Sunday, February 22, 2015

Battle for Singapore Heritage Tour: Attap Valley Bunker Tour

Watery path towards the bunker

Getting to the Attap Valley bunker was no easy feat. Yes, I initially thought that the provision of boots for us to wear was a bit of an overkill. But then, I started to realise that this visit was not your run-of-the-mill walk.

The first sign that things are not as normal as it seems started straight at the entrance. Mounted on the gates was the sign "No Trespassing". There's even a makeshift guard house to ensure that unauthorised people are denied entry. Next, there are no tarred roads, only mud roads. Now I'm starting to see why rubber boots were needed.

Kelvin the guide

Kelvin, our bubbly guide, was on-hand to provide the walking commentary. You can sense from a mile away that he's one guy who loves his job. From a 800 metres walk in, we then made a left turn towards the Number 4 bunker located below Talbots Hill.

The British-built bunkers was first constructed by building the main structure before the top of the bunkers were covered up and, thus becoming Talbots Hill. This ammunition bunker is one of seven ammunition bunkers that were laid into that hill. There were other hills with bunkers that made up the entire ammunition depot. Altogether, there were 18 bunkers in all. (1) During the Japanese occupation, the bunkers were used by the Japanese to store their own ammunition. (2)

Main Entrance to No. 4 Bunker

The bunker blended in well with its surroundings. Trees were growing above it, while overgrown shrubs helped to cover the cold concrete exterior walls. I'm not sure if the shrubs were present at that time, but definitely by cutting itself into a hill, the British had wanted to make sure that it was hard for enemy's aircraft to spot these bunkers. 

The ammunition storage depot is also located close to the Sembawang Naval Base and to move these large shells, it was said that there were railway tracks with carts to safely move them towards the naval base. (2) The bunkers must have been a hive of activity then.

Entrance to the bunker

After more than 70 years, the two-metre thick steel doors have succumbed to rust and wear. One of the doors has came out of its hinges, frozen in its final position.

Ankle-deep muddy water
To enter the bunker, we had to go pass the ankle-deep water. Kelvin warned us that we would feel the coldness of the water through our boots. Indeed! I was the first in line to enter the bunker and I had wanted to do that to feel the sense of solitude even in the midst of a crowd. The only light that I have was the light from my camera phone. It was a choice of whether I should use my light or take pictures. I chose the latter as I knew that there were others who would have stronger lighting than what I have.

Curved Entrance towards the main storage area

The walkway towards the bunker was still rather silty. From the water mark that was left on the wall, it seemed like the muddy water actually reached to a waist level. As you can see, there's a slight curve to walkway. This is to ensure that if there's an explosion, military personnel who ran towards these walkway would survive.

The inside of the bunker

We arrived at the elevated open bunker. As you can see from the photo above, the bunker is big enough to be a garage for at least six cars. To allow fresh air to come in, the British had incorporated an air vent that draws air from outside. 

Original lighting within the bunker
Above our heads were thick corrugated metal to ensure that items within the bunker were well protected. Many of the fittings were originals. Firstly, the lighting covers that were mounted on the ceiling of the bunker. Some of these lights were also mounted on the walls. It is thought that this was done after the war. In truth, that makes it much easier if one wants to change a burnt bulb.

Marshall, Fleming & Co. Ltd Gantry Crane

Instead of manually moving the explosives, the gantry crane aids military personnel in carrying crates of explosives and moving them neatly into position. A metal plate states that the crane was produced in 1937. 

Another interesting fitting was the pipe that was located along the walkway. I believe that these are pipes that were placed there to help pump away water. The pipe had a year 1936 stamped on it.

It was a real throw back into history as many things within the bunker laid as it is. It is unknown to public as to what had happened to the other six bunkers. Are they still around or have they been covered over and no longer accessible to public?

This outing also reminds us that there're still much to see and discover on our little red dot.


1. "The Nipah Palm, or Attap, lends its name to Attap Valley Road and Jalan Nipah. Its unripe seed, or attap chee, is soaked in syrup before becoming an additive to ice kachang, a local dessert. A mangrove palm, it can be found in the swamps of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Pasir Ris Park's mangrove area, Pulau Ubin, and Pulau Tekong." (3)

2. The bunker was not an unknown entity. In 2003, JTC Corporation proposed that the Number 4 bunker be converted to either a club or a restaurant. (4)


1. Zaccheus, M. January 29, 2015. Pre-war British bunkers to open its doors to public. The Straits Times. Retrieved on: February 21, 2015.

2. Zaccheus, M. January 28, 2015. Secret British bunker in Woodlands will be open to public for the first time in 70 years. The Straits Times. Retrieved on: February 21, 2015.

3. What's in a name? Going back to the roots. July 9, 2007. The Straits Times. Retrieved on: February 25, 2015.

4. Tan, H. Y. August 28, 2003. Doorway to a club or restaurant. The Straits Times. Retrieved on: February 25, 2015.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Battle for Singapore Heritage Tour: Sime Road - The Hellfire Corner

Sime Road - A golf course, a British Airbase, a WW2 battlefield and a British internment camp. The change of its use took place within the periods of 1942 to 1945.

Once again, I had the privilege of having Jon Cooper as my guide. As we stood on the overhead bridge, Jon started his story with the modern day traffic running below us. Getting into the mood of things was important and Jon started off by reading J. S. Cosford's Line of Lost Lives. His very clear and descriptive anecdotes helped me draw a mental picture of what happened in the February 1942.

The Big Battle

The Suffolk Regiment was tasked to defend Sime Road and the surrounding MacRitchie Reservoir. The latter was of great importance as the British knew that if the reservoirs were to fall to their enemies, the battle of Singapore would be as good as finished.

The Suffolk Regiment arrived in Singapore on 29 January 1942, just about three weeks before its fall.  Private Thomas Marks was one of those from the Regiment who were moved to shore up the defence of Sime Road. Pte Marks barely knew who he was fighting against and exactly where he was fighting and sooner than he had expected, he became a Prisoner-of-War. (1)

Jon started us off at the overhead bridge. He pointed to the crossroad called "Hellfire Corner". It was a point that saw much activity both from the British and Japanese. There were British truck movements on the ground and that made it a wonderful playground for the Japanese fighter pilots as they had a choice of gunning down the soldiers or tearing into the metal mobile columns.

Other than from the air, the Japanese Army pushed from the West of Singapore. In a normal circumstance, the golf course should have proved to be a difficult ground to take over. But without the support of tanks and fighter planes, the vast open grounds made the British fighter sitting ducks for the Japanese tanks. The troops pulled back to Hill 130 where they made their last stand.

By then, the Japanese were dead tired and making it to Hill 130 was indeed an uphill task. The Japanese troops must have felt that it would most probably be their last battle and at dusk, the Japanese soldiers launched an attack on the hill, supported by their tanks led by Hotsaku Shimada. (5) Hill 130 soon fell. More information can be found in a post seen in the Bukit Brown website. (6)

Pre-War Presence

Prior to the Battle of Singapore, the Sime Road area was a British military enclave that saw the presence of its Army and Royal Air Force headquarters there. This enclave was also where General Arthur Percival and his officers put together their battle plan for the Malaya and Singapore. (2)

There was also a golf course ran by the Race Course Golf Club that was opened in 1932 within the MacRitchie catchment area. (3)

The Green House
There was also a building known as the Green House, headquarters of the British joint forces. As the name suggests, the building was previously painted green to reduce the chances of air detection. (4)

After the fall of the British, the building became the headquarters of the Japanese Camp Commander in Singapore.

Coming up, Part 2 about the POW Camp at Sime Road.


1. BBC History. December 28, 2005. My Service Life in the Suffolk Regiment Part Two - Far East. Retrieved on: February 15, 2015.

2. bte Zakaria, F. Sime Road Camp. Retrieved on: February 15, 2015.

3. Tan, K. 2001.Singapore Island Country Club (SICC). Retrieved on:

4. Maree, V. May 19, 2014. Guide to Sime Road, Singapore: All about the former WW2 camp. Expat Living Singapore. Retrieved on: February 15, 2015.

5. 'White flag came up in the thick of battle'. October 18, 1981. The Straits Times. P8.

6. Missing Amongst the dead. February 17, 2013. All Things Bukit Brown. Retrieved on: February 15, 2015.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Battle for Singapore Heritage Tours: Adam Park

This year marks the 73rd Anniversary of the fall of Singapore. In February 1942, bloody battles were fought on all sides of Singapore. Through the various tours organised by Singapore's National Heritage Board (NHB), I had the opportunity to re-live some of these battles, starting with the Adam Park Tour led by the very animated and energetic Mr Jon Cooper, curator at the Changi Museum and founder of the Adam Park Project.

Jon had so many stories to tell that the entire tour truly came alive! We stopped at various houses of interest. The first bungalow we stopped at was a very prominent one - 7, Adam Park. Facing Adam Road, the bungalow was used as a British Command Centre. The 1st Battalion Cambridgeshire Regiment 18th Division was tasked to prevent the Japanese advancement. 

It was said that the Cambridgeshire fought with true distinction. Arriving in Singapore only on January 29, 1942, the soldiers led by Lieutenant Colonel G. G. Carpenter, took up their defence around Adam Park on February 12, 1942. (1) Shortly after, the British soldiers came face-to-face with the Japanese opponents. The Cambridgeshire lost little ground in the ensuing battle and was said to be "the last to cease fire when Singapore surrendered". (1) 

Jon, being an Archeologist, was able to pick up a large amount of British empty cartridges at 8, Adam Park. It was believed that the Cambridgeshire sand-bagged the base of the house and pointed their weapons towards the road. It must have been a fierce firefight between the two forces at Adam Road.

We were then brought to 19 and 20 Adam Park. It was said that a bloody battle was fought between these two bungalows. The British had occupied 19 Adam Park in the night. With 20 Adam Park unoccupied, the Japanese moved into it and by the morning, all of them had new neighbours. Both sides used whatever weapons they had to try and dislodge each other. After a good fight, the British finally forced the Japanese soldiers out of 20 Adam Park.

The house at the end of the road - 16 Adam Park. This property has its own golf course and that was where the Japanese had put in a sneak attack too. The fight was taken on the lawn of this bungalow.

When the British surrendered, the entire Adam Park was turned into a Prisoner-of-War (POWs) camp. As the POWs were locked in, they created their own chapel. Jon deduced that through his research and studying of aerial maps, the likelihood of where the chapel was located seems to point towards 11 Adam Park. There was even a canteen on the ground level of the bungalow that was managed by a folks.

This was indeed a very good tour of Adam Park; led by a very good guide in Jon; and at a very good time - in the lead-up to the commemoration of fall of Singapore on 15 Feb 1942.


1.  Afflerbach, H., Strachan, H. (Eds). 2012. How Fighting Ends: A History of Surrender. Oxford University Press: Great Britain.

2. Regiment Gets Freedom. October 16, 1946. The Singapore Free Press. P3.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

[Transportation] Bus Depot at Sungei Seletar: What Was on This Land?

Recently, the government had announced that they will be building a bus depot close to Lentor Avenue.It is slated to be completed in 2017. The proposed site is where Lorong Kelopak and Track 24 were located. Lorong Kelopak was first seen in Singapore maps some time around 1969. Both the roads have now been expunged. But really, what was on this land?

I met Mr Chew, 71 who has set up a little shop at the back of his lorry. He was hammering away on metal sheets. He shared that he was making portable BBQ pits and he had in the past, made metallic household items such as metal containers and such. Mr Chew has set up his little business under the Seletar Expressway flyover. He has been there for more than 10 years and was able to provide me with nuggets of information about the place.

1. Illegal Distillery

Those were the days where people are willing to get high on a cheap and they did it through the illegal production of samsu. In 1976, there was a big alcohol bust where 670 litres of self-made alcohol was seized. The customs officers were not able to make any arrest. (1)

2. Chiap Seng Fishing Pond

This popular fishing pond was located at Track 24, Yio Chu Kang. (2) The company ran its own fishing competition as early as the 1950s. (3) The Serangoon Gardens Community Centre had also organised a fishing competition there. (4)

3. Dairy Farm

Mr Chew shared about the dairy farm in the vicinity and true to what he had shared, the largest dairy farm in Singapore was located there. Managed by the North Indian community called Biharis, they first brought over their livestock in the 1900s. The farm was located in Kampong Sungei Seletar. The farm finally saw its last "moo" as their lease of the land had run out. (5) 

4. Lower Seletar Reservoir

The reservoir, formerly known as Sungei Seletar Reservoir, was formed when the river was dammed in 1983. The cost of the dam came up to S$62 million (6) and was completed in 1985. (7) The final naming of the reservoir was given in 1992. (8)

Other than this river being the longest, it is also amongst the oldest place in Singapore where people lived at. I've written about the Orang Seletar community who were present even before the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles.

5. Indian Temple

Mr Chew said that there is an Indian temple located within the Army training area. He said that the Indian community would usually seek permission from the Army to visit that unmanned temple. 


1.Kutty, N. G. August 6, 1976. Customs smash jungle moonshiners. The Straits Times. Page 9.

2. Popular Fishing Pond. July 18, 1982. The Straits Times. Page 9.

3. The Straits Times. July 7, 1959. Advertisement. Page 11.

4. Fishing Competition. November 22, 1978. The Straits Times. Page 8.

5. Chew, Y. F. June 11, 1984. Singapore Cowboys. Singapore Monitor - Afternoon Edition. Page 4.

6. Toh, E. January 7, 1991. Loh & Loh clinches $38m land reclamation deal. The Straits Times. 

7. Reservoir ready. November 6, 1985. The Straits Times. Page 10.

8. Tay, S. C. July 23, 2011. Walk This Way. The Straits Times.