The Bank Kerapu Second World War Museum, Kota Bharu, Kelantank

Built in 1912 by the Mercantile Bank of India, the Kelantan Second World War Museum was established in 1992 and officially opened in 1994 by the Kelantan ruler, Sultan Ismail Petra. Originally used as a commercial bank, the building was the first stone building to be built within the State of Kelantan, hence the name Kerapu which actually means ‘rough surface’. When the Japanese invaded Malaya in 1941 the building was converted into the headquarters of the Japanese military police, the ‘kempeitai’. For the period of the occupation the military police conducted interrogations and tortured prisoners within the rooms of the bank. At the conclusion of World War II the building once again became a bank until its closure in 1981 when the space was again converted, this time into an art gallery and artisan centre.

Comprised of two levels, the top floor interprets the local history of the area including exhibitions on pre-independence Malaya and the lives of the local indigenous people under British occupation. The bottom level on the other hand focuses on the military history of the area, specifically between the periods 1930 to the late 1950s. Tracing the chronology of World War II, especially the Japanese invasion of Malaya and their surrender in 1945, the museum displays a selection of objects, photographs, maps and a short video on the attack on Pearl Harbour. Wartime weapons, official documents, letters and a Japanese bicycle, as well as everyday possessions from both Japanese troops and the local population are all used to reveal the personal stories of those who experienced the occupation. Additional text panels and various photographs further explain the impact of World War II in The Emergency (beginning 1948) and in turn, Malaysian independence.

Outside the museum a number of larger objects are on display, including a replica of a pillbox, an armored car, a landing boat and a fighter plane propeller. A memorial dedicated to seven Australian airmen who died at Kota Bharu during World War II also stands on the site. Officially commemorated in 1995 by Australian and Malaysian officials, the memorial marks the first commitment of Australian Combat Units against the Japanese at Kota Bharu on the 8th of December 1941.


  1. Abu Talib Ahmad, Museums and Culture in Malaysia (NUS Press, 2015),,+History+and+Culture+in+Malaysia&source=bl&ots=KR_8d2vPZI&sig=FdpaaWvpOYXJLbA-O_fznoEr_-w&hl=de&sa=X&ved=0CDcQ6AEwAmoVChMI3pP6oeuWxwIVyNcsCh2j2ARg#v=onepage&q=Museums%2C%20History%20and%20Culture%20in%20Malaysia&f=false