Sunday, 22 February 2015

Battle for Singapore - NHB heritage tours - Sime Road - The Hellfire Tour

This was Hellfire corner
Attended 4 of the tours organised by the National Heritage Board (NHB).

Struggled to find time to write proper full blog posts about each tour, so will highlight good blog posts by others, then add comments and photos below.

Stretching from Sime Road to Bukit Brown cemetery, the Hellfire Tour takes you to the scene of General Yamashita’s strategy for the Japanese Imperial Army to crush the defending British forces in the Battle for Singapore. The site also marks the former combined Operational Headquarters of the British Army and Royal Air Force during World War II and later became the internment camp for Allied Forces POWs after the fall of Singapore. Take a walk with Jon Cooper as he relates the stories of the soldiers who fought amongst the gravestones and the civilian internees who spent their years of captivity in the Sime Road camp. 
Jonathan Cooper
Project Manager, Researcher and Battlefield Archaeologist at The Changi Museum
Postgraduate student, Centre for Battlefield Archaeology, Glasgow University
Read this blog post for a good account of this tour

Additional points
Jon is a great guide, painting a vivid picture of the landscape, and engaging the attendees. It wasn't a "spoon-feeding" session; as we walked down Sime Road, he started asking "what is old?", to encourage us to see and evaluate our surroundings. Some items were pre-war, some were post-war.

Jon is the one wearing the jungle hat
There was a short discussion on the Syonan Jinja, at the 2 NHB commemorative boards at the "Hellfire" junction. Several of us were keen to know exactly how to reach the location. Google around and you will find a few blog posts on this.

We were told about a civilian internee, who as a young girl, stayed at the Green House [the building with the rotunda]; she later revisited Singapore a few years ago.

Maps from the WW2 period were distributed to help us orientate ourselves and also discuss on features; Jon highlighted markings on the map, indicating tunnel entrances dug by the Japanese forces; the link was quickly made to the intricate tunnel network at Iwo Jima; Jon also highlighted that the tunnel network was not completed.

I asked if the British also had underground facilities for its Combined Operations Headquarters. Jon said yes, but their locations were unknown [would be great to find these facilities].

We also walked to the boundary between the SICC golf course and the MacRitchie Reservoir [a.k.a. where the 4.8km cross country route turns from the forest onto the road]; there we were shown some depressions, which may have been slit trenches dug by the Suffolk regiment, and also the possible final resting place of one of the KIA soldiers. [some British POWs (David Nelson and the Bureau of Record and Enquiry) kept a detailed record of soldiers killed, and their burial locations, so that their remains could be recovered after the war]

Just before we did a little "bashing" to see the supposed slit trenches
We ended the heritage tour near the entrance of Bukit Brown, looking at Hill 130, and "reliving" perhaps the one & only tank on tank engagement during the campaign.

Jon concluded by showing us the artifacts found at the Adam Park Project, and asking us to consider participating in preserving our heritage.
Will post on the other 3 heritage tours soon.

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