Hidden in secret tunnels, deep under a hill, top military commanders convene in what is now known as The Battlebox to deliberate the fate of hundreds of thousands.
In just 70 days, during the Second World War, Japanese forces had made their way down the Malayan Peninsular, crossed over to Singapore and were nibbling at the fringes of the city.
15 Minutes That Impacted Singapore
Huddled in a bunker under Fort Canning Hill, British commanders led by Lieutenant General Percival had to decide whether to counterattack or surrender.
Percival was under orders to defend Singapore but dissent was rife amongst the other officers in the room.
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It took just 15 minutes for the meeting to decide to capitulate Singapore to the Japanese and change the course of history.
During the Japanese occupation, the tunnels were used by the Japanese military. After the war, the tunnels were sealed off and lost to history until “rediscovered” in 1988. It then operated as a museum until closing its doors a few years ago.
Now, the Battlebox is reopening to the public, providing an authentic way to experience the grim events that shaped Singapore and the region.
Led by knowledgeable guides from Singapore History Consultants, and together with video presentations and dioramas, hour-long tours will be conducted, bringing the visitor back to the Battle for Singapore in 1942.
Enter the Battlebox
From the entrance of the Battlebox, a flight of stairs leads to a long corridor. Off this corridor are the twenty-something rooms making up this underground command complex.
At the Fortress Plotting Room, visitors get to see how plotters kept track of invading aircraft and coordinated the allied response to them.
Communication rooms allowed commanders bunkered in the Battlebox to find out what was happening on the battlefield, and to pass out orders to the units in the field.
Among this series of rooms are a Telephone Exchange and Cipher Office where messages were coded and decoded before being dispatched.
Other stops on the tour include the Engine Room where the bunker’s electricity generator was once housed, Air Filtration Plant and a secret escape hatch for emergency evacuations.
First-hand View of History
After watching a video explaining the dire situation Singapore was in on 15 February 1941, the tour segues into the Surrender Conference Room where a series of tense events unfolded. Here, a diorama illustrates what that meeting, held at 9.30 a.m. on 15 February, must have looked like.
Through stories introducing the personalities around the table, visitors will gain a better understanding of what led Percival to eventually make the infamous trip from the Fort Canning to Upper Bukit Timah and surrender Singapore to the Japanese.
The Battlebox is an important piece of Singapore’s history. Even though it used for just four days (Percival shifted into the bunker on 11 February from the neighbouring building – now Hotel Fort Canning), the events that played out in the Battlebox were of utmost significance.
A visit to Battlebox will allow visitors to gain an appreciation of Singapore’s past, remember the sacrifices of those who lived through the Second World War and walk away with greater fortitude for the future.
We definitely think the Battlebox is a worthwhile experience, especially for history buffs and even families with older, school-going children.
The Battlebox officially opens on 28 March 2016.
Battlebox is currently offering a sneak preview from 13 February to 20 March 2016. During this period, tours take place five times a day and tickets are priced are $15 per adult and $8 per child. Registration is required via www.battlebox.com.sg