Yet this is no ordinary cemetery, for beneath the peaceful grounds have been laid to rest men and women who lost their lives during the Japanese occupation of Singapore in World War II, which lasted for 3 and a half years from February 1942 -1945.
A beautifully serene and poignant hideaway in the remote upper reaches of Singapore, the Kranji War Memorial and Cemetery is aptly located at a site which at war’s end was a POW camp and a hospital. It has become a moving tribute to the allied forces that perished during the war.
Stately, dignified, peaceful, beautiful and sad all at once, this is a special place of remembrance not just for the surviving family, friends and colleagues of the lost soldiers, but for anyone keen to remember our fallen heroes and to just reflect on our war past.
So many young lives lost in the war, and so many tragic stories laid to rest here. May all the soldiers rest in peace, and know that they have not died in vain.
Approximately 4 hectares large (just shy of 10 acres), the main architectural structure and war memorial on the Kranji site is the Singapore Memorial, as it is officially called, built in memory of the service men and women whose bodies were never found.
The memorial is an ingenious structure in the shape of an airplane’s wings and an infantry’s marching columns, with a submarine’s conning tower rising up high. 24,000 Air Force, Army and Navy service men and women’s names are painstakingly inscribed on the 13 walls.
There are several cemeteries at the memorial site, the main one being the War Cemetery where 4,461 soldiers are buried or commemorated, with another 850 more burials unidentified. Other main cemeteries are the Commonwealth Military Cemetery with another 1000+ graves, and the State Cemetery of Singapore. There are several other memorials on site as well commemorating specific casualties and incidences.
The memorial site is multi-ethnic, as nationalities making up the Allied Forces included British, Australian, Canadians, New Zealander, Dutch, South African personnel, and a large number of Indians as well – almost 50% of the names on the memorials are Indian.
The memorial is also multi-religious, as Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and Taoists, Confucians, Hindus, Jains and Sikhs are all commemorated.
Try to visit early in the morning before the sun gets unbearable. On the morning I visited there was nary a soul around at 7.30am, save for the handful of gardeners who started their work tending to the immaculate grounds at around 8.30am. At that early hour the air is clean and crisp, the well-manicured lawns still wet with dew, and the only thing punctuating the peaceful silence are the many sparrows and other birds chirping and flitting about.
You could also visit in the late afternoon or early evening to beat the heat, however bear in mind this is a war cemetery, and you are out in the boonies.
Do take the time to find out more about the young lives sadly lost in the name of war by reading some of the inscriptions on the tombstones.
Here for example is a tombstone for a 16 year old “water carrier” from the Indian Army Medical Corps.
Another is of a young female member of the leading Air Commando Wing of the Women’s Royal Air Force, with the inscription reading “Our Beloved Daughter and Sister will Dwell in the House of the Lord Forever”.
9 Woodlands Road, S(738656)
Daily: 7am – 6pm
Kranji is home to the Kranji Reservoir, Kranji military base, an industrial estate called Sungei Kadut where the bulk of our furniture manufacturers are located, and the Singapore Turf Club, our horse racing site which comes alive on weekends when punters descend on the facility.
HOW MUCH TIME
You could easily while away a couple of hours here if you make it a point to walk from one end of the expansive grounds to the other, and especially if you are a war veteran, history buff, or just a photography enthusiast. There are no tour bus groups here, and this is not a place to rush through. This is a place to reflect, to contemplate the sacrifices others made for us so many years ago, and to give thanks for the peaceful times we live in.
- Singapore’s 1st and 2nd Presidents, Encik Yusuf bin Ishak and Benjamin H. Sheares, are buried in the state burial site at the north end of the cemetery.
- The red poppy flower has been adopted by the Commonwealth nations as the symbol of remembrance for war casualties since World War I. Every year in November on Remembrance Day, a memorial service is held at Kranji Memorial and paper poppies are placed on the memorial and graves as a sign of remembrance.
- Arlington National Cemetery, the US’ main military cemetery, is 624 acres large – in comparison to Kranji’s 10 acres, although you really can’t compare the both of course. Nevertheless, there is a certain peace and beauty to military cemeteries and I would like to visit Arlington if I am ever in Washington DC.
- There are no toilet facilities!
- The site is NOT wheelchair accessible
- Remember to bring water or drinks as there are no facilities on site whatsoever (something the folks at the Kranji Memorial site might want to think about).
- Singapore Tourism Board site with location and other info
- National Library Board’s Infopedia Site with further historical details
- Local short feature video
- CWGC (Commonwealth War Graves Commission) site with full records of the war dead
Ode of Remembrance
from For the Fallen by Robert Laurence Binyon
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Lest We Forget