Sunday, February 15, 2009

SAF (public) training areas – Where is Hill 100?

During my active NS days, I had a few training sessions at a place called Hill 100 in the Woodlands area. The hill was not very high and accessible to three-tonners and land rovers. It was also quite flat; like a plateau, and thus very suitable for mine warfare training. This was in the mid-1970’s

I have always wondered where exactly was Hill 100. Looking at my recently acquired old street directories, and blogging about the old times have triggered my memory and I think I have finally found the answer. I believe Hill 100 is where the present day Baxter Plant is located.


Below are some old maps of the Woodlands Road area.

In the 1983 map, you will see an old age home (bottom right). I remember that in getting to Hill 100, we had to pass by this old age home.


In the 1993 map, you can see that this old age home is labeled Woodlands Home for the Aged.

Can you also see the SBS Woodlands Depot?



At the top of the 1993 map, you will see many small factories and a road named Woodlands Industrial Park D. I believe this road used to be part of the old Marsiling Road. As for the factories, they are very similar to those you can still see in Ang Mo Kio Industrial Park 2. Around 1997~98, the government wanted to relocate these factories to multi-storey ramp-up factories in Woodlands East Industrial Estate. I was involved in some of the consultancy projects to help these factories and visited this place many times.

And going back even further to the late 1950’s and early1960’s, I remember seeing something very interesting here. At that time, the only way to get to the Johore causeway was by Woodlands Road. When we came to the bend in the road, I remember seeing cows grazing on a hill side. What an interesting sight it was to us kids then. I believe that the hill where the cows grazed was Hill 100.

Let’s get back to the mid-70’s. At that time, I was attending the Junior Officers Engineers Course in
Gillman Camp. Besides mine-warfare training, I remember we also had an exercise called Exercise Albino here in Hill 100. This was a field fortification simulation exercise. We had to create what looked like a battalion in defence when viewed from afar or from the air by enemy recce parties. As usual, there was lots of digging to be done. Among the many trenches that we had to dig was a battalion command post, as well as several heavy weapon emplacements. Although there was no need to dig to the full depth – we only needed to dig about 1 foot deep and then spray the soil with black colour oil to give an appearance of depth when viewed from the air – but we still had to construct the superstructures. We also had to build dummy military trucks and park them next to real ones (to confuse the enemy).

After the exercise, we were taken on a helicopter ride to view our work from the air to see for ourselves how realistic they were to enemy aerial recce. I have three photos but I am not sure if I am permitted to put them up for the public to see. So I will just show one where you can clearly see Hill 100 from a height of 500 feet. (This photo is taken in the easterly direction. The road on the foreground is Woodlands Road running towards the Johore Causeway on the left)

Another interesting thing I remember was that there was a farmhouse nearby which produced charcoal.

This is all that I can recall about Hill 100. I hope my readers can contribute more details which may trigger more memories for me.

Akan datang: My next article in this series will be about Hill 180 in Marsiling, followed hopefully (if I can persuade him) by one on Hill 265 by our friend Peter.

34 comments:

peter said...

Around the Woodlands Road bend, my eyes saw the SHELL lubricating storage tanks (on both sides of Woodlands Road), Metal Box (which later became Canuard Metalbox...spelling????) and a rusty red-looking zinc roof building at corner of Woodlands Road and Jalan Bumbong (later used by Tan Chong to store their cars for sale on Singapore roads. I used to see SHELL tankers getting their supplies from this Woodlands plant and delivering petrol to all gas stations in Singapore.

Somewhere here I saw the 2 colourful concrete horses gracing a Hindu temple on the side of the SHELL lubricating factory.

ordinary guy said...

Hi Lam CS,

You can be inducted into the SAF Hall of Fame.

2ndshot said...

Peter, the storage tanks you told me was called Metal Box Company of Malaya in the 1950s. Were they neighboring factories in the past?

Wait ah, let me finish off the ah-pek first, then get to Hill 100.

Lam Chun See said...

The company was called CarnaudMetalbox. Very unusual; 3 words joined together and pronounce Kanu.... I visited a few time in the 90's to do some training. They produced aluminium drink cans by the millions. Very very noisy. Later they moved to Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim near to Tuas 2nd Link and near to Frasers and Neave.

peter said...

SHELL had huge cylindrical storage tanks (like the ones you see at the old Pasir Panjang Power Station in Labrador Park). CarnaudMetalbox was immediate neighbour of SHELL.

Metal Box was originally British-owned, later acquired by the French and I believe is now a part of the F&N Group. In ealry days, Metal Box supplied tin cans which were used as packaging for kerosene and cooking oil.

Keith said...

I only remember Hill 265 where I did my forward-observer-trench-digging exercise. The view towards Marsiling and Ulu Sembawang areas was quite spectacular then. However, my most siong digging exercise was done during junior term at SAFTI.

Lam Chun See said...

I think of all the 'SAF hills' in the Woodlands-Marsiling area, the most famous is Hill 265 followed by Hill 180. Hill 100 is lesser known becos it was not high enough for the infantry people.

I will probably blog about Hill 180 next; but I don't know enough about Hill 265. I hope I can get Peter to write something.

Our emphasis of course, besides sharing some memories of these places, will be to try and locate where these places are today; seeing that the hills have all been flattened and replaced by concrete jungle.

2ndshot said...

I had my first firetrench- digging in Marsiling too. Bloody h*ll the place was waterlogged. Was so demoralised and the trench wasn't even standard when "completed".

I think yg knows one of those hills. I once asked him about Hill 95 in Woodlands and he told me he knew not 95 but some other hill which is a park today. Where are you yg?

Lam Chun See said...

2nd Shot. If you have seen the kind of trenches we engineers had to dig, you’ll agree that your fire trenches are really a stroll in the park.

In my reservist days, I was posted back to an Infantry battalion and became PC of the demolition platoon. During one battalion exercise in Pulau Tekong, I got my pl to build a scaled-down version of a Bn comd post (they didn't have the correct size beams for the ‘roof’). The CO so impressed they left us alone for the rest of the exercise. (I was surprised that he behaved like he has never seen a proper bn comd post before. If I had known, I could have easily cut a few corners!). I mean it was complete with beams, zinc sheets and sandbags on top, zinc sheet lined sides anchored by barb wire and iron pickets and even a sandbag-lined staircase to walk down, plus many other details I can no longer recall. And then there were the tank ditches, 120 mm mortar trenches etc. etc.

Of course they provide bull dozers and excavators to dig the main hole, but just the so called ‘touching-up’ is as you said, “h*ll”. In fact just thinking of it makes me feel tired already!

peter said...

Usually trench-digging by hand starts after midnight and must be ready for inspection by sunrise. Next morning the inspection process comprise someone jumping on the roof-top to check if can cave-in. Some designs require reinforcement with wood for the walls.

Finish too early also no credit because kena detailed to put up barbed wire fence or pitch the commander's tent.

The degree of "siongness" depends on which part of Mandai-Marsiling you go for defense warfare. Some hills "soft soil" condition, others full of pebbles and small boulders.

There is one hill or maybe a part of a bigger hill. All I can remember that it belonged to Hill 265 "territory". The name of this hill is called "Lone Tree Hill" because there was only 1 tree in an open space. "Lone Tree Hill" was almost at a cliff overlooking some kampung below. The gradient descended very sharpely to the kampung houses. Sometimes I wonder when a landslide comes, the folks below sure mati.

OK now come to the story about "Lone Tree Hill". NS trainees kena punishment usually have to run from Hill 265 to the other end of the ridge and "speak" to the tree in a manner so that the men could hear loud and clear. The victim had to cite what he did wrong and promise not to do again. At the end of the punishment must kiss the tree or embrace the tree like man hugging woman. If not done properly must continue doing until perfect. In time to come, the fame of "Lone Tree Hill" spread.......I wonder where is this place today?

peter said...

Lightning very frequent in the Mandai-Marsiling area. On top of the hills, you can see dark clouds gathering around the Johore State Secretariat building. Unnatural deaths due to lighting occurred. How did it happened?

1. Because training done at the highest point in the area.

2. Wore steel helmet with plastic inner liner with rifle sling across body during exercise. Today's helmets made from plastic material.

Both conditions allow electricity to pass easily. Later with so many deaths, SAF revamped training syllybus about out-door training during imminent thunderstorm. One time we saw charred bodies being brought down from the hills to waiting ambulance near the ponds at Lorong Asmara.

peter said...

It was here that 1 Cmdn Battalion and Infantry men slug it out until by mid-1974 or 75 all training which required commandos to penetrate defenses banned.

"Lone Tree Hill" punishment besides running sometimes interspersed with "duck-walk" with rifles above the head.

Keith said...

Ulu Sembawang, Marsiling and Woodland training areas do bring back many siong yet wonderful NS experiences. This thread really reminds me of the numerous vegetable farms, kampong villages, beautiful hills, etc, in that area. All these must be long gone from that area now.

For me in the artillery, most of the trainng grounds I'd been to are the open ground type from Tuas, Sungei Kadut to Simpang, Ponggol, Pasir Ris, Loyang and Changi.

Anonymous said...

yes, i dug my share of trenches at 265. red clay, iron pickets and monkey rams ... some memories.
and that pathetic gardening stick they call entrenching tool.

Victor said...

How come the font of this post suddenly became so... erm, "elderly friendly"?

Lam Chun See said...

Just try out for fun. Anyway,I think it is too big - will change back to normal size.

peter said...

Keith:

You mentioned u did trg in Pasir Ris and Loyang areas. Do you know exactly where?

I remembered we did a beach landing using exercise in Pasir Ris and landed in front of the Pasir Ris Hotel using those aluminium-type boats, and embarked on the capture of one of the hills off Tampines Road area; which I suspected to be the Mountain Bike Trail Park today.

Keith said...

Pasir Ris beach area : The stretch between end of Pasir Ris Park (where the Singtel holiday chalets are) and Punggol.

Loyang : I believe is the current Loyang industrial area. It used to occupied by many coconut plantations.

The artillery gun needs big, flat and sparsely vegetated area to secure and camouflage itself on the ground when firing.

Anonymous said...

Talking about SAF Training area in Marsiling area, I recalled there was a tobacco farm there when I was a recurit in 1978. Can anyone seeing it?

Tom said...

Tom said...
I have been reading, what you lads have been saying, you have got me wondering if I have done some army training, in the areas you have been talking about, but I just cant remember it was so long ago, I need some thing to jog my memory

Lam Chun See said...

The other day, I was at this second-hand book shop next to the National Library. The corner one near N. Bridge Rd entrance. I saw a book entitled; Spore from the Air. It has many beautiful photos of different parts of Spore including the Woodlands-Marsiling area. This book was published in 1985 and there were some spectacular views of farms and hills. One shows a long row of trucks carrying soil with the description saying that they were flattening the hills. Must be one of Peter's hills. Regret not buying it.

2ndshot said...

If my understanding is correct, Woodlands/Marsiling Road junction is just to the left of the photo.

So access to Hill 100 was not via Marsiling Road but the junction before, which is Lorong Woodlands Kechil.

Lam Chun See said...

Peter has disputed my theory that Hill 100 was located at where the present Baxter Plant is. He thinks it should be more to the south at where the Turf Club is.

To satisfy our curiosity, I will put up another post shortly. This time I will add the other 2 air photos.

And then we can discuss this in more detail.

qizhi said...

wow... I wonder when did the SBS depot and the Home for the Aged disappear?

paul said...

When I did my BMT in 41SAR /Mandai camp, we were made to run to Ulu Sembawang area for our IFC training. I will alway remember one of the officer order us to leopard crawl up hill 265. If I am not wrong, hill 180 is the hill beside Woodland street 13.

peter said...

I thot the tobacco farms were closer to Jalan Ulu Sembawang area rather than Marsiing area. The leaves look like "CB Leaf" if I can still remember.

There was also another SAF training area @Bah Soon Pah but this place full of papayas and lime trees. Another in Chestnut Avenue.

Keith said...

Yes Peter, I vaguely remember Chestnut Ave area. It was there during a HQ 6 Div deployment where I looked up at the starry starry sky and thought desperately of booking out to meet my first love.

Icemoon said...

You oldies were so lucky. At least Chestnut is near civilization and there was Marsiling Girl in Marsiling.

Today, we train at Ama Keng, Lim Chu Kang, Pasir Laba, Marsiling, Lentor etc. What do we see? Nothing but mosquitoes and overgrown trees. Even the farms are disappearing in Lim Chu Kang.

Icemoon said...

Just like we have to go north to experience kampongs, the army guys today go Thailand and Taiwan to enjoy the "training amongst civilization" experience. In Thailand, there's not much of a jungle but farms and villagers peddling food and asking for our combat rations. I miss those days. Topo in those days was fun.

Lam Chun See said...

As what I have mentioned here, one of the benefits of doing NS was ...

6. Seeing many places that most Singaporeans never saw, nor will ever see; from the sand pits of Tampines, to the kampongs of Hong Kah, Bt Batok, Bt Panjang, Marsiling and Kranji.

And of course there were still other things that we enjoyed that the younger ones will only get to hear about ...... like change parades, pasting cupboards, polishing boots until can see your teeth etc. etc. :(

Anonymous said...

I moved to the Woodland-Kranji area around 1993 and I believed that hill 100 is opposite Baxter, on the same side as the Singapore Turf Club, just slightly north of the Turf club. Now they are working on a Riding School Project there, I think.

Anonymous said...

I studied in Marsiling Primary school from 1975 to 1980. Behind my school was the hill where the soldiers trained. No idea what the hill was called in SAF ..probably the famous one..on top of the hill was two or three big rocks and a few rubber trees surrounding them..my Malay classmates called the rocks Gajah Besar and Gajah Kecil because of the size of the rocks were like elephants..? We used to go up the hills to look for unused blanks ammo to get the gunpowder :).The soldiers there sometimes gave us the "hard tacks"..I still remember this hard tack was the same one years later when I enlisted in NS myself...There was also a case of one of the students who was injured by the thunderflash when he tinkered with it...
There was an instance when I helped one of the army boys bought drinks from my school canteen..I wished I could have taken all these photos..these memories of my childhood are really dear to me...

Icemoon said...

Where was Marsiling Primary from 1975 to 1980? The same location today at Woodlands Centre Road?

Kwang Hong Chang said...

Do you happen to have photos of this Woodlands Home for the Aged?