we ever learn, I wonder. I always enjoy learning about history that is un- or only vaguely familiar to me. Thanks.

  46. Raven,
    I'm praying my grandchildren won't have horror stories of his grandparents to tell too.

    It's my pleasure to have you read and comment on my posts. Thanks.

  47. Now there's more reason to visit the museum. Thanks for sharing... and glad your grandfather made it safely.

  48. Sad!
    Thanks for sharing this piece of history.
    You are a good story-tellier.

  49. Eastcoast, thanks for reminding me and the rest of us here in the West about the terrible tragedy of Japanese occupation of Singapore. We are not reminded often enough about such a terrible time in history.