World War II was a global tragedy on a massive scale, and Singapore was not exempted from its consequences. It is said that more than 50,000 people were killed during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, from 15 February 1942 to 12 September 1945.

The Civilian War Memorial, located east of the Padang on Beach Road, commemorates these civilian victims of World War II and the unity of Singapore’s four main races—Malay, Chinese, Indian and Eurasian.

It was unveiled by former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on 15 February 1967— the day that Singapore fell to Japanese forces 25 years ago—and gazetted as a national monument in 2013.

Four pillars
Tall structure of four pillars at the Civilian War Memorial park

Photo by Jerry Wong (xcode) via

At this serene park, you’ll see four pillars of similar size and structure rising tall above 65 metres, symbolic of the shared suffering of Singapore’s main ethnic groups as well as those who died and were buried there.

The Civilian War Memorial amidst skyscrapers in the CBD

Photo by Rowen Barrett (Rwoan) via

Younger Singaporeans today may be unaware of the Civilian War Memorial’s history, although they do refer to it fondly as “The Chopsticks”.

It was constructed after mass graves of civilian war victims were found in several locations around Singapore in 1962. More than 40 of these mass graves came from Siglap’s so-called Valley of Death.

The Civilian War Memorial is built over a burial chamber that contains these exhumed remains from the mass graves.

Every year on 15 February, a memorial service is held here, in remembrance of the victims of the war.