The STD hospital at Tanglin and a world renowned allergist

11 01 2019

The relative isolation of Loewen by Dempsey Hill within the former Tanglin Barracks is a clue to how its buildings might originally have been used, as a military hospital that was known as Tanglin Military Hospital. Established at the end of the 1800s in what were attap roofed barrack-like buildings, it served as the military’s main medical facility for its European contingent of troops on Singapore’s main island until Alexandra Military Hospital was opened in mid-1940.

No. 32 Company, RAMC at Tanglin Military Hospital c. 1930 (source: Wellcome Library via Wikipedia).

With British units involved in the Great War in Europe, Tanglin Military Hospital was manned by members of the Singapore Volunteer Field Ambulance Company during that period.

The hospital, which has certainly had a colourful past, was among the locations where the Singapore Mutiny of 1915 was played out. That incident saw a party of Sepoy soldiers raiding Tanglin Barracks. Among the locations the mutineers entered was the hospital. Patients were driven out and personnel shot at. The mutineers succeeded in scattering guards and liberating Germans prisoners. The hospital staff were reported to have “displayed great resource and bravery in attending to the wounded and in remaining within the vicinity of their post” during the incident.

Block 72 during days when the Ministry of Defence occupied Tanglin Barracks. Buildings within the cluster at Loewen was put to use by the SAF Medical Corps, HQ 9 Division and also the Music and Drama Company.

The opening of the new military hospital at Alexandra, saw the hospital’s role reduced to one used primarily for the care of soldiers afflicted with skin conditions and diseases of a sexual nature. A significant part of the hospital was in fact already dedicated to this even before the move. Infections of the nature were apparently quite common among the troops and as a main hospital, one of Tanglin’s two large ward buildings was already given to this use.

The former military hospital’s general ward.

It was in its days as a hospital for skin diseases and STDs that a young doctor, Dr William Frankland, was posted to it. Now 106 (and still working!), Dr Frankland has since acquired the reputation of being the “Grandfather of allergy” – for his pioneering work in the field. His remarkable life and accomplishments has been celebrated in many ways, including through the publication of his biography “From Hell Island To Hay Fever: The Life of Dr Bill Frankland” in October 2018. This biography would probably not have read very differently, or not have been written at all, if a toss of a coin not long after he had arrived in Singapore late in 1941 had not been in Dr Frankland’s favour.

The building where the hospital’s dermatology and venereal diseases wards were located.

The toss decided who would take on the seemingly more appealing role of treating patients with dermatological conditions and venereal disease and involved Dr Frankland and another newly arrived colleague with the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC), Captain R. L. Parkinson. A choice had been offered to both and it was either to have been this, or an Anaesthetist at Alexandra, which neither doctor fancied. Quite sadly for Parkinson that toss would seal his fate. He was killed on the 14th day of February 1942 during the Alexandra Hospital massacre, while administering anaesthesia to a patient on the operating table.

Another view of the buildings used by the military hospital at Loewen by Dempsey Hill.

The long career of Dr Frankland, who is now considered to be Britain’s oldest doctor, has been especially eventful. He is best known for the introduction of pollen counts in weather reports. He also has had the privilege of working under Sir Alexander Fleming and counted among his patients, a certain Saddam Hussein. More information on Dr Frankland can be found at the following links:

This story was shared during the Discovering Singapore’s Best Kept Secrets State Property visit to Dempsey Hill “Healing in the Garrison” in November 2018. The visit was supported by the Singapore Land Authority, Dempsey Hill and Saint George’s Church.


Discovering Singapore’s Best Kept Secrets : Healing in the Garrison

19 10 2018

November’s #SLASecretSpaces guided visit takes participants to the former Tanglin Barracks. There an introduction would be made to two of the barracks’ institutions of healing: physical healing in the form of the former military hospital, and spiritual, in the form of a beautiful garrison church.

The barracks traces its history to the early 1860s, when it was among the earliest that were purpose-built in Singapore. The design of the original barracks is attributed to Captain George Collyer (after whom Collyer Quay is named). Many of the structures that we see today are the interventions of the early 20th century when the current church building as well as what we see today of former military hospital were put up.

Singapore’s main military hospital before the completion of the modern hospital at Alexandra in 1940, the complex featured three main buildings. The larger two were where large and airy wards were laid out. The visit will end in St. George’s Church, which although is no longer a garrison church, is still very much in use. Completed in 1913, the history of the church actually dates back to the early days of the barracks. The church was gazetted as a National Monument on 10 November 1978.

More on the history of both institutions will be shared during the visit.

Visit Details & Registration

When : 3 November 2018, 9 to 11 am

Where : Loewen Cluster, Dempsey Hill (the visit will end inside St. George’s Church)

Participants should be of ages 18 and above.

A unique registration will be required for each participant and each registration admits only one (1) person.
(Duplicate registrations in the same name shall count as one registration).

Please register only if you are sure that you will be able to make the visit.

To register, please visit this link: [Please note that all spaces for the visit have been taken up]

Discovering Singapore’s Best Kept Secrets #SLASecretSpaces is organised with the support and collaboration of the Singapore Land Authority.

Both St. George’s Church and Country City Investment (CCI), which manages Dempsey Hill, have also lent their support to this visit.

More photos of St. George’s Church

News on the series:


Vintage Cars at Dempsey Hill

11 09 2016

Motoring Heritage Day, which sees Singapore’s largest display of vintage cars is bacon 11 September 2016 from 10 am to 6 pm.

Held at Dempsey Hill (Carpark at Block 15), this year’s edition will see 30 pre-war vintage and post-war classic cars and motorcycles on display. The event is organised by Malaysia and Singapore Vintage Car Register, which encourages the use and preservation of period cars and bikes.

Besides the vintage car display, visitors can look forward to live music being performed by local bands as well as other fringe activities to entertain the entire family.

Getting intimate during Overtime

30 01 2011

I was never one that was motivated to frequent the area that is known as Dempsey Hill and maybe finding myself there voluntarily, twice in a two month period, would have been seen as odd. But of course, the circumstances of my being there had changed since my days of trudging up the gentle incline of the hill often enough to leave me with a dread of the hours I would spend in getting permission to travel out of the country. That was at a time when the single storey blocks that were typical of the British military establishments found around Singapore, housed the Exit Permit Office of the Central Manpower Base (CMPB), to which I needed to submit myself to everytime I wanted to leave the country since I turned twelve.

Dempsey Hill is a very different place from the one that I used to trudge reluctantly up to during its days as CMPB.

These days, Dempsey Hill is a different place, one that despite the numerous rumours of supernatural sightings, is no longer haunted by its association with its days as part of the Ministry of Defence complex that had occupied the area. Dempsey Hill is today, a place that despite its relative inaccessibility by public transport, is growing in popularity as a destination for the many fine dining establishments that now fill the dusty offices where the sounds of army boots and typewriters had once dominated. It was to one of these establishments, many not so much a fine dining, but an establishment that serves not just great food, but also along with it, great beer and great entertainment, that combined with the wonderful setting it is in, make it a wonderful place to not just dine, catch up over a few drinks but also to chill out after a day at the office.

Great tasting food at Overtime complements the great tasting Stärker Fresh Beer.

Stärker Fresh Beer comes in two varieties, the Aromatic and Lager ...

Having already taken up an invitation to attend its grand opening, which featured none other than the international Taiwanese based superstar, Lin Chi Ling, during which I had become acquainted with the brand of beer it serves, I was quite happy to accept an offer to attend an “initmate” food tasting session at the establishment Overtime. With a wonderful array of food on offer, ranging from a choice of 39 skewers to various different platters on its menu, who could resist the invitation, and just as I wasn’t disappointed with the excitement of the grand opening of the outlet, I certainly wasn’t disappointed with the so called intimate session.

There is a full menu that offers platters, skewers and even some local favourites.

In the excellent company of the wonderful PR personnel, and an old friend, it wasn’t hard to get intimate and commit one of the seven deadly sins – with the food that is, as the seemingly never ending flow of platters and skewers came fast and furious. Besides the German styled Stärker Fresh Beer, which is brewed in Malaysia on offer, the interesting beverage menu also includes a few interesting Overtime creations, Beer Cocktails made with Stärker Beer, which offers a refreshing beverage as an alternative to anyone with a sense of adventure. You can choose to Go Naked, or have a Caribbean Night or as we were recommended, the Lychee Slush, which proved to be sweet and light beverage if you aren’t keen on a full glass of beer.

The Lychee Slush, a light and refreshing beer cocktail on offer at Overtime.

The platters and skewers on offer are a fusion of east and west, asian influenced flavours, some mixed with western type foods such as the Jumbo Sausage. A favourite, Platter A on the menu, Crunchy Pork complemented with Crispy Fried Mushrooms and Fish Fillets, certainly did not disappoint, as did the several skewers that went smoothly down with the pint of Aromatic Stärker Beer I decided to indulge in this time. The highlight for me was the Teriyaki Beef, which was lightly flavoured and tender and moist as I like my beef, as well as the Squid Skewer – squid grilled to perfection.

Platter A - Crunchy Pork, complemented by Crispy Fried Mushrooms and Fish Fillet - yummy!

There are also some delicious salads on offer including a Thai Style Calamari Salad.

The sumptuous squid skewer ...

Homestyle Prawn Crackers with Deep Fried Bean Curd ...

It was a great night that had to end too soon, as I had an early start for the following morning. With the knowledge that besides the wonderful beer and food that was on offer, and also the information that a delightful local band The Repeats, who performed at the grand opening would soon be performing three acts every night from 7.00 pm onwards, Dempsey Hill and the single storey blocks that I used to reluctantly visit, would probably see a lot more of me in days to come.

The Repeats will perform 3 acts every night from 7pm onwards at Overtime's Dempsey Hill outlet.

A parting shot ... the air-conditioning vent on the ceiling ...

Doing OverTime with International Celebrity Lin Chi Ling on Dempsey Hill

17 12 2010

[Click on this link for details of Overtime’s X’mas and New Year Promotion].

I was fortunate to be able to “Let My Hair Down and BLOG” at the Grand Opening of Singapore’s latest happening place OverTime @ Dempsey Hill. With the promise of free flow of “fresh beer”, great food, great music, great company in the form of like-minded bloggers (most of them probably half my age), and an appearance by “The First Face of Taiwan”, International Celebrity Lin Chi Ling (林志玲), it was certainly worth putting everything else aside including a Christmas party to spend a Thursday evening at.

OverTime at 18E Dempsey Hill is one of two OverTime outlets to hit Singapore this December. The other is at Holland Village.

Taiwanese Celebrity Lin Chi Ling was to make an appearance on the evening to open the outlet.

OverTime @ Dempsey Hill seen here. Its three outlets in Kuala Lumpur have been a hit since they opened in 2009.

Arriving early enough before the official starting time at 7 pm, I was surprised to see that a huge crowd had already arrived on the scene as well as a crowd of curious onlookers, drawn perhaps by a banner with a image of Lin Chi Ling. That I guess was a sign of things to come and it wasn’t long before space within the outlet felt like a premium. Promptly served with half a pint of the house brand Stärker Beer, which was first introduced in Malaysia a year ago and is apparently brewed with German technical know-how, I was pleasantly surprised by its full-bodied taste. Not too bad I thought. The beer I was to find out later, comes in two variations: Lager and Aromatic.

OverTime is also home to Stärker Fresh Beer which comes in either Lager or Aromatic variations.

Next it was time to sample the food. Maybe I was hungry having skipped lunch (not so much in anticipation of the free food but to make time at the end of the day for the event), but the fried rice that was served was just what I was craving for with the little bits of salted fish, along with other food which was actually from the kitchen – great stuff! All then that was left was to savour the happening atmosphere of the place, share a few laughs with funny man Yong Wei and await the arrival of Lin Chi Ling entertained by the live band on stage.

The happening crowd at the Grand Opening of OverTime @ Dempsey Hill.

The ever humourous Yong Wei ...

There was great entertainment to accompany the great food and beer.

Some of my fellow bloggers posing for a photograph.

Blogger Ying Zi being interviewed.

With the wonderful atmosphere and company, it didn’t seem long before Lin Chi Ling arrived as scheduled at 8.45 pm in a minibus … which she stepped gracefully out of accompanied by her entourage. For a while I got to be a member of the Paparazzi trying to get a good photograph of her as she made her way to entrance. It certainly wasn’t easy doing it and perhaps I have a bit more respect for the Paparazzi, not so much for what they do, but more for how hard it really is for them to do what they do. The gorgeous Lin Chi Ling passed through like a flash, and before I knew it, she had opened the outlet, vanishing quickly into the press tent where she spent the rest of the evening being interviewed by the mainstream media. I waited for a while, hoping perhaps to get a better shot of her thinking she would be out soon. But on hearing that there was a large queue of interviewer lying in wait, I thought against it. It was time perhaps to go back in and join the crowd, but then I thought against it as well, not wanting to be tempted by the free flow of beer as I would have to get behind the wheel later, so in anticipation of a long day I had ahead the very next day, I reluctantly decided to also part company with the great new place, the great atmosphere and the great company (not to forget the great beer), knowing that I will definitely be back soon to do lots of OverTime!

The "First Face of Taiwan", Lin Chi Ling gracing the occasion.

One more of Lin Chi Ling leaving the stage.

Some of the Who's Who of Singapore were also seen at the event.

A member of the beer brigade...

Definitely a place to do lots of OverTime!


(Promotion on from 23rd Dec 2010 to 1st Jan 2011)

Stärker Promotion:
Opening to 7pm: Buy 1 pint get 1 pint free.
7pm to 12am: Buy 1 pint get a ½ pint free. (extended happy hour).

33 Fushion Skewer Promotion:
5pm to 12am
With every purchase of 2 litres of Stärker, you get 2 sets of 2 skewers free!
With every purchase of 5 litres of Starker, you get 2 sets of 5 skewers free!