Prisoner of War Steps – Singapore, Singapore - Atlas Obscura

Prisoner of War Steps

Singapore Botanic Gardens
Singapore, Singapore

The history of those incarcerated in Singapore during World War II is etched into the bricks of a popular staircase.  

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In the Singapore Botanic Gardens, the brick staircase that runs alongside the Plant House has become a heavily trafficked spot for young couples and newlyweds to pose for photographs. But these steps hold a heavy history. Also known as the Prisoner of War Steps, they bear the memory of those who were imprisoned during World War II in Singapore under Japanese occupation.

The bricks, engraved with tiny, uneven arrows, were constructed by individuals who were incarcerated in Changi Prison. They were later laid by Australian prisoners of war held captive under Japanese forces when they took control of the Gardens in 1942. 

The significance of the bricks went widely unnoticed until 1995, when a group of Australian veterans who had been imprisoned under Japanese occupation revisited the Plant House. Upon spotting the engravings, they revealed that they’d carved these arrows, also used to denote government property, as a quiet act of opposition. 

Today, the bricks remain in good condition. Some of the arrows have faded, but most are still visible. People continue to flock to the steps for photographs, many of whom remain unaware of the history directly underfoot.

 

Know Before You Go

The Singapore Botanic Gardens are open to the public daily from 5 a.m. to midnight and admission is free.