Sport in Syonan: Triumph Over Despair - Chapter 11 | The Auxiliary Labour Corps and End of Occupation
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Labour booklet issued during Japanese Occupation. 1942-1945. Source: Chew Chang Lang Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore (Media - Image no: 19980005535 – 0107)
Auxiliary Labour Corps of the SSA
Members of the Syonan Sports Association (SSA) discovered that sport was not going to be their only endeavour. At least 400 men formed the Auxiliary Labour Corps and were detailed to make 25,000 flags for the New Malai celebration.
Subsequently, requirements expanded to more trying and demoralising duties such as clearing up the debris and removing the dead after a bombing raid by the Allies.
The advance notice and reports of the various games provided one of the few sources of enjoyment and a distraction from the horrors of occupation.
Sportsmen Contributing to Defence Tasks
The steady decline of SSA operations came after the group was instructed to reallocate the members to passive defence tasks. The conflict was moving dramatically in the favour of the allies.
Air raids were causing considerable damage and the young men of the SSA were required to remove debris, and help with the thankless task of restoring basic amenities during emergencies and building public air raid shelters. Shinozaki, the honorary adviser to the SSA, was the Commandant of this task force.
Creating a Positive False Front
Marking important dates in the Japanese calendar remained a priority, though there were changes. Instead of a run, there was a cycle race from the Padang to the Chureito Memorial planned for October the 8th.
An extensive Syonan Sports Programme for Meiji Setu to be staged in November was announced. The claim was that these celebrations would be held on an unprecedented scale. Part of the Padang was still useable for a Mayor’s Cup soccer match, and tennis could take place at the Tokubetu-si Sports Club (YMCA) grounds at Bras Basah.
For the Japanese, the main objective was to rally as many of the people as possible to create a positive, though misguided, impression that the war was proceeding well.
Labour booklet issued during Japanese Occupation. 1942-1945. Source: Chew Chang Lang Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore (Media - Image No: 19980005535 – 0104)
Syonan Chureito (Japanese Memorial Shrine) at Bukit Batok hilltop. Two memorials were built during the Japanese Occupation to honour the dead soldiers of the Japanese and British Allied Forces. Syonan Chureito was destroyed by the Japanese after the war for fear of desecration. The Allied Memorial Cross was removed later. 1942. Source: From Shashin Shuho, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore (Media Image Number 20050000124 – 0002)
Junction of Prinsep Street with Bras Basah Road. On the right is the former Ladies Lawn Tennis Club premises which had been acquired by Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) in 1932 after the club's closure. In the background is the Raffles Museum and Library. 1930s. Source: Lim Kheng Chye Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore (Media - Image No: 19980005881 – 0091)
From Tennis Courts to Trenches
The SSA membership numbers continued to grow and by early January 1945, the Syonan Shimbun reported a total of 3,287 members. Not all were necessarily active members, for one incentive for joining was the possibility of receiving additional rice to stave off hunger.
Activities of the SSA focused largely on passive defence, and the work of the Special Forward Service Corps in dealing with air raid damage and digging shelters. The former YMCA tennis courts on Bras Basah Road were converted to trenches for defensive positions.