Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Changi Beach, Singapore


Besides the continuous torturing, mutilating and killing, both of prisoners-of-war and civilian captives, which was carried out by the Kempetai throughout the war, at least several mass executions of Chinese took place shortly after the surrender of Singapore.  One was on Changi beach, and the other one off-shore, the victims being taken out to sea in launches and then pushed overboard, to be machinegunned in the water.  During the Sook Ching operation in February 1942, the site of Changi was one of the first of several where tens of thousands of Chinese, suspected of being anti-Japanese, were executed by the Japanese Kempetai.

Changi Beach
(Source: Otherplane)

This area is believed to be haunted by the ghosts of the executed chinese during the Japanese occupation. Passersby often report hearing strange crying and screamings. The heads of the chinese dead bodies are sometimes seen flying everywhere. Headless bodys walk around the beach as well. More scary cases include a passerby witnessing a ghostly execution leaving blood stains, etc.

Infamous execution ground
(Source: Syonan-My story)

It is well-known that thousands of Chinese civilians were shot dead during the Sook Ching operation in February 1942.  However, after the war and the Japanese surrender, Changi beach served too as an execution grounds for the culprits.  It came the war crimes trials.  The trials took a few years as many Japanese war criminals were put on trial.  About 135 were executed, all of them at Changi.

Lieutenant-General S. Fukuyei, commander of the prisoners of war camp in 1942, was the first to be tried.  He had ordered two Australian and two British soldiers to be shot.  They were shot on the shore at Changi.  Fukuyei was sentenced to be shot on the shore at Changi.  Fukuyei was sentenced to be shot at the same place.  Singapore newspapers published a photograph of the execution.

Next, Vice-Admiral T. Hara, the General Officer Comanding the Anadaman and Nicobar Islands, and five of his men were found guilty of murdering nine Burmese in July 1945.  They were hanged on 19 June 1946 in Changi area.  The two condemned men were reported to have composed a poem the night before the execution about their impending doom - their last thoughts - and requested to forward it to their families in Japan.  The poem was something like this: 'Now we climb the thirteen last steps and I shout Long live the Emperor!'  Vice-Admiral Hara, looked calm, resigned to his death the following morning.  He had accepted responsibility for the murder by his men of the nine Burmese because, he said, he was their commanding officer.

Many families and relatives of victims of the Death Railway came from Australia and England, to attend the trial of officers and men accused of crimes in connection with that tragic page of history.  They saw Lieutenant Ishida, the General Officer Commanding of the Thai end of the railway, sentenced to death together with many others including Colonel Nakamura, Colonel Yanagida, Lieutenant-Colonel Ishii and Major Senda.  Many Japanese medical officers were sentenced to long terms in prison, some to life imprisonment.  At the trial of prisoners of war camp personnel, Major-General Saito, Captain Suzuki and Tominaga, Kobayashi and Kawazoye were sentenced to death by hanging.

Wronged deaths in Changi Beach
(Source: Changi Photographer George Aspinalls' Record of Captivity)

This is a true story, told by a POW witness after the war.  You will see the cost of a successful sabotage action happened during war time.  The wronged death was a kind of side-effect of an anti-Japanese operation.

During the Japanese occupation the Japanese Air Force had taken over the whole Changi aerodrome complex, and they were using the old Roberts Barracks as a store and housing for their personnel.  In one dark night, the POWs poked around the area and found a lot of Japanese radial aircraft engines.  They were sitting on stands, obviously being dismantled and serviced.  Some of them had their cylinder heads off and it would be a chance of sabotaging some of these engines.  The place was pretty lightly guarded.  A lot of Chinese used to wander about at night and the Jap guards were rather slack.

One night the POWs were over in the Selarang Barracks area, near a transport garage by the old Changi Theatre.  The Japs were using it as a mechanical workshop for trucks and other vehicles and they noticed a stack of batteries in one corner beside a big battery charger and lots of wicker-covered glass jars.  They brought some of those jars back to Changi Gaol to test it.  When they poured some on to a piece of tin, it ate its way straight through, so it must have been undiluted sulphuric acid!

They got hold of some old pickle jars, and half-filled them with the sulphuric acid and made a holder plaited out of coconut leaves, as it was very dangerous stuff to handle.

In one moonless night, the POWs sneaked into the workshop, groped around until they found the engines with the cylinder heads off.  They opened up the pickle jars of acid, and carefully brushed it inside the five or so cylinders that were on top of the engine.  They managed to do about eight engines, before making their way back to Changi Gaol as quickly as possible.

By this time the Americans were sending B29 bombers over Singapore, and the Japanese would scramble their Zero fighters to go after them.  Several of the fighters returned very quickly after taking off.  Some of them didn't make the aerodrome, and flew straight into the coconut trees at the end of the runway.  The engines were making spluttering noises when the planes came down.

Soon after that there had been some kind of investigation by the Japanese engineers.  The Japanese rounded up a lot of Asian workers down there at Changi Beach, made them stand in line for two days while they were interrogated.  They collected a large group of men of all ages, from the villages near Changi area.  Later on, groups of four or five of these men were taken down to Changi Beach and shot.  Many innocents Chinese men had been punished for the POWs' sabotage actions.  The Japanese had blamed the Asian workers and a large number of them had been shot.  This was quite a large scale of execution after the Sook Ching operation, right there at Changi Beach.  The innocent victims knew very clearly that they were wronged but yet had to face their doom.  You can imagine how fierce and the anguish in their spirits...

   1. Patrol station at the Changi Point; 2 -4. Changi Point jetty taken at various zoom and night vision scope.
You can see how badly infested it is with orb energy.
 The paper umbrella is inserted under the roof at the end of the shelter that faces the sea.
Paper umbrella in Changi Point
(Source: Urban legend)

At Changi Point jetty, many boats were there shuttling people and goods between Singapore mainland and Pulau Ubin.  It costs $2.5 per person even if you carry bulks of goods.  However there is one rule, untold to many people.  The boat drivers would agree to transport anything, except dead bodies.  This is their superstition that they cannot mix the live and the dead passengers.  If ever they break this rule, they will invite mishaps to their water journeys.  But it is true that many people besides tourists are merchants or traders going to and from Pulau Ubin.  For example, they have a business or a job at Pulau Ubin but their home is in the mainland.  If they unfortunately died away from home, their bodies could not be taken back to the mainland but to bury in Pulau Ubin.  This was quite difficult for most people to accept because every family would prefer to have the soul of the lost one return home.

Although their bodies cannot be taken back to the mainland they require the 'spirit' to come home.  One method is to invite along the shaman to the burial location in Pulai Ubin, have some chanting, and summon the spirit to 'live' in a ancestor tablet (that is a wooden altar with the dead's name written on).  They believe using the wood tablet as a medium, at least they can carry back the soul to the mainland.

But there is one taboo for the boat people.  They wouldn't allow a tablet altar to be brought on the boat just as it is.  They will lend you a paper umbrella - a traditional old Chinese style umbrella that is made of paper and bamboo, and the surface of the umbrella is usually waxed and painted.  The umbrella is used to cover the tablet together with the joss-stick, throughout the whole boat journey, regardless of a sunny or rainy day, day or night.  They believe that it is a must to keep the spirit contained under this paper umbrella.  So that the spirit will not flee to elsewhere especially they are afraid the spirit will choose to stay in their boat.

Next time when you take a gumboat ride to Ubin, take a look at the roof structure of the jetty shelter you will see a paper umbrella is placed there.  But don't try to touch it or open it for fun.  It is a serious tool used by the boat men to transport spirits.

  The overpass bridge is rumored to be haunted by beheaded spirits who cursed anyone crossing the bridge with a bicycles to die.
No bicycle on the Overpass
(Source: Urban legend)

Those who have been to Changi point would know that near the boat jetty there is a narrow footbridge connecting the beach area and the mainland.  During the war, the anti-Japanese sentiment increased ever each day.  Many young men had been to execute in the Sook Chin operation in the Changi area.  One of the most caught region was also Changi.  Left with the women, the elderly and the teenagers.  These remained families vowed to revenge at all costs.  They had been having secret contacts with the communist Chinese and the guerillas warfare groups about a counter-strike plan.

For many days they were scouting around the Japanese army compounds, tracking their patrol trails, and got to know where the guards were likely to be.  If they were ever spotted, they had a plan to split up and run in different directions, to get back to their villages.  Out of many places, they chose a small footbridge.  That was the one mentioned earlier.  Headed by a commander, they observed that a small group of about five or six Japanese troops would cross this narrow bridge in every evening after having a meeting with the troops in one of the Changi Beach military camps.  If the narrow bridge were to blow up, they would fall down to the water split and the men hiding below the bridge near the shore will 'finish' them with a parang.

But the challenge was that they would only have about 15 minutes of time between the changing guards from a post next to the bridge, before the commander arrived.  Smuggling a relatively small quantity of dynamites from the guerrillas was difficulty but not impossible.

The operation was carried mainly by the widows and parents of the Chinese men that had been shot.  These people pretended to be fishermen who came to trade their fishes near the bridge when the day was at dusk.  Carefully watching over the Jap guards on the post who didn't pay much attention to the Chinese as they were about to return to their camp soon.  Once the guards stepped off from the post turning their back towards them.  The Chinese operation team immediately started their action in installing the explosive at the bridge.  They knew very well that they had only about 15 minutes of time for their job.

With a big surprise, while they were busy setting up the bomb, the Japanese commander showed up on a bicycle today!  His bicycle was traveling at a fast speed as if some thing urgent happened.  When the Chinese women and elderly saw him riding on a bicycle about to reach the beach, they became very panic.  Holding the explosive and virtually no other weapon they didn't know what to do.

At a glance the commander knew what was going on.  He pulled his pistol out and shot at the air.  Soon after more and more troops were flooding to the bridge area.  Caught red-handed, the operation failed very badly because they never anticipated that their target would have a bicycle.  Under the order of the commander who was standing next to his bicycle, one by one these assassinators were tied up with their hands behind and lined up on the bridge with their faces facing outward.  Their bodies were leaning on the bridge and lined up in a row.  The commander was very agitated about their sabotage plan and he wanted to execute these people on the spot by himself.  Holding his Samurai sword, one by one, he beheaded them over the bridge.  Streams of blood gushed out freely to the water below from their necks.

That was rumored to be the last killings just before the Japanese forces had surrendered unconditionally.  The war was soon over.  And these people, in fact, didn't have to die if their plan didn't fail because the target came much earlier, or they waited just a few more days till the end of the war.  Full of grief these people cursed every cyclist that ride pass the bridge in their last breath.  Nowadays there had been reports of cyclists would strangely lose control and fell off from their bike into the water when crossing the bridge.  Some said there was as if an invisible hand pulling their legs or strangling their necks while crossing the bridge with their bicycles.


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