The Selarang Barracks Incident

On 30 August 1942 the Japanese demanded that the prisoners at Changi sign a document promising not to escape. To British and Australian prisoners, who saw it as their duty to escape if they could, this was unacceptable.

To force the prisoners to comply, 15,900 British and Australian prisoners in Changi were ordered into the barrack blocks and parade ground of Selarang Barracks. Before the war the barracks had held just 800 men. Only three taps were working, and latrine pits, kitchens and hospital beds were crowded into an area of about a square kilometre.

For four days the prisoners remained firm. Dysentery broke out and sick men began to die. Realising that more would die needlessly, the prisoners’ commanders decided that they would agree to sign, under duress. This became known as the Selarang Barracks Incident.

AWM 106530
The scene in Selarang Barracks: fifteen thousand prisoners, including hundreds of men with dysentery, crowd into the barrack square. The damage on the photo resulted from its being concealed in the false bottom of a water bottle until the war’s end.
106530

AWM P00603.025An officer signing the “no escape” paper after the resolution of the Selarang Barracks Incident.
P00603.025