In 1942, in the midst of World War 2, the Japanese forces swept into and ultimately occupied the British colony of Singapore.
For those Allied men, women and children who had not succeeded in escaping, years of hell were to follow. Interred in Prisoner of War camps they were treated with appalling cruelty and torture.
Starved, beaten, denied medical treatment and basic sanitation, many tried desperately to escape. For those that failed, retribution was swift and brutal.
It was shocking enough that Allied civilians were treated in this dreadful way but the cruelty of the Japanese was to extend to the indigenous population of Singapore.
To be suspected of aiding the Allies or to be anti-Japanese meant immediate death.
In acts of atrocity, they were rounded up and massacred on the shores of the Straits of Johore. Now known as haunted Changi Beach, the souls of these innocents are still witnessed wandering the sands as they seek an explanation for their sudden and violent deaths.
The Sook Ching Massacre
In an echo of Nazi Germany, the phrase Sook Ching is roughly translated as ‘purge by cleansing’ and is used to describe the massacre of thousands of innocent Chinese in the British colony of Singapore in 1942.
On the 15th February 1942, Singapore fell to the Japanese. Three days later and the Japanese began rounding up local Chinese people who they believed were anti- Japanese or who had British sympathies and began to murder them.
For almost a month the massacre continued at various places across Singapore.
One of the first places where executions took place was Changi Beach. Those who were rounded up included those with British connections, men with tattoos and people from China who had migrated to Malaysia and Singapore.
At least 66 men were executed as they lined up against the water’s edge before they were beheaded.
The Japanese proudly photographed the piles of heads stacked on the sand, cruelly leaving them to be retrieved by grieving relatives who wanted to bury their dead.
Others who met their death at the beach were taken a short distance out to sea in small boats thrown over the side and machine-gunned as they floundered in the water.
Prisoner of War Sabotage
For British and Australian soldiers interred in prisoner of war camps, escape was the ultimate aim. If escape proved impossible then sabotage was the next best thing.
On one occasion a group of saboteurs escaped from Changi Camp and managed to gain access to the Changi aerodrome.
Discovering a number of plane engines waiting to be serviced, they decided to tamper with them.
Looking around them they discovered some batteries and jars of Sulphuric acid. Brushing the engine cylinders with the sulphuric acid, they managed to sabotage eight planes in total before sneaking back into their camp.
Around the same time the Americans began to fly their B29 Bombers over Singapore. In response, the Japanese unwittingly scrambled the planes that had been sabotaged.
When they crashed immediately or failed to take off they realized that sabotage had taken place.
Unable to believe that soldiers had escaped from and then re-entered the prisoner of war camp, they looked around for suspects. With no evidence whatsoever, they blamed local workers.
Rounding up the innocent men they took them to Changi Beach where they tortured them for two days before executing them for an act they were completely innocent of.
Execution of the Japanese
In an act of complete irony some of those who cruelly tortured and murdered innocent people on Changi Beach, later met their fate in the same way.
When the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan, brought the war to an end, those who had committed war crimes in Singapore were forced to pay for their actions.
The first to die was Lieutenant–General Fukuyei, accused of executing two Australian and two British soldiers on the shores of Changi Beach, he was sentenced to hang at the same place.
Also condemned to hang on Changi Beach was Vice-Admiral Hara. He along with five other Japanese soldiers was found guilty of murdering nine Burmese soldiers on Changi Beach.
By the time the war trials ended Changi had hosted a further 135 executions, this time in an act of retribution all those executed were Japanese.
The Haunted Beach
Visitors to the beautiful Changi Beach today have reported strange and unexplained events that suggest the spirits of those executed on its shores are reluctant to leave.
Haunting cries and screams have been heard echoing through the night as well as the sobbing of women who presumably came seeking the bodies of their dead husbands.
Decapitated heads have been witnessed bobbing up and down on the tide as well as flying through the air. Headless bodies wander the shoreline looking for their heads.
Perhaps they cannot travel onward to their afterlife until they are complete again.
Some people claim to have seen bloodstains appear from nowhere upon the sand and others are adamant that they have seen the replay of executions before their eyes.
So why do these troubled souls refuse to leave?
The locals in Singapore believe that the innocent victims of Japanese war crimes are angry at the injustice of their fate and cannot rest until they have retribution.
Ironically, some of those who ordered their deaths were later executed at the same spot. How sad to think that the souls of the innocent are bound forever to their tormentors.
The haunted Changi Beach is probably one of the most beautiful places in the world. Miles and miles of golden sands stretch down to the Straits of Johore.
Facing eastwards to the sea, visitors are stunned by the spectacular sunsets, scarlets, golds, deep blues and reds, rippling across the horizon.
Encompassing all that is beautiful about the natural world it also epitomizes all that is cruel and wicked in mankind.
Seventy plus years after the end of the Second World War and fishermen still discover human skulls caught in their nets.
Each tide covers and then uncovers the hundreds of funeral urns left by grieving relatives upon the sand.
Rumored to contain the cremated remains of those executed upon the beaches, a curse will befall anyone who attempts to remove them.
Many atrocities were committed during the Second World War. The Japanese were particularly cruel to those unfortunates who became their prisoners.
In turn, they were forced to surrender by an act that many still find hard to justify today. All these years later and some cannot forgive and forget.
The people of Singapore believe that to this day, Changi Beach is haunted by the innocent locals, murdered by the Japenese during a war that should not have involved them.
These restless, troubled souls can’t make sense of their own deaths and are destined to wander eternally searching for answers they will probably never receive.
Perhaps then, more than anything these beautiful but blood-soaked sands stand as a reminder that war is a futile waste of life and in times of conflict, it is always the innocent who suffer most.