Sunday, October 07, 2007

Bukit Timah Heritage Trail 11 – Bukit Gombak Hill (by Peter Chan)

The radar station on top of Bukit Gombak Hill was built in 1964. Working in tandem with air traffic controllers at RAF Tengah, it offered aerial protection for Singapore during the days of the Indonesian Confrontation. I had a perfect view of the radar blades spinning 360 degrees because my house faced one of the ridges of Bukit Gombak.

Site of former RAF Gombak radar station viewed from my house

Bukit Gombak was less dense than it is today and the radar installation was a very prominent object on the skyline as shown in the picture here. Promptly around noon each day, I could hear the screaming sounds of British Javelin aircrafts flying over our house in the direction of Bukit Batok. I was not sure where it came from; I could only suspect that it must have been from RAF Tengah because it was the nearest British air base close to my place.

After 1968, I thought I saw a missile pad at the present MINDEF building site. It was distinctly a missile painted in either grey or white color. I later found out whilst reading the “Straits Times” that it was the “Bloodhound” type. The Straits Times article that year mentioned that the British and Singapore Governments had reached an agreement for the transfer of the radar facility and missiles to the Singapore Armed Forces. I could not locate the original site of the radar installation after I got married and left my “hometown”. After spending many hours gazing at the same skyline again after 40+ years, I think I could have found the same site although it is now a protected area under the SAF.

Site of former RAF Gombak radar station viewed from Jalan Darmawan

Site of former RAF Gombak radar station viewed from Dairy Farm Road

Read more about the Javelin fighter aircraft here:
Read more about the Bloodhound surface-to-air missile (SAM) here:


zen said...

I can remember the effectiveness of the blood hound surface-to-air missile was widely publicised vide a TV programme, showing the potency of this weapon hitting a moving target once being locked on. The political climate in Singapore was then quite unstable (with the impending British Forces planning to leave in 1971), and I believe MINDEF was trying to calm the jitterly public.

chuck said...

I used to hang around my friend's house just below the radar station some 35 years ago. This is where there are lot of fruit trees.. durian, mangosteen, nam nam, buah langsat, rambutants, etc...We had a good time shooting down fruits with our lastic and dead branches.
Even now, I can still picture where the trees are located. I can also picture a well that was used for bathing surrounded by just plastic sheets. A stream was formed with water from the well flowing all the way to Bukit Panjang.
Thanks Peter for bring me back in time....

Lam Chun See said...

I am just wondering if perhaps the pilots of those screaming Javelins could be the fathers of our friends Brian Mitchell and John Harper. Maybe the year is not correct.

Tom said...

Tom said...
if my memory is corect, Iam
very sure that the RAF.,had sent
one or two Javelins,to Borneo. We
had a Javelin giving us over head
cover,I wonder if thay were from
the same RAF station in Singapore
or from a Royal Navy aircraft carrier?

peter said...

During the Indonesian Confrontation, RAF 60 Sqdn and 64 Sqdn were based in RAF Tengah with detachments in Butterworth, Kuching, Labuan and Kai Tak (Hong Kong).

Brian Mitchell said...

Chun See

no my father was not a pilot - strictly a ground adminstrative and eduction person. But of course I recall the Javelins which were however rare visitors to Changi in the early 1960s. Interesting to read about the Indonesian confrontation at this later date. In about 1961 or 62 my friend Malcolm heard of a top secret operation due to take place at RAF Changi - needless to say we were on the case and were hidden near the end of the runway (adjacent to the Lloyd Leas married quarters) and witnessed an exchange of prisoners between the Dutch and Indonesians which took place at the runway end. I think Malcolm (who I am no longer in contact with) may have the only photographs of that episode.

Gilbert said...


i stumbled into you blog and i fin them interesting and nostalgic. Very, in fact.

apparently, i need to do research on singapore quarry and the internet sources is limited. Would like to ask about your knowledge about the area around singapore quarry, photographs will be even better.

Lam Chun See said...

Sorry Gilbert. Can't help you on that one.

Tom said...

Tom said...
chun see, I was on the internet, looking at Singapore
guide from satellite, it pin points to three quarry the names are
Gammon granite quarry , and Seng chew quarry ,seng kee quarry.I
wonder if they will interst Gilbert.

peter said...

what sort of reserach/information u need on re: quarries?

Gilbert said...

I appreciate the info that tom provides. But i am pin point my attention at this particular quarry around dairy farm. Perhaps anyone has any info to my interest?

Chun See, perhaps did u remember anyone that stay near the quarry area during the 70s to the 80s... will appreciate the effort?

peter said...

The Dairy farm quarry supplied granite aggregates to the Gammon Malayan Ltd worksite. The granite was turned into concrete mixture to manufacture water pipes and concrete beams. Gammon worked very closely with the PWD and if I am not wrong there was also a PWD site office there. I need to check with my old neighbour who was one the chief of PWD in the 1960s. Gilbert can you send Chun see an email statig what information u need.

Gilbert said...

I just need any relevance informations about the dairy farm quarry. Most important, i am keen on photos around the area. Thanks

Lam Chun See said...

I received this email from David l Carnell. Thanks David, for sharing this bit of information with us.

"Good day to you sir, I was stationed @ RAF Bukit Gombak from dec65-june 68, and I remember Singapore with lots of affection and especially the people of Singapore.

I lived opposite the Ford factory on the Bukit Timah Rd, and my rear garden looked out onto the radar site. @ the bottom of the hill leading up to the site was a small shop where we used to buy sweets and goods to take on duty with us. This was where i saw my first dead body, as one of the people who lived in the shop had died and their body had been laid out on a bench outside before they were buried.

I would very much like to return to Singapore before I get too old to see how much it has changed.

Regards to you."."

David l Carnell

William said...

Like David Carnell,I also served at R.A.F.Bukit Gombak and also hope to return to Singapore before I am too old.I have fond memories of the people that I had as neighbours in Bukit Timah.I was there with my family from 1968 to 1970 and helped to train members of the S.A.F.before I left.I worked on the Marconi search radars and the Plessey height finding radars which controlled the Lightnings,Hunters and Canberras from Tengah.The Javelins were scrapped as I arrived in April 1968,though one was later given to the a ground training aid.I looked at the house that we rented in Tham Soong Avenue on GOOGLE EARTH.It was a bungalow,but is now a 3-storey villa!The neighbour's house remains the same as I remember.Bukit Timah market is long gone,and the township now looks very smart.-Thanks for bringing back memories,
Bill Anderson.

Bill A nderson

Lam Chun See said...

Hi Bill. Welcome to Good Morning Yesterday. Thanks for sharing the little-known information about the RAF in Spore.

You mentioned that you lived in Tham Soong Avenue. Then you must be familiar with Beauty World. I think the Bt Timah Market you mentioned was part of Beauty World. Have you read Tom O'brien's article of his memories of Beauty World?

I am also curious about the Blood Hound missiles that I used to see along Jalan Bahar (south of Tengah Air Base) in the early 70's. Would you be able to throw some light about them.


Russ said...

Hi Chun See

Reference Bristol Bloodhound Anti Aircraft Missiles

65 Squadron RAF re-formed at RAF Seletar in January 1964 with Bloodhound missiles and remained in Singapore until withdrawn from service in March 1970 as part of the UK defence cuts.

65 Sqdn RAF was the first 'overseas' Sqdn to be equipped with these missiles and because of this Sqdn's mobile capabilities it took its missile on detchement to RAF Kuching, Borneo during confrontation.

These missiles at the time gave Singapore a defence coverage of some hundred mile radius.

When 65 Sqdn disbanded the Singapore Government then purchased the entire 65 Squadron Bloodhound (MKII) assets and Singapore established its own 'Singapore Air Defence Command'

I personally have no first hand knowledge where Singapore located these missiles on the island.

I think I am right in saying though, the Singapore Government later sold these missiles to Burma sometime in the 1990's.

I hope this helps.

James Tann said...

Hi Peter & Chun See,
Just wanted to comment on that 2nd picture "..viewed from Jalan Dermawan". From that angle, the phot must have been taken from Dairy Farm and not Jalan Dermawan. The building in the middle was the Union Carbide Eveready Battery factory and you can see Blks 23 and 24 of Princess Elizabeth Est in the background just at the base of Bt Gombak Radar installation.
Peter, do you still have that photo? I would just love to rescan it in in a higher resolution as photos of the old Union Carbide factory are so rare.

MC said...

If anyone's interested. There was another site of Bloodhounds. It used to be on the huge green hill behind Nanyang Poly. I could see them from my flat in AMK central. I believe the camp to the right side of it is Amoy Quee. They were removed sometime in the mid 80's.