The Changi Cross
The Altar Cross, St George's Church, Changi, Prisoner-of-War Camp, Singapore
The Brass Altar Cross was designed and made for St George's Church, India Lines, Changi Prisoner of War Camp, in March 1942.
A few days after capitulation Rev E W B Cordingly CF (later Bishop of Thetford) discovered an abandoned mosque in the India Lines, Changi occupied by the 18th Division and with the aid of the Royal Engineers hastily converted it into a church dedicated to St George, ready for the first Sunday after capitulation.
The hastily made altar cross was replaced by one designed and made with a base from a 4.5 howitzer shell, the cross itself being made from bits of brass from an ordnance gun shop. At each of its four ends it carried trefoils engraved with cap badges of:- the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, Royal Engineers and Royal Army Service Corps, the base itself being engraved with the badge of the Royal Artillery (Regiments and Corps of the Parish).
The Cross was made by Staff Sergeant Harry Stogden of the 18th Division Royal Army Ordnance Corps and the engraving carried out by a sapper stonemason Corporal R G G (Tim) Henmings, 18th Division Royal Engineers, using tools made from the pointed end of an umbrella shaft. At a later date an unknown person added the wording St George's Church and Changi Prisoner of War Gamp 1942-1945, to the base.
When the area was evacuated during April '43 and St Georges Church closed Rev Cordingly left with "F" Force for an unknown destination, which later proved to be Thailand, taking with him, the altar, altar cross, plaque of St George and other ornaments. These were stored at Bampong as the party of 7000, mostly sick, were to march to the Burma border (3097 were alive in Aug 45).
Around Christmas '43 Rev Cordingly established St George's Church, Mark II at Kanchanaburi. The church, built by patients, consisted only of a sanctuary of bamboo and mats, and furnished with the Altar, Altar Cross and Plaque of St George and ornaments which had come up from Bampong.
At the end of April '44, when the camp was dismantled, the Cross and other items were taken back to Singapore and St George's Church (Mark III) established in the Changi Gaol Area by Rev Cordingly. In April '45 the area was closed by the Japanese and the complete church moved to the Officers Area, Changi Gaol, where it became St George's (Mark IV). The Cross remained on the Altar until Sept '45.
The Cross and plaque were brought home by the Rev Cordingly who kept them in his study in Norfolk.
Mrs Cordingly cared for the Cross from his death in 1976 until March 1992, when, on her suggestion, the Cross was returned to Singapore to be placed on the Altar in the Memorial Chapel, Changi Prison; this she felt would be her late husband's wish.