Civilian War Memorial - Atlas Obscura

Civilian War Memorial

A monument to the civilian victims of the Japanese Occupation forces of World War II. 


The Memorial to the Civilian Victims of the Japanese Occupation, which is commonly referred to as the Civilian War Memorial, is a memorial sculpture in Singapore. As the name suggests, the memorial was built in honor of the civilians killed during the Japanese occupation of Singapore during World War II.

During the short period of occupation (1942-1945) thousands of ethnic Chinese were killed in the Sook Ching Massacre. The massacre was a bloody effort to remove anti-Japanese elements from occupied Singapore. As part of this “removal,” Chinese men between 18 and 50 years old were forced to report to the Kempeitai, the Imperial Japanese military police. The Japanese reported a death toll of around 6,000, but the official estimates put the number of dead much higher, with a range between 25,000 and 50,000.

Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, set aside a plot of land in March 1963 at Beach Road for a memorial dedicated to the civilians killed by the Japanese forces during the occupation of Singapore. A competition was organized to find a suitable design for the memorial, with the winning design coming from a representative of Swan and Maclaren Architects.  

The four identical pillars stand 70 meters tall, they represent the shared experiences and unity of the four major races that make up Singapore’s population: Chinese, Eurasian, Indian, and Malay. The four towers of the memorial have been described by some as resembling four giant chopsticks giving it its local nickname.

Before the completion of the memorial, a ceremony was held during which 606 urns containing the remains of thousands of unknown civilian victims from mass graves were reinterred on either side of the memorial podium. 

Know Before You Go

The Memorial to the Civilian Victims of the Japanese Occupation is found  near Singapore's Padang and City Hall.  It is located within the War Memorial Park at Beach Road within Singapore's central business district.

It is near the Esplanade MRT station for those travelling by subway.

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August 22, 2023

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