Monday, 8 December 2008

LIFE photo - remains of the Duke of Kent

When Princess Marina, the Duchess of Kent visited Singapore in 1952, the Duke who accompanied her was her son, not husband.

Her husband, Prince George had died in an aircraft accident in 1942.

Amongst LIFE magazine's released images hosted by Google are these two by Hans Wild taken in 1942 in London.

"An RAF ambulance transporting the remains of the Duke of Kent, George Albert Nichlas Kent."

"RAF officers saluting Duke George Albert Nicholas Kent's casket as the paulbearers pass by."

Friday, 10 October 2008

The Battle at Pasir Panjang - by Cris

Blogger Cris took time off on the eve of Hari Raya to visit Reflections at Bukit Chandu. He blogged about it and concludes:

I am definitely glad that I had made some time to visit this museum because I have learnt many things. I always have this one sided minded thinking that the only Chinese and Indians fought and sacrificed to protect the country, but the visit to Reflections to Bukit Chandu, has really opened up my eyes and the way I think because the Malays had also done their part in protecting Singapore, just as much as the Chinese and the Indians. That is why racial harmony is very important in Singapore because we cannot afford to be divided in times of war, but be united to protect our very own country till the very end. It was the sacrifice that our forefathers gave, in exchange for a better Singapore in the future, and this is why we have a prosperous nation today.

Read the rest of Cris' detailed post here (blog no longer available).

Friday, 3 October 2008

Another Pasir Panjang Pillbox post

Zermine, blogging at abandonedplaces, has a short photo spread of the Pasir Panjang Pillbox. More photos of her exploration here.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

The Pasir Panjang Pillbox

RongC passes by the Pasir Panjang pillbox often and wonders what it was like to have been there during the Battle of Pasir Panjang:

This particular WWII monument certainly had seen its fair share of action; I can picture the scenes some 60+ years ago, with enemy forces creeping around the area and fighters from the Malay Regiment inside the pillbox manning the machine guns and gunning down whoever had approached it on one hand, and worrying that they might be surprised by the sheer numbers of the enemy force on the other hand.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Clementi labelled as Pasir Panjang?

Clementi in Pasir Panjang

Lam Chun See, at Good Morning Yesterday, asks a question based on a 1980s street directory: Why is Clementi labelled as Pasir Panjang?

As you can see from Chun See's scan (above) the area around Clementi Road and Ulu Pandan Road is labelled thus.

IceMoon, having read Chun See's post, comes up with two possible answers: electoral boundaries or postal districts.

However, he notes that there are issues with both theories.

How big is (or was) the Pasir Panjang vicinity and how was the area demarcated?

Monday, 19 May 2008

Southern Ridges Visual Guide

I made the long walk through the Southern Ridges last Saturday. Here is my visual guide to the walk.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Telok Blangah Hill Park now linked with Mount Faber, Kent Ridge Park

Bridging Ridges

This nice infographic in yesterday's Sunday Times heralds the linking of the Southern Ridges via two bridges. Rather than letting it disappear in archives, we are reproducing it here. (Click to see it full size.)

The Pasir Panjang Guides are familiar with the eastern section of this walk, from the University Cultural Centre at NUS' Kent Ridge Campus to Reflections at Bukit Chandu in Kent Ridge Park. The unmarked road in NUS on the map is Kent Ridge Road. The short section indicated without any greenery - which is inaccurate as there are rain trees and tembusus - is part of Kent Ridge Crescent, leading to a short section of Clementi Road before turning into Clementi Woods Park.

Looks like it's time to whip out those walking shoes!


Sunday Times, May 11, 2008

Two new bridges = a 9km scenic walk
Telok Blangah Hill Park now linked with Mount Faber, Kent Ridge Park

By Teo Cheng Wee

Spanning 274m across Henderson Road, the 36m-high wave-shaped Henderson Waves is Singapore's highest pedestrain bridge. The other bridge, Alexandra Arch, is located in Alexandra Road. -- ST PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM
The wet morning yesterday did not dampen the excitement of Telok Blangah resident Habib Ismail.

He was among 500 residents who watched Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong officially open two pedestrian bridges - Henderson Waves and Alexandra Arch.

With these bridges, Telok Blangah Hill Park is now linked to Mount Faber on one side and Kent Ridge Park on the other.

An avid walker, Mr Habib, 44, a father of two, joined Mr Lee and the other residents on a tour of the bridges.

The bridges complete a 9km chain of greenery in the Southern Ridges, which consist primarily of three large hill parks - Mount Faber, Telok Blangah Hill Park and Kent Ridge Park.

Henderson Waves, at a height of 36m, is Singapore's highest pedestrian bridge. A wave-shaped, steel-and-timber structure, it spans 274m across Henderson Road. The other bridge, Alexandra Arch, spans 80m across Alexandra Road.

Bridging Ridges
The parks were previously separated by roads and wooded vegetation. Now, one can walk ridge-to-ridge, starting from HarbourFront MRT and ending at West Coast Park.

In 2002, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said it would link up parks in the Southern Ridges as part of the Parks and Waterbodies and Identity Plans.

The project, which took two years to complete, cost $25.5 million.

Apart from the two bridges, the Southern Ridges now also boast the Forest Walk, a 1.3km-long elevated walkway that cuts through secondary forest at Telok Blangah Hill Park; and Marang Trail, which links HarbourFront MRT to Mount Faber.

Mr Lee also officiated the opening of the $13 million Horticulture Park - or HortPark for short.

With 20 theme gardens, HortPark is South-east Asia's first one-stop gardening and lifestyle hub.

The 23ha park, which has been open since December last year, took two years to build and also serves as a park connector between Telok Blangah Hill Park and Kent Ridge Park.

In his speech, Mr Lee noted that such projects 'provide a first-class living environment for all Singaporeans'.

He also announced upcoming plans to link the Southern Ridges to the Keppel Waterfront as part of a broader plan to develop a recreational and leisure hub in the south.

This includes having a park connector from Alexandra Arch to Labrador Park, building a mangrove boardwalk at Berlayer Creek and having a waterfront boardwalk that connects Bukit Chermin to VivoCity, with waterfront views along the entire stretch of Keppel Bay.

Details of these plans will be released soon, the URA said.

About 1 million visitors to the Southern Ridges are expected annually, and with the bridges open 24 hours a day, lovebirds might be expected to make a beeline for them after dark, especially as Henderson Waves offers panoramic views of the city and southern islands.

Mr Habib, a senior research supervisor, had stopped his daily jogs at Telok Blangah Hill Park due to work commitments. He is digging out his sneakers again.

'I'm making plans to walk along the new walk with friends,' he said with a smile.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Bricks from Alexandra Brickworks

Bricks from Alexandra Brickworks

Alvin, over at the Tiong Bahru Estate blog, spotted bricks from Alexandra Brickworks. These came from a chimney (yes, you read that right) of a flat, which the owner had hacked.

Alexandra Brickworks

As you can see from the map* above, the brickworks was located at the south eastern portion of Pasir Panjang, near the corner of Pasir Panjang Road and Alexandra Road, approximately where the PSA Building currently stands.

You can view a painting of the Alexandra Brickworks by Mr Ng Eng Teng at The Literature, Culture and Society of Singapore.

Alvin also points out that bricks from Alexandra were used in our now demolished National Library.

* Dol, Ramli . The Malay Regiment, 1933-1942. Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 38(1):199-243, 1965.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

The fire and death on 'Opium Hill'

Note: I saw a reference to this article in Fortress Singapore - The Battlefield Guide. Having found the original article in the microfilm archives at the National Library, I made a copy. However, the quality of the reproduction is poor. So, I have transcribed the text of this article for posterity.

The Straits Times, p 6
Monday, 13 February 1967

Tomorrow the Malay Regiment commemorates the 25th anniversary of its
gallant defence of the western salient in the Battle of Singapore.

From war despatches and memories of the few who survived this brutal engagement. This story is told by Haji Mubin Sheppard.

The fire and death on 'Opium Hill'

Lt. General A. F. Percival's long awaited despatch on the Operations of Malaya Command from Dec. 8, 1941 to Feb. 15, 1942. was published in the Second Supplement of the London Gazette of Friday Feb. 20, 1948.

The despatch covered 100 pages of print and gave a detailed account of the campaign which ended with the surrender of Singapore to Lt. General Yamashita.

Two sections of the Despatch made special commendatory references to the Malay Regiment, and are quoted below:

"Section LIV. Events of Feb 13 1942: The main Japanese offensive during Feb 13 developed along Pasir Panjang Ridge on the left of our position [Labrador Fire Command]. Here the Japanese 18th Division, which had fought in the Mersing area and later taken part in the initial attack against Singapore island, came into action.


"After two hours of heavy shelling and mortaring, it attacked the Malay Regiment which was holding this feature. The latter fought magnificently, but suffered heavy casualties, and by the afternoon the enemy had reached the Gap, a dominating position where Buona Vista Road crosses the ride..."

Section LV: Events of Feb 14, 1942: During the day the Japanese renewed their attacks. Their main thrust was again made against the western front of the southern area.

"Here heavy fighting at close quarters went on throughout the day, in which the Loyals and the Malay Regiment especially distinguished themselves.

"By the end of the day our troops had been driven back by the weight of the enemy attack to the line Alexandra -- Gillman Barracks -- Keppel Golf Course."

The Battle of Opium Hill is one of the examples of heavy fighting at close quarters, to which General Percival referred, and tomorrow is its 25th anniversary.

In this battle, 'C' Company, 1st Battalion, the Malay Regiment, though depleted by casualties on the previous day and heavily outnumbered, stubbornly held a low hill at the eastern edge of Pasir Panjang Ridge, near the Government Opium Factory, throughout the day.

Shock troops

The hill was only captured when all the officers except one had been killed and the majority of the men had either been killed or wounded.

The Japanese had succeeded in landing about 13,000 shock troops on the north west shore of Singapore island on the night of Feb. 8. They quickly doubled their strength the next day, although they were prevented from repairing the 70-foot gap in the Johore Causeway by artillery fire.

Japanese light artillery and over 150 light and medium tanks were ferried across the narrow straits in landing craft to assist the offensive.

The Japanese Air Force was in complete control of the air.

The initial Japanese assault was directed at Tengah Air Base and was continued along the western side of the island.


Their rapid advance inland made it necessary for the Malay Regiment, which consisted of two battalions, the second of which was only formed on Dec. 1 1941, and was very much under strength, to take up new positions facing inland.

They had originally been alloted the South Western sector of the Coastal Defence, in the event of a sea-borne attack. They now defended the line of Ayer Raja Road and later the Pasir Panjang ridge which ran almost due east to west, separating Ayer Rajah Road and Pasir Panjang (Coast) Road.

The ridge had no prepared positions and the officers and men lay in the open along low scrub, day and night.

Friday, Feb. 13, 1942 opened with aerial bombing and a heavy mortar artillery barrage. Artillery fire continued throughout the day. The whole sky was clouded with smoke from the burning Normanton oil depot, which lay a short distance to the north of the ridge. Many patches of dry undergrowth also caught fire.

The first battalion headquarters at the Gap received a direct hit, which seriously wounded the Adjustant Capt. Wort, and three other officers.

Direct hit

Another direct hit wrecked the signal H.Q. of the 1st. Batallion. To maintain contact with his companies, Lt. Col. Andre, the Commanding officer and his second in command Major Denaro, made frequent personal visits to the forward troops.

Part of Mataguchi's 18th. Division made a frontal attackon the Ridge during the afternoon, and eventually gained control of the central feature, -- point 270. They then turned west to Pasir Panjang Village, which was defended by 'C' Company, 1st. Bn.

C. Coy was supplemented by remnants of 'A' Company, 1st. Bn. which had been shattered earlier in the day and by two Bren carriers of the Loyal Regiment.

Though outnumbered and almost isolated, they stubbornly held their positions. The Japanese finally withdrew late at night.


During this engagement, Private Ya'acob bin Bidin of 'C' Coy. and another Malay soldier stalked an enemy mortar position, from which the company had suffered a number of casualties. After crawling through burning undergrowth they silenced the mortar with their Bren gun.

Pte. Ya'acob was later awarded the Military Medal.

At midnight, 'C' Coy. was extricated from their isolated position by ten Bren carriers and were alloted a new area of defence on a low feature near the eastern edge of Pasir Panjang Ridge -- Point 226. This has become known as Opium Hill because of its proximity to the Government opium factory.

It is with this background of unrelieved pressure and mounting casualties that 'C' Company's gallantry can be fully appreciated.

Capt. H.R. Rix, 'C' Company Commander, held a commission in the Peral Bn. of the F.M.S. Volunteer Force and had joined the Malay Regiment in August 1941.

He arranged his four platoons in the darkness, to provide all round defence. He had taken over the command of one platoon, after the death in action of its commander. He sited this with Company headquarters, facing north west.

Lieut. Adnan bin Saidi and his platoon faced due north. Lieut. Stephen faced south west, and Lieut. Abbas bin Abdul Manan and his platoon faced south east.

There were no trenches and no protection of any kind. The company had a Bofors anti-tank gun, a 2-inch mortar, Lewis guns, hand grenades and rifles, but the Bren gun which Pte. Ya'acob had used so effectively the previous day had been put out of action.

No sleep

No one had any sleep that night. The only food or water which was available was the hard biscuit and the contents of the water-bottles which each man carried.

The Japanese began to advance along the ridge soon after first light on Feb. 14, but they were soon made aware of the presence of 'C' Coy on point 226.

An enemy barrage of artillery and mortar fire followed, which further depleted the defenders' number, but failed to affect their morale.

Capt. Rix visited his other platoons at intervals, and his personal bravery helped to sustain the determination to resist the enemy. Second Lieut. Nordin, operating the Bofors anti-tank gun prevented an advance by Japanese light tanks along the coast road. The enemy decided to attack on foot.


The assault on Opium Hill began early in the afternoon. It opened with a ruse. A detachment of Japanese were dressed up as Punjabi troops and advanced in close order, pretending to be friends, in front of the northern sector. Lieut Adnan quickly decided that there could be no genuine Punjabi stragglers in that area and he personally operated a Lewis Gun, which in one long burst, killed or wounded more than 20 of the enemy.

The remainder fled. Describing the incident to Lieut. Abbas soon afterwards, Lieut. Adnan said, 'After that, I shall not mind if I die here.'

An interval followed, during which the Japanese prepared for an all round attack in overwhelming strength. When it came, the enemy advanced along the ridge from the west, and up the slopes 'crawling like monkeys'.

They were held back for a time with Lewis gun fire and grenades, but the three western platoons were finally overrun by sheer weight of numbers.

Captain Rix was shot and his body was later found with the bodies of 12 Malay soldiers who had died fighting beside him.


Lieut. Adnan was shot in hand to hand fighting and then bayonetted. His body was hung up by the Japanese from a nearby tree. No one was allowed to cut it down. Six other ranks, including Corporal Din who was captured in the final assault, were tied up and bayonetted.

The other five died, but Corporal Din, though badly injured, succeeded in crawling away after dark.

At the eastern edge of the ridge, 2 Lieut. Abbas (now Brigadier) and his platoon fought until only about half a dozen men survived uninjured.

He then, led them in a desperate attempt to withdraw to Battalion H.Q.

Burning oil, from Normanton Oil Depot which flowed down a wide drain running past his flank, had served as a partial shield from the Japanese attack, but it now presented a fiery obstacle in the line of his withdrawal.


Japanese bullets left the men no option but to jump. Four of the exhausted soldiers failed to clear the drain. Two men fell into the flaming oil and were burnt to death. Two others, though they had reached the edge had to be pulled out by Lieut. Abbas and another soldier and wer unable to continue owing to burns.

Lieut. Abbas and three of his men eventually reached Col. Andre's H.Q. on a low hill near Alexandra Brickworks, after dark and reported the action in which 'C' Company had been virtually wiped out.

Many regiments include the names of famous engagements in which they played a prominent part in the list of their Battle Honours.

The Battle of Pasir Panjang Ridge, which culminated in the Battle of Opium Hill, on Feb. 13 and Feb. 14 1942 deserves to be held in honoured memory for all time in the archives of the Malay Regiment and in the history of the nation.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Wikipedia: Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent

According to Wikipedia, this painting is by Philip Alexius de László, 1934. She was in Singapore in 1952.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Haw Par Villa

This may not be part of the Pasir Panjang Commemorative Walk we do each February or the July Heritage Trails. However, as a child, one of my memories of Pasir Panjang (PP) was of Haw Par Villa. There really was not much of a reason for me to traipse over to PP unless we had some relatives from the USA or Anambas Islands who came to visit. This was on my mom's list of 'TO-SEE' places for our guests. Much to my chagrin, I often had to go along with her to Haw Par Villa, especially when the rellies from Anambas came over.

What was it about Haw Par Villa that I hated? Let's see, it had to be the Seven Chambers of Hell. No trip was ever complete without moral lessons from my mom about why I shouldn't misbehave. The first time I was old enough to remember the Seven Chambers, I had nightmares 2 nights in a row. As I got to primary school, I told my mom I would wait for her elsewhere when she went to that ghoulish sector.I am sure every kid felt the same.

Everything else about Haw Par Villa seems so retro and kitschy in today's context. I have never re-visited it since it became the short-lived amusement-theme park in the late 1990s. As one website put it, it is 'serene and creepy' at the same time. I agree. It's as if ghosts from the pasts are going to pop out any minute and sneak up on an unsuspecting visitor. Today, when one drives past it, it seems so out of place, amidst the condominiums and expressway that has grown around it.

We do tend to forget that the park had an illustrious past. I remember as a kid that it was the one of two similar parks in Asia, built by the Aw Brothers of Tiger Balm fame. The other one was in Hong Kong, which, if memory serves me well, was demolished sometime in the 1980s. I remember too, hearing from my dad, a taxi driver and Oi Yee that the Aw family also had a swimming pool in the area, that was opened to members of the public.

I found some photos from the 60s of my parents and cousins at Haw Par Villa on a picnic. When I get a break, I'll scan some of it here. I have been wondering since I became a part of the PPHG, if the gardens were built in 1937, would it not have seen much of the battles of WWII in the area? Any comments on that anyone?

Friday, 25 January 2008

Back to School!

Pasir Panjang Guides re-examine ridge plants. See "Plants of Pasir Panjang," by Kenneth Pinto. Toddycats, 13 Nov 2007.

We have had two sessions on plants late last year, and one session on history and the map last night. All this in preparation for the 2008 walks.

Pasir Panjang Training - Simpoh Ayer drawing

Musings of a PPHG newbie

Till today, I still don't quite know how I stumbled into the group. Kenneth will probably attribute it to my 'too nice and can't say no' ways while Siva will say it's due to my 'aunty and kay poh' nature. It's just one of life's little mysteries. I suppose I have always wanted to carry on with some heritage and public education gig, though I have left both fields for quite awhile now.

My first 'encounter' with Siva was after some awards thing at the Grassroots Club. I had been trying to reach him as I had to get the logistics going for RBC's July Heritage Trail. He didn't seem to respond to my emails, which got me into quite a quandary with my higher ups. I sure felt like a sandwich then! When we did meet, Siva mumbled something like 'you are the kancheong person' and that's when things got rolling. I met everyone else thereafter when we ran the the trails and the rest is history!

I have never been a sciencey person, don't think I will. Maybe except when it comes to baking. But the first time I pounded the pavements during 2006' trails, I was impressed by this dedicated group of volunteers. They were friendly, knowledgeable and passionate about their craft. The faces of the most jaded participant at the end of each walk was enough to see they had successfully told their stories. So 2 successful runs of Heritage Trails, 1 September WWII Commemorative later, I find myself a probabtionary guide with the PPGH. Don't even remember how I ended up here!

Regardless, being a part of the group gets me out of my shell, which is in danger of being focused on only work (or lack there of) and job hunting at the moment. As I get older, I realise I don't really hang out with many friends or club or party or do social stuff. Volunteering with PPHG keeps my mind active and my social life from dying out.

More importantly, I think I have come to enjoy the friendships made with the rest of the PPGH. I must say I was extremely touched when Airani,Anand, Oi Yee and Kenneth took time off from their busy schedules to pop by my dad's wake. They lifted my spirits during some very dark days for me. So if there was a silver lining from my previous (work)life, it would have been invited to be a part of PPHG.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Guiding dates in 2008

Battle of Pasir Panjang Commemorative Walk
Sun 10 Feb 2008: 7am
Passive advertisement on Habitatnews.

International Museum Day
Sat 24 May 2008: 5.30pm, 6.30pm
To update 2007 webpage. We will not be including MOFF this year as participants are too tired to really explore the gallery, which does not do it credit.

Heritage Fest
Sat 19 Jul 2008 & Sat 26 Jul 2008: 8am - 12pm
To update the 2007 webpage.

Talking about Pasir Panjang Heritage

I was at a workshop for teachers last Friday at the Singapore Management University (SMU). During that session, NHB revealed the interesting heritage calendar of theirs.

I was there, supposedly to give pointers about heritage projects. However, my talk was preceeded by none other than the Pei Hwa Secondary students and teacher from the Jalan Kayu Trail. During their rehearsal I realised they were going to cover similar issues so I hastily amended my slides while watching them.

Indeed the Pei Hwa students and teacher did an excellent job of covered all the learning points the audience possibly needed to hear about. I enjoyed the presentation and could empathise very well with their experience!

By the time I went up on stage, the teachers had been listening to a lot of serious stuff since the first presentation about NHB activities. So asking them to to sit back and relax worked very well as the final element. I had decided to resort to pure story-telling about Pasir Panjang. By emphasising stories, I hope it would remind them about the core around which we build our activities.

I had actually been scratching my head right up to the moment as to the exact delivery method and point to emphasise. However, once I went up on stage, their faces provided the feedback I needed and we had fun.

The teachers responded very well and several came to say they enjoyed it. That was good to know and I thought even as they thanked me that the teachers probably knew everyone needs encouragement and positive feedback was an important thing to provide.

I also ran in to our friends from the National Archives - Stanley, Sujin and Eileen. We conspired as usual, and since I had worked out my annual plan for Toddycats, I was able to confirm the 2008 dates really early this time.

The next post will have it!

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Penrod Dean (video) on NAS webpage

In response to news of Penrod Dean's passing in 2006, the National Archive of Singapore posted a webpage called "A Tribute to Lt. Penrod Vance Dean (19 Nov 1914 - 16 May 2006)." This includes two short video clips of him honouring the memory of the Malay Regiment soldiers.

Penrod Dean video, 400 pixels

You can view the longer version of the clips at the shows screened at Reflections at Bukti Chandu and Memories at Old Ford Factory.

Thanks to Kenneth for highlighting this earlier.