July Top Story

Changi Chapel and Museum

Changi Chapel and Museum

1000 Upper Road North

Singapore 507707




Operating Hours: 9:30am - 4:30pm (Daily)

Admission is free


This article is based on the Changi Chapel and Museum pamphlet






“Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden,

and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28




The Churches of the Captivity in Malaya

In the face of increasing terror from the Japanese, there was a spontaneous closing of ranks among the different denominations of Christians in Changi. Several churches were set up with willing help from Allied officers and men. Each church had its own unique design. Architects designed altars, and furniture was made from all available materials, even those bought from the thieves market in the Rochor area.

In 1942, there were seven POW churches in the Changi Village area. By May 1944, the POWs had moved several times within the area, taking with them whatever they could of their churches that had to be left behind. The final move was into the Gaol itself.


St Paul’s Chapel, Changi Gaol

Built from dismantled churches in the Selarang area, St Paul’s opened in June 1944 between the Punishment and isolation blocks. The British and Australian Chaplains combined all religious work under one administration, surprisingly, with no interference from the Japanese. The Royal Netherlands Forces joined in the service, and the sermon was read in both English and Dutch. Their national anthems were sung together at the end of the services.


The Changi Murals

St Luke, being the patron saint of hopeless cases, must have been close to the hearts of all the prisoners at Changi.

St Luke’s Chapel occupied a room on the ground floor of Block 151, Roberts Barracks, a POW hospital. It housed a collection of murals by Bombardier Stanley Warren, who decorated the screens as an offering of thanks for his recovery from dysentery.

Warren’s labour of faith started in September 1942, and included the Nativity Scene, The Institution of the Last Supper, The Descent from the Cross, Christ’s Commission “Go ye into all the World”, and St Paul dictating to St Luke.

Lost after the war, because the murals were painted over and the room used for storage, they were rediscovered in 1959. Warren returned twice, in 1963 and 1982 to complete the restoration. Till this day, the original murals remain in Roberts Barracks as a testimony of faith against the backdrop of imprisonment.


The History of Changi

Prison Life Under the Japanese

Letters, photographs, drawings and personal effects in this museum tell a horrific story of over three years of war and imprisonment for more than 50,000 civilians and soldiers in Changi. From the fall of Singapore on 12 February 1942 till the Japanese surrender in September 1945, life was a daily struggle against humiliation, loss of freedom, hunger and disease. Yet it was here, where conditions were at their worst, that we hear of stories that were heroic, touching, and most of all, inspirational.

Symbol of Courage Under Hardship

Under the heel of the Japanese invaders, the prisoners-of-war (POWs) turned to religion for support. Churches, chapels and makeshift alters were built wherever there was space and materials. All these were demolished after the war, save one that was shipped to Australia and reassembled. The Changi Chapel, housed in within the open-air courtyard of the new museum, is a replica of one of the many chapels that were built during World War II. It was first built in 1988 by the inmates of Changi Prison. Today, it stands as a monument for those who would not buckle under Japanese rule, and who kept their faith and dignity in the face of seemingly hopeless odds.

Under the Shadow of the Kempeitai

There was no telling when in the darkness of night, the dreaded Japanese secret police, Kempeitai, would descend upon the prisoners and take them away. Many were never seen again. Those who returned bore the scars of torture, only to face a daily life of starvation, sickness, and more brutal treatment. Diseases were widespread, medical supplies scarce, treatment and surgery were performed with limited anesthetic or none at all.

Despite dirty and overcrowded conditions, the POWs organised lectures, formed societies and theatre groups. Workshops were set up within the prison where tradesmen could use their time for making paper, rubber shoes, false limbs, or just about anything the prisoners needed. Some took on more risky tasks such as building radio equipment in order to tune in to the world news, and some others ran underground postal services between the different internees inside the prison as well as to other POWs camps on the island. Those caught were tortured or killed.


Location of the Changi Chapel and Museum

Located in an open courtyard of the Museum, Changi Chapel is at once a monument to those who suffered and worshipped there during World War II, and a living church where sermons, services and Christian gatherings are still conducted.

The Museum houses original artifacts donated by POW’s and their surviving relatives.

The highlight within is a series of magnificent wall paintings called The Changi Murals, painstakingly recreated from the originals painted by Bombardier Stanley Warren.

A resource centre houses existing literature and rare books depicting life during the war years.


Visitors are welcome to the Chapel and Museum, free of charge


The Simplest Way Is By Taxi

30 Minutes from the town area

Booking: Tel 4811211/5521111/5522222 (24 hours)


Other Ways

By MRT & Bus

Take SBS bus no.2 from Tanah Merah MRT (E9)

Alight at the bus stop right in front of the Changi Chapel and Museum

(After Changi Women’s Prison/Drug Rehabilitation Centre)

Tel: 1800-3368990 (MRT)

Enquiries: Mon - Fri 7:30am - 5.30pm, except on Public Holidays


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