Still in the dark, where the darkness began this Sunday, 73 years ago

8 02 2015

In the darkness of a Sunday night, 73 years ago today, the end was to begin for Singapore. Just after 8 pm on 8 February 1942, the first wave of landings were made by Japanese troops  along the poorly defended and mangrove lined northwest coastline of the island.

In the dark: WWII landing site at Sarimbun Beach today with its fence to prevent a new invasion of  illegal immigrants and goods.

In the dark: WWII landing site at Sarimbun Beach today with its fence to prevent a new invasion of illegal immigrants and goods.

Defended by the ill prepared and poorly equipped Australian Imperial Forces’ 22nd Brigade, who were spread out thinly over a long stretch of the coastline, coupled with Percival’s misjudgement in focusing the defence of the island in its east, the area, the mangroves proved to be no barrier and the coast was very quickly overrun. The defence of Singapore was to fail miserably just a week later, a defeat that was to plunge Singapore in more than three years of darkness as the light of the Japanese Empire’s south.

“Sarimbun battle” by Unknown; original uploader was Grant65 at en.wikipedia. – Lionel Wigmore (1957) “Defence of Western Area” in Australia in the War of 1939–1945: Volume IV – The Japanese Thrust (PDF), Canberra: Australian War Memorial, pp. 310 Transferred from en.wikipedia by Gorbi. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Much of the area today is still shrouded in darkness. Cut-off from the rest of Singapore by its relative inaccessibility and isolation – much of it is off limits as a large part of it lies within the Live Firing Area (and even where it isn’t, there is a fence intended to keep the new invasion of illegal immigrants and goods out that also cuts us off from our seas), it is an area seemingly forgotten even if there are markers in place to commemorate an event that should remain in the minds of all of us in Singapore.

A page from the Australian Imperial Forces 2/20 Battalion unit diary. The 2/20 Battalion was defending the sector where Sarimbun Beach is at the time of the landings.

A page from the Australian Imperial Forces 2/20 Battalion unit diary. The 2/20 Battalion was defending the sector where Sarimbun Beach is at the time of the landings.

Japanese forces landing on Singapore on the night of 8 February 1942 (Australian War Memorial – Copyright Expired).


Related:

Japanese footage from the Romano Archives, 1942 The Taking of Singapore, which includes some landing scenes:

Another landing site, The Pier: A lost world in Lim Chu Kang






The magazine under Talbot’s Hill

7 02 2015

An area of Singapore that still has much history buried under it is the area where the former British Naval Base was. Under parts of the former base, which covered an area stretching from the Causeway in Woodlands to what is today Sembawang Park, lies several underground structures, one of which is a the so-called Attap Valley bunker that has recently been brought to light.

The entrance to the Attap Valley bunker.

The entrance to the Attap Valley bunker below Talbot’s Hill.

Worshipping a new religion? Participants on a heritage tour to the site examining part of a ventilation system.

Worshipping a new religion? Participants on a heritage tour to the site examining part of a ventilation system.

The bunker, opened to the public for the first time today, is the last surviving structure of an armament depot constructed by the British within the huge Naval Base in the Talbot’s Hill and Attap Valley area. A ammunition and armament storage magazine, specifically Magazine No. 4, it was one of seven other bomb-proof magazines that were built into Talbot’s Hill by the British before 1942.

An extract of a 1945 map of the Naval Base showing the area and the layout of the ammunition depot, including the seven magazines under Talbot's Hill.

An extract of a 1945 map of the Naval Base showing the area and the layout of the ammunition depot, including the seven magazines under Talbot’s Hill (click to enlarge).

The National Heritage Board (NHB), which has been studying the site since April 2014, has also established with the help of a 1945 map of the Naval Base, that the magazines were part of a network of eighteen bunkers, warehouses and workshops spread over the Attap Valley site, that formed the Royal Naval Armament Depot.

The tour group being led into the bunker.

The tour group being led into the bunker.

The passage to the storage area.

The passage to the storage area.

Evidence points to the magazine, which is the size of two 5-room HDB flats, being used by the Japanese during the occupation – a cache of Japanese weapons and ammunition was found by MINDEF when they used the site for the Sembawang Ammunition Depot.

The storage area where  corrugated ceiling reinforcements can be seen along with a gantry hoist.

The storage area where corrugated ceiling reinforcements can be seen along with a gantry hoist.

What appears to be a light fitting from the time of the bunker's construction.

What appears to be a light fitting from the time of the bunker’s construction mounted on the ceiling.

According to NHB, part of the floor of the bunker, now a mess of mud and water, would have had rail tracks running over them to allow the ammunition to be moved in and out, accounting for the rusty colour of the mud and water in the bunker. While there is nothing left of the tracks to be found, there are several fixtures and fittings that might have originally been there at the time of its completion. This includes vents from an all important ventilation system, light fixtures, and pipes. A travelling gantry hoist, complete with a sign giving its Safe Working Load rating, can be seen in the inner chamber where the ammunition would have been stored. Access into the inner chamber is via a curved passageway designed so as explosions could be contained.

JeromeLim-8223

Talbot’s Hill and the surviving magazine under it now lies well within a fenced up area of land, which was returned to the State by  MINDEF when the depot was decommissioned in 2002. Access to it is only via the NHB tours, being organised as part of a Battle of Singapore commemoration that coincides with the 73 anniversary of the Fall of Singapore and also the 70 anniversary of the liberation in September 1945. More information on this, including the Case Files from the Singapore War Crimes Tribunal Exhibition scheduled to open next week at the National Museum of Singapore, can be found at the NHB website.

More photographs of the bunker and its surroundings

JeromeLim-8277

JeromeLim-8290

JeromeLim-8181

JeromeLim-8228

JeromeLim-8244

JeromeLim-8257

JeromeLim-8263

JeromeLim-8247

JeromeLim-8272


Postscript
An account relating to the last days of the Royal Naval Armament Depot before the Fall of Singapore: A Singapore Story – 1942.


 





What colours the full moon of Thai

4 02 2015

Colouring the full moon during the Tamil month of Thai, which fell yesterday,  is the Hindu festival of Thaipusam.

The festival is celebrated with much fervour by the southern Indian communities of Singapore and in the Peninsula and is one of the last religious festivals in Singapore that brings crowds, colour, and what seems very much in evidence these days, a massive police presence and snap happy locals and tourists, to the streets.

More on the festival, including photographs taken at previous Thaipusam celebrations, can be found in the following posts:

Vel, Vel, Vadivel: Thaipusam in Singapore (2010)
Sights Sans Sounds of Thaipusam in Singapore (2011)
Thaipusam at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Templ (2012)
An Annual Walk of Faith (2013)
Faces of Thaipusam 2014 (2014)


Photographs from the 2015 Thaipusam celebrations at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple

JeromeLim-7955

JeromeLim-7936

JeromeLim-8130

JeromeLim-7945

JeromeLim-7963

JeromeLim-7956

JeromeLim-7969

JeromeLim-7958

JeromeLim-7989

JeromeLim-8076

JeromeLim-8107

JeromeLim-8110

JeromeLim-8123

JeromeLim-8091

JeromeLim-8007

JeromeLim-7991

JeromeLim-7982

 

JeromeLim-8028

JeromeLim-8029

JeromeLim-8150





Sand and a sargassum sea

29 01 2015

The landscape of our southern seas, once of tiny islands, reefs and sandbars within which sea nomads and pirates took refuge, is one that has drastically been altered. Totems of the new-age now mark the landscape, particularly in the southwest, a landscape that in a matter of time would only be one of the sea’s lost innocence.

The totems of the new age seen on Pulau Ular, from Beting Pempang, with the silhouettes of trees on Pulau Hantu in the foreground. Pulau Ular is an island that is now part of a larger landmass that has it joined it to Pulau Busing to its west and Pulau Bukom Kechil to its east.

The totems of the new age seen on Pulau Ular, from Beting Pempang, with the silhouettes of trees on Pulau Hantu in the foreground. Pulau Ular is an island that is now part of a larger landmass that has it joined it to Pulau Busing to its west and Pulau Bukom Kechil to its east.

Thankfully, not all innocence has been lost and in the shadows of the grey emblems of our industrial advance, we still find some of the joys of our shallow seas, joys that perhaps offer us some hope.

Navigation chart showing locations of patch reefs and sandbars south of the Bukom cluster.

Navigation chart showing locations of patch reefs and sandbars south of the Bukom cluster.

The seascape in the area of the Bukom group of islands and Pulau Hantu, is one we do still find joy in. It is where a cluster of submerged reef and sandbars, in being exposed during the lowest of tides, reveal a world now hard to imagine, rich in life we might never have thought could be there. The reefs also offer us a glimpse at a landscape that is perhaps as alien in appearance as it is bizarre – especially in juxtaposing it against a backdrop painted by the fast encroaching industrial world.

A sea of sargassum. The view across Terumbu Hantu towards Pulau Busing, which is now part of a larger land mass that joins Busing to Pulau Ular and Pulau Bukom Kechil..

A sea of sargassum. The view across Terumbu Hantu towards Pulau Busing.

One particularly outlandish sight is that of a yellowish green sea, under which one of the submerged reefs, Terumbu Hantu, just west of the island of Pulau Hantu. While it probably cannot be described as a pretty sight, especially with the high chance of stepping on a venomous creature such as a stone fish when treading through what is a seasonal sea of sargassum, it does have a hard to describe appeal that does has one stopping to admire it.

A sea of sand ... the view across a sandbar, Beting Pempang, towards a Pulau Busing and Pulau Ular now dominated by a huge petrochemical complex.

A sea of sand … the view across a sandbar, Beting Pempang, towards a Pulau Busing and Pulau Ular.

Another view across Beting Pempang.

Another view across Beting Pempang.

Green green grass of the sea.

Green green grass of the sea.

Across from the yellow-green sea, a sandbar, Beting Pempang, proved a little more inviting. The views across it, while nothing as strange as the sargassum sea, did not disappoint. Without the cover its eastern neighbour had, it offered an opportunity to find more joy in, joy in the form of the amazing lifeforms many of us who cut ourselves off from the sea, would never imagine could exist.

JeromeLim-7326

A flat worm.

A flat worm.

A spider conch.

A spider conch.

A brittle star.

A brittle star.

A swimming file clam.

A swimming file clam.

An eel.

An eel.

In a Singapore that has little sentiment for such little joys, the future does not seem bright for the reefs in this cluster. The 2013 Land Use Plan identifies it as an area in which offshore reclamation is possible in a future when we may need ourselves to spill into the sea to gain breathing space, buried under land that will extend the shores of the Bukom group southward and westward – not a pretty thought. As long as its still is there however, there can be hope.

Possible future reclamation poses a threat to the future of the reefs (and the islands).

Possible future reclamation identified by the 2013 Land Use Plan sees a bleak future for the reefs south of Bukom.

The sky at twilight from Beting Pempang, coloured by the advancing petrochemical plants that now dominate much of the southwestern shores.

The sky at twilight from Beting Pempang, coloured by the advancing petrochemical plants that now dominate much of the southwestern shores.

More at Ria Tan’s Wild Shores of Singapore: Terumbu Hantu and Terumbu Pempang Kechil.

 





Where once there were trees …

27 01 2015

Where trees once spoke to me, and birds rejoiced in the colours of the new day, there will now be no tomorrows, for the songs of yesterday …

JeromeLim-3658

The magic of the new day, 18 February 2012, corner of Gambas Avenue and Woodlands Avenue 10.

JeromeLim-7703

The tragedy of the new world, 25 January 2015,  corner of Gambas Avenue and Woodlands Avenue 10.





Saving our bees

23 01 2015

I was recently alerted to an initiative by a group of busybodies, perhaps more aptly bee-zy bodies, the aim of which is to have us in Singapore, who feel safe from bees only when their flight paths cross ours in the manner of Rimsky-Korsakov’s musical interpretation, to show more love to the much maligned and highly misunderstood insects.

Hives! First thing to do is to identify the bee species!

Bees form an essential part of our ecology. While many see them as a dangerous nuisance, especially when their high rise apartments turn up next to our own, they belong to the largest group of insect pollinators here in Singapore and play an much needed role in keeping our city in a garden, in a garden.

Setting up.

The group, Pollen Nation, see themselves as the “champion of Urban Bee-causes”. Taking a proactive role in saving the bees is what they strive to do, an important part of which is in offering a “BeeVacuate” service that will allow bee-hives when they do turn up in places we are less than comfortable seeing them in, to be removed without killing the bees.

The “evacuated” bees.

Bee-hive removal, as is conventionally carried out in Singapore, involves the use of pesticides. This not only kills the bees, including the queen bee, worker bees and the brood, the practice also destroys the honeycomb, which becomes unusable through pesticide contamination. While there are no statistics currently available to tell us how much the bee population in Singapore – already under pressure due to the rapid urbanisation, is in decline, continuing with this practice, will certainly have an impact on the population over the longer term.

Hive Assembly.

Pollen Nation, who count amongst their ranks professionals who work with insects, including one with two decades of experience, offers a method of bee-hive removal that does not kill the bees. A BeeVacuator machine, which they have developed is used to suck bees up into a containment unit without causing harm. This also allows beehives to be harvested for re-use in urban apiaries, which Pollen Nation hopes to see established in farming areas of Singapore, to which the bees can be transported. The intention is that only the stingless bees are kept and encouraged to make honey. The more aggressive species would be “BeeVacuated” for release into forested areas where they will carry less of a threat to the general public.

Pollen Nation sees that as many as 2 to 3 beehives would require removal across Singapore on a daily basis and hope this would keep them “BeeZy” in the near future. To date two such removals have been carried out. Charges for bee-hive removal services vary, depending on the height at which the beehive is at, and the species of bee involved. For the more aggressive species, the basic BeeVacuation service will cost in the region of $300, while Pollen Nation may consider removing stingless bees, which can be re-hived, for free.

Another important area in which Pollen Nation hopes to do is in public education, to raise awareness amonsgt members of the public on the importance of bees and how we can be more accommodating of the insects. Still in their infancy, Pollen Nation has begun by engaging the public through flyers, online, and through public talks – the first of which was conducted at the Kranji Countryside Farmers’ Market over the weekend.  They also hope to work with the respective agencies as well with conservation and environmental groups. To keep up with what Pollen Nation is doing, do visit their Facebook Page. Pollen Nation can be contacted via email. BeeVacuation services can be arranged through their 24 hour hotline at 90093578.





A glance at Art Stage Singapore 2015

22 01 2015

I love it when Art Stage Singapore comes around every January. Not only does the fair provide the opportunity to get in touch with the contemporary art scene, but it also provides hours of visual stimulation to break the monotony of the start of the year. And, from the glance I had at this year’s fair, it certainly is no different.

JeromeLim-7251

Hwan Kwon Yi, Traffic Jam, Gana Art.

Hwan Kwon Yi, Traffic Jam, Gana Art.

As Southeast Asia’s flagship art fair, Art Stage Singapore, the fifth edition of which opens its doors at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre today, lends its support to the regional art scene. This year, a curated Southeast Asia platform has the works of 32 emerging artists from the region featured. In all, over 200 galleries from 29 countries – 75 percent of which are from the Asia-Pacific, are represented at this year’s fair, making it a must-visit exhibition for both the collectors and curious alike.

Kiatanan Iamchan, Oh, My Baby, Number1Gallery.

Kiatanan Iamchan, Oh, My Baby, Number1Gallery.

This year also sees video art, which is fast gaining prominence as a collectible art medium, receive an airing through Video Stage. Intended as a regular feature of the annual fair, Video Stage for Art Stage Singapore 2015 will take a look at the medium over the years, through 73 videos.

Art Stage Singapore 2015.

Art Stage Singapore 2015.

Also to look out for, are programmes being held as part of the fair including ARTnews Talk Series talks with a focus on Southeast Asia. There will also be talks given by various artists from the Southeast Asian platform, as well as performances and tours. More information these programmes can be found in the fair guide. Art Stage Singapore 2015 runs from 22 to 25 January 2015. More information on the fair is available at http://www.artstagesingapore.com.

JeromeLim-7242

A scalp raising experience.

A scalp raising experience.

JeromeLim-7254

JeromeLim-7249








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,694 other followers

%d bloggers like this: