Opened in 1940, the Alexandra Hospital (former British Military Hospital) served as the principal hospital for Britain’s Far East Command during World War II. The hospital was the most-advanced and best-equipped medical institution in Singapore and Malaya. The 32-acre site was chosen for its close proximity to the Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) railway tracks so that the wounded could be transported to the hospital quickly.
Designed in a stripped-down hybrid of the Modern and Classical styles typical of hospitals of the 1930s, the hospital compound comprised the main block, which could accommodate 356 beds with various medical, surgical and officer wards, and a number of ancillary buildings such as laboratories, barracks, mortuary and living quarters for staff.
On 14 February 1942, a day before the surrender of Singapore, Alexandra Hospital was violated by “the largest and most awful massacre of British troops in World War II.” Within a short 30-minute span, three platoons from a Japanese battalion rained bullets at the hospital and captured more than 200 hospital personnel and patients.
After the war, the Military Hospital continued to play an important role by providing emergency healthcare services to the wounded soldiers fighting against communist guerrillas in the Malayan jungles during the State of Emergency. In 1954, a helipad was constructed at the hospital and the time taken to transport a soldier from the Malayan jungles was drastically reduced from 96 hours to about 10 hours.
In 1971, the British troops announced a decision to pull out from their ex-colonies due to rising costs of maintaining troops overseas. The hospital was handed over to the Singapore Government for a nominal fee of £1 and later converted into a civilian hospital. As a civilian hospital, Alexandra Hospital performed Singapore’s first ever limb re-attachment surgery in April, 1975, and handled 55 severely burned patients from the Spyros disaster in October, 1978.
Today, Alexandra Hospital is well-known for its extensive greenery and serene environment. Affectionately known as the “Hospital in a Garden,” Blocks 1, 2 and 6 of Alexandra Hospital were gazetted for conservation in 2014.