Hot off the heels of our visit to the wonderful National Museum Of Singapore, we hit the Changi Chapel and Museum. Having been closed for redevelopment for 3 years, the CCM opened in mid-May and it is managed by the National Museum. For some, the name ‘Changi’ is synonymous with the infamous POW camp. This museum’s purpose is to tell the story of the prisoners of war and civilians interned in Changi prison camp during the Japanese Occupation. If you want to learn more about WW2 and the Japanese Occupation, I suggest you visit the National Museum and the Former Ford Factory first. The museum is currently free for Singaporeans/PRs and a small charge for residents and foreigners.
Completed in 1936, Changi Prison was lauded as the most modern prison in the East. Designed as a maximum security prison in British Singapore, after the British surrender, it became the principal POW camp in SE Asia. It also acted as a transit camp for those POWs captured in Java and Sumatra before they were transported back.
The Changi Chapel and Museum is of course, located in Changi in the East of Singapore. The Changi camp was a collection of a few camps that were home to civilians, soldiers, and volunteers during World War Two. The site spanned 25 square kilometres but only a few barracks remain today. The entrance gate and wall of the original Changi Gaol can still be seen. Inside you’ll also find a replica of St George’s Church, one of a number of chapels that were built inside Changi.
As you drive to the CCM, keep an eye out for the extensive grounds of Changi Prison. Having not visited the area, I had no idea of the size of the modern day prison. I then went down a bit of a rabbit hole researching life there and came across this interesting article.
There are 9 exhibitions that are easy to follow. Aside from the Changi Chapel, they are located inside the well air-conditioned space. The exhibitions tell the tale of the origins of the Changi fortress through to life inside the prison. The stories are fascinating and the National Museum has done a good job of telling these personal stories, rather than just presenting a historical account. ‘Creativity in Advertisity’ was particularly interesting, documenting the prison pastimes of classes, concerts, sport and art.
The museum is relatively small and you won’t need longer than an hour. At the end is the chapel modelled after St George’s Church. The POWs would recreate places of worship and then these would follow them where they were sent e.g. the POWs at the Thai-Burma Railway.
Overall this is an interesting and thoughtfully presented view into life as a POW. I would advise against taking young kids who lack the concentration span. There are less interactive exhibits, it’s more reading stories and looking at the personal items. You could combine a trip to the CCM with a meal at Changi Village, about a 10 mins drive away.