Friday, July 29, 2005

Kranji War Cemetery I

Their Name Liveth Forevermore

I've finally visited Kranji War cemetery, something that I have been telling myself to do for a year now. The place so intrigues me as we pass it by so often but never seem to get more than a glimpse of it's green lawns and neatly arranged grave stones from a distance. Visible from the MRT line between Kranji and Yew Tee, this site of commemoration for the soldiers of the WWII sits on a small hill facing the bustling city of Johore Bahru.

The grave of the unknown soldier: there are hundreds of graves marked this way. Their occupants died without a name, known only unto God.

I went there twice to take photos, the first time, I drove there on a Sunday afternoon all by myself. The place was empty when I got there, except for the sparrows and lizards, I was the only living soul in sight. Feeling like and intruder on hallowed ground I stepped onto the green lawn. It was an uneasy feeling at first but I soon got used to it as the eerie-ness wore off and the peaceful feeling of the cemetery grounds calmed my senses.

Walking past the endless rows and rows of graves, I stopped to look at some of their names and places they were from (some didn't have names). Many of them were only in their teens, many in their early twenties. These were people of my age. How did they die, I will never know. Makes you feel small, insignificant. Makes you wonder if there is more to life than our petty differences.

They Died For All Free Men: The centre piece of the Kranji War Memorial

At the top of the slope, stands the War Memorial. Shaped like the wings of an airplane, there are many walls with names of people. 24,000 names of people whos mortal remains were never found or given proper last rites. Names from all over the region can be found here, English, Australian, Gurkha, Malay, Chinese, New Zealand... etc.

At this point of time, I noticed a family coming to visit. Finally, some mortal company. The man was from Choa Chu Kang, he told me that he had always passed by but never dropped in, curious Singaporeans like me. They came and left, then some asian tourists arrived and a couple of caucasian tourists. They come in dribs and drabs, keeping the guest book constantly updated.

The Memorial

I've done enough shooting for today, the sun was setting. I felt that I've learnt something that day, I don't know what but it was a humbling feeling. A feeling of sadness for the loss of youth and innocence perhaps, the unimaginable scale of the amount of death and destruction that war brings.

I leave, crossing back into the present, grateful that we don't have to live through such a time of hardship and horror.

To view the rest of the photos, click here

A second series of pictures will be up in a week or two, stay tuned


At 6:03 AM, Anonymous siew yin said...

hey siyang... paiseh. wonder if i have caused the drag of 1 year.. :) anyway, nice photos! glad that you have gone there without me.. hahah... spare me the 'creeps' during the 7th month. thanks!

At 10:19 AM, Blogger BiFF said...

did you see the ex-presidents' gravestones beside the kranji war memorial?

At 1:09 AM, Anonymous baloney said...

Kranji is like you said a very serene and peaceful place, but it is to me also a very sad place...

I think it's a pity that not more S'pore schoolchildren are brought to Kranji so that they can better understand our history. How many of our grandparents are left, who lived through WW2 and can teach us those valuable lessons that we should all learn? It's one thing to read about things in textbooks, it's another to see row upon row of graves and headstones...

Very nice pictures!

At 7:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

baloney, Kranji War Cemetery is one of the sites visited by school children as part of the National Education program. :)

At 8:26 AM, Blogger siyang said...

siew yin: hehe i was going to go anyway.. with or without u.. btw i still think u shld visit, very nice place, not creepy at all :-)

Jim: Benjamin Sheares and Yusof Ishak are buried in a plot next to the war cemetary...

Perhaps i can imagine why Wee Kim Wee didnt want to be laid to rest there, it's very "lonely"... Sheares is at one end of the field and at the far end is Yusof Ishak.... very very empty in between

Baloney: Thanks! I'm not sure if they send school kids there, i think Anonymous has clarified that.. hehe

Sad but I think its a nice place to open up a book and start reading, hopefully no one will tap you on the back

At 8:14 PM, Blogger Nebulaenova said...

Eh Siyang, I think you captured the poignancy of the place pretty well. Your pictures speaks thousands and you can actually feel it. Great job, man!

At 8:33 AM, Blogger siyang said...

nebulaenova: thanks for your feedback and i'm very flattered, I'm glad they did (move you) :-)

At 4:52 AM, Blogger coupdegrace said...

technically, the memorial is designed to commemorate the tri-services.

notice it closely resembles a submarine as well, can't remember at the moment how the infantry is supposed to be represented

At 6:41 AM, Blogger siyang said...

coupdegrace: Oh, i didnt know that :) interesting...

At 7:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i went there too with my sch! leaves me deep memories and feelings too! :D


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