Archive for the ‘History’ Category

You’ve Got Mail

September 24, 2009

Typing a few sentences on the keyboard, a click, and your message is sent to your recipient in nano seconds. In the past, it was snail mail that sometimes took some weeks to reach your intended recipient residing in some faraway country…with a postage stamp pasted on the top right hand corner of the envelope.

^ A small red postage stamp album bought in 1972. Costing $1.50, the album is about half the size of an A4 paper and has pages with sleeves to hold postage stamps. Serious collectors will usually have albums of a larger size to segregate their collections of postage stamps according to countries, events etc.

^ Some of the common postage stamps collected during the early 70s during primary schooldays. These were stamps bearing images of Singapore’s culture such as the Indian dance, Chinese wayang, lion dance, flowers like the orchid collection, and the crayon drawings by children.

^ S.A.T.A, the acronym for Singapore Anti-Tuberculosis Association. TB (short form for tuberculosis) is an infectious disease caused by mycobacteria that can be transmitted between humans via sneezing, coughing, sputum. One protective measure is vaccination. Many may remember the BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guerin) vaccination scar we received during infancy and another booster jab during primary 6. Ouch!!

^ A stamp commemorating the 10th Anniversary of NOL with a drawing of MV Neptune Spinel. She’s a 14,967 DWT General Cargo Tramp built in 1978.

^ During the days of our parents, units of measurement for weight, volume, distance comes in the form of lbs, ounces, cubic feet, gallons, inches, miles. All was changed to using metric when we started school at primary level.

The metric system was first proposed by Gabriel Mouton in 1670. He was the Vicar of St Paul’s Church in Lyons as well as an astronomer. He was given recognition by the authorities to be the originator of the metric system.

^ A postage stamp of six-and-a-half pence bearing the image of Queen Elizabeth. Some of these postage stamps from foreign countries were traded among classmates / neighbourhood kids for added variety to our collection.

^ An image of Pope Paul VI commemorating his pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1964. He was Archbishop of Milan and later became the head of the Roman Catholic Church (1963-1978). During his papacy, he encouraged and fostered ecumenical relations and was known as the “pilgrim pope” for his many pilgrimages to the various countries that spanned across the 7 continents. He also saw to the close of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) which was held from 1962-1965 in Rome.

^ A United States postage stamp bearing the face of Abraham Lincoln. He was the 16th President of the United States. During his presidency from March 1861 to his assassination in April 1865, he successfully led his country through the American Civil War and ending slavery.

^ Christmas 1974. This stamp was probably traded with someone else given that I do not have any friends nor relatives residing in Australia at that time.

^ Stamps from across the Causeway are also easily obtained. Corresponding with relatives and friends through letters especially during festivities like the Chinese New Year provided an opportunity to expand the collection.

^ This postage stamp bears the scene of Queen Elizabeth Walk during 1905-1910. Much of the landscape of Queen Elizabeth walk has changed after a century to its present. So were the use of stamps for pasting onto the envelope which holds the reflection of ourselves in the style and neatness expressed in our handwriting seen on the letters and postcards we send via postal mail…time to find that bottled ink known as Quink and the Hero fountain pen kept somewhere in the drawers.


Monster Guns

September 8, 2009

A little further after Changi Chapel Museum, there is another historical site which was a strategic location in the defence of Singapore against the Japanese invasion during World War II. Along Cosford Road, this was where the so called “monster guns” once existed. “Monster Guns” so named because of its colossal size.

johore battery 01
^ The Johore Battery is a war memorial site in Singapore that dates back to the early 1940s. Some of the other major coastal batteries were the Pasir Laba Battery, Labrador Battery and the Fort Siloso Battery. The British had anticipated that the direction of the Japanese invasion would come from the sea. As such, the defence-plan was to strengthen the coastal defences of the island. This led to the building of the Johore Battery in 1939 as a coastal artillery gun emplacement site.

johore battery 02
^ This old hut was sited near the fenced-up area of Johore Battery in Cosford Road. It was said that there existed a labyrinth of tunnels built for the purpose to store ammunition for the guns. The monster guns were the biggest and heaviest coastal artilleries and were able to pierce the armour of battleships. Before Singapore fell into the hands of the Japanese, it is said that orders were sent out to destroy the guns. Tunnels were sealed up after the war.

johore battery 03
^ Below is the text from the display panel that makes reading easier on your eyes.

The Johore Battery comprised three guns. They were part of a group of twenty large coastal guns installed in Singapore in the 1930s.

The Johore Battery’s three weapons were among Singapore’s largest coastal guns. They were known as 15-inch guns, because 15 inches (38 cm) was the diameter of the shell they fired. Their gun barrels were 16.5 metres long and the shells stood 1.5 metres high. The guns were capable of hurling these shells at battleships over twenty miles away.

They were originally called “monster guns” when tested in England in 1934, before being sent to Singapore. When World War II started, there were only seven of these defending the coasts of the British Empire. Two were near Dover in England, and five in Singapore. Besides the Johore Battery, Singapore also had two 15-inch guns at Buona Vista Battery. They were located at the junction of Ulu Pandan and Clementi Roads, in the West of the island.

Each of Johore Battery’s guns had its own ammunition bunker. These were about 500 metres apart, arranged in a line that stretched from the present site onto what are now the runways of Changi Airport. Though these guns were originally intended to stop an attack from the sea, two of Johore Battery’s guns could turn around and fire to the rear, towards Johor Bahru. The third, the one located at this site, could only fire out to sea.

From 5th to 12th February 1942, the two guns of the Johore Battery that could turn around fired landward in Singapore’s defence. They shelled Japanese infantry positions from Johor Bahru, just across the Causeway, eastwards to the area north of Tanjong Punggol. They also joined in the battles for Bukit Timah Road and Pasir Panjang. The guns of Johore battery fired 194 rounds before the demolition by the British on the night of 12th February. This demolition, and the postwar upgrading of Changi aerodrome, means all that remains are the underground tunnels on this site, which once housed ammunition and power plants.

johore battery 04
^ A replica of the “monster guns”.

They were the biggest guns to be installed outside Britain during World War II. The site was named Johore Battery as it was learnt that the Sultan of Johore made a donation to the British in support of the war effort during World War II.

Kampong Glam – A stroll during Ramadan

August 24, 2009

Last Saturday marked the beginning of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. This prompted me to take a stroll in one of Singapore’s historical site, the Sultan’s Mosque located at Muscat Street and its vicinity.

^ The Sultan’s Mosque is named after Sultan Hussein Mohammad Shah, the first Sultan of Singapore. After signing a Treaty with Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819 ceding Singapore to the British Crown, Sultan Hussein Shah, with a grant given by the British East India Company, instructed Temenggong Abdul Rahman to build an Istana (Istana is a Malay word for palace) and a mosque at Kampong Glam where the community of Muslims can worship. The area developed into a thriving business community consisting of Javanese, Buginese, Boyanese and Arabs merchants trading in spices, cloths and many other goods brought from their homeland. By the early twentieth century, the mosque was in a state of disrepair. The Trustees of the mosque and the leading Muslim residents manage to raise funds for a reconstruction. Designed by Denis Santry of Swan & Maclaren, reconstruction works started in 1925 and the mosque was completed in 1928. From then till now, minor repairs were carried out as well as the addition of an annex in 1993. Largely, the mosque has remained unchanged till today. On 14th Mar 1975, the Sultan’s Mosque was gazetted as a national monument.

sultan'smosque01A c1950
^ An old file photo of the Sultan’s Mosque. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, circa 1950). You will notice the old pre-war shop-houses lining on both sides of the road. Today, the road has been converted to a pathway for pedestrians as seen in the previous photo. The shop-houses were refurbished but yet retaining an old world charm reflective of the community it was before.

^ Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar where Muslims are called to fast from dawn till dusk. Fasting is the 3rd Pillar of Islam where it is aimed to remind the believer on the more important spiritual aspects of the faith and to detach oneself from the material desires of life. The 1st Pillar of Islam is the affirmation of the believer to follow the righteous path with God’s guidance, that there is only one God and Prophet Mohammad is the Messenger of God. The 2nd Pillar of Islam is where a Muslim is called to pray 5 times a day facing the direction of the Ka’aba located at the holy city of Mecca. The 4th Pillar of Islam is known as the zakat (alms-giving) where Muslims are called to be charitable. The 5th Pillar of Islam is where every Muslim, financially and physically able, to perform the Haj (pilgrimage) to Mecca. It is an opportunity for the believer to have a closer spiritual experience with God as well as to seek forgiveness and to forgive one another.

^ A beduk. The next photo describes more.

^ In the past, a call to prayer for Muslims living in villages were made by beating the beduk instead of the loud-speakers you hear nowadays. Muslims fulfill their daily prayers 5 times a day – at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and at night.

^ A map showing the historical sites of Kampong Glam where the Sultan’s Mosque is the centrality of the community living in the area. The street names in the district of Kampong Glam bear the influence of early Arab immigrants with names like Kandahar Street, Arab Street, Muscat Street, Bussorah Street, Baghdad Street, Haji Lane, Jalan Sultan, Sultan Gate.

^ Zam Zam Singapore. You may have experienced a great deal of perspiration from eating all that hot and spicy food without any air-conditioner in the past. At least now, the restaurant’s upper floors have been air-conditioned for its patrons for a more comfortable and relaxing meal.

^ Haji Lane…a walk back in time along this narrow street.

^ Along the corridors of shop-houses, fabrics, textiles, knick-knacks can be found.

^ The skills of such a trade like carpet-weaving are passed down from generation to generation. The family name synonymous of a specialized trade is upheld with honour and prestige.

sultan'smosque09A c1963 Bussorah Street
^ An old file photo of Bussorah Street. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, circa 1963). On display are cakes, sweets and other things you can find when Muslims prepare to celebrate the end of the fasting month of Ramadan…Hari Raya Puasa Adil Fitri.

^ Adding more variety to the bazaar…Ramly burgers.

^ The entrance to Istana Kampong Glam.

^ The grounds of Istana Kampong Glam which was once the seat of Malay royalty. This area is part of the conservation project of Kampong Glam. On 12th Mar 1999, it became the Malay Heritage Centre.

^ Umbrellas with floral designs on display on the grounds of Istana Kampong Glam.

^ Intricate designs on fabric that speaks a lot more than just shapes and colours.

^ For those who chew sireh, you will know what this is. The next photo tells a bit more of the…..

^ ….. Cembul.

^ An old horse-drawn carriage before the introduction of the electric trams and motorised vehicles on the roads of Singapore.

^ A prahu. Very fast sailboat. I came to learn that Kampong Glam got its name from a group of Orang Laut from the Glam tribe who resided by the sea. The prahu provided the orang laut a means of transportation not to mention some nefarious activities like piracy on the high seas. It is said that the bark from the Glam tree is used for making awnings and sails. The timber is used to construct the boat as well as for use as firewood. Its fruit is grounded for use as pepper. Its leaves boiled into a concoction as a form of medication to cure rheumatism.

^ A scaled-down model of a Minangkabau palace “Istana Basa” , West Sumatra, Indonesia.

^ If you would like to take a stroll soaking in the ambience of Kampong Glam or visit the bazaar, this notice will come in handy.

Taking this opportunity to wish all our Muslim friends, their families and the community…a meaningful Ramadan. May your spiritual renewal culminating in the celebration of Hari Raya Puasa Aidilfitri be one filled with love, joy, and peace.

Trishaw – san lun che

August 20, 2009

^ The trishaw made its appearance in Singapore in 1914. It had evolve from its predecessor, the rickshaw, which originated from Japan. With a passenger seat attached to the bicycle, this 3-wheeler, known in Chinese as “san lun che” proved to be a very viable means of transport that eventually phased out the rickshaw. Today, the trishaw serves mainly the tourist trade. Occasionally, you may have spotted tourists on trishaws where they are being wheeled around the historical sites of Singapore’s central civic district. It is learnt that the passenger pick-up point is located at Albert Street Market & Food Centre and a trip for two can be around $40 or depending on the distance travelled.

A walk down Judicial Stretch – City Hall & Supreme Court

August 1, 2009

Two buildings located in the heart of Singapore’s central civic district. Historic events of a nation’s past took place in this area that many of the older folks would remember. Let us take a peek into its past as to what is known today as the Judicial Stretch at St Andrews Road.

^ City Hall (right) and Supreme Court (left).

^ The location where City Hall now stands was formerly the site of two private homes built in 1828 and 1830 which belonged to Dr William Montgomerie of the East India Company and Thomas Church (Resident Councillor). In 1926, works began to build the Municipal building designed by F.D.Meadows and was completed in 1929. In 1951, the name was changed to City Hall when Singapore acquired her city status.

^ A bit of its history.

^ A historic moment that occurred at City Hall was at the end of WW2 that saw the surrender of Japanese forces on 12th Sep 1945 which marked the end of Japanese rule over Syonan-to. The photo shows the Japanese delegation led by General Itagaki Seishiro, under escort of Allied soldiers, walking towards City Hall to sign the Instrument of Surrender. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, 12th Sep 1945)

^ Crowds of Allied soldiers gathered at City Hall on the day of Japanese surrender. (Photocredit National Archives of Singapore, 12th Sep 1945)

^ The same spot that the soldiers gathered on 12th Sep 1945. Huge Corinthian columns of Greek architecture that cuts a prominent façade at City Hall.

^ The Japanese delegation walking up the steps of City Hall into the building. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, 12th Sep 1945)

^ General Itagaki Seishiro signing the surrender document at the surrender ceremony of the Japanese to the Allied forces. Seated opposite him was Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten signing the acceptance of Japanese surrender. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, 12th Sep 1945)

^ The Japanese delegation escorted down the steps of City Hall after signing the surrender documents.

^ The same steps at City Hall today.

^ The Japanese delegation led by General Itagaki Seishiro. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, 12th Sep 1945)

^ The ceremonial parade after the Japanese surrender. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, 12th Sep 1945)

^ Lt Gen Christison taking the salute on the steps of City Hall on 12th Sep 1945 during the ceremonial parade after the Japanese surrender. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, 12th Sep 1945)

^ The same steps that witnessed many ceremonial parades when Singapore gained independence on 9th Aug 1965 to become a sovereign state.

^ From this vantage point, you will be able to see Queen Elizabeth Walk as well as the shoreline of the Esplanade. Today, land has been reclaimed right up to the Integrated Resorts seen at the background of the photo.

^ Cast iron door-knockers in the form of a lion head on the doors of City Hall building.

^ Gazetted as a monument on 14th Feb 1992 by the Preservation of Monuments Board.

^ Another prominent building that sits just next to City Hall is the Supreme Court of Singapore designed by Frank Dorrington Ward and built between 1937-1939. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, circa 1939)

^ Present-day photo of the Supreme Court building.

^ The frontage of the Supreme Court building that cuts an imposing and dignified presence.

^ The dome and the tympanum sculpture works by Italian sculptor, R.Nolli at the Supreme Court building. Tympanum refers to the decorative wall surface that contains sculptures or ornaments.

^ You may notice some sculptures depicting certain scenes found at the entrance of the Supreme Court building.

^ An old file photo of the Padang and the buildings of City Hall and the Supreme Court in the background. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, circa 1944)

^ Roughly at the same spot where the previous photo was taken. From 1944 to 2009…a span of 65 years.

^ In the early years of Singapore’s independence, National Day parades were held at the Padang. Later the parades were decentralized to the sports complex located in various housing estates. National Day parades were later moved to the National Stadium when the stadium was built in 1973. If you happen to have the tickets for this year’s National Day Parade held at Marina Bay on 9th Aug 2009, perhaps a stroll down the historic sites of City Hall and Supreme Court buildings will make your celebration a bit more eventful.

Wishing Singapore a Happy 44th Birthday!!

Fort Canning – 14th century walk

July 20, 2009

Most squash players may remember the squash courts at Fort Canning Centre. During the heydays of squash fever in the 70’s and early 80’s, names like Zainal Abidin and Peter Hill became synonymous with the game of squash. Besides Kampong Java Tennis and Squash Centre, I remembered having enjoyed a few games of squash using the Ascot racket with fellow classmates at Fort Canning. At that time, the building was pretty rundown and in dire need of renovations. Today, a stroll at Fort Canning brought back some happy memories as well as a peek into its history.

Before 1822, Fort Canning Hill was known as Bukit Larangan (meaning “Forbidden Hill”). It was so called because of age old legends that this hill was believed to be the sacred burial ground for kings of royalty.

^ From the earliest recorded history in the Malay Annals of the 14th and 15th century, Parameswara (aka Sultan Iskandar Shah), the fifth king from Palembang of royal descent in the Majapahit empire fled to Singapore where he established his rule for 3 years. Due to a Javanese attack, he and his followers fled Singapore. Having arrived at Melaka which he founded, he established his rule for 20 years.

^ When Sir Stamford Raffles founded Singapore in 1819, Bukit Larangan became the centrality of colonial power and residence. In 1822, Raffles had build his residence on the grounds of Bukit Larangan. It was later known as Government Hill or Singapore Hill. Much later, it became known as Fort Canning Hill named after Viscount Charles John Canning, Governor-General and First Viceroy of India (1856-1862). A bit of a huff and puff as you walked up the steps to the top of the hill which is said to be 156 ft high.

^ You will not be at a loss for directions.

^ Along the 14th century walk, you will arrive at ‘The Archaeological Dig”.

^ Given its rich history, Fort Canning Hill held remains of ancient Chinese and Malay artefacts. In 1984, archaeological finds were discovered. This prompted an excavation project commissioned by the National Museum, led by John Miksic, and sponsored by Shell.

^ Text panel describing the ancient history of Singapore.

^ Glass covered showcases displaying the artefacts uncovered at Fort Canning Hill.

^ Artefacts ranges from civilian to miltary. Some of the items uncovered were old coins, pieces of pottery, glassware, utensils etc. Inset photo at the bottom left shows a sentry on duty at Fort Canning Gate. Inset photo at the bottom right shows drawings of European Clay Pipes.

^ The photo shows two pieces of the base of a green glazed bowl with impressed double-fish motif excavated at Fort Canning Hill which is probably of 14th century origin. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore)

^ Pieces of broken porcelain from bowls with intricate designs.

^ Officially opened on 20th April 2001.

^ Following information was obtained from the National Library Board:

Sir Stamford Raffles initiated the setting up of the Botanical Gardens in November 1822 headed by surgeon Nathaniel Wallich. Wallich had had earlier success in setting up the Botanical Gardens in Calcutta. At least 48 acres of land was staked out, including the Government Gardens on the slopes of the hill, where nutmeg and cloves had been planted since 1819. Fruit trees were also abundant on the hill, remnants of a possible royal garden under the ancient Malayan kings. Unfortunately, rising costs of maintenance and the lack of government support saw the closure of the experimental spice gardens in June 1829 but not before Wallich had produced a new strain of orchid, the Vanda Wallachii. The plot was sold to the Armenian church. In November 1994, the Spice Gardens, a 1,168 sq m replica of the early Botanical Gardens on the hill was established. The Spice Gardens hold seven species of spice plants such as clove and nutmeg, which were originally planted along these slopes. (Credit: National Library of Singapore)

^ The old method of extraction. You may recall how original soyabean milk taste like.

^ Wang Dayuan, a visitor to Temasek in 1330, who wrote about “Longyamen” – Dragon’s Tooth Strait. A perilous journey through pirate infested waters.

^ One of seven guns of 68-pounder size located at Fort Canning Hill.

^ Fort Canning Centre where I use to play squash in the late 70’s. Now, it evokes a sense of calm and tranquility as you walk along the lawn and forested footpaths.

^ Certain units of Fort Canning Centre have become offices for photography studios and arts establishments.

^ An old photograph as well as a display of the rickshaw at Fort Canning Centre. The text panel reads:
Rickshaws were a cheap and manouverable form of transport in Singapore in the early 1900s. The pullers were usually Chinese men from Foochow province in China. At their peak in 1922, there were over 30,000 rickshaws on the island. But by the 1930s, their popularity had began to decline. There were less than 4,000 rickshaws by 1939.

^ A refurbished building that was once the OMSQ (Old Married Soldiers Quarters).

^ An old file photo showing Fort Canning Gate with a sentry on guard. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, circa 1925). Following information was obtained from the National Library of Singapore:
In 1859, Government House was demolished and the construction of the Fort was started despite protests by some quarters which believed it was a mistake to locate the fort on the hill so far removed from shore. Built on an excavated plateau, the Fort was completed in 1861 with 400 Chinese coolies. It was named after Viscount Charles John Canning, Governor-General and First Viceroy of India (1856-1862). There were seven 68-pounders positioned toward the sea by May 1859, and another eight 8-inch shell guns and two 13-inch mortars added with even a hospital for European artillerymen built in 1867. A 68-pounder would go off each morning at 5:00 am, signalling the start of the day for those within a two-mile radius, enough for most bunglow residents around Fort Canning to note. The cannons were used right up until 1896 to also signal the outbreak of fires. Unfortunately, when the Fort was completed, it was noticed that the fort at Pearl’s Hill was higher and thus the Government Military Engineer ordered that Pearl’s Hill be shaved off to meet the right height. The fort was demolished in 1907, never having been used in defense of the country and only two 9-pound cannons and the Gothic archway of its entrance (the Old Fort Gateway 1859), designed by G. C. Collyer, still stand.

^ Present-day photo of Fort Canning Gate. If walls can talk, there will be many stories to tell including the surrender of Singapore to the Japanese invading forces on 15th Feb 1942 decided by General A.E.Percival at his command bunker located at Fort Canning Hill.

^ The Gate of Fort Canning.

^ A remnant of the history of Fort Canning Hill.

^ I sighted this extremely huge and tall tree. Its girth is about the circumference of 5 persons linking hands together forming a circle, towering about 5-6 storeys high.

^ Another massive tree that provided much shade to visitors.

^ Government House and Fort Canning.

^ The house that Raffles built…rather a refurbished section of the original house. At the front, it provides a panoramic view all round except that now, towering skyscrapers are part of the skyline.

^ An old photo showing the landscape of Fort Canning Hill. At the background stood Fort Canning Lighthouse. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, circa 1925)

^ The lighthouse still remains. On the right of the lighthouse (not in photo) is actually a flagstaff. The purpose of the flagstaff is to announce the arrival of merchant ships that act as a signal to traders and coolie suppliers to quickly make their way to the harbour.

^ The South Battery.

^ The cannons at Fort Canning Hill pointed southwards in the defence of Singapore during WW2 in anticipation of the direction of the Japanese invasion. The Japanese attack came from the North having secured Kota Bahru as a foothold and rumbled down the Malayan Peninsular southwards to the doors of Singapore.

^ Keramat Iskandar Syah.

^ The location on Fort Canning Hill believed to be the burial place of Sultan Iskandar Shah.

^ Information about Sultan Iskandar Shah.

^ It’s not all things old and historical. You may chance upon some beautiful flowers along the paths.


If you have the time, perhaps Fort Canning Hill may just be your next stop for a quiet stroll amid lush history and greenery.

Beginnings at Telok Ayer

April 23, 2009

Located along Telok Ayer Street, a huge Chinese Temple known as Thian Hock Keng Temple comes into view. Known as being one of Singapore’s oldest Chinese temples, it was built by the early Chinese immigrants who came to Singapore to seek a better life. The temple was built in dedication to Ma Cho Po – Goddess of the Sea, for a safe sea passage. If you walk along the exterior perimeter of the temple along Boon Tat Street towards the intersection with Amoy Street, you will find a quiet cove that gives an insight of the early settlers in Telok Ayer.

^ A heritage signboard showing the map of Chinatown Historic District. It will enable you to find you way to historical places around Chinatown.

^ In the quiet cove surrounded by trees and shrubs, a panel describing the early beginnings at Telok Ayer.

^ Chinese figurines in a procession. The attire of samfoo and the hair tied into a pigtail.

^ Chinese Processions.

^ Indian settlers also communed at Telok Ayer.

^ Indian milk traders of Telok Ayer.

If you happen to visit Thian Hock Keng temple, do take a quiet stroll to this little cove that speaks volumes of the history of Telok Ayer. You may also refer to the Chinatown Historic District map to plan your next walkabout destination.

SSVF HQ 1931

March 26, 2009

Just a few steps along Beach Road from the former NAAFI / SAF NCO Club, another old building comes into view. The front of the building still have the words “SSVF HQ 1931” with an emblem further below. Many will know that this was formerly known as Beach Road Camp. A bit of history in the following photos.

^ The SSVF HQ which later became Beach Road Camp. “SSVF” is an acronym for “Straits Settlements Volunteer Force”.

^ To avoid straining your eyes to read what’s on the panel, here’s the full text printed on the National Heritage Board signboard.

The origins of the People’s Defence Force (PDF) can be traced to the formation of the Singapore Volunteer Rifles Corps (SVRC) on 8th July 1854 to assist the local constabulary during colonial rule. It was formed by European residents living in Singapore. However, the SVRC was a private military force. In 1857, the Indian Government passed the Volunteer Ordinace, which placed the SVRC under government control. In 1888, the Singapore Volunteer Artillery Corps (SVA) replaced the SVRC. In 1901, the SVA was expanded and a new force known as the Singapore Volunteer Corps (SVC) was formed. It comprised the artillery, infantry, engineers and the rifle sections. Over the years, the SVC became more of an island defence force, with its own guns and artillery. In 1915, the SVC played a major role in suppressing the Sepoy Mutiny. In 1921, the SVC and other Straits Settlements corps merged to form the Straits Settlements Volunteer Force (SSVF).

In 1930, the ground next to the original building in Beach Road was designated as the SSVF Head Quarters (HQ) and construction works commenced in 1931 based on the design by F. Dorrington Ward. However, laying of the foundation stone for the new building only took place in 1932, officiated by His Excellency Sir Cecil Clementi, then British Governor of the Straits Settlements. After a new drill hall was constructed, the new HQ was officially opened by Sir Clementi on 4 March 1933.

During World War II, more than 2000 volunteers perished, who were later commemorated by memorials erected at the PDF Camp (also known as Beach Road Camp), Kranji War Memorial and Kanchanaburi War Cemetery in Thailand. The SSVF was disbanded in 1946. However, former volunteers gathered at Beach Road Camp in 1949 and they received the SVC in the Colony of Singapore. It assisted in defence during the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960), and the armed Confrontation with Indonesia – protecting installations in Southern Johore and Singapore (including Pulau Bukom).

With Singapore’s independence in 1965, the volunteer unit became the PDF. Many volunteer officers were mobilised into the regular army to help in the establishment of the new Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). Women volunteers also featured among the volunteers as part of the PDF (Women). They performed clerical and technical duties and also assisted in the nation-wide registration exercise of national Service (NS).

After 1971, the PDF was reorganized and trained as NS operational battalions. By March 1984, due to full-time NS and dwindling volunteer enlistment, 101 Battalion PDF (the volunteer section of the PDF) was disbanded. In 1985, the rapidly growing PDF was reorganized into 1 PDF and 2 PDF Commands for effective command and control.

The State flag was lowered for the last time at Beach Road Camp on 18 February 2000 at the handing-over ceremony and official closure of the camp. The SVC memorial remains at the Drill Hall at Beach Road Camp where it serves as a reminder of our people’s valiant spirits to defend Singapore. The SAF Veterans’ League periodically holds commemorative services there. With the Camp’s closure, 2 PDF Command moved to Clementi Camp where a replica of the memorial can be seen.

^ An old file photo showing RI (Raffles Institution) NCC Drill Competition Squad training for the Haddon Cup. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, circa 1964).

^ A recent photograph of the building with some noticeable patterns of the walls that still remains today.

For those who have served in the SVRF, SSVF, PDF, gone were the days where you heard the RSM’s voice boomed across the parade square, undergone your reservist training at Beach Road Camp, or served in the SAF at that building. The people from different backgrounds who bonded together and shared a common goal – the protection of our nation.

Former NAAFI & SAF NCO Club

March 11, 2009

^ Beach Road…a road along the coastal beach of southern Singapore In the early days of Singapore’s history after she was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819, George Drumgoole Coleman, an Irish architect, was tasked to develop the civil infrastructure of Singapore. One such development was paving of a coastal road fronting the sea coast which is now known as Beach Road. Today, Beach Road is no longer a stone’s throw from the shoreline given extensive land reclamation. Nevertheless, this stretch of road still has a few old buildings with a history.

^ NAAFI (The Navy, Army and Air Force Institute) Britannia Club. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, circa 1971). Sited at the junction of Beach Road and Bras Basah Road, one such building still remains today. Much has been written about NAAFI during the colonial days in Singapore’s history. Later, it was known as the SAF NCO Club. Here is a post written by Lam Chun See in his blog Good Morning Yesterday titled “Our History Goes Back Further Than That!”. Another blogger Lau Kok Kok also reminisced about the days of NAAFI Club in his blogsite Times Of My Life in his post titled “Beach Road Pt. 1 – NCO Club”. Many SAF personnel may remember the days where you are entitled to purchase a carton or two of beer at discounted prices by producing your SAF-11B, the identity card of SAF personnel.

^ A bit of history of NAAFI Britannia Club. Here’s the text from the National Heritage Board signboard.

Standing on 63,067 square feet of land in the centre of the city, this prominent corner building was originally used by the British Armed Forces and was named the Britannia Club. The Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes, NAAFI, ran this brick and Spanish-tiled-roof building with copper roofing. This three-storey clubhouse housed a cafeteria, dance floor, a drinking tavern, billiard room, music room, library and table-tennis room. It even had a beer cellar and an engine room.

Built in 1949, this clubhouse served as a recreational club for its members. Allied troops often utilised its facilities, and the Club soon became a popular social gathering venue for both its members and and their allied counterparts. It provided opportunities for soldiers from diverse backgrounds and nationalities to interact and share their experiences, and thereby strengthening brotherly bonds.

When the British pulled out in 1969, the Singapore Government negotiated with NAAFI in 1972 and purchased the property. It was originally allocated to the national Sports Promotion Board to be used as a public facility. When the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) Club was formed in 1974, it occupied the building from then onwards. It was also during this period that the Club acquired a stronger family orientation and its activities often centered on its members and their families. The Club also housed the SAF Enterprise (SAFE) Superstore that offered affordable merchandise and payment schemes for the NCOs.

In 1994, the SAF NCO Club was renamed the Warrant Officers and Specialists (WOSE) Club. The objectives of the Club which has remained unchanged, is to strengthen the bond of warrant officers and specialist corps as members of SAF, to encourage interaction and involvement among the members and their families, and provide recreational as well as personal development programmes and activities.

With the expansion of the membership base and the allocation of land for redevelopment, the Club moved to Jurong East. Located within Jurong Regional Centre, THE CHEVRONS, as it is now known, was officially opened in February 2002.

^ Present-day photo. Morphing into “South Beach” – Singapore’s New Lifestyle Quarter, as the sign suggests.

^ The entrance to the building which many have passed through its doors. A sense of quietness prevail.

This old building had fostered many friendships among military personnel and their families since its inception in 1949. It also brought back many happy memories for Allied soldiers and their families who comes visiting to Singapore at this place, once known as NAAFI, even for SAF personnel who knew it as the SAF NCO Club. Let’s see what this building will become next.

Boogie at Bugis

February 27, 2009

Talk about Bugis Street and some will recall the colourful nightlife that this stretch of street evoked. In the early days of Singapore’s history, Bugis Street was an enclave of the seafaring people who arrived from South Sulawesi, a province in Indonesia. Known as “The Bugis”, they came to Singapore bringing with them cargoes of cotton cloth, spices, sandalwood, coffee, rice, and even exotic feathers of birds-of-paradise, to trade with Singaporean merchants. The Bugis community grew along with its trade and this was how the thoroughfare where they settled got its name known as Bugis Street.

^ Today, you have New Bugis Street, Bugis Square, Bugis Village, Bugis Junction, Parco Bugis Junction, Bugis Junction Towers, Bugis Cineplex, Bugis MRT station, Bugis Pasar Malam, New Bugis Food Village, Where exactly is the location of Bugis Street where it was well known to many tourists and locals alike? The original Bugis Street still exist today with nicely paved cobblestoned and wide pathways that lies between the buildings of Bugis Junction. Surrounded by air-conditioned shopping malls, restaurants, entertainment outlets, it is a far cry from the Bugis Street many remembered.

^ Gleeful children playing by the water-fountain located at the original Bugis Street.

^ An old photo of Bugis Street where tourists and locals were attracted to its food, booze, pasar malam – night market. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, circa late 1980s). Though the area was surrounded by old shop-houses, dirty back-lanes and smelly drains which was a concern for sanitation, it all adds up to the lively flavour of Bugis Street.

^ Besides tourists and locals, Bugis Street also saw its fair share of attracting foreign soldiers and navy men on shore-leave during their R&R. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, circa 1962)

^ Another main attraction in the nightlife of Bugis Street was the ‘parade of transvestites’. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, circa late 1980s). Flamboyantly dressed in their regalia, the transvestites would sashayed up and down the street much to the hordes of gawkers around.

^ This photo was added to this post on 2nd Mar 2009 (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, circa late 1980s). This photo was inserted in relation to what fellow blogger YG has described in his comment where he remembered sailors prancing on the rooftops at Bugis Street. In a Wikipedia search, this was what happened:

One of the “hallowed traditions” bestowed upon the area by sojourning sailors, such as from Australia, was the ritualistic “Dance Of The Flamers” or “Dance Of The Flaming Arseholes” on top of the infamous toilet’s roof. Compatriots on the ground would chant the signature “Haul ’em down you Zulu Warrior” song whilst the matelots performed their act.

^ During the mid-1980s, Bugis Street underwent a major urban redevelopment. Dilapidated shop-houses were demolished. Poor sanitation along the decaying back lanes and smelly drains were cleaned up. It also saw to the construction of the underground Bugis MRT station.

^ To replicate the bustling colourful atmosphere of the original Bugis Street where pasar malam and road-side hawker stalls once existed, STPB (Singapore Tourist Promotion Board) created the “New Bugis Street” that is presently located just opposite the original Bugis Street. The photo above shows the entrance to the new Bugis Street along Victoria Street.

^ Inside the maze of passageways of the new Bugis Street, a wide variety of goods were sold ranging from bags, clothes, music and video CDs, shoes, electronic gadgets and all sorts of knick-knacks.

^ One of the many food stalls to fill your hungry tummy after all that shopping.

^ A variety of fruit juices to quench that thirst.

^ A stall selling roast duck and roast pork which perhaps is worth trying given all the culinary endorsements displayed.

Tourists and locals may recall the days of “Boom Boom Room” at Bugis Street where Singapore’s drag-queen, Kumar, and his troupe performed cabaret-styled shows much to the laughter and amusement of his audience. For some, Bugis Street was also a place once known as “Boogie Street” during the disco craze in the 1970s. The sights, sounds and smell of old Bugis Street with its bazaar of nightlife have all but faded into our memories. Indeed it was a captivating experience for many during the good old days boogie-ing at Bugis.