Kranji War Cemetery

Text by Eugene Tan

The Kranji War Cemetery houses the remains of 4,458 servicemen and women from Britain, Australia, Canada, India, Malaya, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Sri Lanka who died during World War II.

Kranji War Cemetery (Photo credit: Royal Air Force Changi Association)

Together with the names etched onto the War Memorial at the cemetery’s summit, more than 25,000 personnel are honoured.

Sungei Kadut and Lim Chu Kang from Kranji War Cemetery

The site, Kranji Hill, once contained a British ammunitions depot before acting as a prisoner-of-war camp during the Japanese Occupation. The grounds began being used as a cemetery by the prisoners and with the increasing burials taken on post-occupation, it was officially unveiled as a war cemetery in 1957.

Field of headstones at Kranji War Memorial and Cemetery

Atop the hill, the Kranji War Memorial was designed to represent the integration of Britain’s three arms in war: assimilating a naval conning tower, wings, and sturdy walls symbolising army lines. Below the memorial and around Kranji Hill, the cemetery is geometrically ordered, not dissimilar to a manicured English landscape, and legible as a complete battalion through the organisation of headstones in rank and file.

Headstone of a nameless Indian soldier at Kranji War Memorial and Cemetery

Although the cemetery contains various sections commemorating different groups of deceased, it complies with the axioms for cemetery organisation and design as stipulated by the founder of the Imperial War Graves Commission, notably the equal recognition and eschewing of distinction between personnel, regardless of race, rank or creed.

View of Malaysia from the Kranji War Memorial, set on a hill

Two annual events, Remembrance Day and Anzac Day, are observed in the cemetery compound, with Commonwealth soldiers and members of the public in attendance. At other times of the year, one is able to walk the ground and look out from the memorial towards the Straits of Johor in quiet contemplation.