S'pore man recounts surviving Japanese execution during WWII & climbing out of Bedok mass grave

He was the only survivor of the Bedok Hill massacre.

Tanya Ong| February 28, 04:29 PM

Feb. 28, 2019, marks the 77th anniversary of the Bedok Hill massacre that took place during World War II.

Bedok Hill massacre survivor

The site of the Bedok Hill massacre is likely to be along Upper East Coast Road, within a forested area that is now fenced up.

Adapted via Google maps.

During the massacre, about 90 prisoners of war were thrown into trenches and brutally shot at point-blank range.

There was, however, one fortunate survivor, Chan Cheng Yean, who lived to tell the tale.

Chan recounted the terrifying experience in a 1966 Straits Times report.

Captured as a prisoner of war

Chan said he was mobilised as a private in the Straits Settlements Volunteer Force at that time, and his battalion fought the Japanese for five days before Singapore surrendered.

The Japanese made the prisoners of war march to a big house near Tanjong Katong Road, where they were ordered to surrender all their belongings.

That's when they knew they were going to die:

"Then our hands were tied behind our backs. We knew we were going to die. None of the prisoners said a word. Many of them cried."

All 90 of them were then taken to the foot of a hill by lorry where they heard "volleys of rifle fire" and the "shrieks of men calling out".

Feigned death

The men were packed in slit-trenches, which were previously used as air-raid shelters, where 10 riflemen took aim and fired at them.

In his account, Chan described the ordeal and how he had miraculously escaped death:

"I heard the first man cry out and saw him crumble. I heard the second man cry out but nothing happened to me... Almost without thinking I embraced the man in front of me as he fell. Other bodies fell on me. I heard a second and a third volley. I felt a searing pain in my knee. I knew I was still alive. I could hear everything. But I feigned death."

He was only 24 years old at that time.

Climbed out of mass grave and escaped

Chan waited for the Japanese to leave. And when he heard nothing, he "tried to free (himself)" and climbed out of the mass grave.

With a bleeding left knee, he hobbled down the hill and sought help at a nearby kampung. There, he met a man who gave him some food and clothes.

For the next three days, he also stayed with an old couple in a kampung so his knee could heal.

Chan said that he eventually returned to Malacca, where he married a childhood friend. They eventually settled down in Singapore in 1953.

You can read the full story here.

Top photo from NAS.