Adnan Saidi (1915-1942)

War Hero

An exemplary figure of valour, Lieutenant Adnan Saidi was a war hero who fought to protect Singapore in one of the most ferocious battles in the World War II.

At the age of 18, Adnan Saidi joined the Malay Regiment, a military force formed at Port Dickson, Malaya. He rose quickly through the ranks and within four years, became 2nd Lieutenant and leader of the 7th Platoon, ‘C’ Company of the Malay Regiment.

Towards the end of 1941, the Selangor-born lieutenant was posted to Singapore and he brought his family with him. However, when it was apparent that war was unavoidable, he sent them home.

During the war, Lt. Adnan was entrusted with defending Pasir Panjang Ridge, where British ammunition and supplies were stored. It was also the site of the military hospital.

The Battle for Pasir Panjang, or the ‘Battle for Opium Hill’, began on 13 February 1942. Lt. Adnan and his soldiers put up a fierce fight, but by midnight, they had retreated to the top of Bukit Chandu. There, they fought until they ran out of ammunition. However, instead of retreating, Lt. Adnan commanded them to charge at the invaders, with only their bayonets and fists.

After the battle was over, the Japanese demanded that Lt. Adnan and other survivors take off their uniforms and surrender. When they refused, the Japanese hung the men upside down from a tree and stabbed them to death.

Never once yielding to the enemy, Lt. Adnan died with honour. His death is a testament to his deep-rooted belief in “biar putih tulang, jangan putih mata”, a Malay motto that means “death before dishonour”.

Today, a war memorial plaque stands at Kent Ridge Park to commemorate the bravery of Lt. Adnan and his soldiers.

Dr Ruth Wong Hie King (1918-1982)

Pioneering Educationist

Ruth Wong is widely recognised for her work in the area of education in Singapore.

Wong taught briefly at Anglo-Chinese School, and then went on to further her education. She attended Queen’s University in Ireland and earned a doctorate in education at the Graduate School of Education in Harvard University.

In 1962, Wong returned home and took up key positions in educational institutes in both Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, where she started to effect change in the way teachers were trained. In 1969, she became the first female principal of the Teachers’ Training College. It later became the Institute of Education (IE), where Wong was appointed its inaugural director.

IE changed education for educators drastically. Wong introduced a multi-disciplinary approach to train educators. She utilised tools like collaborative learning and research-based assignments in place of examinations. These changes helped establish a new curriculum for teachers – one that would focus on the educator’s professional experience, as well as the student’s personal growth.

This made her a visionary in the field of education, way ahead of her time.


To commemorate the Singapore Bicentennial and honour the contributions of these early pioneers, a limited edition $20 currency note, featuring eight personalities, was launched at the Istana Open House on 5 June 2019. Members of the public may purchase this note at major banks from 10 June 2019 onwards. There are 2 million pieces available.

Be sure to reserve your tickets early for this immersive experience that showcases key moments in Singapore's 700-year history.


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