Photos 1a & 1b: American intelligence report (circa 1945). The handwritten ‘answers” illustrates my guesswork; a major part of the blame was because we dealt with the British Imperial metrics. Having to deal with “feet & yards” metrics in the age of S.I. was quite a challenge.
From aerial intelligence reports, two items caught my attention. They were a “Tanah Merah Powder Magazine 1,100 yards WSW of Bedok Village” and an “unidentified installation 335 yards west of Bedok Village”. Since Char Lee (aka “Icemoon”) and Chin Siew Min had vested interest in this geographical part of Singapore, they pitched in time and resources to investigate further, without which this article would not have been possible.
Photos 2a & 3b: View of photos from Parbury Avenue. TOP; 11 Kew Drive was the yellow dotted line box; a concrete bunker. 1 Kew Drive was the yellow bold line box, a heavy machine gun nest inside a pill-box. At the top of this photo is Bedok Corner (circa 1960). BOTTOM; Tanah Merah Powder Magazine (circa 1962). Tanah Merah Kechil the dirt track starts at the middle-bottom of this photo and would eventually connect with present-day Tanah Merah Kechil South.
The Tanah Merah Powder Magazine operated as an ammunition depot and was first reported in General Gillman’s 1927 report on the defenses of Singapore. General Gillman (whose name was given to Gillman Barracks) drew up defense plans in view of the perceived Japanese threat. It was not just a normal British ammunition depot but a depot that was co-owned by one Tan Seng Poh (whose name gave rise to Seng Poh Road in the Tiong Bahru Estate area). Tan Seng Poh was an enterprising local Chinese merchant of considerable status and did business with the colonial government.
Insofar as the “unidentified installation” is concern, there was no precedence because it was not built by the British. The local spy networks confirmed that it was built by the Japanese and manned by several infantry soldiers. Originally it was thought to be an Observation Post (OP) monitoring possible enemy naval movements off the east coast of Singapore but an air-recon on 12 July 1945 found it to be a wireless station. The Bedok W/T Station had 3 tall tubular masts set out in the form of a triangle of sides 235’ X 250’ X 130’ and the masts were built in the open space between two houses. It was managed by the Imperial Japanese Navy.
Photos 3a & 3b: TOP: Bedok W/T Site lies abandon. The two houses are circled in yellow. Below is Upper East Coast Road with a car heading towards Bedok Corner (circa 1960). During the Indonesian Confrontation era of 1963 - 1966, the site was occupied by British anti-aircraft guns. BOTTOM: a jetty was built to unload ammunition for the Tanah Merah Powder Magazine (circa 1937).
There were six feet deep trenches dug north of Upper East Coast Road. The beach was fortified with barbed-wire from Tanjung Rhu to Teluk Ayer Mata Ikan (3 meters in thickness, 50 - 150 meters from the shoreline) and only visible during low-tide. If the Japanese had not surrendered on 16 August 1945, could this part of Singapore be another “D-Day”, in similar fashion to the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France?
During our pursuit of the subject, we discovered a more somber past. Many are familiar with the massacre sites at Siglap, Amber Road, Upper Changi Road and Changi Creek but Bedok Hill Massacre is seldom mentioned. Why is this so? Unlike the Sook Ching victims, Bedok Hill Massacre involved captured Malay and Chinese military personnel who stood in defense of Singapore. Just after 6.30pm on February 28, 1942, 100 captured men from 1st Bn. Malay Regiment, 4th Bn. Straits Settlement Volunteer Force from Malacca, and the Negeri Sembilan F.M.S. Volunteer Force were machine-gunned down and their bodies dumped into the trenches.
Photos 4a & 4b: TOP: British mobile light anti-aircraft gun on top of a hill. A partial view of Upper East Coast Road bend can be seen to the left of the group of soldiers (circa 1941). The sea is on the left. BOTTOM: the sea is off Upper East Coast Road. In the distance are the hills of Pulau Karimun, Indonesia (circa 1941).
Where was this Bedok Hill? From one survivor account: “We stopped on the seafront near Bedok close to a low hill. Here an anti-aircraft gun had been sited by the British. The whole detachment marched up a lane round the side of a low hill. A level patch on the hill slope was the site of the trenches. Dwellers in a nearby kampong still remember the stench of rotting corpses which hung over their houses when the wind blew in from the sea a week later”.
From my personal recollections, I knew there was a British-built WW2 pill-box at Kew Drive. There were similar constructs along Bedok Road next to the Bedok Methodist Church, one on the grounds of Temasek Secondary School and the other at Bedok Corner facing Bedok Junction.
So where was the location of the Bedok Hill Massacre site? What has become of Tanah Merah Powder Magazine and the Bedok W/T Station? Watch this space again!