The Grade 11 History class visited the World War Two exhibition presented by the National Archives of Singapore at the historic Former Ford Factory. Students learned about life in Singapore before, during and after WWII. After the visit, students commented on how they felt that the history they are learning in class came alive during the visit. Events that often seem like they happened long ago and decisions made by leaders far away were all of a sudden given more meaning when looking at the situation from a local Singaporean perspective.
Through oral history accounts, archival records and published materials, the exhibition highlighted the diverse experiences of people in Singapore. The students were particularly interested to see the room where the British surrendered to the Japanese forces. Students were struck by the different perspectives on the same event; the fall of Singapore was described as ‘the worst disaster and largest capitulation in history’ by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and ‘the birth of a new Asia and a turning point in world history’ by Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo. As history students, it was an opportunity for the students to think like historians, look at primary sources and assess their value and limitations in investigating the legacies of the war.