The school next to the Police Academy

30 05 2010

Sandwiched on a small plot of land off the Whitley Road stretch of the Pan Island Expressway (PIE), between the old Police Academy and the now infamous Whitley Detention Centre, is a little known road, Onraet Road. The road as well as its name, has an origin that has much to do with the Police Academy itself, as well as the detention centre, situated on a hill overlooking the road. Onraet Road was built to serve the Police flats that still sit somewhat obscurely in the background, and was named after a René Onraet, an Inspector General of the Straits Settlements Police from 1935 to 1939, who had made his mark in the fight against communism and gambling in the early part of the twentieth century. He was also credited with forming the Criminal Intelligence Department, which later became the Special Branch of the Police force, the predecessor of the dreaded Internal Security Department, which runs the Whitley Detention Centre, which was in the spotlight not too long ago for the audacious escape from it made by terrorist detainee Mas Selamat Kastari.

A photograph of Whitley Primary School found online, with the Police flats at Onraet Road seen in the background.

Looking at Onraet Road from the PIE, to the Police flats are. The empty area in the foreground was once occupied by Whitley Primary School.

The Police quarters housed many Policemen who had originated from Malacca.

Most of us would have probably forgotten the Whitley Road before the PIE came into being, swallowing a substantial portion of the road as it was then, which along with the Police Academy, was perhaps known better for the Chinese cemetery that dominated most of the area and some large bungalows that stood around it. Onraet Road itself had a small community of mainly tenants of the Police quarters, built to house the rank and file of the Police trainees undergoing training at the Police Training Centre in 1954 (along with the road named after Onraet), which became the Police Academy, which had a community centre and even a primary school, Whitley Primary School, housed in a three storey building built in the fashion of the schools of the early 1960s, wedged in a narrow strip of land off Onraet Road, between the Whitley Road, the Police Academy and the Police flats. It is a school that I remember well, as my father taught at the school in the early 1970s, right up to the time it closed in 1975. The premises were annexed to the Police Academy subsequently and the building was used by the Police for a while before being torn down. It is interesting to note that based on my father’s recollections, the students mainly came from the nearby Police quarters, and many of their fathers who were Policemen, had originated from Malacca. A common answer when asked where they were going off to for the holidays was “Malacca”!

Part of the PIE runs over what was a Whitley Road, known for the Chinese cemetery, the Police Academy and the Police flats on Onraet Road.

We see a very different Whitley Road today from the one in the 1970s.

The area has changed substantially with the PIE cutting through it, the distinctive Police flats are still there, as is the old Police Academy and its large parade square, on which I remember seeing parades and rehearsals being carried out for the Police Tattoo which I could watch from a distance from the grounds of the school and when passing by on Whitley Road. Much of the graves that could be seen around have also gone – with perhaps only the ones around the Detention Centre and its surroundings left intact. I am not sure what will become of the old Police Academy, also known for its large sports field where we could watch football matches being played during the weekends. I suspect it would soon be redeveloped, and another charming part of Singapore would go the way of the many others which only remain in the memories of some of us.

The old Police Academy and its large Parade Square could be seen from the school and the former Whitley Road.

Whitley Road had several large bungalows, some of which are still around.



17 responses

21 02 2012

Thanks for the memory. I grew up in Blk G till I was in P6! Most of the people I grew up with are back in Malaysia. I’m sure each having a successful life.

24 02 2012
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Hi Hizam, when did you live in Blk G? Did you go to Whitley Primary School as well?

31 10 2018
Abdulaziz Binkasim

I was a student of WPS from 1960 to 1965..I can still remember my class teacher known as Miss Lim. The sports / PE teachers, Mr. Tan Tee Soon and Mr Eric Tan. The former used to ride Vespa to school while the latter had a Sunbeam sport car. Those were yhe days…

12 02 2020
Ismail Osman

Ms. Lim is the one who always wear wide skirts and she also use spectacle. She always asked the student to buy for he Coca Cola when she’s teaching. You remember Cik Gu Ali Suradi?

4 02 2013

My dad was a student at Whitley pri school in the 70’s too! Your dad could be my dads teacher!

4 02 2013
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Hi Ailin, that’s nice to know … he could very well have been! 🙂

22 03 2013

I hope I am not the first to break this bad news to you… Every department in old police academy is moving out by april 2014 …Which will be followed by the destruction of OPA to make way for a wider pie and a new mrt station… How am I very sure abt this? Well I am serving my NS thr nw… A place in Singapore which still looks like pre-war Singapore… It’s so sad it’s going to go… But, I am very greatful to be one of the last few intakes sharing memories of that charming place…

25 06 2013

Hi Jerome, I’m currently working on a project to commemorate the historical significance of the OPA. Would you be willing to share more memories of this site? -john

18 08 2014

I was a pupil there from P1-P4.(1972-1975).My only memories are the school compounds.If anyone could remember those Teachers then,pls do pen down.I would love to know where are they now.thank you.

6 09 2015
Tajul Suad

I lived there from 1975 to 1986…from blk j and then to blk g…memories. ..

10 07 2017

Saya azhar saya tinggal di kampong nekat .saya belajar ugama kat surau atas bukit kat sana.dulu kita semua suka main bola kat tanah lapang kat surau tu.saya dulu sekolah pri farrer.saya lakhir tahun 73 .saya berpindah ke marsiling pada tahun 1981.saya banyak kenangan semasa berada di kampong nekat tu.tempat barek sana ada skolah dekat dengan kubur cina kan.kat sana pon saya main bola main guli dan panjat bukit kat belakang skolah tu boleh tengok penjara tu.heheh salam perkenalan .selamat hari raya..

16 10 2015

Thank you for this post. René Onraet was my great-uncle. An older brother of my grand-mother. I stumbled on your post to check on “Onraet Rd”, which to me was a Family legend. But no. It’s real. 🙂
Take care

1 06 2018
Loh Siew Ling

My father was a policeman. Our family of 4 lived in Blk F till 1977, by when we moved to HDB. I attended the kindetgarten there, which was just next to the cemetery. I had my pri 1 – 5 education at Whitley Primary, which closed down around 1976-7. We were offered to school at either the new Braddell Primary or Macritchie Primary at Toa Payoh Lor 8 thereafter. Whitley Primary had students who lived around the area, and those in Toa Payohchua

11 11 2018
Michael Chirico

I happened upon Onraet Road today while wondering about as I do. I came upon it from the Mount Pleasant side and unfortunately it’s chained off with a guard house so I was cowed from exploring further.

I did however manage to make my way into the Chinese cemetery which sadly seems to be in severe disrepair. I got the feeling I was the only human presence there in a long time.

Thanks for your post! It’s all too common to find some interesting corner if Singapore and to be met with crickets when trying to learn more details of the place online 🙂

18 06 2021
Shamshubaridah Ramlee

We grew up in Ontaet Road. Nostalgic indeed..

27 06 2021
Lim KH

I grew up in the Kampong on Onraet Road. I attended Whitley Primary School from 1969-1975. We were resettled sometime in year 1984 and all were moved to HDB flats all over Singapore.

We lived in attap house then.
Directly behind our house were all the Chinese Cemetery.
As a kid, I even played hide and seek at night at the grave yards!

27 01 2022
Selva Kumar

My family lived at Wong Chin Yoke Rd off Onraet Rd in a three storey single block next to the old detention centre and a surau from 1968 till the middle of 1972. Studied at WPS together with my siblings. I was there from 1969 till early 1973 before I transferred to a school in Taman Jurong when my family moved. Had a lady by the name of Asmah from Kampung Nekat who used to work as a maid at my neighbour’s house Still holding on to wonderful memories of the school and my teachers, the Police Academy as well as the surroundings! A paradise indeed!

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