There are several major war memorials in Singapore, located at Kranji, Bukit Batok, City Hall and the Esplanade Park. Not many are aware that there is actually a small war memorial at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH), located along College Road and opposite the College of Medicine Building (present-day Ministry of Health). The SGH war memorial was set up in remembrance of the eleven medical students from the King Edward VII College of Medicine, who were brutally killed during the Second World War.
On 14 February 1942, a medical student Yoong Tatt Sin, also the general secretary of the Medical College Union, was killed while on duty when the Japanese invaders bombed Tan Tock Seng Hospital. Later that evening, his grieving friends and colleagues, a group of 25 medical students, brought his body to the General Hospital at Outram Road (present-day Singapore General Hospital) to give him a proper burial.
Five trenches facing the College of Medicine Building had been dug for air raid purposes. As there was little time in preparation, one of the trenches was converted to a grave for Yoong Tatt Sin. During the funeral procession, the Japanese arrived and began intensive shelling at the students. Ten students were killed; others were wounded while fleeing and taking cover at the nearby buildings and the trenches. One of the causalities was Hera Singh, a prominent sportsman, school prefect and the captain of the V.I. Cricket in the late 1930s.
Singapore surrendered to the Japanese on 15 February 1942. The next morning, the eleven dead students were hastily buried at the trenches where most of them fell and died during the shelling, along with some other military casualties during the battles.
Between 1942 and 1945, the General Hospital was used as the main surgical hospital for the Japanese forces stationed at Southeast Asia. The College of Medical Building was converted into a department of bacteriology and serology used by the Japanese Army Medical Corps. In 1943, the Japanese established the Syonan Medical College (called Marei Ika Daigaku in Japanese) at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, which was later moved to Malacca until the end of the Second World War.
After the war, the British colonial government erected a memorial along College Road, made up of a red cross with a granite base, in remembrance of the British soldiers and civilians who had perished during the occupation. In 1948, Dr G. V. Allen, the principal of King Edward VI College of Medicine between 1939 and 1942, unveiled a war memorial plaque inscribed with the names of the eleven dead students (Yoong Tatt Sin, Mabel Luther, N.P. Sarathee, E. Baptist, H.E. Oorjithan, Ling Ding Ee, Hera Singh Bul, Chan Kok Loon, Chen Kok Kuang, Teoh Tiaw Teong and Abdul Hamid Bin Mohd Yusoff).
The plaque was first hung at the Harrower Hall. It was later relocated twice before settled at the College of Medicine Building, where it remains today.
Published: 12 April 2015