"Forgotten" Japanese War Memorial found at 159 Mount Pleasant

I finally managed to get access to house 159 Mount Pleasant in February 2021 to investigate my theory of a remains of a Japanese War Memorial located there (my earlier blog article dated 26 August 2020)  and it was with the blessing of the Kelders who were staying there that i got to explore more of the grounds. In fact he was the one that pointed to me the possible location of a structure which is likely the concrete foundation with a granite memorial stone for the mass graves of 76 Japanese soldiers who died during the intense battle to dislodge the British soldiers entrenched at Mount Pleasant on 14 February 1942, just before the British officially surrender the following day marking the Fall of Singapore.  

The bodies of 76 Japanese soldiers were gathered from around the compound of the Mount Pleasant Houses and in areas nearby and buried in this mass grave where they lie undisturbed till today. The memorial itself was partially destroyed by American soldiers after the liberation of Singapore but i have not found any account of this remains ever been removed. In fact in a 1948 newspaper article, it reaffirms the existence of this bodies. 

The possible foundation of the Japanese War Memorial.

The granite stone in the middle is roughly 220 mm in length

How would this structure looked like in the past? I believe this structures would look similar to the picture below which is a column or pillar like structure and in the case of the one on the grounds of 159 Mount Pleasant, likely to be a small granite pillar whose height and size is undetermined for now. Bullet shell fragments were also found on the grounds, a clear indication a battle took place and i got to hold them and take picture of this shells as well. 

A Japanese Memorial Post (Kuching, Sarawak) 


corpses of 76 Japanese soldiers




159 Mount Pleasant Road 



What happened here on 14th /15th February 1942 

The book, "Tigers in the Park - The Wartime Heritage of Adam Road" by Jon Cooper, gave valuable insight into what transpired here. In Chapter 17 of his book  (The Defence of Mount Pleasant), it describes a heavy engagement to dislodge a Japanese machine gun unit that had pushed up into the vacant houses in the valley adjoining the houses held by the British. Attempts by the British to flank and flushed them out were met with heavy resistance and casualties. Eventually a 2-pounder anti-tank gun was used at the building housing the Japanese until eventually the remaining Japanese soldiers retreated.  "Hospital Hill" along Mount Pleasant Ridge was the other objective to be taken by the Japanese 41st Regiment. A Captain Taruko lead 11th Company on the attack across the valley and up the houses. He was supported by the heavy machine gun company under the command of 2 Lt. Yasuda. The Japanese were moving up into a "kill zone" zeroed in by British soldiers with Vickers machine gun on higher ground and having clear visibility of the advancing Japanese soldiers. Many were killed and maybe ended up at the mass grave for Japanese soldiers. 

Temporary H.Q. at 160 Mount Pleasant Road

On 25 June 1948, the remains of 8 British soldiers who were killed in 1942 were exhumed and re-interred in Kranji. In the newspaper article, it was mentioned that the graves were located in the grounds of 160, Mount Pleasant Road, a bombed house, which was a temporary Army H.Q. 

160 Mount Pleasant Road 



The "remembered" Japanese War Memorial at Mount Pleasant 

It was amazing how this whole journey started with a walk at Kopi Sua (at the Mount Pleasant side) exploring Onraet Road when i came across the tomb keepers who tended the cemetery there. The conversation led to them asking me whether i was aware that there was a mass grave for Japanese soldiers nearby Onraet Road? I knew that Mount Pleasant was the scene of an intense skirmish that took place on 14th February 1942 just before Singapore surrendered but I didn't really know much about the stories that took place in the area, especially post-surrender and beyond. The tomb keeper claimed that they have seen it in a forested area between the Onraet Road and the black and white white houses of Mount Pleasant and pointed to us the rough location. Searching the valley of forested area for a while proofed futile and i left empty handed without any evidence of any man-made structure that existed that could be symbolic of this so-called mass graves for the fallen Japanese soldiers. 

A 27 June 1948 dated newspaper article mentioned that the Graves Registration, FARELF (Far East Land Forces) resumed the search for the unknown graves from information obtained through P.O.W records and local sources. On the first day of operation, they found the body of a captain of the 9th Royal Northumberland Fusiliers in a private garden at Mount Pleasant. His boots, forage cap, tags and other marks of identification were discovered. Within the same compound, about 100 yards (91 meters) from where the grave of the captain was discovered, is a mass grave which contains the corpses of 76 Japanese soldiers. A concrete memorial that was partially destroyed by American soldiers after the liberation was erected beside the mass grave by the Japanese.

The 1948 article finally proves that there was indeed a Japanese Memorial built and that memorial was for 76 Japanese soldiers that died in an intense battle to overwhelm the entrenched British and taking over their makeshift H.Q at Mount Pleasant. Who was this Captain that was clearly identified to be from the 9th Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, whose remains were exhumed and re-interred to Kranji ? With a bit of searching and luck, i found that it is likely to be a Captain Robert Watson of the 9th Royal Northumberland Fusiliers (RNF) whose burial form records by Padre Cordingly (Captain Eric Cordling, a padre with the 9th RNF) played a vital role in finding his body. Captain Watson was killed in action on 15th February 1942, the day of the British surrender and initially buried on the 16th February 1942 by Lt. Addy of the 9th Battalion in the garden of a house. That house was 159 Mount Pleasant Road

Finally on February 2021 i completed this search of the site itself. But without evidence of skeletal remains in mass grave, this still remains inconclusive but i have to close this story for now. Hopefully with the assistance of governmental organisations such as the National Heritage Board Singapore and the Japanese Embassy, a scientific research could be undertaken and sophisticated scientific equipment such as ground penetrating radar (GPR) used to scan the grounds of 159 Mount Pleasant Road. 

Note: Trespassing is a crime. Always ask permission from the owners of the house before entering. 

References

Remains of 8 U.K. soldiers discovered. (1948, June 25). The Singapore Free Press, page 1
War Graves Team Makes more finds. (1948, June 27). Sunday Tribune
Captain Robert Watson. (website). CWGC  (Last accessed 25 August 2020)
Captain Robert Watson. (website). Wartime Memorial Project-The Second War
Tigers in the Park - The Wartime Heritage of Adam Road ( by Jon Cooper) , pages 185-188

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