Friday, May 09, 2008

Ulu Pandan Heritage Trail (5) – The famous ‘haunted camp’ (by Lam Chun See)

There used to be three army camps along the Ulu Pandan/Holland Road. The first was Mowbray Camp which Peter blogged about earlier.

The second was 1 SIR which was opposite Pandan Valley. According to Peter who used to live nearby; “The original barracks of 1 SIR were built on the hilly terraced slopes of Hill 110 which faced Old Holland Road and its junction with Ulu Pandan Road. The present parade square (at the foot of Hill 200) was not built until early 1962. The single-storey buildings were made from wood and had asbestos roofs. Shortly after independence from Malaysia, some of these wooden buildings were demolished to make way for the present rows of multi-storey concrete buildings facing Old Holland Road. The new buildings were meant to cater to the NS intakes. For field training such as 81mm mortar weapons, the hilly spaces (flattened in the early 1970s to make way for Pandan Valley Condominium) opposite to the camp were used.”


One of the buildings of the camp complex viewed from the main road. Some renovation was going on. I wonder what they are converting this place into. Anyone know?

The main entrance to the camp was from Ulu Pandan Road. But there was a small road leading to it from Old Holland Road. In the late seventies, when squash was a big craze among young Singaporeans, my friend who was an SAF regular brought me there occasionally for a game of squash. I will blog about those old squash courts of yesteryears in another article. 1 SIR occupied the Ulu Pandan site from 1958 through 1969 when it relocated to Dunman Road and it became known as Guillemard Camp. The camp at Ulu Pandan Road was converted into the School for Military Medicine or SMM for short.

This is the spot along Old Holland Road where a small road led into the camp. On the way, there was a ’new’ squash court on the left.

The third camp was 2 SIR. It was located on a small hill and its entrance was from Old Holland Road. I have not entered the camp before but have seen it from the main road. It had several wooden buildings. It was visible from Mount Sinai View.

This is a 1965 Photo courtesy of Peter Chan showing the entrance of the camp. In the background is 1 SIR.

This is a recent shot of the place where 2 SIR used to stand.

This is a recent shot taken from Mount Sinai View of the hill where 2 SIR used to stand. In those days, there were less tall trees and the camp buildings could be seen quite clearly.


And finally I come to the part which you guys are waiting for; the ghost stories. In the early 70’s, there were stories circulating about some army camps being haunted. I was not sure whether to believe them or not, but soldiers being soldiers, it was fun to listen and retell these stories. As far as I can recall, there were five army camps that were rumoured to be haunted. The first was Pulau Tekong Camp (I think it was the camp further inland - cannot remember if it was Camp I or II) where I did one in-camp training in the 80’s. Another was Tampines Camp. The third was the Magazine Tower 2 of Safti (now called Pasir Laba Camp). I myself have done a few guard duties here and never experienced anything worth telling. The fourth was the School of Combat Engineers in Pulau Blakang Mati (Sentosa). The fifth, and most famous (‘spiritwise’) was 2 SIR.

When I doing my Section Leaders Course in Safti after completing my BMT (basic military training) also at Safti, some of my new platoon mates who joined us had done their BMT in 2 SIR. They told us many ghost stories about this place. Unfortunately I can only recall a bit. For example, they said that at night they often heard people moving about in their bunks; but they were too frightened to get up to check. One particular recruit, quite a fat chap, often woke up in the morning to find that his sleeping position had somehow been reversed. I am sorry I don’t remember much else.

My brother David who served as a corporal in the demolition platoon in 2 SIR in 1971/72 used to tell us about one of the toilets being haunted. Apparently the corpses of soldiers who were killed in Kota Tinggi during the Indonesian Confrontation were brought back from Malaysia and ‘washed’ in this toilet. According to Peter, their decomposed bodies were brought back to this camp for the Malay burial rituals. As to what actually happened to those dead soldiers, I will let Peter give you the gory details in the next post.


Recently, I emailed my brother David, who is now in Perth, if he remembered those ghost stories that he used to tell us, and his reply was; Yes, definitely. This is what he wrote:

“2 SIR comprised of 2 camps, divided by a road. Most of the platoons, including HQ, guard house, main parade square were located on one side, while demolition and other support platoons like mortar were in the other camp. Both camps were located on top of small hills.

It was in the smaller camp that most of the so-called "ghost sightings" were made. I was in Demolition platoon, after my section leader course .... that was sometime around 1971-1972.

One of the most common stories was that around late evening, say, 6.30 pm till 7 pm, a young lady in white runs across the road near the canteen. The other story was that people often heard weird crying sounds when they were showering.

I have a true personal experience. It was a Saturday night. I was then on duty (don’t think it was guard duty) and was sleeping on a mattress in the office of the Demoliton platoon. Around midnight, I was awakened up by marching sounds just outside the office .... up and down .... clog, clog, clog ..... I tried to stand up but just could not - maybe my legs went soft. It went on for a few minutes then stopped. I could not sleep for another few hours and was too scared to go out to investigate. Next morning, I checked around to see if there were any soldiers who stayed over the weekend - none .... anyway who wants to stay in camp over the weekend.

Many years later, when i was working for Citibank, I heard from colleagues that the hill where our camp was located used to be execution grounds for Japanese soldiers during WW2. Opposite 2 SIR, in the Moonbeam Terrace hills, it was also another execution and burial grounds during WW2.

The Hokkien soldiers in our support platoons were especially strong believers that the camp was haunted. One private soldier even painted a big picture of a tiger on the wall of one building (don’t know why he was not punished for it ), but he got very sick a few days later. As usual, the other soldiers blamed it on the 'ghosts'.

Well that’s about it, more sounds and rumours actually ...... nothing like what you see in Liao Zhai. However, my personal story is true. In fact it’s the only "encounter" I have ever had in my life.”
PS - I have become a bit confused by the names of the 2 camps and hope some of you can clarify. Was 1 SIR known as Ulu Pandan Camp and 2 SIR known as Holland Camp?

33 comments:

a passerby said...

Thank you so much for the interesting information once again! I've passed that blank stretch of land many times and even walked along and across it once (in bright daylight of course, it's very soggy, I wouldn't want to walk there at night... especially after hearing ghost stories of that area!) It's fascinating to think of what the place might have felt like when the camp was still there. I can't imagine it now.

Oh and 1SIR seems to be being not just converted but demolished in areas I think, there was so much rubble when I passed it today. I'm very curious to know what it'll become too; I pray it won't be come another condominium... there are so many around here already...

peter said...

Never be surprise what things can turn out in Singapore. It's the ra of "Built, Destruction & Rebuilt".

There are plans to turn the former Jalan Bukit Merah SAFRA Clubhouse into a hotel. It is offered as a hotel site for sale.

Zen said...

Some school buildingsare left vacant, but demolishing them would be quite wasteful unless the vacant land can be put to good use, not by just building more condominiums. One example of good use of a vacant school is the CPIB which moved into the former Cantonment Primary(?) School and not into some luxurious building to enhance its image like the HDB hub in Toa Payoh, leaving its former HQ in Bukit Merah lying idle for a long period of time. Perhaps CPIB wants to keep a low profile away from the prying eyes of the public.

peter said...

Zen
CPIB's move to the Cantonment School was very much ahead of its time. They should have "waited" till the mid-1990s before they vacated the Stamford Road site (behind the NLB canteen) in the 1980s. If they had done so, who is to know that they could have also have a building named in its honour and also very futuristic.

Zen said...

Peter- An agency can be likened to a person. Some people like publicity as much as possible when they want to promote themselves and exit doubly fast should there be the slightest hint of involvement in a scandal. I believe CPIB is an agency which like people to know their expertise but not to be seen hanging around, otherwise they could have now shifted to the brand new Police (their illustrious cousin) HQ building down the road. But there again, the Police may not feel uncomfortable sharing their home with their inquisitive relative.

peter said...

2SIR at one time was called Camp Temasek back in the 1960s before called Holland Road Camp.

Lam Chun See said...

I wonder if readers know that during my Safti days (early 70's) the SMM was housed at Safti, near to the medical centre. Exact location I cannot recall. Maybe near the MT Line. Not far from Safticana I think.

Lam Chun See said...

Talking about Cantonment Road, it's really worth a blog becos much changes have taken place there. I drove by last week and noticed that the building housing the famous Maritime & Port Workers Union HQ has gone. I remember there used to be a Chinese restaurant there. The HDB blocks opposite it too have gone.

If Zen has some stories to tell we can do it in a new srticle on Places I Remember.

peter said...

Chun See
SAFTI SMM was located to the left of the swimming pool. If you can remember the SAFTI Medical Center and Mike Company, there is a road that runs parallel to the Obstacle Course. There was a 3 -4 storey block there - that one is SMM.

Cantonment Road - Zen could help out. There was Hillman Restaurant and Red Star Restaurant - one of them was famous for its Sar Poh dish pig trotters cooked in black sauce. There was also a tobacco factory at Hoe Chiang Road.

Zen said...

Our Port Workers Union (SPWU) was situated along Cantonment Road. There was a Red Star restaurant(?) located at its basement, with pipah duck being their signature dish. Many port workers held their wedding dinners there. As for Hillman Restaurant which was directly opposite the union house was one of my parents'favourite restaurants (maybe under the influence of Chun See), but I could not really remember what exclusive dishes they served there. During my younger days I was one of the family members who did not pay much attention to those 'special dishes'. My sister used to joke that I was not aware of those nice food moving in and out of the frig. because I never checked what were inside it. Before I came to know of such choice food they had already disappeared into someone's stomach.

sgporc said...

i've been a frequent traveller along holland/ulu pandan road for many years and on many occasions when SMM was still there, I have seen super pumas parked at the parade square/MT line. This was just immediately next to the road and in full view of the public. I never had the opportunity to see one land/takeoff but always thought that it would be cool to observe one doing so at such a close range.

Mouthful of Cyn said...

Hi, I came across your site through a link at Kuching Kayak's site. I enjoy your memories of Singapore. I have an elderly aunt who lives in Singapore, and she is one of the few links that I have to my past. I remember her stories of when she was young there. So I appreciate your effort. Keep it up!

peter said...

I just came to find out the Hillman Restaurant is now located at Pasir Panjang Road next to the AVA office, and facing Boon Leat Terrace. The road next to the AVA once lead to the famous TIGER Swimming Club

Zen said...

Now back to ghost stories, kampong elders used to frighten us by saying that after harvesting a bunch of banana we should chop down the whole tree otherwise its spirit would roam about causing harm to others. Some said that the Pontianak (Malay for female ghost) arose from such spirit. These stories could be tall tales thought out by some creative folks to generate excitement among the youngs - as a form of free entertainment.

Lam Chun See said...

Thanks Mouth of Cyn for your kind words. Are you from Sarawak? I went there quite regularly in the early 90's. Love the quiet airport at Bintulu and the wonderful laksa at the Kuching airport.

Later on, I hope to blog about my trips there.

Zen said...

Back to food, and eating spicy Laksa is my wife favourite indulgence. There was this mobile hawker selling Laksa in her kampong (plantation avenue) who operated quite unusually at night, charging fifty cents per bowl and I must say the taste was great. Whenever I accompanied her to the former Lim Toa Tow market (5th mile upper Serangoon Road), she never failed to eat Laksa (also fifty cents a bowl) at one open-air stall just outside the market. Whenever I ate at this stall I would end up very upset. Why? The tables at this stall were jam-packed with people (elbow-to-elbow) squeezed into a small cramped area, meanwhile people busily slurping in piping hot Laksa like there was no tomorrow. Business was so good, that most of the time we had to sit at different tables. At times we had to wait people to vacate their seats before having our turn. This stall remained unchallenged among others in this market. On one occasion I chanced to see Jeya snr (workers party) handling out election leaflets to the hungry horde but who cared. The crowd didn't pay much attention to him, rather more on the Laksa.

Tom said...

Tom said...
I want to tell you the about the encounter I had with a ghost, this is true, you have got to believe me or not, I was lying on my bed reading a book, and I had this sudden out of body feeling , I had felt there was some one next to me I looked round and there was a Japanese soldier looking at me , then I jump out of my bed, it was real, the next day I told my C.S.M.
about it , he just said to me the Block I was staying in was use as a hospital by the Japanese ,that was in Selerang Camp,

Lam Chun See said...

Friends. You can read about Tom's memories of his days as a young soldier in Singapore's Selarang Barracks: here, here and here

Lunch is Served! said...

I read from the news that it's going to be refurbished and rented out to students as hostel rooms.

Lam Chun See said...

I think the camp that is being refurbished and rented out to students as hostel rooms is the one to the left; the former 1 SIR. This one is now vacant grassland and forest.

Anonymous said...

I was a trainee at Ulu Pandan Camp Jun-Sep 1998, living at block 14 2nd floor (the building in the picture). Every morning, my men sleeping at the last 2 bed down the room will come complain to me about their encounters the night before. Both of them described it as a bright tall figure standing next to their bed. They got used to it after a while.
PS: I was a 3SG then because I disrupted for further studies.

Medic.

Icemoon said...

Chun See, I think there is a typo with your caption. The 1965 photo should be 2SIR, not 1SIR?

Fina said...

Hey, I always notice this camp whenever we send my mum to work.. Imagine my suprise when I saw it looking brand new with a convenience store up front.. Yup, it has been turned into a hostel..

Lam Chun See said...

Icemoon. There is no mistake. The photo is 2SIR. The background, which, is not easily seen here, is the 1SIR.

Lam Chun See said...

Hi Fina. I read your post regarding this story. I think I have confused you with my long-winded story. I tried to explain in your blog's comments section, but got lost in the registration part.

Anyway pls let me clarify. There were two camps. 1SIR and 2SIR.

2SIR has been demolished. It is now just a empty piece of land.

1SIR is the one that is being converted into hostel. I have not heard any ghost stories about that place.

Ah Seng said...

It's now the residential area for SIM. :)

Cotonou said...

Hi Chun See

Thanks for your blog on old Holland Road Area.

One of your readers posted a comment that the camp you referred to as 2SIR, housed 46 SAR (moved out in 1979).

As a kid staying in the area, I remembered hearing tanks movement in the area. I also remembered them moving on Holland Road one day when I was staying in Henry Park Primary School (it was during lesson time but the whole class was so excited, that we all dashed to the window to see the "action")

Troops would also go for their morning runs from Old Holland Road (near Ewart Park) and their running will set out all the dogs in the area barking. It was quite a sight - troops singing their running songs to the background of dogs barking.

Anonymous said...

I just recently chanced upon your blog and reading this bit about the old Ulu Pandan does brings back some memories for me. I trained as a combat medic and subsequently stayed in the old SMM at Ulu Pandan as a trainer from 1993-1995. As a "perm-staff" of the camp, I have to serve as a Camp Orderly Sergeant (COS)whenever it's my turn to do guard duty. There's always been stories of sightings and hauntings in the camp. From personal experience, there was always an area near to the last bunk and pump house where my walkie talkie would always go static whenever I walk past the area during my duty. The area around the pump house was rumored to be very haunted. On one of my duty night, I was suddenly activated by my duty officer because something happened when 2 of the guards who were on patrol ran back to the guard house, defying the standard protocol. I later found out that when they were patrolling the area near the pump house, which also happens to be where the back of the camp was located. (Now this gate was almost never unlocked for the whole time when I was serving in SMM) The guards saw 2 person near the back gate and subsequently running into the pump house. Their first instinct was that there was intruders and therefore alerted the Duty Officer. Before the DO could arrive, they went to investigate the pump house. (Now the tricky part about the pump house was that there was only 1 light bulb located inside and the switch to the light was also inside the pump house). The guards went to the pump house, opened the door and looked inside. It was pitch dark inside and to their horror as they started to get used to the darkness, they saw 2 heads hanging inside the pump house! That was when they decided to run all the way back to the guard room. The DO of course was infuriated that they didn't stand by the affected area and "challenge" the intruders. She subsequently went over to the pump house but found nothing. The 2 poor guards were of course punished for their action. Despite this, the old SMM camp still leaves me with more fond memories, some of which I might be able to share some other time. Mike Chong

Anonymous said...

I just recently chanced upon your blog and reading this bit about the old Ulu Pandan does brings back some memories for me. I trained as a combat medic and subsequently stayed in the old SMM at Ulu Pandan as a trainer from 1993-1995. As a "perm-staff" of the camp, I have to serve as a Camp Orderly Sergeant (COS)whenever it's my turn to do guard duty. There's always been stories of sightings and hauntings in the camp. From personal experience, there was always an area near to the last bunk and pump house where my walkie talkie would always go static whenever I walk past the area during my duty. The area around the pump house was rumored to be very haunted. On one of my duty night, I was suddenly activated by my duty officer because something happened when 2 of the guards who were on patrol ran back to the guard house, defying the standard protocol. I later found out that when they were patrolling the area near the pump house, which also happens to be where the back of the camp was located. (Now this gate was almost never unlocked for the whole time when I was serving in SMM) The guards saw 2 person near the back gate and subsequently running into the pump house. Their first instinct was that there was intruders and therefore alerted the Duty Officer. Before the DO could arrive, they went to investigate the pump house. (Now the tricky part about the pump house was that there was only 1 light bulb located inside and the switch to the light was also inside the pump house). The guards went to the pump house, opened the door and looked inside. It was pitch dark inside and to their horror as they started to get used to the darkness, they saw 2 heads hanging inside the pump house! That was when they decided to run all the way back to the guard room. The DO of course was infuriated that they didn't stand by the affected area and "challenge" the intruders. She subsequently went over to the pump house but found nothing. The 2 poor guards were of course punished for their action. Despite this, the old SMM camp still leaves me with more fond memories, some of which I might be able to share some other time. Mike Chong

Anonymous said...

Seriously, uncle. This camp is known as SIM Ulu Pandan Campus and lots of SIM students were being forced to stay here until next december. Still, this is why i have strong desire not to extend to stay any longer here.

Anonymous said...

I was a resident at the SIM YOHA Hostel last year, which was formerly the 1 SIR Camp. And I used to stay in the same block 14 as the photo above, though it was renovated. It was a fairly haunted place but I had personally never seen anything on my own. However we were always told about a blue Comofort and City Cab which used to always park outside the hostel, on the road infront of Block 14. The story was that the Driver's son had committed suicide in the camp and he comes everyday to interact with his spirit. The cab always had its lights on so one day me and friends were waiting for it, as soon as it reached its spot we went there to check out who the driver is. Imagine our horror when we saw no one in the cab ! It had just come infront of us and no one got out of the cab. I left the hostel the very next day

Mark Roche said...

Really enjoy this.... Thanks for sharing
However , I think you left out 5 other famous
Camps that may qualify for your list.
SBMT -Nee Soon Camp, Wing 1and 2
Terror Barracks
Selarang Camp
Seletar Camp
Tengah Airbase

P.s up till the 80's, Tekong camp 1 still had NS men being possessed .

Anonymous said...

There is a storage bunker and thick wall hidden in secondary jungle on the side of the hill facing the rail corridor which I believe are part of the old 2SIR camp. Remains of the perimeter fence, lamp posts and a sentry box can also be seen.