Memories of a Worshipper during World War II

By the time he was born in 1929, Mr. Rudy Mosbergen’s family have been attending the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd for two generations. The Mosbergens lived in a shophouse down the road from the Cathedral and were very active in church. In fact, serving in the choir was a family affair.

Among Mr. Rudy Mosbergen’s recollections of the Cathedral, the traumatic war years stood out. He remembered February 15, 1942, the day the British surrendered Singapore to the invading Japanese army, quite vividly. He said: “It was quite obvious that nobody would be in church that day because the city had been devastated by bombing the week before. But we were dedicated and wanted to attend Mass. The priests had decided to continue the Mass and so we went. And we believed that the bombings had come to an end.”

Mr. Mosebergen attended the 8 am Mass with his family and his grandparents. The Cathedral was virtually empty, except for the Mosbergens and two other families.

Mr. Mosbergen, in his book ‘In the Grip of a Crisis’ which describes his experiences during the Japanese Occupation, wrote: “No sooner had the service ended at 9am that the sirens started wailing again. It was another Japanese air attack.”

His grandfather insisted the family rush home without him. The elderly man could only amble along with the help of his walking stick. Thankfully, they managed to make it home before the bombs fell all around them.

One bomb landed in St. Joseph’s Institution, his alma mater, narrowly missing the chapel and the Brothers’ quarters. Another bomb fell right in front of the Cathedral, leaving a “huge crater” in the road and damaging parts of the Cathedral. But no one was hurt.

Yet another bomb landed on the nearby Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ), killing two women who had earlier attended the 8 am Mass at the Cathedral. They had sought refuge from the shelling at the CHIJ but unfortunately lost their lives there. Both women were friends of the Mosbergens.

After the war was over, the church became a “much lighter and livelier place”. He said: “We dusted off sheets of songs about freedom and liberation, which we had put away during the war. Often, the church-goers would even interpose shouts of ‘Freedom’ and ‘ Liberty’ when they sang hymns that had none of these words originally.”

Extract from ‘I am the Good Shepherd’ Magazine

Scene of destruction on February 16, 1942. The steeples of the Cathedral and Convent’s chapel are visible in the background.

Scene of destruction on February 16, 1942. The steeples of the Cathedral and Convent’s chapel are visible in the background.