Friday, February 20, 2015

Battle for Singapore Heritage Tours - Bukit Brown

The National Heritage Board of Singapore (NHB) organised a slew of activities to commemorate the 73rd Anniversary of the Battle for Singapore and also the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Singapore. The activities included guided tours, public talks and an exhibition during the period of February and March 2015, one which featured a bunker that used to belong to the British naval base and the one i managed to sign up for was the Tiong Bahru Air Raid Shelter.

I was one of the guides for the In Remembrance of World War 2 at Bukit Brown and for this tour, we shared on some of the personalities that played a role during the War and also highlighted the geographical significance of Bukit Brown and Mount Pleasant area as World War 2 sites that encountered fierce battle just before the surrender of Singapore on February 15, 1942.

Personalities Covered for my trail
Lim Chong Pang 
Wong Chin Yoke
Tan Ean Kiam
Tan Ean Teck

Three volley salute at the Police funeral of Wong Chin Yoke
I covered also a unique facet of Bukit Brown, the Punjabi Guards which are symbolic of the cultural fusion or melting pot of different races representative of a unique period of time when Singapore was a colony of the invincible British Empire. This myth of invincibility was finally shattered with the fall of Singapore to the Japanese force that sweep aside the British fortress within a month of landing in Malaya. Notably, the Punjabi or Sikh Guard statues were popular among the Chinese businessmen or towkay, pre-1945, after which they disappeared completely from being used as guardians of the deceased.

Wong Chin Yoke cluster- Probably the tallest statutes at 5 feet 8 inches
Block 4 Division A @1.339891,103.824901
I painted the story of many civilians fleeing Singapore days before the fall of Singapore and the sinking of the ship SS Kuala which led to the death of Mrs. Lim Nee Soon (mother of Lim Chong Pang) and many other nurses and civilians drowned. The tragic story of SS Kuala and SS Tanjong Pinang was well documented in many websites. 

Finally i touched on a sensitive area of the role of some of this prominent Chinese played during Japanese occupied Singapore as members of the Overseas Chinese Association (O.C.A), an association made of prominent Chinese who worked with the Japanese Military Administration to maintain local order and support the Japan war effort. Some of this prominent Chinese did not survived the war (e.g, Tan Ean Kiam but for those who did, they were accused by the British Military Administrators as collaborators, but later exonerated for their involvement with the O.C.A (e.g. Lim Chon Pang, Lim Boon Keng).

Remains of bones found 
Bukit Brown has still many stories uncovered or waiting to be uncovered that is related to the war which was not covered in this tour or at least the one i conducted. Below are some links from previous articles i wrote either about personalities buried in Bukit Brown who died as a direct result of the war or contributed to the war resistance effort. Many mysteries still remain unsolved such as the location of the communal trenches documented in the burial registrar.

Tay Koh Yat, posted on November 24, 2011
Communal Trenches of War Victims in Bukit Brown, posted on March 5, 2012
Soh Koon Eng, posted on January 27,2013
Volunteer Soldiers buried in Bukit Brown-a journey of rediscovery, posted on July 26, 2014

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