Knowledge Net

Welcome to Knowledge Net Singapore, Teachers Resource.

Here you will find resources and reference materials to help you in the teaching of history, social sciences and the sharing of National Education themes.

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  • IndependencePost-WarSingapore

    Yusuf Ishak (1910 -1970)

    - by Editor

    First President of Singapore

    Yusuf Ishak was born in Padang Gajah in Perak, to a humble family of nine children in 1910. His father was a civil servant and Yusuf was the eldest son of the family who eventually become the first Malayan-born Yang Di-Pertuan Negara. He was known to have served the country with excellence and resilience especially needed during the formative years of nation-building. In school, he was a top student who did well both in academics and in sports.

    He was a well-rounded leader whose grit and determination would serve him well later in office. He topped the Cambridge Exams at Victoria Bridge School in 1927, and again emerged top student in Raffles Institution later. He was awarded the Queen’s scholarship, being the only Malay to do so in his class. Yusuf Ishak did much better than others. He was also the secretary of all those events. He won the Singapore Lightweight championship in 1932 and 1933. He was a school prefect and a scout. Yusuf Ishak became the first cadet in the National Cadet Corps history to be promoted to 2nd Lieutenant. Yusuf was exemplary. Yusuf Ishak had a mission to complete in his life, and that was to become his crowning accomplishment. To prove he was a smart and capable student of any ethnicity.

    It was in Raffles that he began his purpose. He is a Rafflesian author, co-author of an insightful comment on the history of RI. After graduating, Yusuf went to journalism school. He got started in sports journalism as an intern for a sports newspaper. Once he got into the newspaper business, he became the assistant manager of a local newspaper. Due to the desire to initiate a newspaper, Utusan Melayu was born in 1939. He personally collected funds by meeting the men of every kampung and convincing them to contribute $10 each, eventually raising a sum of $13,000 for his newspaper Utusan Melayu.

    He sought independence in all ways. He helped to free the Malay people from a century of colonialism. He battled against colonialism, which made whites superior and natives inferior. To advance the Malays, he continued to fight to lift them out of economic hardship and insularity. He was a fighter against racial discrimination, stereotyping and suspicion, all the while desiring a diverse community.

    As president of a newly independent nation, Yusuf Ishak set the standard for future presidents of Singapore. He continued to serve his country for years. Lee died and Singapore was forced to grapple with a polarising figure in Lee Kuan Yew, an authoritarian, racist and nationalist. President Yusuf Ishak was often sick in his last term. Still, he did not back down in his efforts to be with his people despite advice from doctors that he should not.

    President Yusuf Ishak died on Monday, 23rd November 1970. He was accorded a state funeral, where populace came to his funeral service to pay their last tribute to the man who had become admired and cherished by all communities. President Ishak spent his life fighting for freedom.

  • AncientSingapore

    Munshi Abdullah (1795 – 1852)

    - by Editor

    Scholar, Teacher

    Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir was born in 1795 in Melaka. Even though he was a Malay, he felt Arab and Indian. His father provided him a strict upbringing and he was brought up as a scholar. He learned Tamil, English, Hindi, and Malay.

    He began his career by copying documents and writing petitions. He later taught the Malay to British and American soldiers. Abdullah also acted as a translator for Sir Stamford Raffles. As a teacher and language scholar, the nickname “Munshi” made him a well-known figure in his lifetime.

    Abdullah assisted in the translation and printing of the gospels in Malay. He transcribed Hindu folklore. However, he is best known for his autobiography, Hikayat Abdullah. It was written in 1843 and published in 1849. The stone records the heritage of Singapore shortly after it was established by Raffles. His other book, Kisah Pelayaran Abdullah, shares his story on a trip from Singapore to Kelantan in 1838.

    Abdullah departed from the traditional Malay literary style by writing in a colloquial style. It is realistic and lively, introducing many Malay idioms and proverbs.

    Abdullah died in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in 1852 during his hajj. After his death, his journals were published. Abdullah’s works are an inspiration for modern Malay literature.

  • BritainSingapore

    The Death of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (1781 – 1826)

    - by Editor

    Founder of Singapore

    Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles and the founding of Singapore are well known. More obscure is the later part of his life and the circumstances surrounding his death. We looked during his last evening and a little documented autopsy report by an English physician, Sir Everard Home, and based on that, we think that Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles died of a haemorrhage of the right frontal lobe of the brain. This report shows that the founder of Singapore became more amazing because he could have been a victim of chronic fatigue syndrome.

    According to The Gentleman’s Magazine, published in July 1826, Raffles had spent his last day in the bosom of his family, and aside from a severe gastroenteritis, there was nothing in his appearance to create any alarm. He later retired to rest between ten and eleven o’clock, his usual hour when in the country. It was discovered that Mr. Morgan left his room at the time of his usual morning rise. Lady R was immediately called to his room and found him at the bottom of the stairs in and seemed to have lost consciousness. A doctor was called immediately, and every possible medical aid was used to revive him. The body was opened by Sir Everard Home, the same day, who pronounced the death to have been caused by an apoplectic attack beyond human control.

    From a medical perspective, only a few conditions can lead to a thickness of the skull. Paget’s Disease, fibrous dysplasia, malignant tumors and dural arterior-venous clot or arterior-venous deformity. The first two requirements are not characterised by abnormal dural lesions or brain lesions. Similarly, no brain tumour or meningioma was observed. Raffles was found to have both arteriovenous malformations. There was extensive haemorrhage in the right lateral ventricle and also associated with the malformation was an arterio-venous malformation that had bled into the ventricle. There was probably a pulmonary embolism and the fall led to the final demise. This suggests that a seizure might have occurred before the fall. Sir Raffles often suffered from frequent chronic migraines.

    He reported his wellness in clarity in his letters. Raffles wrote in December 1821 that his own health was still severely impacted, he was hardly ever well for more than half a day. In some cases, he was almost immobile for up for several days in a month. In a letter to the Duchess of Somerset published in February 1822, Raffles related to the early deaths of two of his children, his wife’s mood, and the effects of a painful series of bouts. It reached his brain and caused him tremendous discomfort and had to keep to his room. Raffles’ health then began to worsen. He spent half his time in discomfort and irritation, from the terrible headaches he was destined to endure in this country, but the remaining half has been actively employed.

    Later on, he suffered yet another attack in the head, which nearly resulted in death. His doctors were credited for rushing him on board ship for Europe without much delay. However, as he could not imagine his bones being thrown away, he had wished fo this bones to have be in the dignity of mixing with the ashes of Malaysian kings. He had built a house that is comfortable enough to support his sister’s family and also his own. However, after he returned to England, Raffles’ health did not improve. The symptoms may have been due to an arterio-venous malformation causing minor haemorrhages and the resulting ischemic attack.

    Note: Interesting read on some rare facts about Raffles that students might not learn even from textbooks in history. Upon his death, his country estate in Highwood, a north London property was sold for ten thousand pounds sterling, which was paid to the East India Company to settle his outstanding debts and his wish to be buried at St. Mary’s Church, was denied by the vicar, who objected to Raffles’ anti-slavery stance.

  • JapanSingapore

    Japanese Occupation (1941-1945)

    - by Editor

    Adapted from Syonan: Singapore Under the Japanese 1942-1945, Singapore Heritage Society, 1992

    Following the Marco Polo Bridge incident and the start of open hostilities between China and Japan, the Chinese in Singapore led by millionaire philanthropist Tan Kah Kee who heads the China Relief Fund begin fund-raising for China’s war effort as well as a trade boycott of Japanese goods.


    6 November
    The Asama Maru evacuates about 450 Japanese men and women from Singapore. The Japanese Consul-General is at the harbour to wave them good-bye.

    19 November
    The Straits Times reports Japanese troops movements southwards in Indochina and the arrival of more troops in Indochina.

    1 December
    A state of emergency is declared. The army and volunteer defence troops are mobilised.

    7-8 December
    The first Japanese bombs fall on Singapore in the early hours of the morning.

    Japanese troops of the 25th Army led by Tomoyuki Yamashita land at Kota Bahru, Kelantan, and Singora and Patani, south Thailand. Governor Shenton Thomas makes his most infamous statement when awakened at 1 a.m. in the morning to be informed on the Japanese landing: “Well, I suppose you’ll just have to shove these little men off (sic)…” Across the Pacific, Pearl Harbour is bombed in a surprise raid, bringing the United States into the Second World War. Japanese bombing raids continue throughout December and January.

    10 December
    The Prince of Wales and the Repulse are sunk off the coast of Kuantan.

    15 December
    The Japanese take Penang.

    25 December
    Dalforce, a special group made up of mostly communist Chinese volunteers, is formed led by J.D. Dalley. Some of the survivors go on to join the British-led resistance group, Force 136, and the communist-led Malayan Anti-Japanese Army.

    30 December
    Governor Shenton Thomas invites Chinese leader Tan Kah Kee to form the Chinese Mobilisation Council to supply labour to help build defences.

    11 January
    The Japanese take Kuala Lumpur.

    28 January
    The British Navy evacuates the Naval Base unexpectedly.

    31 January
    The Causeway is partially destroyed to keep out the Japanese troops. The Japanese enter Johore Bahru.

    1 February
    The Japanese begin shelling Singapore from their newly set-up batteries in Johore Bahru.

    7 February
    The crack Konoe Imperial Guards occupies Pulau Ubin.

    Sunday 8 February
    Some 20,000 troops of the 5th and 18th Divisions land on the northwest coast of Singapore.

    9 February
    The breached Causeway is repaired and Japanese troops begin crossing into Singapore. By evening, they have taken Tengah airfield.

    10 February
    The Jurong Line and Bukit Panjang Village fall.

    11 February
    Yamashita drops Percival a letter asking Percival to surrender, and detailing the steps to take. The surrender party should carry a large white flag and the Union Jack. The reservoirs fall behind Japanese lines.

    13 February
    Remnants of 1st Malay Regiment battle it out with Japanese troops at Opium Hill, Pasir Panjang. In an heroic 48 hours fight, Lt. Adnan Saidi and his 42 men contingent frustrate the Japanese advance. The British generals of Malaya Command hold a war council on Fort Canning. The water pipes are reported to be badly damaged and the available supply is not likely to last 24 hours.

    14 February
    Opium Hill falls. Lt. Adnan Saidi is captured and killed brutally. The Japanese enter Alexandra Hospital and massacre the patients, doctors and nurses.

    Sunday 15 February
    The first day of the Lunar New Year of the Horse.

    8.00 am
    The British commander, Percival starts the day attending a service. It is his daughter’s 12th birthday.

    11.15 am
    The decision to surrender is taken at the Battle Box, Fort Canning.

    11.30 am
    The surrender party without Percival sets out from Fort Canning.

    1.30 pm
    Fraser and Newbigging meet their Japanese counterparts.

    2 pm
    They meet the senior officer and Yamashita demands that Percival surrenders immediately. The surrender party heads back to convey the message to Percival.

    Late 4 pm
    The second surrender party, this time with Percival, sets out for the Ford Factory in Bukit Timah where the surrender is to take place.

    Late 5 pm
    Percival and Yamashita meet across a white-covered table. Yamashita demands an immediate surrender by 10 pm Nippon time
    (8.30 pm Singapore time then, now 9.30 pm) or fighting will resume immediately.

    Through an interpreter, Percival reluctantly agrees. He signs the surrender document. (One account says the time was 6.10 pm, another that it was 7 pm.
    And a third that it was 7.50 pm.)

    8.30 pm
    The guns fall silent throughout the island.

    16 February
    Left picture shows victorious Japanese soldiers. Later the Japanese hold a victory parade at the Padang.

    17 February
    The British assemble at the Padang for the march to internment at Changi Prison and Selarang Barracks.

    18 February
    The Japanese order all Chinese to assemble at various centres for screening – the start of Sook Ching, the notorious purging of anti-Japanese elements in the Chinese population in which an estimated 50,000 died at the hands of the Japanese.


    Japanese Military Administration or Gunseikanbu set up. Its offices are at Fullerton Building. Rationing begins. Japanese banana money replaces the Straits dollar. The early Japanese notes are numbered but by September, they are no longer serialised. The tram-line resumes service. The water pipes are repaired by local waterproofing contractor. Overseas Chinese Association formed to collect a “donation” of $50 million from the Chinese in Malaya and Singapore towards the Japanese war effort.


    Police register all occupants and issue them a “Peace Living Certificate” or “Ankyosho”. A “Census Taking List” is later introduced in 1943. Police stations kept copies of this list and all changes in households had to be reported and recorded. Primary schools are re-opened. Indian Independence League formed.

    15 April
    Syonan Broadcasting Station begins Nippon-go classes.

    The first POW groups begin heading for the Siamese Death Railway work camps.

    The Overseas Chinese Association presents the Japanese with a cheque for $50 million raised through compulsory donations topped with $22 million loaned from Yokohama Specie Bank.

    30 August
    Selarang Barracks Square Incident. The POWs are ordered to sign a pledge not to try and escape. When they refuse, the Japanese execute the four POWs who had been caught trying to escape.

    Formation of the Indian National Army. An auxiliary police system or neighbourhood police watch is introduced.

    10 September
    The Bukit Batok War memorial built by POWs to commemorate the fallen Japanese soldiers. Behind it was the memorial to the British dead.

    The Eurasian Welfare Association under Dr C.J. Paglar formed.

    Formation of the Indian National Army under Captain Mohan Singh to support India’s independence struggle.

    The General Headquarters of the Southern Expeditionary Force moves from Saigon to Singapore and is located at the Governor’s Residence (now the Istana).

    The Heiho also known as the Gunpo or auxiliary servicemen is introduced. Teenagers were recruited and given basic training in return for food and lodging. They serve under the military doing various duties.

    To ease the food shortages, the Japanese encourage people to move out to farming settlements. The Eurasian Welfare Association begin organising Bahau for the Eurasians and Catholics. The Overseas Chinese Association organise Endau. In mid-1945, a small settlement is set up in Pulau Bintan in the Riau Archipelago for the Indians. There is a general campaign throughout Singapore to grow more food on every available bit of land.

    Lim Bo Seng and other recruits arrive by submarine off the coast of Perak to join Force 136 led by John Davis and Richard Broome.

    The Giyu-gun or Voluntary Army and the Giyu-tai or Voluntary Corps introduced.

    28 December
    The first settlers begin to move out of Singapore to Bahau, known as Fuji Village.

    Lim Bo Seng and four other members of Force 136 are captured and tortured by the Kempeitai.

    1 May
    All civilian POWs interned in Changi are moved to Sime Road Camp

    29 June
    Lim Bo Seng dies in Batu Gajah prison.

    Allied bombing raids begin on Japanese-occupied Singapore.

    6 August
    The Enola Gay drops the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

    15 August
    Emperor Hirohito speaks to the Japanese nation in a taped broadcast about the coming peace without using the word “surrender”.

    20 August
    A report of the Japanese Emperor’s speech appears in Syonan Times and other papers in Singapore.

    2 September
    The Japanese surrender formally to General Douglas MacArthur on board the USS Missouri in a ceremony witnessed by representatives of the Allied Powers, among them Lieut-Gen. A.E. Percival.

    5 September
    British troops return to Singapore.

    7 September
    British Military Administration is declared and among its first actions is to demonetize Japanese banana money, making it worthless.

    12 September
    The Japanese led by General Itagaki Seishiro surrender to Supreme Allied Commander in South-east Asia Lord Louis Mountbatten at City Hall.

    Repatriation of Japanese troops to Japan begins. A long slow process because of shipping problems. A special court is announced to try Japanese collaborators — civilians who were alleged to have helped the Japanese during the Occupation.

    22 January
    Japanese war crimes trials begin.

    British Military Administration ends. Singapore returns to civilian rule as Crown Colony.