The Sarimbun Beach Landing and Jalan Bahtera

On 8 February 1942, in a quiet and dark night at Lim Chu Kang, the worst nightmare had arrived at Singapore as the Japanese invaders crossed the Straits of Johore and landed near the Sarimbun Beach.

sarimbun beach landing 1942

Sarimbun Beach Landing

It was not unexpected, as Malaya was already lost to the Japanese since end-January 1942, after the invaders swiftly swept through the peninsula in only two months. Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival (1887-1966), the overall commander of the Allied Forces, decided to deploy his strongest defensive troops at the eastern side of causeway in anticipation of an imminent Japanese attack via Singapore’s northeastern coastline. His strategy would later prove to be disastrous.

The Australian 22nd Brigade was tasked to defend the northwestern side of Singapore. On the night of 8 February 1942, the Japanese began to bombard the Lim Chu Kang area with heavy artillery. Under the cover of darkness, the 5th and 18th divisions of the Japanese army crossed the Johor Straits in small assault boats and landed on Sarimbun Beach. Despite twice repelling the enemies, the Australian brigade was eventually overrun by the numerical superiority of the Japanese forces.

sarimbun beach landing heritage marker1

Almost 13,000 Japanese soldiers landed in batches at the northeastern coastline of Singapore that night. The Allied troops had to be retreated to the Jurong-Kranji defence line; the following day, on the 9th of February 1942, Tengah Airfield fell into the hands of the Japanese.

The Battle of Singapore lasted only a week. By the mid of February 1942, the supposedly impregnable British fortress of Singapore had fallen. On 15 February 1942, Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival and the British delegation officially surrendered to the Japanese at the Ford Factory at Bukit Timah.

sarimbun beach landing heritage marker2

Jalan Bahtera and the Camps

The Sarimbun area was made up of forested and farming areas before it was designated as a military premises in the seventies. It once had a small network of rural tracks at the 19.5 milestone of Lim Chu Kang Road, which consisted of Jalan Bahtera, Jalan Perahu, Jalan Kapal and Jalan Rakit. Bahtera, perahu and kapal all refer to “boat” in English, probably to reflect the vibrancy of the local fishing trade at Lim Chu Kang in the past.

In 1976, part of Jalan Bahtera was repaired in a gotong royong effort by the volunteering Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) soldiers, boy scouts and the Chua Chu Kang Citizens’ Committee members. Jalan Bahtera and Jalan Perahu still exist today, but have been absorbed into the restricted compounds of Sungei Gedong Camp.

jalan bahtera lim chu kang junction

jalan bahtera

jalan bahtera trees

A stretch of Jalan Bahtera is still accessible to public, one that leads to the three Sarimbun campsites –  the Ministry of Education (MOE) Adventure Centre, Singapore Scout Association Sarimbun Camp and the Singapore Girl Guides Association Camp Christine. Unpaved and laid with gravel, it is otherwise known as the Bahtera Track, and is linked to the junction of Lim Chu Kang Road and Lim Chu Kang Lane 5.

jalan bahtera02

Scouting in Singapore, also called the Boy Scouts Movement, was inaugurated in 1910. It had its first campsite, named Purdy Camp, at Changi’s Wing Loong Road between 1932 and 1953. In 1954, the association purchased a 27-acre plot of land at old Boon Lay Road as the boy scouts’ new campsite, and named it Jurong Park. In 1960, it had another campsite leased from the government at Nicoll Drive in Teluk Paku. Situated by the sea, it was suitable for water sports and activities and was named Jubilee Camp after the Golden Jubilee of Singapore Scouting.

When the Jurong Park campsite was earmarked for industrial development in 1965, the government granted the Singapore Scout Association another 20-acre land at Jalan Bahtera. It became known as the Sarimbun Camp, and was used in 1970 to hold the Diamond Jubilee Camp as the commemoration of Singapore Scouting’s 60th anniversary, where boy scouts from Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei, Pakistan and Nepal were invited.

campfire at sarimbun scout camp jalan bahtera 1971

In 1985, a new Sarimbun Scouts Camp, equipped with dormitories, multi-purpose hall and central kitchen, was built to replace the old one. It was completed a year later at a cost of $1.7 million with a grant by MOE. A 7-storey rock wall, A-frame huts and campfire circles were added in 1994. Since then, the camp has been used as the venue for the National Scout Jamborees, National Camps, leadership courses and pre-National Service camps.

In 1988, Camp Christine, of the Singapore Girl Guides Association, was opened opposite of the Sarimbun Scouts Camp along Jalan Bahtera. The Singapore Girl Guide Movement, like the Singapore Scouts Movement, also has a significant long history. The Singapore association was started in 1917 as a District of the Malayan Girl Guides Association. It had its first headquarters, fondly known as “The Hut”, built at Buyong Road in 1941. After independence, the headquarters of the association, named the Guide House, was relocated twice, first at Clemenceau Avenue and later at Bishan.

jalan bahtera moe adventure centre1

jalan bahtera moe adventure centre2

jalan bahtera moe adventure centre3

In the mid-eighties, a fruit tree resource centre owned by the Primary Production Department was set up at Jalan Bahtera. In the vicinity, clusters of wild durian, rambutan, jambu and jackfruit trees were abundant. The resettlement plans in the late eighties and early nineties saw many villagers moved out of Lim Chu Kang, and, as a result, many ownerless fruit trees were either bulldozed by the authority or plucked empty by outsiders during the weekends.

jalan bahtera end

The end of Jalan Bahtera is now fenced up with high security gates and barbed wires. As it is only about 1km from Johor, it was speculated that Mas Selamat bin Kastari had used this route to make his escape from Singapore in 2008. He, however, escaped via the Johor Straits near Woodlands and was captured in a small village at Johor in 2009.

Due to this incident, the jetty at Jalan Bahtera end, a makeshift structure which the fishermen at Lim Chu kang had used for more than 10 years to load and unload their catches, was forced to shut down in 2009. The Sarimbun Beach is now prohibited to public access.

Date: 17 July 2016

Updated: 21 July 2016

This entry was posted in Exotic, Historic and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Sarimbun Beach Landing and Jalan Bahtera

  1. Think they took a wrong turn into the restricted area…

    Terrified girls use handphones to light their way

    12 June 2009

    The two teenage girls took a taxi to their school camp in Lim Chu Kang at night.

    They didn’t count on ending up with a cabby who’s afraid of the dark.

    This was his excuse as he dumped his 14-year-old passengers in the middle of nowhere and drove off, leaving them to an ordeal that lasted 2 1/2 hours.

    With only the light from their mobile phones to guide them, the girls trekked through a deserted dirt track in a forested area near Jalan Bahtera, off Lim Chu Kang Road.

    When rescuers found them, the girls were sitting by the roadside in a daze, exhausted and traumatised. Now terrifed of the dark, they have had to go for counselling.

    One of the girls’ mother complained to taxi company ComfortDelgro, which tracked down the driver and reprimanded him. The mother, who wanted to be known only as Mrs Puan, told The New Paper that her daughter and a schoolmate had boarded a cab at Yio Chu Kang MRT station at about 8.45pm on 30 May.

    They wanted to go to the Singapore Girl Guides Association Camp at Jalan Bahtera to take part in a three-day-two-night camp organised by their school. The other students and their teachers had left for the campsite in the morning.

    But Mrs Puan’s daughter and her friend had to make their own way there as they had to go to school in the afternoon for another activity. Mrs Puan did not want her daughter to be interviewed so as not to relive her ordeal. But the teenager earlier told Lianhe Wanbao that she and her friend had felt uneasy about half an hour into the journey.

    ‘The cab was travelling on a winding road when we felt something amiss,’ she said.

    ‘We asked the cabby if he was on the right track but he only smiled to himself and kept quiet.’

    Just when the girls thought they were nearing their destination, the cabby reached the end of Jalan Bahtera. The road ahead was sealed off and there were no street lights.

    Mrs Puan’s daughter said the cabby then turned into a nearby dirt road, which seemed to be ‘inside a forested area’.

    Said the teenager: ‘It was pitch dark and dead quiet. He then turned around in his seat and told us that he did not want to ‘turn here, turn there’.

    ‘He said, ‘I’m afraid of the dark. Just give me whatever money both of you have and get out. I don’t want to continue with the journey’.’

    The girls were stunned. They did not know what else to do, so they obeyed him. The fare meter showed $22.80. But the girls had only $21, which they gave to him.

    ‘He told us that he would use the cab’s headlights to shine on the track to guide us to the main road,’ said the girl.

    ‘We trailed behind his cab for a while but suddenly he drove off and was out of sight within seconds.’

    The girls looked at the time on their handphones. It was 9.15pm.

    Frantic, they continued walking even as they called their teacher at the campsite. After telling them to remain calm, the teacher went to the nearby Police Coast Guard (PCG) base to seek help.

    Meanwhile, the girls continued on their seemingly endless trek.

    ‘It was trees and bushes everywhere we turned,’ Mrs Puan’s daughter recalled.

    ‘We didn’t know where we were and we were unable to tell our teacher our location.’

    They were bitten all over by mosquitoes. Everywhere they turned, there was the sound of insects chirping and frogs croaking. Trembling in fear in the near pitch-dark night, they held on to each other’s hands for comfort.

    The teenager said the pair tried to keep calm by walking faster, but did not know if they were headed in the right direction. Soon fear and a sense of helplessness overcame them.

    ‘We kind of made out a dilapidated hut along the way but we did not dare to approach and knock on the door,’ she said.

    ‘I then told my friend that I saw two white shadows watching us from a distance. My friend also said that she felt ‘someone’ following her.

    ‘In the end, we broke down in tears and started running.’


    Their ordeal finally ended when they reached the end of the dirt track and spotted a tarmac road ahead, believed to be Rakit Road. Exhausted, the girls sat down by the road in a daze. What happened after that was a blur.

    The teenager only remembers crying and hugging her schoolmates after being reunited with them at the campsite. Mrs Puan said the girls were found at 11.45pm by an off-duty PCG officer who had driven around the area in search of them.

    ‘I only knew what she and her friend had gone through after she returned from the camp,’ Mrs Puan added.

    Mrs Puan said she had called her daughter that night as the girl was ‘taking too long to reach the campsite’.

    ‘The first time I called, she sounded panicky and said she was lost.

    ‘She said she had alighted from the cab but assured me that she had called her teachers, who were looking for them.’

    Not long later, Mrs Puan called her daughter again. This time, the girl told her that they had been found. It was only after the school camp ended that she realised her daughter had lied to her.

    Said Mrs Puan: ‘The second time I called her, she was still lost but she didn’t want me to worry.’

    Mrs Puan was livid when she found out what the cabby had done.

    ‘He shouldn’t have been so irresponsible. He is an adult but even he is afraid of the dark,’ said Mrs Puan.

    ‘What about the two young girls? Wouldn’t they be more scared?’

    She said her daughter was so traumatised by the experience that she now sleeps with the lights on and had to see the school counsellor. Her daughter also told her that her friend was badly affected and did not want to talk about the incident at all.

    ‘I wish to thank the PCG officer who went to look for my daughter even though he was off-duty,’ said Mrs Puan.

  2. visqueraient says:

    Here are the exact translations for the names of the roads:
    Perahu – boat
    Bahtera – Ark
    Kapal – ship
    Rakit – Raft

  3. Ricki says:

    Thanks v much for this article which brought back many memories of my childhood as a scout and my young adult years in a Sarimbun farm till the givt acquired the land for military use.

  4. Jalan Bahtera at night and the kelongs opposite the scout camp:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s