The Vanished Pasir Ris Farmways and Pet Farms

The area between Pasir Ris Park and Lorong Halus Wetland used to have three roads named farmway – Pasir Ris Farmway 1, Pasir Ris Farmway 2 and Pasir Ris Farmway 3. Only Pasir Ris Farmway 1 is left today.

In the fifties, the swampy Lorong Halus was used by the Municipal Commission for sewage treatment and refuse disposal. On its east were scattered villages and small vegetable, cattle and goat farms. In 1970, the government designated Lorong Halus as a sanitary landfill in Singapore, taking in almost half of Singapore’s rubbish output by the early eighties.

Due to the pollutions, foul smells and illegal dumping, Lorong Halus, for many years, left a poor impression to many people. After almost three decades, the Lorong Halus Dumping Ground was fully filled and was officially closed on 31 March 1999. The offshore islands of Pulau Semakau-Pulau Seking was selected as Singapore’s next landfill.

In the 2000s, Sungei Serangoon was dammed to form a reservoir. The Public Utilities Board (PUB) decided to transform the former Lorong Halus Dumping Ground into a wetland. Opened in 2011, the new Lorong Halus Wetland serves as a bio-remediation system for the reservoir, treating and removing any contaminants in the groundwater. A Lorong Halus Bridge was also built to connect Punggol to Lorong Halus Wetland and Pasir Ris Farmway 3.

Other than the landfill and villages, the region also saw the rise of fish farms and boom of seafood, ornamental fish and aquatic plant-related industries in the seventies and eighties. The area was further diversified in trades when it became home to many firewood and charcoal dealers and shops, who had relocated from Tanjong Rhu, in the eighties.

By the early nineties, the area was expanded through a series of land reclamation projects, and roads such as Pasir Ris Farmways were constructed. Pasir Ris Farmway 3 was initially called Pasir Ris Drive 12, before it was renamed in 2004.

Pet farms began plying their trades in the vicinity after the mid-nineties. By the 2000s, the Pasir Ris Farmways had become a popular go-to place for animal lovers. Besides the tropical fish farms, there were also numerous dog farms where puppies were bred locally.

More than a dozen pet farms had previously made their homes along the Pasir Ris Farmways, including The Pet Hotel, Ericson Pet Farm, Le Doggy Specialist, Topbreed Pet Farm, Kyoto Koi, TROP Aquarium, Koyo Aquatic Centre, Aqua Fauna Centre, OTF Aquarium Farm, Mainland Tropical Fish Farm, Tropical Fish International and Irwana Aquarium.

One well-known tenant was Zoe’s Pet Gallery, owned by Zoe Tay, opened in 1995 at Pasir Ris Farmway 2. The popular local actress would open her second pet shop at Frankel Avenue a year later.

Another one was Animal Lovers League’s Pets Villa, a non-profit rescue facility and shelter. It was set up at Pasir Ris Farmway 3 in April 2004 after the SARS crisis when the authorities carried out the culling of stray cats.

By 2010, Pets Villa was housing hundreds of abandoned and stray dogs and cats which were available for adoption. However, the large number of strays led to high maintenance cost of the shelter which constantly put Pets Villa in financial difficulties. In 2018, Animal Lovers League moved their shelter to Sungei Tengah Road after almost 15 years at Pasir Ris Farmway 3.

Despite its popularity, the Pasir Ris Farmways’ pet farms had its share of adversities. In 2006, drainage works at Pasir Ris Farmway caused a neighbouring fish farm to be flooded, leading to the death of its prized arowanas. In the end, the High Court ruled that the contractor in-charged of the project was liable and had to compensate the fish farm for their losses.

In 2013, a Pasir Ris Farmway animal shelter was found abandoned and its dogs and cats were left to fend for themselves for a week. One pet farm operator was fined $50,000 for animal cruelty after he failed to take proper care of the 15 dogs in his facility. Three shih tzus were found caged and dumped at Pasir Ris Farmway. They were rescued by a public member but died shortly after that. In 2017, another Pasir Ris Farmway dog breeder was fined $180,000 and disqualified from carrying out animal-related businesses for six months for neglecting the well-being of eight dogs under his care.

The early 2010s also saw Singapore’s export of ornamental fish hitting a slump. Coupled with the authority’s plan to redevelop the vicinity, many fish farms at Pasir Ris Farmways decided to close down or choose not to renew their leases. A few shifted to Malaysia to continue their businesses. For other pet farms, several were relocated to the sites at Sungei Tengah Road allocated by the government.

By the late 2010s, with most of the tenants gone, the Pasir Ris Farmways area had become quiet and deserted. According to the latest Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Masterplan, the area is likely to be planned for light and clean industry development in the near future.

In July 2022, the 30-year-old OTF Aquarium Farm became the latest fish farm at Pasir Ris Farmway to close. Its lease had run out and was ordered to stop its operations and hand over its site to the authority.

OTF’s rustic countryside settings and wide variety of affordable ornamental fish previously made it a popular venue among many fish hobbyists. With its closure, the remaining tenants in the vicinity are Mainland Tropical Fish Farm, Tropical Fish International and Irwana Aquarium.

As of 2022, the only roads in Singapore named farmway are Pasir Ris Farmway 1, Seletar West Farmway 1 to 9 and Murai Farmway. The area where the Seletar West Farmways are located is also currently undergoing redevelopment into an industrial estate. Some of the Seletar West Farmways may be expunged in near future.

Elsewhere, Seletar East Farmways, Punggol Farmways, Cheng Lim Farmways and Buangkok North/South Farmways had already walked into history.

Published: 31 July 2022

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An Old Riverine Temple at Sungei Kallang

Chwee Kang Beo (水江庙) was a rare Chinese riverine temple in Singapore in the past, when it stood in the waters of the Kallang River. Throughout its rich history of more than seven decades, it has witnessed the vast transformation of the Kallang Basin, originally filled with mangroves, to shanty towns and attap shacks and now occupied by public flats and industrial estates.

Chwee Kang Beo was erected in the late 1940s after the Second World War, in the form of a simple wooden structure standing on stilts by the riverbank. Set up by several residents from the nearby Kampong Pulau Minyak, led by Sng Pi Soon (dialect name derived from his Chinese name 孙丕顺), Ong Sek Tong (王世通), Lee Zai Seng (李再升) and Teoh Ji Kui (张子开), the temple was to appease the spirits lingering in the river, where it was rumoured to be the dumping ground of the victims killed during the Japanese Occupation.

The temple worships San Jiang Da Pu Gong (三江大普公, or Tua Por Gong in Hokkien), Shi Shi Cheng Huang Gong (石狮城隍公), Shi Shi Qi Wang Ye (石狮七王爷) and Tua Pek Kong (大伯公). Other than Tua Pek Kong, which originated in Singapore and Malaysia, the worshipping of first three deities were influenced by the early Chinese immigrants from China’s Chinchew (Quanzhou today). It was said that in the early days at Chinchew’s Dongshi town, the fishermen believed in Tua Por Gong, praying for their safe returns before each fishing trip. The deity became well-known as the protector of the river.

The temple also possesses a unique artefact – a small vessel made of teak and in the shape of a Ming Dynasty-era junk. This well-crafted artefact was apparently built decades ago by a devotee of the Chwee Kang Beo who worked as a boatbuilder in the area.

During the fifties, it was common to find many small shacks erected along the Kallang River. It cost about $1,500 to build a wooden house with a zinc roof standing on stilts along the riverbanks. But these squatters only lasted until the mid-sixties, when they were removed and their resident evicted during the canalisation of Kallang River.

In 1953, the first proper temple building of Chwee Kang Beo was built. In 1961, it had a simple renovation. Kampong Pulau Minyak was unfortunately destroyed in a fire in 1964. The Kallang River underwent both canalisation and river cleaning from the sixties to the seventies.

The precarious wooden temple was affected by the projects but managed to survive. Instead, it had another round of renovation in 1979, adding concrete stilts to strengthen and support the building. In the same year, the temple’s first management committee was formed. The rebuilding of Chwee Kang Beo took two years to complete, and it had its official reopening in 1981.

The seventies saw tremendous changes around Chwee Kang Beo. Beside the river cleaning project carried out by the Environment Ministry, new Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats were also built in the vicinity.

By the mid-seventies, 15 blocks of flats, numbered 6 to 20 (Block 7 and Block 17 were warehouse and market respectively), were completed. Some of the flats (Block 6 to 10, 13, 14 and 20) were demolished and replaced by newer ones in the late nineties and 2010s.

In the early nineties, Chwee Kang Beo‘s trustees managed to secure the ownership of a small parcel of site along the river, which is the temple’s location today. A total of $3 million was raised via donations by its devotees, which aided the construction of the new temple building in 1993. The new Chwee Kang Beo was completed in the mid-nineties, and held its official opening on 22 December 1999.

Published: 19 July 2022

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The Forgotten WWII Tomb Memorial at Choa Chu Kang Cemetery

At Choa Chu Kang Chinese Cemetery Path 4 lies an undisturbed, almost forgotten, tomb. It is the tomb memorial for the Bamboo Lane’s Chinese victims who were killed during the Second World War. Their remains, more than 2,000 of them, are buried underneath the tomb.

Shortly after the Fall of Singapore on 15 February 1942, the Japanese carried out massacres of Chinese civilians at many places. One of them was at tek kia hung (竹仔巷, “little bamboo lane” in Hokkien), where more than 3,000 Chinese were killed.

Tek kia hung was roughly the area around Namly Avenue today, located off Bukit Timah Road and behind Hwa Chong Institution. Known as Chinese High School then, its compounds and buildings were seized by the Japanese Army as headquarters and concentration camp.

After the war, many mass graves around tek kia hung and Sixth Avenue were discovered. Mass graves were also found at another 13 sites in other parts of Singapore. In 1962, the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce (SCCC) and local Chinese community leaders conducted a full exhumation of the discovered mass graves.

Over 2,000 remains were unclaimed. Their ashes were kept in six large urns and reburied in a communal grave at the nearby Hock Eng Seng Cemetery (福荣山) at Laurel Wood Avenue. A tomb memorial was erected for the remembrance of the victims. In addition, the SCCC also requested the government to make representations to the Japanese government for compensations to the victims massacred by the Japanese during the occupation.

In 1996, Hock Eng Seng Cemetery was acquired by the government for redevelopment purposes. The communal grave and tomb memorial had to be relocated to Choa Chu Kang Chinese Cemetery, where they were allocated a 46.5sqm site. In 2019, they were shifted again to the current location along Chinese Cemetery Path 4, under the National Environment Agency’s (NEA) exhumation exercise for Choa Chu Kang Cemetery.

The new burial policy was started by NEA in 1998, where graves were limited to a lease of 15 years. Those old graves of 15 years and above were exhumed in phases. During the first phase, a number of Chinese (dated 1947-1961) and Hindu graves (1946-1953) were removed and exhumed.

Several exhumation exercise phases had since been carried out. They were:

  • Phase 2a (Chinese graves of 1954-1971)
  • Phase 2b (Muslim graves of 1973-1980)
  • Phase 3 (Chinese graves of 1968-1978)
  • Phase 4 (Muslim graves of 1980-1986)
  • Phase 5 (Chinese graves of 1947-1975)
  • Phase 6 (Muslim graves of 1984-2000)
  • Phase 7 (Chinese graves of 1955-1999)
  • Phase 7a (Chinese graves of 1992-2013)
  • Phase 8 (Muslim graves of 1990-2003)

The unclaimed ashes from the Chinese and Hindu graves were scattered at sea, whereas the unclaimed remains from the Muslim graves were re-interred at Choa Chu Kang Cemetery’s Pusara Abadi.

While most Singaporeans are familiar with the Civilian War Memorial at Beach Road, which has commemoration and memorial services held on 15 February every year, not many people are aware of this much smaller tomb memorial. But it will continue to serve as the testimony to the horrific Second World War and Japanese Occupation even as those memories fade away.

Published: 23 June 2022

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Kranji Industrial Estate and its Little Enclave of Eateries and Shophouses

Tucked at the corner of Kranji Industrial Estate is this little cluster of shophouses and eateries that has been present since the late eighties.

In the late sixties, shortly after independence, Singapore focused on developing industrial estates at different designated parts of the island. For Kranji, it underwent reclamation between 1965 and 1970, after which the Jurong Town Corporation (JTC) established the Kranji Industrial Estate. Kranji, along with the neighbouring Sungei Kadut, was positioned to become Singapore’s manufacturing centre for wood products.

Dozens of sawmills, woodworking and timber factories were set up. They played important roles in Singapore’s early exports of wood products to the United States and Europe, as well as supporting the local industries in the making of furniture, wooden cases and small boats. The timber and wood products, along with rubber, textile and petroleum products, became the top channels of revenues for Singapore in the late sixties and early seventies.

One of the pioneering foreign companies at Kranji Industrial Estate was Bork from Denmark, which set up a $2.5 million factory in 1970 to produce and export high quality sliced veneers (woods that are sawed parallel to the logs’ cut lines) to Europe. Bork Singapore was later acquired by Inchcape Berhad in 1984 for $12 million.

By 1972, almost 270 acres (about 4,000 square metres) of land at Kranji Industrial Estate were allocated to 25 sawmilling and woodworking factories.

To supply water to the new Kranji and Sungei Kadut Industrial Estates, the Kranji/Pandan Water Scheme was implemented in 1972. A dam was constructed across the mouth of Sungei Kranji to convert the body of water into an impounding reservoir. Kranji Dam and Kranji Reservoir were completed in 1975 at a total cost of $75 million.

In 1978, a $1.4-million 53m-long concrete bridge was built across the small river of Sungei Pang Sua. With the bridge, Kranji Industrial Estate became linked to the western parts of Singapore, where drivers, motorcyclists and cyclists could travel between Kranji/Sungei Kadut and Lim Chu Kang via the bridge and Kranji Dam.

Kranji Industrial Estate’s cluster of eateries and shops not only supplied the necessary provisions to the growing working population at Kranji, but also became another choice of meals and drinks, other than the hawker centre at Neo Tiew Estate (closed in 2002), for the residents and workers at Lim Chu Kang, Neo Tiew and Ama Keng. It also acted as a stopover for short breaks for those travelling to Lim Chu Kang. As Kranji’s light industrial estate boomed in the eighties and nineties, the eateries and shops enjoyed brisk businesses from the crowds.

Do you know Kranji has the least magnetic interference of all places in Singapore? This was the reason Japanese compass manufacturer Nunotani Nautical Instruments chose to set up a factory and testing centre at Kranji Industrial Estate in 1981 for the production of magnetic compasses and nautical instruments.

Kranji’s status as the top wood-based industry in Singapore probably peaked in the mid-eighties. Singapore, by 1984, had a veneer mill, six plywood mills, seven laminated plywood mills, 36 sawmills, three particle-board and woodchip manufacturers, two wooden pallet manufacturers, four timber preservation plants and 27 kiln-drying plants; most of these mills and plants were located at the Kranji Industrial Estate. The entire timber industry employed 14,000 workers, and raked in a total of $964 million in exports in the previous year of 1983.

However, the industry faced a decline after that, and many sawmills were left idle. The Trade Development Board (TDB) was tasked to improve and upgrade the industry through trade missions, fairs, seminars and courses. TDB was formed in 1983 after the merger between the Department of Trade and Timber Industry Board. It was restructured into the International Enterprise Singapore (IE Singapore) in 2002.

Kranji’s industries were diversified when JTC built an engineering centre in 1986 for the repair of heavy vehicles. The $3.8-million centre, made up of 30 workshops, also aimed to ease the traffic congestions along Woodlands Road, which were largely caused by the unauthorised truck and lorry repair kiosks that the authority wanted to remove and relocate.

More than half a century later, the Kranji industrial area is looking at another big change in its history. The vicinity is expected to be part of the new Sungei Kadut Eco-District in the near future. This was unveiled in the masterplan exhibition at the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Centre held in 2020. The new Sungei Kadut Eco-District shall consist of Sungei Kadut North (including the current Kranji Industrial Estate), Agri-Food Innovation Park, Sungei Kadut Central and Sungei Kadut South.

With the leases of the tenants at Kranji Industrial Estate expiring in 2025, many have already moved out. At this little corner of shophouses and eating houses, many, too, have shut down and vacated their units. The once-busy enclave has now become an almost dead town, awaiting their eventual fate of demolition.

Beside the shophouses and eateries is the Chek Chai Long Chuen Temple (七寨龙泉庙). The humble Chinese temple is the merger of Chee Chea Temple (七寨庙) and Long Chuen Temple (龙泉庙), two old temples that previously existed in the older days of undeveloped Kranji and Sungei Kadut.

Chee Chea Temple was established before the Second World War at Woodlands Road 12½ milestone, where it was a popular temple among the villagers living at Kranji, Sungei Kadut and Lim Chu Kang. Long Chuen Temple was founded in 1943 at Kranji Village. Both temples had been active in using the donations from their devotees to sponsor schools and community centres in the Kranji and Lim Chu Kang areas.

The two old temples’ sites were acquired during the development of the new industrial estates. After they agreed to merge as one united temple, the new Chek Chai Long Chuen Temple was granted a site at Kranji Loop and was officially opened on 29 October 1986. Now almost 40 years later, the temple may have to move yet again by another redevelopment project.

Published: 29 May 2022

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Singapore’s Heritage Tree Series – Terap

Till date, there are 17 trees at the Fort Canning Park granted the heritage tree status. Four of them are the terap tree (artocarpus elasticus), with three located along the park’s 14th Century Walk of History (along the Fort Canning Service Reservoir) and the fourth one along Canning Rise, opposite the National Museum of Singapore.

Terap is a tall forest tree that can grow to a height between 45m and 65m. It is commonly found in Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Philippines as well as the forested areas at Borneo and Java islands.

Mature terap trees have leathery and oval-shaped leaves, which look quite different from the deep lobed leaves of the younger ones. Both their fruits and seeds are edible. The terap fruits are large in size, reaching almost 18cm long, and give off a pungent rancid smell when they become ripe. The white pulps wrapping around the seeds, however, are white and creamy and considered a delicacy to some. The seeds taste like tangy marshmallows and are eaten by squirrels and monkeys.

The wood of teraps can be used for timber. They also produce white latex called gutta terap, often used as glue traps for birds. Their barks are tough and fibrous, and are used by the indigenous people for making of clothes, while the Malays also use them for basket lining and rope weaving.

The terap tree is a close relative to the breadfruit tree (artocarpus altilis) and jackfruit tree (artocarpus heterophyllus). The book Wayside Trees of Malaya, authored by John Henry Corner (1906-1996), an English botanist and assistant director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens between 1926 and 1946, mentioned the terap trees at Fort Canning.

Published: 6 May 2022

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Redevelopment of the Rustic Bah Soon Pah Road

The rustic nature of Bah Soon Pah Road may soon be no more. The area has been marked for residential development, as an extension of the Khatib housing estate, in the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Master Plan. Sembawang Road, where Bah Soon Pah Road is linked, will also be part of the route for the up and coming North-South Expressway.

Bah Soon Pah Road has been home to many plant nurseries in the past decade. With the impending expiry of their leases, most of them have already moved out by March and April 2022. The area is now waiting for the redevelopment project to commence.

The Bah Soon Pah area was acquired by Lim Nee Soon (1879-1936), a well-known rubber magnate and “pineapple king”, from the colonial government in 1919. The main road Bah Soon Pah Road (华顺芭路) was constructed and named after him. Lim Nee Soon was fondly known as Bah Soon, where Bah is possibly Baba and Soon his name, due to his Peranakan maternal grandparents.

During the peak of his business in the 1920s, Lim Nee Soon owned large pieces of rubber estates in many parts of Singapore, including the Mandai area, and along Sembawang Road and Upper Thomson Road.

Other than Bah Soon Pah Road, several other places in Singapore were named after Lim Nee Soon and his family. Nee Soon Road, Nee Soon Village and Yishun New Town were all named after him. Thong Aik Road and Thong Bee Road were named after his factory and company respectively. There was also Chong Kuo Road, named after Lim Nee Soon’s eldest son, but it was his second son Lim Chong Pang (1904-1956) who had a more famous village (former) and housing estate named after him.

Bah Soon Pah Road was also commonly known as Sembawang Road 11th milestone by the locals. The road cut through rubber plantations and pockets of small farms and was frequently used by military trucks from the nearby Nee Soon Camp. In 1949, Bah Soon Pah Road became so badly damaged that the Singapore Rural Board considered banning the British military from using it.

The Great Depression caused the rubber prices in Malaya and Singapore to slump by 80% between 1929 and 1932. The rubber industry continued to decline throughout the 1930s and 1940s. In the fifties, the Bah Soon Pah area was converted by the Primary Production Department (PPD) from a rubber estate to a site meant for agricultural purposes.

There were as many as 4,000 farmers living at the Bah Soon Pah area by the early sixties. In 1961, Singapore was hit by a drought and water supply disruptions. A water wagon had to be dispatched to Bah Soon Pah’s farms when their wells ran dry for the first time in the dry season that had already lasted for two months. Bah Soon Pah Road and other many other areas in Singapore were hit by another dry spell in 1972.

In the seventies, Bah Soon Pah was the site for several pilot projects launched by the PPD. In 1974, they collaborated with the Singapore Livestock and Agricultural Co-operative Society to set up a pig farm with mechanised feed system. A year later, a 40-acre parcel of land along Bah Soon Pah Road was reserved for a farm engaging hydroponics for its vegetable production.

From the sixties to the early eighties, gotong royong (communal work) were often organised to help improve the conditions of Bah Soon Pah Road and other roads in the vicinity, most of which were muddy and filled with pot holes. For example, in 1968, 600 polytechnic students volunteered to metal Bah Soon Pah Road in their annual work camp led by the Polytechnic Students’ Union. Another large gotong royong project was carried out in 1980, mending almost 1km of Bah Soon Pah Road.

Bah Soon Pah had at least two schools for the provision of basic education to the children living in the area. Onn Hwa Chinese School (旺华学校) was established in 1954 by a respectable Ng family living at Bah Soon Pah, who donated both funds and their lands to build the rural school. The school was made up of offices, teachers’ quarters and eight zinc-roofed classrooms. During its peak, Onn Hwa Chinese School had 500 students, many of them were children of the rubber plantation workers and farmers living at Bah Soon Pah.

Another school, Hua Nam Chinese School (华南学校), was set up in the late 1940s after the Second World War. It was merged from two pre-war schools called Hwa Soon School (华顺学校) and Kian Nam School (建南学校), which were founded by the Teochew and Hokkien communities at Bah Soon Pah. By 1959, Hua Nam Chinese School had grown to 4o0 students. Its old premises was upgraded in 1967, but it eventually walked into history in 1984 due to dwindling student enrollment.

The present-day Bah Soon Pah Road is a remnant of its original longer form in the past, where it was linked to other rural roads such as Lorong Chencharu, Lorong Cherdek, Lorong Mayang, Lorong Mayang Kechil and Lorong Akar. Except for Lorong Chencharu, the rest were expunged when the vicinity was redeveloped as Khatib housing estate in the eighties.

Hundreds of families living at Bah Soon Pah were progressively being resettled at the new Yishun New Town in the early eighties. There were, however, still some 4,000 to 5,000 residents living at Chye Kay and Bah Soon Pah villages in 1983.

Bah Soon Pah was briefly used by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) for their military exercises from 1980 to 1985. In the mid-eighties, a new Yishun Avenue 2 was constructed, cutting across Bah Soon Pah Road and Lorong Chencharu and shortening the two roads to their present states.

New Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats started appearing between 1986 and 1988, replacing several former roads, community centres and schools. The new North-South Line (NSL) of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) was laid along Yishun Avenue 2, where Khatib MRT Station was opened in late 1988.

The double-storey black and white bungalow at Bah Soon Pah Road is one of the oldest landmarks in the vicinity. Built in the early 20th century, it was the residence for the manager of the Bukit Sembawang Rubber Company, who would oversee the management and operations of the rubber plantations in the vicinity.

Beside the bungalow was another cluster of buildings functioning as the company’s estate office. The estate office was moved to Chye Kay after the war, and the buildings were subsequently used as offices for the Labour Front Government (1955-1959) and Sembawang Field Experimental Station.

It was at the Sembawang Field Experimental Station where the Sembawang Farm School was initiated in 1966 to provide formal training to the next generation of farmers. Various courses such as animal husbandry, freshwater fisheries and horticulture were taught at the school.

The bungalow became a Orchid Research and Service Centre in 1994. Opened by Lim Hng Kiang, then-Acting Minister of National Development, the centre aimed to propagate existing and new species of orchids for local production and exports. It later evolved into a Horticulture Service Centre to support the plant nurseries that had moved into Bah Soon Pah.

While most of the other buildings at Bah Soon Pah will be demolished during the redevelopment phase, the century-old bungalow is likely to be retained as part of the new housing estate’s history and heritage.

In the early 2010s, there were as many as eight plant nurseries operating at Bah Soon Pah Road, where it became a popular place for plant lovers and hobbyists. After just a few years of operation, the nurseries were concerned by some news that the vicinity would be redeveloped soon. However, a parliamentary response in 2013 assured that they could stay for ten years until the end of their leases.

In 2017, the plant nurseries were informed to move out by end-2021, and were subsequently given another five months of grace extension until May 2022 for their relocation plans.

The Bah Soon Pah area had evolved from gambier, rubber and pineapple plantations to vegetable, pig and poultry farms, before taken over by orchid farms and plant nurseries. Its farming history will soon be over as it looks to be redeveloped into an extended housing estate of Khatib.

Published: 29 April 2022

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100 Years of the Causeway

The Causeway is finally reopened after almost two years of closure. Despite decades of congestion woes, trafficking issues or an occasional tool used in political bickering, the Causeway remains an important link between Singapore and Malaysia.

The Land Connection

Mid-1910s – Goods and passengers between Malaya and Singapore were originally transported across the Johore Strait using ferry services, but by the mid-1910s, it was clear that the ferries could not cope with the increasing traffic volumes. Each ferry could carry only six goods wagons at one time. By 1917, there were 54,000 wagons to be ferried compared to only 11,500 in 1911.

1917 – The colonial government studied the feasibility of a stone causeway between Woodlands and Johor. A bridge was initially considered, but the foundation sites were deemed unsuitable due to the large varying depths of water – from 14m to 21m – during the low tides. Then-director of Federated Malay States (FMS) Public Works Eyre Kenny proposed a stone causeway, which was later accepted. The contract was subsequently awarded to an engineering firm called Topham, Jones and Railton.

24 April 1920 – Sir Laurence Guillemard (1862-1951), the Governor of the Straits Settlements, paid an official visit to Johor to attend the laying ceremony of the foundation stone for the new causeway. The construction had actually already started in late 1919, and was scheduled to complete in five years.

1920-1924 – As much as 1.15 million cubic metres of granite extracted from the Bukit Timah and Pulau Ubin quarries were transported and deposited into the strait between Woodlands and Johor. Site surveys were also carried out for the railway networks between Singapore and Malaya to be linked via the new causeway.

17 September 1923 – The causeway’s railway for goods transportation was opened for operations, although the causeway was still only partially completed.

1 October 1923 – The causeway’s railway for passengers was opened for operations. It was the first time in history that a direct link was established between the Malay peninsula and Singapore island. Since then, passengers could travel via the FMS Railways from Singapore to Johor, Negri Sembilan, Selangor, Perak, Kedah and Perlis before joining up with the Royal Siamese State Railway at Padang Besar.

October 1923 – The construction of the causeway, named Johore Causeway (The English spelling is Johore whereas Johor is the Malay spelling), was completed. It was 18m wide with a motorcar roadway and two railway tracks. At the centre of the causeway, there was also a lock channel and lifting bridge for small vessels to pass through.

Measuring 1,056m long and 14m deep during the low tides, the eventual cost of Johore Causeway was 17 million Straits dollars, borne jointly by the governments of the FMS, the Straits Settlements and the Johor State. The official opening ceremony of the new causeway was originally scheduled on 5 October 1923 but had to be postponed due to the illness of Sir Laurence Guillemard.

28 June 1924 – The Johore Causeway was officially opened. The distinguished guests-of-honour included the Governor, the Sultans of the FMS, King of Siam, Chief Justice and many other Malay royalties as well as colonial government officials.

1926 – The pipelines along the Causeway were completed. As much as 38 million litres of water could be piped daily to Singapore’s Pearl Hill Reservoir from the Gunung Pulai waterworks.

The World War

1940 – Additional lighting was installed at the Customs Examination shed area. The lighting system for the Causeway was inadequate as only one half was lighted at a time; its alternate side was switched on and off on a weekly basis.

31 January 1942 – The British set off explosions at the Causeway in an attempt to delay the Japanese’s advance into Singapore. The Causeway’s lock channel and lifting bridge were destroyed by the explosives. After the Fall of Singapore, the Causeway was repaired by the Japanese but the lock channel and lifting bridge were not replaced.

1950 – New 60-inch steel waterpipes were laid along the Causeway by the Municipal Commission due to Singapore’s increasing needs for water. It added an extra of 7.5 million litres of water supply from Johor.

6 March 1956 – Members of the Singapore Motor Club and reporters waited eagerly at the Singapore side of the Causeway to welcome the six-men Oxford-Cambridge team arriving in two dust-covered Land Rovers. They became the first ever to complete the overland trip from London to Singapore, which took about six months.

9 November 1958 – The Causeway was temporarily closed to ease the traffic due to the first state visit of Johor by Yang di-Pertuan Agong and his Consort.

February 1959 – The Causeway was heavily jammed during the 1959 Chinese New Year period, with as many as 2,500 cars passing through every hour. Thousands of firecrackers were confiscated by the Customs.

The New Border

1 February 1967 – Hundreds of lorries piled up at the Causeway as they waited for hours for their goods to be cleared by the Customs. It was the first day of the imposition of a new two percent surtax on imported goods.

2 July 1967 – Immigration barrier was established at Singapore’s side, as both countries began their issuing of the restricted passports. Malaysia set up their checkpoints in September 1967. The usage of the Singapore Restricted Passports would last 32 years until the end of 1999.

18 February 1968 – Johor carried out an exercise to inoculate against cholera for 35,000 people at the Malaysia side of the Causeway, after a report of cholera case at Lavender Street. It took the motorists more than two hours to cross the Causeway.

3 June 1969 – Stricter checks and controls were stepped up at both sides of the Causeway due to the racial riots erupted at Kuala Lumpur on 13 May 1969 and its possible spillovers into Singapore.

11 April 1971 – Bus service 170 was launched as a cross-border service between Queen Street Terminal and Johor Bahru. The bus service was managed by the United Bus Company (UBC) Ltd, but was later transferred to the newly-merged Singapore Bus Services (SBS) in 1973.

15 August 1971 – Malaysia implemented a new immigration control system at the Causeway, where all foreigners entering Malaysia were required to fill embarkation and disembarkation cards. The pink immigration cards were for Singaporeans while the white ones were for general foreign visitors.

9 January 1972 – “Operation Snip Snip” was carried out at the Singapore side of the Causeway. Long-haired Singaporeans had their passports seized and were told to collect them back at the Immigration Headquarters at Empress Place after their haircuts. Non-citizens could get a quick haircut at a temporary barber stall 50m away from the checkpoint. Otherwise, they would not be allowed to enter Singapore and had to turn back.

1972 – Singapore and Malaysia pondered the building of a second causeway.

1 November 1973 – Malaysians driving into Singapore in their private cars were required to obtain vehicle entry permits. It was to restrain the growth of private car population in Singapore. Goods and public service vehicles were exempted from the new rule.

1974-1976 – A study in 1972 found that the average daily traffic volume at the Causeway was about 18,000. In view of increasing traffic demands, the Public Works Department (PWD) was tasked to improve the Causeway. The project included new link bridges, slip roads and the widening of the Causeway from three to six lanes (both ways) at a cost of $9 million.

17 October 1976 – A five-hour power failure threw the Causeway and checkpoints into darkness and chaos as the immigration officers scrambled to get candles and torches to continue their work. It caused a huge jam on the Causeway and delayed clearance for the travellers. Electricity was restored by the Public Utilities Board (PUB) at 10pm.

The Computerisation

1977 – A new $13.8-million Woodlands Immigration Checkpoint was built to manage the increasing traffic flow between Singapore and Malaysia. Officially opened by Home Affairs and Education Minister Chua Sian Chin, it was equipped with new computerised systems which meant Malaysian cars entering Singapore were no longer required to carry their car registration books. A new Exit Control Scheme was also implemented in the following year, on 3 January 1978, to prevent visitors from illegal overstaying.

June 1981 – Replacing the manual checking of blacklisted travellers, the new computers had greatly improved the efficiency for the Woodlands Immigration Checkpoint. Previously, the officers could only detect an average of 35 suspects a month. With the help of the computers, the detection rate increased to 470 blacklisted personnel among the daily 30,000 to 40,000 travellers across the Causeway.

1984 – Singapore’s Traffic Police cramped down on illegal parking of vehicles along the Causeway.

December 1984 – A $210,000 set of concealed cameras and close-circuit television (CCTV) was installed at the Woodlands checkpoint to battle increasing crimes. Covering the bus passenger lanes, waterpipes and jetty areas, the new system was able to detect suspicious personnel trying to sneak past the border checks.

1985 – A special lane on the Causeway was allocated, between 6am and 8am, for lorries carrying perishable goods from Malaysia to Singapore. There were 50 to 60 such lorries plying the route everyday.

November 1985 – The new Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE), absorbing some of the northbound traffic towards the Causeway, eased the congestion issues at Upper Bukit Timah Road and Woodlands Road. It also acted as a link between the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) and the Causeway.

1986-1990 – Kampong Lorong Fatimah, situated at the Malayan Railway Administration lands beside the Causeway, was gradually fading away as many of its residents had moved to the Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats at Woodlands.

Made up of both Singaporeans and Malaysians, it was the only village in Singapore guarded by an immigration outpost, where the residents had to show their identity cards (for Singaporeans) or passports (for Malaysians) upon entering and exiting the village. In late 1989, the village eventually had to make way for the new Woodlands immigration complex extension.

18 November 1986 – Held in 1986 and participated by 57 nations, the First Earth Run was a global relay event advocating world peace. However, at the Causeway, Malaysian demonstrators blocked the passage to protest against Israeli President Chaim Herzog’s visit to Singapore.

To avoid the crowds, Malaysia’s last relay runner Lynda Seow had to be driven onto the Causeway in a police van with the Peace Torch. She then ran the last stretch with the torch before passing it to the Singapore team of runners who relayed the torch to the National Stadium.

6 February 1987 – Indonesian President Suharto was welcomed by then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew at the Causeway when the former drove to Singapore after his official visit at Johor.

July 1988 – Daily commuters across the Causeway had increased to 80,000. Expansion works were added to the Woodlands immigration complex, including additional immigration booths, new bus lanes and more Customs facilities. The $10-million project was completed in 1991.

8 April 1989 – A new half-tank rule added to the Customs (Amendment) Bill was passed in the Parliament. A maximum fine of $500 would be imposed on any Singapore-registered cars leaving the country with less than half-tank of petrol. The new rule was implemented on 17 April, with a grace period of two months. Cars not meeting the requirements were allowed to turn back instead of being fined during the grace period.

August 1990 – The “express card” scheme aided the quick clearance of frequent travellers to Singapore at the checkpoints.

17 October 1990 – The Causeway was closed for more than five hours after ammonia gas had leaked from a lorry’s portable tank.

4 February 1991 – The half-tank rule was revised to three-quarter tank. A one-month grace period was given to Singapore cars travelling to Malaysia.

August 1991 – A six-month study was conducted on the feasibility of a light rail transit system across the Causeway between Singapore and Johor.

1993 – Malaysia was interested in the proposed extension of Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system to Johor Bahru. However, the plans were not materialised.

1993 – The average number of commuters crossing the Causeway had risen to 190,000 per day.

3 May 1994 – A new 12-lane clearance complex was opened for Malaysian motorcyclists entering Singapore, greatly speeding up the clearance process and reducing the congestion during peak hours.

July 1995 – For traffic safety reasons, Singapore cars entering Malaysia were required to be fitted with a third brake light.

The Political Bickering

1996 – Malaysia called for the demolition of the Causeway to be replaced by a bridge, which would be named the Southern International Gateway. The Singapore-Malaysia ties became frosty in the following few years.

13 December 1996 – Singapore and Malaysia reached accord on how and when to clean up the Straits of Johor. Flotsam and floating debris tended to accumulate along the Causeway.

2 January 1998 – The Malaysia-Singapore Second Link, or Tuas Second Link, was officially opened, becoming the second vehicular link between the two countries.

1999 – Malaysia and Singapore blamed each other for the traffic congestion woes at the Causeway.

18 July 1999 – Costing more than $400 million, the new Woodlands Checkpoint was opened, replacing the old one. It was more spacious and equipped with better facilities that would enhance border security.

31 December 1999 – The blue Singapore Restricted Passport, used for travels to West Malaysia since 1967, was phased out. The red Singapore Passport became the only valid document for overseas travels by Singaporeans from 1 January 2000 onwards.

September 2001 – The Causeway was one of the issues listed in a deal between Singapore and Malaysia, which also included the issues of water supply, air space, railway land and CPF withdrawals for Malaysians.

2002-2006 – Malaysia announced that it would unilaterally proceed to build the new bridge. Inter-governmental talks resumed and ended without agreement several times over the years.

February 2002 – Both Singapore and Malaysia increased the toll charges for vehicles using the Causeway and Second Link. At Singapore side, the increase ranged from 10 cents for taxis to $2.50 for big lorries.

March 2003 – Security at the Woodlands Checkpoint was stepped up due to the looming Iraq war and potential terrorist threat. Cars were ordered to open all their storage compartments for inspection, whereas motorcyclists even had their helmets and pockets checked. The increased security measures led to large traffic congestions at the Causeway, with car queues almost 1km long.

May 2003 – There were disputes again when Malaysia accused Singapore of breaching the Asean agreement when the latter blocked the entry of a probable severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) case at the Woodlands Checkpoint.

September 2004 – SBS launched two more bus services to Johor. Bus service 160 would start from Jurong East Interchange, ply through Bukit Batok, Choa Chu Kang, Kranji and Woodlands before crossing the Causeway to Kotaraya, near Johor Bahru’s City Square. Bus service 950’s route was between Woodlands Regional Interchange and Kotaraya.

September 2005 – The Singapore side of the Causeway built a road divider to segregate motorbikes and cars, due to the increasing number of motorcyclists violating lane discipline, jumping queues and obstructing traffic.

February-March 2008 – The escape of Mas Selamat Kastari led to tightened border checks at the Woodlands Checkpoint. It was the worst Causeway jam for trucks since the mid-nineties.

December 2008 – To further ease the congestion woes, the old Woodlands Checkpoint, closed since 1999, was reopened to cater for clearance for motorbikes and trucks. At Malaysia side, a new RM$1.3-billion 76-lane Johor Bahru Checkpoint was opened.

May 2009 – A third bridge linking eastern Johor and Singapore was proposed. The widening of the Causeway was also considered. The plan did not materialise in the end.

November 2009 – Lorry operators and businesses welcomed the decision by Johor’s Tanjung Puteri Customs Complex to open 24 hours.

The Covid-19 Pandemic

18 March 2020 – The Causeway was shut down as Malaysia implemented its Movement Control Order (MCO) in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Only food supplies and other necessity goods were allowed to go through the Causeway.

29 November 2021 – A daily limit of almost 3,000 passengers were allowed to pass through the Causeway between the two countries under the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme.

1 April 2022 – The Causeway was fully reopened again, after almost two years of closure and restrictions. It was the longest period of inaccessibility for the Causeway since the Second World War.

Published: 19 April 2022

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Demolition of Old Boys’ Brigade Headquarters

The old Boys’ Brigade Headquarters at Ganges Avenue is currently undergoing demolition. Located at the junction of Zion Road and the Singapore River, the premises had been The Boys’ Brigade’s base for 36 years.

The history of The Boys Brigade went back to 1883, when it was founded by William Alexandra Smith (1854-1914) at Scotland’s Aberdeen as an organisation for instilling discipline, ethics and Christian values to teenage boys and nurturing them into responsible men. It was also the world’s first uniformed group for the youths.

As part of the global movement, The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore was established on 12 January 1930 by James Milner Fraser (1905-1978), an architect and town planner who arrived at Singapore to work for the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT). James Fraser, who was a member of the 23rd Aberdeen Company of The Boys’ Brigade back home, set up the Singapore branch as a promise to his ex-captain. At the Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church, the 1st Singapore Company was therefore created with an initial membership of 40.

The Boys’ Brigade (originally called The Singapore Battalion) steadily grew in Singapore; it had 200 members by 1936. James Fraser was the captain until 1940, and would also become the Battalion President in 1936, a position he held for 20 years till 1956. As for The Boys’ Brigade, a series of new Battalions and Companies were formed throughout its history.

During the Second World War, The Boys’ Brigade activities had to be halted with its documents, flags and drums hidden in the Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church’s storerooms. James Fraser was caught and became a prisoner-of-war (POW), and was forced to work at the construction of the notorious Burma Railway (also known as the Death Railway). He survived and returned to Singapore after the war to revive The Boys’ Brigade together with Chua Siak Phuang, whom he passed the captaincy earlier in 1940.

James Fraser went on to serve as the President of Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and the Chairman of Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) in the fifties. At SIT, he supervised the construction of more than 10,000 units of public flats and shops, and made several important publications such as the SIT annual reports and the studies of town planning and housing issues in Singapore. James Fraser later returned to Scotland and died there in 1978.

In 1968, The Singapore Battalion was officially renamed The Boys’ Brigade. In 1971, it had the distinguished honour to have Benjamin Henry Sheares (1907-1981), the second President of the Republic of Singapore, as its patron. The patronage of the Singapore President to The Boys’ Brigade continues till this day.

In November 1985, The Boys’ Brigade Headquarters and Training Centre was shifted from Armenian Street to Ganges Avenue, where it took over the former premises of Havelock Primary School. The Boys’ Brigade stayed here for almost four decades.

Havelock Primary School (formerly called Havelock School) was established in 1952. It was one of the many new primary schools built in Singapore in the fifties to accommodate 15,000 students born during the post-war baby boom. Delta East School and Delta West School used to be the neighbouring primary schools with Havelock Primary School. Their old school compounds were demolished in the mid-2010s.

One of The Boys’ Brigade’s major events at the new headquarters was its convention during the 1986 National Day weekend, where officers from The Boys’ Brigades in Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia were invited to participate in the brigade etiquette and religious discussions and also to observe Singapore’s National Day celebrations. Other events held at the headquarters included regular training courses, passing out parades and fund-raising campaigns for the needy.

In September 2021, The Boys’ Brigade departed its old Ganges Avenue headquarters and moved to its temporary office at Sembawang Road’s Boys’ Brigade and Girls’ Brigade Campsite. It will eventually shift to its new Kwong Avenue headquarters at the MacPherson Estate when the premises are completed.

As for the old Boys’ Brigade Headquarters, its demolition project started in February 2022, and is expected to be completed by April 2022. The buildings, occupied by Havelock Primary School (1952-1984) and The Boys Brigade (1985-2021), will officially walk into the history books after 70 years of existence.

Published: 12 March 2022

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1942 Singapore’s Darkest Moment at Former Ford Factory

Eighty years ago, on this date of 15 February 1942, the former Ford Factory witnessed the darkest chapter in Singapore’s history, when the British unconditionally surrendered to the Japanese, marking the start of Singapore’s three-and-a-half years under the Japanese Occupation.

Built in 1941, the former Ford Factory was American automobile manufacturing giant Ford Motor Company’s first full assembly car factory in Malaya as well as Southeast Asia. But by the time it was completed, the war had came to Peninsula Malaya. Although Henry Ford (1863-1947), founder of the Ford Motor Company, declined to manufacture engines for Britain at his Michigan plant, he permitted his affiliated Ford factories at Canada, South Africa, India, New Zealand and Malaya to produce military vehicles for British’s war efforts.

The first Ford car, Model N, was imported to Malaya as early as 1909. Keen in the potentially massive market in the British’s colonies, Ford Canada established a subsidiary called Ford Malaya in 1926 to focus on the marketing and sales of automobiles in Southeast Asia, where American and British cars were competing for market shares.

In Singapore, the Ford Malaya office was set up at the Dunlop House at Robinson Road. Over at Tanjong Pagar’s Enggor Street, a garage was converted into a small Ford factory for secondary assembly processes such as fitting of the wheels for Model T, one of the company’s first mass produced cars. The factory stayed for three years before it was moved to a larger warehouse at Prince Edwards Road where it engaged in the assembly of semi-knocked down vehicles. Throughout the 1930s, Ford was one of the dominant car brands in Malaya.

By the late 1930s, even with the possibility of widespread war in Southeast Asia, Ford decided to build a full assembly plant in Singapore to meet the increasing demand. In October 1941, the Art Deco-styled Ford Factory at 8½ milestone of Upper Bukit Timah Road was completed. However, barely two months after the commence of its operations, the factory was taken over by the Royal Air Force (RAF) in December 1941 to assemble fighter planes.

By then, Singapore had already came under days of air raids by the Japanese planes. The bombings lasted two months from the beginning of December 1941 to the end of January 1942, resulting in hundreds of civilian casualties. The fighter planes assembled at the Ford Factory did not even have the chance to be used against the Japanese, and were instead hastily moved out of Singapore to prevent them from falling into the enemy’s hands.

The war eventually reached Singapore when the Japanese troops quietly crossed the Johor Strait and landed near Sarimbun beach on 8 February 1942. Intensive battles at several strategic locations followed, but the British was unable to defend Singapore and kept retreating to the city area.

Singapore fell barely a week later. Ford Factory was seized to be used as the Japanese Imperial Army’s temporary headquarters. On the evening of 15 February 1942, the factory’s boardroom became a historic venue in history. It was here where Lieutenant-General Arthur Ernest Percival (1887-1966), General Officer Commanding (Malaya), formally surrendered Singapore to the Japanese invaders led by Lieutenant-General Tomoyuki Yamashita (1885-1946), Commanding General, 25th Army.

Japan’s annexation of Malaya and Singapore, started from 8 December 1941, took less than 100 days. The fall of Singapore, then considered the impregnable British stronghold in Southeast Asia, was largely due to inadequate war preparations, half-hearted support from Britain and defensive vulnerabilities. The commanders’ poor decisions, coupled with the troops’ low morale and insufficient supplies, also played a part.

The speed and manner in which Malaya and Singapore were defeated brought an end to the British’s prestige and reputation in the region.

Shortly after the British’s surrender, Singapore and Malaya were renamed Syonan and Malai. Under the brutal Japanese rule, the people of Malaya and Singapore suffered from constant fear and hunger. Tens of thousands were tortured and killed.

The Ford Factory, during the occupation, was handed over to Japanese automobile manufacturer Nissan for the assembly of military trucks and other vehicles used for Japan’s war efforts in the region.

After the war, the returning British regained control of Ford Factory, returning it to its owner Ford Malaya a year later. Ford Factory resumed automobile production in April 1947, and began exporting its vehicles to the Southeast Asian and South Asian markets.

Ford Factory would operate for 23 more years until 1980, when the company moved out of Singapore. By the time it shut down its assembly lines, it had produced almost 150,000 vehicles in total.

In 1997, the front building of the former factory, where the historic event took place, was returned to the state, whereas the rest of the compound was redeveloped into a private condominium. The building was then restored by the National Archives of Singapore (NAS) in 2005. On 15 February 2006, it was officially gazetted as one of Singapore’s national monuments called former Ford Factory.

On 15 February 2017, a permanent Second World War exhibition was curated and launched by NAS at Former Ford Factory. Initially called Syonan Gallery (Syonan Gallery: War and its Legacies, An Exhibition at Former Ford Factory in full), the exhibition prompted a public outcry over its name which many thought might be misinterpreted as glorifying the Japanese Occupation. After much considerations, the authorities decided to rename it as Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies.

Published: 15 February 2022

Updated: 17 February 2022

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Changes of Dakota 3 – Guillemard Camp Walks into History

Guillemard Camp was built in 1969 by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), two years after the establishment of National Service (NS). It was therefore one of the oldest SAF camps, excluding those pre-war British barracks which SAF took over in the early seventies.

Guillemard Camp was named after Guillemard Road, which in turn was named after Sir Laurence Nunns Guillemard (1862-1951), the 18th Governor of the Straits Settlements between 1920 and 1927.

Guillemard Camp was home to the 1st Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment (1 SIR) for more than three decades from 1969 to 2003. 1 SIR was formed in 1957 as Singapore’s first infantry battalion. With the first batch of 237 enlistees, the unit was established as Singapore was vying for self governance from the British. 1 SIR was initially housed at Ulu Pandan Camp in 1959.

During the merger with Malaysia between 1963 and 1965, 1 SIR was renamed 1st Battalion, Malaysian Infantry Regiment (1 MIR) under the command of the 4th Malaysian Infantry Brigade. It was deployed in the midst of the 1964 racial riots and also during the Konfrontasi Period, where the men were sent to patrol and defend Johor and Sabah from the Indonesian saboteurs.

When Singapore gained independence in 1965, 1 MIR was reverted to 1 SIR, and came under the newly formed SAF in 1967. A year later, it was transformed into SAF’s first full-time NS battalion and shifted from Ulu Pandan Camp to Taman Jurong Camp. In 1969, it moved to the new Guillemard Camp where it stayed for 34 years until its eventual relocation to Mandai Hill Camp in 2003.

Some significant milestones of 1 SIR include its introduction of a new set of Regimental Colours (1982), unveiling of its new Leopard emblem (1986) and participating in the search and rescue effort for the Hotel New World disaster (1986).

The first event for the national servicemen of Guillemard Camp was their participation of the SAF Day parade on 1 July 1969. Along with units from other SAF camps and also the Singapore Police Force, more than 1,200 soldiers and policemen displayed the “fighting fitness” of the armed forces in front of a 7,000-strong crowd at the Jalan Besar Stadium. This was followed by an open house at Guillemard Camp on 2 July 1969.

In the following year, in 1970, Guillemard Camp was chosen as one of the venues for the SAF Day celebrations and parades. The SAF slogan that year was “Forces for Unity”, emphasising how SAF reflected the multi-racial character of Singapore.

Due to its close proximity to the flats and schools, camp tours were often organised at Guillemard Camp in the seventies and eighties for the public to understand more about army life. The nearby residents had also gotten used to the training noises and military trucks coming out from the camp.

Guillemard Camp also made contributions to the community by helping out in gotong royong (communal work) activities. For example, in 1969, its national servicemen, along with several companies of troops from other camps, were activated in the Operation Clean-Up to clear the large amount of debris left behind by floods or choked in the drains.

In the seventies, Guillemard Camp was regularly used for passing-out parades for the Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) and National Cadet Corps (NCC).

One of the most memorable events for the soldiers of Guillemard Camp occurred in 1975, when SAF was leading an operation to control the influx of Vietnamese refugees entering Singapore. Many refugees had to be placed at several temporary locations in Singapore before they were sent to other countries such as the United States and Australia. About 100 orphans were temporarily housed at Guillemard Camp. Before their departures, the officers and men of the camp threw a party filled with sweets and songs for the delighted children.

Another unforgettable incident was in 1984, when the scouts from 1 SIR were activated and dispatched from Guillemard Camp at midnight to find and rescue lost hikers at the Seletar Reservoir. As many as 37 hikers, some of them kids, were lost and stranded inside the thick forest. It took almost one-and-a-half hour for the Bravo company’s scouts to locate them.

By the nineties, there were plans to redevelop the site of Guillemard Camp for residential purposes. After 1 SIR moved out in 2003, the camp premises was left vacant for a period of time.

In 2010, it was leased to the Bengali Association of Singapore for their Durga Puja festival event, where former Singapore President S.R. Nathan was invited as the guest-of-honour. As recent as 2020, the camp was converted into a Community Recovery Facility for foreign workers recovering from Covid-19.

Finally, in 2021, an open tender was issued for the demolition of Guillemard Camp. The demolition project is expected to commence by the end of January 2022 and complete by August.

The Dakota Crescent area has seen tremendous changes in recent years. The buildings of two former neighbourhood schools Broadrick Secondary School and Maju Secondary School (built in 1968) were torn down in 2016. Then in 2020, the old Dakota Crescent Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) flats (built in 1958) made way for development of new public housing.

With Guillemard Camp expected to be gone soon, the Old Airport Road Food Centre (built in 1972) will be one of the remaining older buildings in the vicinity.

Also read:

Changes of Dakota – Demolition of Former Broadrick and Maju Secondary Schools (2016)

Changes of Dakota 2 – Bidding Farewell to Dakota Crescent Flats (2020)

Published: 28 January 2022

Updated: 30 January 2022

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