The Changi Lychgates
In Changi the poor treatment, increasing diseases and lack of medical supplies soon began to take their toll on the wounded and sick POWS ; a toll which increased with the passage of time. As a result a camp burial ground was established in a location which was accessible to both those from the Jail and the Barracks. The burial ground was increasing in size every day, so in December 1942, the 18th Division Royal Engineers designed and built Lychgates which were to stand at the entrance to the first Changi cemetery.
The gates were designed by Capt. Cecil Pickersgill, a tiled structure with seats on either side, and built at Changi Jail to honour the prisoners when they died. Hundreds of prisoners were dying under the harsh regime at Changi and Capt. Pickersgill believed there should be something for the dead servicemen to pass through as a Christian mark of faith.
The Japanese commandant gave permission for men to collect wood - mainly a local hard wood known as 'Chengai Wood' - and erect the gates at the cemetery entrance. It was carved with the national emblems of the British Isles :-
Inside the gates and just below the eaves, the POWs carved an inscription in Gothic lettering which reads:-
When the war ended in 1945, the Lychgates were dismantled, but on the tenth anniversary they were re-erected at Tanglin Barracks, Singapore.
Capt Cecil Pickersgill died while working on the Thai/Burma Railway in 1943, but the gates he designed were eventually brought to Britain in 1972 and re-erected once more at the Bassingbourne Barracks in Hertfordshire.
In 2003 the gates were moved once again to their final resting place at the entrance to the FEPOW plot in the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas, Staffordshire.