Friday, July 20, 2012

Some photos of 1960’s Bukit Gombak and Bukit Panjang

Today, I would like to share with you some rarely-seen photos of Bukit Gombak and Bukit Panjang taken in the 1960’s. These images were sent to me by Gordon Carle quite some time ago. But I had been hesitant to post them on this blog for 2 reasons:

1) Bt Gombak is a highly sensitive military area.
2) I do not have any stories of these 2 places to share with readers. Apart from a meeting at the Air Logistics Unit in the 1980’s when I was working with the National Productivity Board, I have never set foot in Bukit Gombak.

Anyway, these photos are more that 4 decades old, so here they are. Hope readers can add some of their own stories.

The first 3 are of Bukit Gombak, no. 2 being from Whirlwind helicopter.

The next 3 are of Bukit Panjang viewed from Bukit Gombak.

These last 6 are simply views from Bukit Gombak (probably).


peter said...

My "hometown".

Pic 1: The single storey building in the middle of the pic was the Chinese school run by St Jpseph Church. Think its name was Sino-English School.

On the left is a workman's quarters and the ground being levelled (James of PEE would have remembered a small shop built across the drain. The husband and wife ran a small provision shop and an ice kachang outlet). In today's context, this would be where the "12 Stations of the Cross" would be built. If you go to Chestnut Drive today, you see the 12 stations depicting the last days of Christ.

peter said...

Pic 5: Somewhere in the middle of the pic, you see the grounds of Boys Town English School (now Assumption English School) - my alma mater - and the St Joseph Trade School. Further to the right is the present St Joseph Church's tower.

James Tann said...

Hi Chun See

Thanks for these magnificent photos (and thanks to yr friend Gordon Carle too).
I had previously blog about my experience exploring Bt Gombak and these pictures says it all. The views from the top were magnificent as you can see, It's no wonder that in WWII, the most vicious battles were fought for these strategic viewpoints.

I think you needed have worried about posting these vintage shots.
1) The radar stations are no longer there, There were dismantled many years ago and also I doubt any more military secret being very old type radars.
Anyway, if you are hauled up in the middle of the night, we bloggers will come bail you out! (ie. if we can find you lOL)

2) By posting the photos, you will elicit more stories from others who have been there! So don't hesitate to post more photos.

Peter is right. Pic 1 taken from Chestnut Drive beside St Joseph Church. I do recall the roadside shops (I believe there were 2 side by side)

Pic 2 is taken from the other side of Gombak, This would be from where Little Guilin lies today (foreground)

Pic 3 close up of Pic 2 same angle.

Pic 4 and Pic 6 are the lower Bukit Panjang / Cheng Hwa area.
In the middle the 2 rows of 2-storey shophouses are along Upper Bukit Timah Road. The one on the right still exists while the one on the left is replaced by The Linear condominium. The tall building on the right side is the Hokkien Huay Kuan Clan Association bldg (still exiists) beside what is now Hazel Park.

Pic 5, as Peter says, is the Boys Town/ St Joseph Church and Chestnut Drive area. You can see the rolling hills of Dairy Farm at the back of Chestnut Estate.

Pic 11 is the Dairy Farm Quarry (right) scarring the forested hill. Just in front of the quarry is the Union carbide factory manufacturer of Eveready batteries. PEE would be located just below where the cameraman stood in the green area (right side)

Lam Chun See said...

"I think you needed have worried about posting these vintage shots."

Thanks James. That was comforting. LOL.

daniel tan said...

these hills still exist?? was it the one with the tracking park at Bukit Batok?

love this bring back alot of memories and discovery for us! i am only in the early 40s.. but i have seen a bit of my home town in Bukit ho swee and tiong bahru. thansk guys

Lam Chun See said...

Thanks James for the detail explanation. I just read them again slowly.

How nice if we can go up to Bt Gombak today and takes some photos to do a "Then and Now" blog.

It's quite frustrating actually. Many of the places that we used to be able to go to in our younger days are now given to the SAF and out of bounds to the public. E.g. Marsiling, Hong Kah, Jurong (behind NTU), Jalan Bahtera (near Sg Gedong). This is part of our heritage. They shouldn't be allowed to do that.

James Tann said...

Hey CS,
Use your vast contacts within the Heritage Board group. Maybe somebody knows somebody who knows somebody who can get us a permit to take a peek around Gombak, or Peng kang Hill, or Gedong or Hong Kah? I sure lots of people would like to do a second shot.

btw, Pic 11 shows the other side from Gombak. This is the Jurong area all the all to the coast. A similar view can still be seen from some of the new high rise condos at Bukit Gombak/Bukit Batok new Town from the Little Guilin area.

peter said...

You can drive up Gombak. Tried it a couple of times. Coming to the junciton where turn right into MINDEF, turn left to PEE, you continue uphill past the 25mm gun pounder. Up the hill is a RSAF air defense detachment squandron on the right. But where the former British RAF radar was located there is an dead end road with a gate.

When I step out of my car, you feel the cool breeze of "highland"

James Tann said...

Soryy, I meant Pic 12.

Lam Chun See said...

James. In 2006, our friend Walter Lim from NHB, who was also on the Army Museum committee arranged for peter and I to visit Pasir Laba Camp and the Peng Kang Hill. Blogged about it here.

I still have a few more photos from Gordon Carle of Chestnut Drive area where he lived apparently. How about the 3 or us going for a visit one day; and Peter can bring us up Gombak. I dare not go alone with my camera.

James Tann said...

I'm game anytime you can arrange it. I'm sure Peter will be thrilled as well. I've read your army museum blog previously, that's why I am sure your contacts can help. I only met Walter casually at yr book launch.

Here's a little trivia about Bukit Gombak for your readers and also an 'open' secret about some mysterious going-ons behind Bt Gombak...

Bt Gombak is the 2nd highest hill in S'pore at 133m (437 feet). The ridge is shaped like a camel's hump running north to south from Choa Chu Kang Road to Hillview Avenue, roughly 4km in length. On the Eastern side is the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) running parallel to Upper Bukit Timah Road, and on the western side is Bukit Batok New Town.

There were 3 major granite quarries at Bt Gombak on the western side. The smallest was the one that is now the Little Guilin Park. The other 2 huge quarries are now within the Mindef compound and this is where the secret is! I always say that this is Singapore's Area 51.

The quarries are at the northern end near the junction of Bukit Batok Road and Choa Chu Kang Way (behind the new Pavillion Estate). You will not find it on any road maps but with Google Earth you can see structures and buildings WITHIN the quarries itself. I presume these are secret Mindef installations and I am not surprised if Bt Gombak is hollowed out as a huge bunker like NORAD as they have done with the Mandai Caverns.

That may be why nobody has heard of these quarries before (except for old residents?) and and they were never considered for conservation as Nature Parks.

By the way, the signs along the fence says that they can shoot you dead on sight if you attempt to look at the quarries ! ha ha ha.

Lye Khuen Way said...

James Tan just tickled my recollection of "learning" long ago that Bt Bombak was the 2nd tallest hill in Singapore and the Radar Installation there back then was 2nd to none in this part of the world.
That was one reason why Singapore had the Air Traffic Control privilege......

Lam Chun See said...

James. As a late-comer to my blog, you may have missed an earlier blog about the location of a gun emplacement that Peter put up. You may want to check out this post.

James Tann said...

Hi CS. Yes, I have previously seen that post which Peter mentions the photo of the bofor guns being taken from somewhere from Tengah side.

In fact I believe that Pic 8 above, is also taken from the same area around Tengah.
It shows Gombak ridge (in the centre), Bt Timah on the right and, if you look closely, Bt Batok in front of Bt Timah (a bit merged - look for the streak marking the edge of Bt Batok).

So this Pic 8,would definitely be of the 'back side' of Gombak from the region of Chua Chu Kang/Tengah. If I take my bearings fromBt Timah/Bt Batok, I would say that the photo was taken just south of the Tengah airfied.

peter said...

Pic 8 - there's a hill in the background. Looks like Mandai area.

Sure I am game for car ride. CS the driver?

Anonymous said...

This sounds like an adventure to the past of Sg! (grins*) I didn't know SG is known As the air towering hill in the past ! :) . Every day is discovery day !

Barbara Griffiths said...

Thanks for posting this. My dad was at Bt Gombak in the late 1960s but he’s now passed away, so I can’t ask him for more information. From a quick look at a couple of issues of “The Gombak Gazette”, which was their section in the “Tengah Times” magazine, most of the information seems to be about sporting activities and the people who worked there, rather than what was on the hill (which is probably not surprising, given the nature of the work, but thanks to which I have just discovered when my dad went to Hong Kong with the cricket team!)

Anonymous said...

Pic 3: Those antennae are exactly as I saw when I was a little boy living in Chestnut Drive in the 80s.

From left to right, there was a fixed tower, a nodding radar and a slowly revolving one. I never noticed the two fixed dishes. Those are not radar but for long range communications.

Was the radar installation at Gombak the best in the region or suitable for air traffic control? No. Those are simple short range radars.

Btw, you can find maps and photos of topographical features of your SAF areas from the CD bundled with a book, "one of a Kind - Remembering SAFTI's First Batch", available at the library.

Lam Chun See said...

Hi. Thank you very much for sharing the above info. Will certainly check out the Safti book you mentioned.

Anonymous said...

I like the description " nodding radar" , always wonder will it topple ..... Memories , nice ...

Anonymous said...

Correction to a comment above, those were definitely not simple short range radars, I know cause I was there ..

Anonymous said...

All this talk of Gombak takes me back to my first overseas posting as a young British soldier working "up the hill" in the late sixties. My wife and I met in Singapore and are now visiting this wonderful island for the first time since we left in 1970. I can see BG from where we are staying and it sure does bring back some memories.