Thursday, February 18, 2010

Finale to Upper East Coast Road: A Forgotten History (Peter Chan)

This is a follow-up to “WW2 at Upper East Coast Road” which was posted on Chun See’s blog on December 09, 2009. Three questions were asked.

1) Where was the location of the Bedok Hill Massacre site?
2) What has become of Tanah Merah Powder Magazine, and the
3) Bedok W/T Station?

Here are the answers.

Bedok Hill Massacre site
Photo 4a was taken from the direction of a hill (blue arrow in modern-day photo) where there used to be a Chinese school. The Chinese school was later flattened to become Bedok South Road and Kew Residencia. In that same photo, a road could be visible between the sea and the low bluff. That is Upper East Coast Road; the stretch between Parbury Avenue and Bedok South Ave 3 today.

For my “modern-day shot”, Block 163 was used because there was no suitable elevation to replicate the same 1941 photo.

Somewhere behind the fence was the location of the 1942 “Killing Field” (blue arrow). At that time a small Chinese settlement stood at the edge of the fenced-up forest and Temasek Primary School. It was reported that sympathizers from this settlement gave shelter and provided emergency medical aid to the survivors.

In 1981, the government announced plans to build the Changi General Hospital on the open space bounded by Blocks 155 and 163 on one side, Bedok South Road and Upper East Coast Road. It included the fenced-up forest. We learnt that the decision was reversed in favour of the Simei site. Today the open space is now shared by week-end footballers and the HDB residents except for the fenced-up forest.

But why is the forest the only area still fenced-up? Was it because there was an ugly “past”?

Tanah Merah Powder Magazine

Whilst the nearby hills of what is now Bedok South precinct were leveled down, the Tanah Merah Powder Magazine was left intact until the mid-1970s when the SAF Bomb Disposal Unit was detailed to clear the area. In the early 1960s, I saw the building which had a brick wall facing Upper East Coast Road. For some reasons I was told by my cousin not to walk on that side of Upper East Coast Road. In the early 1970s on bus trips to Bedok Camp, I saw shrubs and trees growing wildly, and it was unusually dim. I can only think that the Baily bridge was blocking off the sunlight.

The once powder magazine lies inside the fenced-up forest. The building foundation of the military barrack is the only piece left from the past, although there are traces of either a broken asphalt road or dirt track leading into the powder magazine area. The “State Land” signboard marks the exact spot of the entrance into the powder magazine.
From the grapevine, there are “talks” that one of the stations on the Eastern Regional Line - the future MRT line from Marina Bay to Changi Airport - will be here. In late 2009, the Land Transport Authority appointed Soil & Foundation to carry out soil investigation along Upper East Coast Road.

Bedok W/T site

Bedok W/T Station (Photo 3a) is now the clock tower of Kew Green, a condominium off Kew Drive. The gradient of the hill (of 20 feet contour interval) is now replaced by four banks of vertical retaining walls to prevent soil erosion.

Today this place is full of tranquility and close to man-made nature. At one corner of Bedok South Estate, are the private landed estates and condominiums. Accessibility is so much better than in the past; to major expressways, the airport, outdoor amenities on the East Coast Park, food centers, schools and wet markets. Did you know you can consult a General Practitioner for less than S$15 and there are four to choose from within 2 minutes walking distance?


Icemoon said...

Wa, the low bluff where the Eurasian girls had their picnic is still there? I must go and have a look.

peter said...

Stand at the entrance to Upper East Coast Road SBS terminus for #13, #48, #43, #45 and #506 (I think) and you can replicate the view BUT the damn trees blocking the view. If u dare climb up that tree.

Chuang Shyue Chou said...

There are three sites with mass graves in the east and you have pin-pointed one of them. Will you be mentioning the other two?

peter said...

SC Chuang

Did you refer to the massacre/burial site at Blk 18 Bedok South/Temasek Junior Colle (then Jalan Puay Poon)and the one at Amber Road (this one just a Killing Field only)? I think Icemoon (aka "Secondshot") will enligten us on the one at Bedok South

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your articles. Have shared with the rest of my council members in The Summit condo. We are looking into how to share some of the history of our area along upper east coast road to the residents here but with emphasis on the younger ones. The children would be happy to know so much history based on your articles. Thank you very much.

I am trying to source photos of the old hotel in the 70s which use to be where Summit Condo is now. Does anyone in this forum have the photos? Please share with us and the next generation before we loose everything.