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Internees at Changi Prison
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Why this is a

With the fall of Singapore to the Japanese Imperial Forces in 1942, many British, Australian and colonial officers became prisoners of war ( POWs) and amongst them was Mr. William Haxworth, a Chief Investigator with the War Risks Insurance Department of the Singapore Treasury. During his internment, Haxworth secretly drew paintings and sketches that depicted the harsh, crowded and unhygienic living conditions in the internment camps. Despite the shortage of paper and drawing materials, Haxworth creatively resorted to using different materials which he could get his hands on to produce a variety of watercolour paintings, and pencil and charcoal sketches. Though not an artist by profession, Haxworth displayed great skill and was able to capture the essence of his surroundings and the events that took place during his captive years. With a keen artistic eye and sense of humour, Haxworth captured vividly, the transformation of the internees from well-built men when they first entered the internment camp in 1942, to pale shadows of their former selves when they were reduced to skin and bones as a result of inadequate diet, diseases and other privations suffered while in camp. At the same time, his artworks, as with the watercolour painting featured, captures an important aspect of the lives that POWs led during their internment – church services, for example. Haxworth’s artwork illustrated a human aspect of the darkest period of Singapore’s modern history. Collectively, his drawings cleverly portrayed the stark change in the lifestyle of the European colonial administrators when they fell from grace and became POWs under an Asian “master”. These visual accounts of how colonial administrators were forced to adapt and make good with what they had in the prison condition are in fact valuable “relics” of an instance when European and Asian cultures converged and crossed paths.

History of the Object
This drawing was hand-drawn by Mr. W.R.M. Haxworth (1906-1985), who was a civilian internee in the Changi Prison and subsequently the Sime Road Internment Camp, during the Japanese occupation of Singapore (1942-1945). In all, Haxworth drew over 400 paintings during his internment. After the Japanese surrender in August 1945, Haxworth was reinstated to the Financial Department and retired in 1954 as the Chief Superintendent of Traffic. He subsequently returned to England, bringing along his collection of sketches and paintings. A year following his passing in 1985, his entire collection of 400 paintings and sketches were generously donated to the National Archives of Singapore by Mrs. E. Haxworth.

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Drawing Paper; Watercolour 
Width 36,0 cm. Length 25,5 cm.  
Creator name
W.R.M. Haxworth 
Creator date
1906 - 1985 
Where it was made
Singapore; Changi Prison 
Time period
AD 20th century ~ AD 20th century 
Creation date
20th Century; 15 Oct 1942 
Illustration of a part of the interior of the Changi Prison and the gathering of internees for church service which was held every Sunday for various denominations and presided by interned priests. Holy Communion was also administered to the internees regularly. 
Acquired by the National Archives of Singapore in 1986. 
The National Archives of Singapore reserves the right to take legal action if the photograph is used for a purpose in excess of what has been approved by the copyright owner(s) or used without permission for undeclared purpose(s). 
The National Archives of Singapore 
National Archives 
Credit line
Haxworth Collection, Courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore 



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