Kranji War Memorial & Cemetery, Kranji

Located north of the city of Singapore, the Kranji War Memorial and Cemetery is the final resting place for thousands of men killed in Singapore and Malaya during World War II. Before the Japanese invaded Singapore in 1942, the site of the Kranji Cemetery was a military camp and ammunition store. Very soon after the occupation of the island, the military camp was converted into a Prisoner of War Camp and a nearby hospital was erected to care for the sick. As with all Prisoner of War camps, a small cemetery was built to receive the bodies of the Allied prisoners who died while interned. Following the end of the war and the reoccupation of Singapore, the cemetery evolved into a permanent war cemetery and was taken over by the Army Graves Service.

Over time, the remains of those buried in other Prisoner of War camps at Changi and Buona Vista or those who lost their lives fighting whilst on the island, were moved to Kranji for a final burial. Interestingly, as permanent maintenance could not be guaranteed at the Saigon Military Cemetery in Vietnam, all World War II graves from here were also moved to Kranji Cemetery. In total there are now 4,461 Commonwealth burials from World War II at the site, including more than 850 unknown men. There are another 64 gravesites from World War I.

Designed by Colin St Clair Oakes, the Kranji Cemetery was officially unveiled in 1957. There are four significant memorials located on the site, including the largest of these, the Singapore Memorial. Standing at 24-metres tall, with a star positioned on top, the memorial displays the names of almost 25,000 Allied airmen, seamen and soldiers who died in the Southeast Asia region throughout World War II and have no known grave. The details of these men are limited, but records of their estimated date of death and military rank are kept onsite by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

To the west of the Singapore Memorial is the Singapore (Unmaintainable Graves) Memorial. 250 men who died during the Malayan Campaign and Battle of Singapore are commemorated at the monument as their remains could not be moved to Kranji Cemetery due to religious reasons. Behind the Singapore Memorial is the Singapore Cremation Memorial – a monument commemorating the 800 men, mostly from the Indian Forces, whose remains were cremated after death on the battlefield.

The fourth memorial is the Singapore Civil Hospital Grave Memorial. Located at the eastern end of the cemetery, the large cross honours the men who were buried in a mass grave at the hospital nearby Kranji in the final hours of the Battle of Singapore. Due to the high number of injuries and fatalities at the hospital, staff did not have time to bury the men in a traditional manner and instead they were collectively buried in an emergency water tank. At the end of the war, it was decided the 107 men buried within would be left undisturbed in the mass grave. The cross marks the location of the mass grave and the names of the 107 are inscribed on the memorial’s façade.

Adjoining the Kranji War Cemetery are also two larger, non-world war cemeteries – the Kranji Military Cemetery and the State Cemetery. Built in 1975, the former is comprised of almost 1,500 graves of servicemen and their families involved in military action other than World War I and World War II. The latter has only two gravesites - Yusof bin Ishak, the President of Singapore from 1965 to 1970 and Benjamin Henry Sheares, the second President of Singapore who was in power from 1971 to 1981.

Every year on the Sunday closest to Remembrance Day (November 11th), a memorial service is held at the cemetery to commemorate the men who fought and died in the region during World War II. ANZAC ceremonies have also been conducted annually on the 25th of April as a way to specifically remember the Australian and New Zealand men buried at Kranji.