Wednesday, 28 December 2005

Training Dates for 2006

Refresher Course 2006 (before Commemorative Walk)

1. Thu 19 Jan: 6pm - 7.30pm (ridge plants, field session)
2. Thu 09 Feb: 7pm - 9.30pm (all topics esp. BPP, classroom)

Training Course 2006 (before Heritage Fest)

1. Thu 08 Jun (plants),
2. Thu 15 Jun (war, BPP)
3. Thu 29 Jun (coastal history, southern islands, life in 60's)
4. Sat 01 Jul (dry run)

Guiding Dates for 2006

[1] NUS FoS Family Day
Jan (unconfirmed)

[2] Battle of Pasir Panjang Commemorative Walk
Sunday 12th February 2006: 7am - 12pm

Maximum = 100 pple (expeect less since walk begins at 7am)

[3] Heritage Fest, Jul 2006
  1. Sat 15 Jul 2006
  2. Sun 16 Jul 2006
  3. Sun 23 Jul 2006 [KRP - RBC]
Based on current status (before recruitment),
limit = 50 pple/session x 2 sessions/day x 3 days = 300 pple.

Sessions begin at 8.30am (3 guides) and 10.30am (3 guides).

Tuesday, 4 October 2005

Commemorating the Battle of Pasir Panjang

The 14th February has a special significance. It is the anniversary of the Battle of Pasir Panjang Ridge (now Kent Ridge) n 1942, during which the the Malay Regiment was all but wiped out by invading forces during their last stand at Opium Hill. Six British officers, seven Malay officers and 146 other ranks were killed in battle. Singapore would fall a day later on 15th February 1942.

General Arthur Percival (GOC Malaya) had this to say about the Regiment, " their stubborn defence of the Pasir Panjang ridge at the height of the Battle of Singapore, they set an example of steadfastness and endurance which will become a great tradition in the Regiment and inspiration for future generations".

In 1987, I first visited Kent Ridge with a botany class. I would revisit the place many times over the years to study the ecosystem, the plants, bats, other wildlife, or take a short cut to Central Library or enjoy the view from my room on the 7th floor of KE VII Hall's E block.

The battle was a story I had heard vague references to in the 90's. No one knew details it seems, but I finally discovered an account when searching for more information for a webpage I decided to setup in 2002, some 15 years after my first visit there. The source lay no further than NUS' Central Library at the other end of the ridge. Dol Ramli's published his history thesis in the Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1965. A condensed version by Lim Kay Tong is available onine.

Today you can get an overview of teh Battle of Singapore and Pasir Panjang at Reflections at Bukit Chandu, a museum which was opened two years ago on 15th February 2002. Located at then end of Pepys Road, off Pasir Panjang, it is a short walk from Kent Ridge Park via a walkway which allows you a close look at the surroundings and the Tiup-tip plant, Adinandra dumosa, the characteristic plant of the ridge's secondary forest.

Last Saturday, 14th February 2004, we commemorated the Battle once again with a walk from Raffles Museum to Reflections at Bukit Chandu.

First posted at Otterman speaks, 04 Oct 2005.

Saturday, 24 September 2005

Pasir Panjang Heritage Trail Special Edition!

As the 60th anniversary of the end of the Pacific War approached, the heritage trail guides bounded into action to present the Heritage Trail special 60th Anniversary Edition! As you may know, the Heritage Trail is normally conducted every year on the 12th Feb, which is the anniversary of the start of the Battle of Pasir Panjang, also famous for being one of the bloodiest battles ever fought in Singapore during World War II. The other time we conduct this trail is in July, which is part of the Heritage Fest activities.

This time round, however, the 60th Anniversary Memorial Edition proved to be a multisensory, engaging and exciting journey that even surprised the guides themselves! The nature guiding portion remained the same (as it was already exciting enough, with all the green crested lizards, happy white crested laughing thrushes and oriental whip snakes basking in the morning sun) After the initial nature walk through the Kent Ridge Park, the participants were brought to the Reflections at Bukit Chandu. This was the part that was new, exciting and absolutely unexpected.

It was a play. A play about the wartime period. But it was not just a play that you watch while sitting on a small red plastic chair. It was one that managed to momentarily transport each and every one of the participants back to the war torn Singapore of 1942.

The sounds, the people, the fear and the war. All was brought before the eyes of the participants.

But you'd have to be there to feel what I've feebly tried to describe. But I do have to say that it was a very fun trail, for all of the participants and the guides too. But for this exciting event, we only held it for 2 days, on the 3rd and 4th of September 2005, and only for 2 sessions per day, once at 9am and the other at 11am.

The reason for the short duration and lowered number of session was that the guides were already low on energy after the July Heritage Fest and the small pool of guides further limits this activity. So, in hope of improving the situation, we appeal to anyone who is interested in this event to sign up as a guide! Yes! Come join us and help to extend this exciting event to others!

If you are interested, please send an email to Kiah Shen at ! Our next event will be around the 12th of Feb 2006, but if we have enough new guides, we may consider making this Trail a quarterly event! Do join!

Sunday, 4 September 2005

Pasir Panjang Heritage Day 2 and War Vets Forum

The Pasir Panjang Heritage guides spent Sunday morning illustrating the Battle of Pasir Panjang and the flora (more than the fauna) of the park. It was Day 2 of our special September sessions in commemoration of Memorial Month.

September is Memorial Month and with STB promoting the events especially the conference and commemoration ceremony, we have received more visitors from overseas interested in the war this time.

I put up some half-hearted photos here. I know our NAS partner Stella took more with a heavy-duty SLR today, so am looking forward to those.

Our secret weapon for this walk is the ice cream man - it's no accident he's there, Project Managers Kiah Shen and Wendy call him!

Later Anand, Kenneth & I scampered off for the war vets forum at Singapore History Museum (now at Riverwalk). This photo was taken by Stephanie Hester, a PhD student from Univ. Adelaide in town for the Memorial Month. We guided her at Pasir Panjang earlier.

At the forum I finally met Kark Hack and Kevin Blackburn with whom I had first corresponded with in 2002 for a loan of their map on the Changi (WWII) historic area 1942-2002. It was then a pre-print book and the expensive hardback came out in 2004, I believe. The paperback was launched today and I grabbed a copy from the Select Books counter for $37.50 once I walked in.

Romen Bose was there so we ribbed him about throwing a spanner in the works with that mornings news (from his forthcoming book) about the actual date of the Japanese surrender!

It was an enjoyable forum and we heard a variety of experiences and I have copious notes; unfortunately I had to leave near 6pm before the third session began.

First posted on Otterman speaks, 04 Sep 2005.

Saturday, 3 September 2005

Pasir Panjang Heritage Walk this morning

While the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore: Kranji Mangroves team were on their way to Sungei Buloh this morning, some of the Raffles Museum's Pasir Panjang Heritage guides were heading down south to join Stella Wee of National Archives in welcoming visitors and finding lost souls at Harbour Front.

I had an old timer and long-time resident in my group who added his own stories to the guiding - this is always fun for the guide as it makes the session more conversational and is a rare opportunity to learn while guiding.

This time, the walk ended at Reflections at Bukit Chandu with a wonderful surprise - an enactment by a drama company. They did a good job, I thought, from the little I saw, although the heritage guides found themselves skipping content to make it to Bukit Chandu in time for this session.

I skipped the second session to donate blood but the others told me they went through the enactment and our biggest guide obediently knelt when yelled at by a 'Japanese officer' - the actor savoured the moment when the rest followed suit. We later suggested the gravity of the situation might have had him confused with his Catholic mass, but we'd better continue that investigation tomorrow. Wish I was there to see it, but I really feel that was probably just sympathetic acting.

Although I will miss the Kranji Commemoration Ceremony, the Pasir Panjang Heritage guides and Adrian Loo (Changi Heritage) will be at the ceremony.

First posted to Otterman speaks, 03 Sep 2005.

Sunday, 23 January 2005

First Toddycats! workshop for 2005

Looks like the fish that got away but really just the refresher course for the Pasir Panjang Heritage guides from Toddycats and SAJC Green Club. I ran through the major aspects of history, geography and biology of Pasir Panjang.

There was enough back and forth between us, but in case they were in a stupor, the team was on their hands and knees after to produce a mahjong paper sketch-summary to support a short presentation. So battle lines were drawn, plants and animals depicted in varying degrees of imagination and fact. The show and tell session that targetted either a senior government official or a 10 year old child with a notoriously short attention span went off well even though the new ones were thrust forward to present. Well, I felt encouraged, at any rate!

Their presentation was subjected to some good natured cross-examination and then a short visit to the Ridge before the warm up was complete. The guides will use the Faculty of Science's family day as further warm up for the battle anniversary walk in February and finally really work during Heritage Fest 2005 in July.

I am supposed to leave the project manager and the guides well alone this year, and I have no real reservations. There are already many relatively seasoned hands from last year's Heritage Fest 2004 and the Faculty of Science's 75th anniversary celebration tours.

They might face a challenge getting the family groups from NUS to Bt Chandu in one hour, especially if the imagined 200 participants materialise; but it'll provide a good dynamic situation for them to handle; the more problems the better. And I'll just wait for the debrief.

First posted on Otterman speaks, 23 Jan 2005.