Symbol of fortitude, courage and inventiveness of the of the prisoners of war during the Japanese Occupation. Singaporeans outside its walls displayed similar qualities.

Two days after the British surrendered to the Japanese at Ford Motor Works in Bukit Timah, the Japanese military authorities ordered all civilians of Europeans origin to assemble on the Padang on 17 February 1942 at 10.30 a.m. These civilians were allowed to carry their personal belongings and asked to march about 15 miles to Changi Gaol. Those who were too old or sick to walk were provided transport. It was a long column led by Sir Shenton Thomas, Governor of Singapore. On their route they maintained their morale by singing: 'There'll always be an England.'

Changi Gaol was built in 1936 to accommodate 600 prisoners (24 cells were reserved for Europeans) but in February 1942 about 3,500 civilian men, women and children were cramped within its walls. There were 400 women and they were placed in a separate female wing.

Governor Sir Shenton Thomas occupied a separate cell and on 21 July 1942 he was moved to Formosa and then to Manchuria where he remained until the Japanese Surrender in 1945.

In May 1944 all civilians were transferred to Sime Road. Changi Gaol was then occupied by prisoners of war from Selarang Barracks and those who returned from the 'Death' Thai Railways. There were a total of 12,000 prisoners; 5,000 were accommodated inside the Gaol the rest in the attap sheds built by the prisoners themselves within the prison walls.

Both civilian and military personnel were highly inventive. They improvised various types of equipment, tools and other items which were absolutely necessary for their survival. They survived because of their fortitude, their indomitable spirit and faith in God.

The prisoners set up the 'University of Changi' where qualified persons lectured on subjects like Engineering, Science, Agriculture, Law, Medicine and Language. There was also a Play House where ever Shakespearean plays were staged. Crude workshops were established where paper was made from pounded grass, water and potash; latex from rubber trees nearby was coagulated with urine (there was no formic or acetic acid) to produce soles for shoes and for patching up clothes; wood and odd metal were used to make artificial legs for amputees prisoners. Sea water was boiled to make salt; tapioca, potatoes and vegetables were grown in the field outside the prison walls. Doctors provided treatment without resorting to anesthetics.

Religion became the most powerful unifying force and primitive Churches were built. A replica of one of them is Changi Chapel outside the walls and Worship Services are still held there on Sundays.

Change Museum next to Changi Chapel has copies of artifacts, sketches, photographs and other memorabilia and is open to the public free of charge. Of special interest are the photographs taken secretly with his camera by George Aspinall

The 'Changi Murals' in St Luke's Chapel in Changi Camp are excellent examples of what men under extreme suffering and deprivation can achieve through fortitude, faith and inspiration.

Singaporeans outside Changi Gaol were no less inventive. Through fortitude, faith and inventiveness they survived, three and a half years of terror.