Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ulu Pandan Heritage Trail (1) – Pine Grove Vicinity (by Peter Chan)

Land is a much sought-after asset in Singapore, so much so that even cemeteries were converted for public housing. Many of the older cemeteries became sprawling HDB estates. When Singaporeans became more affluent by the mid-1970s, there was a new form of public housing called “HUDC”. HUDC housing was offered in phases, the first phase at Laguna Park but for me I joined in the queue under Phase 3. The estates under Phase 3 included Gillman Heights, Bedok Reservoir and Pine Grove. Unfortunately I was not able to live in any of those HUDC Estates because the stork had arrived early and there was a pressing need to acquire my roof as soon as possible.

How many of us really knew the original land use of Pine Grove; which is located off Ulu Pandan Road?

I used to travel very frequently from my house to town using the Ulu Pandan Road. Ulu Pandan Road was a very quiet place with very few developments. The only prominent landmarks were at 1SIR, 2 SIR and Mowbray Camp. So I could never miss the serene sight of this military cemetery. Even without the photos, I could still visualize the entire cemetery.

The Ulu Pandan Military Cemetery was one of two cemeteries operated by the British Military, the other was at Dover Road next to an Anglican church. The Ulu Pandan Cemetery was first opened in 1955 and contained over 1,500 remains of British Servicemen of the 3 services (British Army, RAF and RN), civilians employed by the British Military and their families whilst serving in Singapore. It had a small white chapel to the left of the entrance. It was a multi-religion cemetery containing separate burial plots for Catholics, Protestants, Hindu and Buddhist religions. By 1968, the remains were transferred to the Kranji War Memorial.

Here are some early 1960s photos of the Ulu Pandan Cemetery.

Fig 1: A military burial ceremony at the main entrance to the cemetery. The view is from the cemetery towards Ulu Pandan Road.

Fig 2: The graves and the chapel in the background

Fig 3: The small chapel on the left of the main entrance. Beyond the gate were the graves. The old chapel could be on the slope of the Pine Grove main entrance


Anonymous said...

Thanks so so much for this post! I was pleasantly surprised to see it in my RSS reader; I've been following this blog for ages but this has been the best blog entry I've read this week - because I live here!

I've seen 1940s/50s-era maps marking this area as a cemetery, but I never knew any other details and have always been curious, so I'm really glad to read about it here.

Interestingly enough, the forest opposite the estate is probably still the same as it was back then (except for the drain, I suppose). I hope they don't clear it away for development because it doesn't seem protected.

I've also heard Ulu Pandan Road didn't used to link up to existing Holland Road, instead ending where the current Old Holland Road starts. There's now a raised field-like area just after Old Holland Road, I heard it was a camp as well (I walked up there once and saw brick remnants of a few structures here and there.)
Of course this is all stuff I heard from my mother, I'm not even twenty.

Looking forward to the rest of the posts on Ulu Pandan!

Lam Chun See said...

Hi Passerby. Yes, there used to be an army camp at the junction of Old Holland Rd and Holland Road. More details will be coming up soon. Promise you interesting details about supposedly haunted barracks!

Anonymous said...

You r right Passerby, the forest opposite Pine grove is still intact after many decades. There is a abandoned railway track down in the valley, a remnant of the old Jurong Line built in 1964.

There is also a big mystery about the valley and the former Mowbray Camp - now police trg center (pre-WW2 structure) and the hill which once stood behind Pine Grove. It dates back to pre-WW2.

Anonymous said...

When young one never thinks of cemeteries, and this one was clearly in use when I was in Singapore in the early 1960s - but I never heard of it. I wonder - was there any controversy about the use of this cemetery or others for housing?

And rather off topic - I notice when checking my map for the location of the cemetery that canals are marked in that area - could we have a blog on their history and use - I never realised there were any!

Anonymous said...

The army camp at Holland Rd & Old Holland road was 46 SAR. It moved out in 1979. I was in Mowbray camp from 79-81. The vacant camp opposite Pandan Valley cond was HQ 3 SIB. There used to an overhead bridge connecting these 2 camps. I don't remember seeing a cementery at Pine Grove back in 79. The valley remains unchanged and from the outside my old Mowbray camp too remains unchanged. My office which was very near to the road is still there.
I believe some "lao chiao" army officer who has since left the SAF did blog about the hauntings at 46 SAR.
That area really hasn't changed much in the last 30 years. Perhaps a number of PAP politicians stayed in that district so it is not affected by any new dev! I remembered seeing Teo Chee Hean jogging somewhere near to jalan jelita probably before 911 as he was without a security escort.

Anonymous said...

I believe that the army camp opposite Pandan Valley was used by SMM for a few years (I remember going there in 2001 for some training and then walking back home after classes) until they moved out. No one seems to be using it right now though.

Lam Chun See said...

I think the old army camp at the junction of Old Holland Road and Holland Road (on a slope) was 2 SIR. Anyway, we will touch on that at a later post.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I have seen an abandoned railway line near Clementi Fire Station, is that the old Jurong line? Maybe someone would like to share some story on this old railway line?

Lam Chun See said...

I think we should thank Peter for sharing this precious bit of history with us. I believe very few Singaporeans know about this British Military Cemetry at Ulu Pandan. I certainly don't. In fact, I did a search at Singapore Infopedia and all I found was a brief mention of this cemetery.

"The Pasir Panjang and Ulu Pandan Military Cemeteries were moved to the Kranji Cemetery with the withdrawal of British forces in 1971. Between 1965 - 1976, the graves were relocated."

Prior to the 70's, I knew practically nothing about Ulu Pandan area. That is because I only moved to Farrer Road in 1974. My only memory of this area around Pine Grove is the American School - which Peter did not mention. I believe the American School was later relocated to King's Road off Farrer Road. (confirm Peter?)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great comments and posts as usual, this blog is so informative! (I saw the latest post too.) I've seen Teo Chee Hean jogging around this area too. I think the overhead bridge connecting Pandan Valley with the abandoned camp opposite is still there.

I'm a little curious about that canal too, I think it leads up to Sungei Ulu Pandan but did the original extent of that river cover where the canal runs through? Currently there's one canal going past Sunset Way coming from Jurong, and another one that goes through the forest opposite Pine Grove (you see it as you go down Clementi Road, I think some people walk along the canal although it's all forest in there) Then they join together at Ulu Pandan Road/Clementi Road junction and flow down; there's a park connector that goes down it.

As for the old Jurong Line I only know that it was made to split off from the KTM line a short while after the disused Bukit Timah Railway Station, for stuff from Malaysia to go to the Jurong shipyards. You can actually see the extent of the railway line and its branches marked on street directories as recent as 1992. If you look on satellite maps you can trace the old path (I didn't want to show it but I guess I might as well - I tried tracing it on Google Maps here , its the long blue line in the south-west.)

If you peek on the side of Clementi Road near Maju Camp busstop and behind the Sunset Way Park, you can see the metal bits of the tracks where the vegetation seems to take a "break", and notice depressions in the ground now filled with water...
You can still see the actual railway tracks in 2 places: one crossing the canal near Sunset Way (go down the park connector, you'll see it, it's popular with local photographers) and another further down the canal where it goes under the AYE; it's the only way to cross the canal and it's a bit scary! (There's pictures of that bit on Yawning Bread here , as well as the next 2 pages.)

I wish I knew more about it but that's as much as I know. I heard there was another short railway line branching off the existing KTM railway line after it crosses Holland Road, but there's no remnants of it left. It sounds very Romantic when I describe my house as being opposite a forest with an abandoned railway going through it, heheh.

Also the American School premises are still here (they had a few campuses, the King's Road one was there previously but the main campus relocated from Ulu Pandan to Woodlands); it later was occupied by the Australian School which then moved to Lorong Chuan (near where Mr Lam used to live, I think?) and after being empty for 2-3 years Emaar International School took over. They cleaned it up a bit and threw on some paint but it's essentially the same.

Anonymous said...

Chun See on re: Singapore American School history.

The King's Road campus was for the High School (17 & 18 yrs) whilst the Ulu Pandan Road campus was for the Junior and Middle Schools.

Edidas: track at Clementi Fire Station. Yes this was the line which branched off from the Bukit Timah Station to Jurong Fishery Port. If you are observant you can find the remnant of a line opposite to the former TANG Dynasty Village.

I got some friends who did a small project on the Jurong Line (from Maju Camp to Jurong Port area) with 1980 street directory and 1960 photos. If you are interested leave your contact with Chun See.

Anonymous said...

To "a passerby": KTM railway branch off Holland Road is not the KTM line. It dated back to pre-WW2 and was used by the British Army to transfer ammo from Depot Road to the Buona Vista Gun Battery. More information about the Buona Vista Gun Battery in next article.

Anonymous said...

Besides the railway branches mentioned, there were 2 others. One was across Alexandra Road to the Anchor Beer Brewery factory (now the Anchor Condo) and across Jalan Bukit Merah (behind Rumah Miskin HDB). The other was on Depot Road (near HP factory)

Tom said...

Tom said...
talking about Cemeteries, there is one cemetery it always comes to mind,it was a Chinese grave yard, it was along The Bukit Timah road, near the rifle range, why I always Remember it, when I sitting on small mound ,I heard this clicking noise I said one of my army mates, did you hear that clicking sound He said no , the clicking started again by that time the hair at the back of my neck started to rise, I went and had look over the other side the small hill, there was a old Chinese Lady, she had two shiny sticks, and talking away to her self next to a lot of grave stones, At first I thought she was a ghost,

Anonymous said...

Hi passerby and peter, thanks for the info and confirming a few things about the jurong line. Now i able to have a better pic of how to trace the jurong line. passerby mentioned about the old bukit timah railway station, would that be the current area where Rail Mall is located?

Quite surprised to know about other railway lines in SG. Not sure if there are still remnants of the other lines now as the area mentioned have already been developed a fair bit. Reference to passerby comment: (another further down the canal where it goes under the AYE;) is this the one near corporation road towards TUAS AYE exit? I seen something like a tunnel near the flyover there and a path which looks like a railway path headed to the disused line opp Tang Dynasty.

I get a satisfied feeling visiting these places mentioned because of the heritage feeling and the temptation to experience how it felt seeing these old places in their full glory (which sadly wun happen anyway). Somehow traces that lead to lost places always bring out the detectiveness in me to see where it leads to or find out what exactly it is. Its sad that development in places meant old places have to go while remnants are a sad reminder of the memories lost in my generation (I am in mid-twenties btw).

The "problem" with this blog is that it satisfies my curiosity on lost places yet it adds more curiosity to satisfy :P because of the wealth of heritage places shown here with maps and comments from other member depicting the place which contradicts my feeling that SG is a boring place because all the shopping malls here are the same. Same shops, same feeling. But when it came to exploring lost places (or old places), the feeling of finding and seeing these places is = priceless. Keep up the great work!

PS: Hi Chun See, would appreciate if you can send me the Jurong line pics to my email at thanks.

Lam Chun See said...

Dear friends. Pls note that this series of posts on Ulu Pandan is far from over. It's just that I have been very busy this past week.

A number of articles are coming up; incuding some inputs from my brother all the way from Perth about the 'ghost' stories of Ulu Pandan Camp in the early 70's.

There will also be one about the railway line that branched from this area to the Western part of Singapore. Yours truly was personally involved in 'blowing up' some of these tracks during my combat engineers days.

So Edidas; pls be patient. We will come to the railway line part shortly.

Anonymous said...

Hi Edidas, Mr. Lam already asked all of us to be patient and I apologize in advance for having babbled on too much when it's obvious that he and the others are a lot more knowledgeable about this... I admit, I'm not even 20 yet. But I guess I find seeing the remains of the past very thrilling - not the usual heritage stuff they tell us during NE, but "lesser-known" things like this that are all around one's neighbourhood.

The Bukit Timah Railway Station I was talking about is at the junction of Clementi Road and Bukit Timah Road, I think it used to be near a bus terminal back in the days before the bus companies merged. It's somewhere near King Albert Park, you can access it by a pathway along Bukit Timah Road. I believe Mr. Lam has some pictures of it here:

And about the AYE one, sorry about that - I must've been daydreaming, I meant it runs parallel to the AYE. I think it goes near the AYE again at some other point of time, but I have not walked along the rails beyond that stretch...

It's quite nice walking along the rails (when it's possible), by the way. Lots of quiet, still greenery. One segment of the rails, just opposite the canal from Sunset Way, goes behind some HDBs and some old uncles hang around there - it seems like a cozy little community with kampong-like vegetable patches and an outhouse etc. I think it was featured on a TV show once.

And now before I sound too annoying (I'm sure I got some facts wrong) I will shut up and quietly go back to waiting patiently for Mr Lam and co.'s updates, I really look forward to every installment no matter what topic it's on. Please take as much time as is needed! Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chun See, thanks for your comments.

My purpose here is quite similar to passerby's probably because we were from the same generation. Reading your blog carefully again, I realized the purpose of your blog is for friends of your generation to share their stories and I would then qualify to be one of the kids who visits this site and learnt about the past.

With that, I am quite happy to share my childhood memories here and ask some questions which might invoke the good old memories of the older generation who could then share them here to educate me and others.

And frankly, I am not too sure why I might have come across as impatient, maybe because of something i had wrote earlier which might sounded persistent or annoying but honestly i never intended this way which i had to let you know.

I do acknowledge that maybe I should not have offtracked this topic to a different topic and started asking too much questions at a go. Probably would be good to suggest for a newer topic next time to discuss on a different issue.

What are your thoughts on this? You are welcomed to drop me an email on this. It would be nice for the young ones like me or passerby to post our comments here with the intention of enjoying your installments, sharing our thoughts and avoid annoying the pple here. I would guess that was probably the intention you had anyway.

PS: passerby: NE lessons would have been more exciting if they asked the students to research and locate "lost" places in Singapore and asking them some questions on these places to see how much knowledge they gained so far.

Lam Chun See said...

Hi Edidas. Pls don't read too much into my 'pls be patient' remark. We are very happy that you want to know more. Actually the curiosity that we managed to arouse in you and Passerby is exactly the aim of this blog. Every story-teller's goal is to make their listeners 'impatient' and eager to know more.

I think your idea of getting students to research about 'lost' places is very good. In fact some NJC students participated in a Bukit Timah Heritage Trail project and another team for Pei Hwa Secondary school started a blog on Jalan Kayu Trial.

Anonymous said...

Chun See
Last week I have email to Edidas the Jurong Railway maps but did not get to hear from him whether he has received them.

Edidas maybe you like to inform us?

Anonymous said...

Hi Chun See, appreciate your comments above. Yup, i am always eager to know more about heritage and the suspense would grow with each update + pple's comments in this blog.

BTW, is there any recognized heritage trail group in SG that caters to the working adults? I dont have much friends who share my interests in visiting old places so i dont mind joining a group of pple (regardless of age) with the same interests to seek out such places and learn something new.

Anonymous said...

Hi peter, I had received your email but did not check my mail earlier as i was preoccupied with finding a new job and was logged into my other email account for work purpose. I have only one word to describe my feelings now. "Eyeopener". Thanks for the info.

Anonymous said...

Siva migt be able to help Edidas.

There was a NUS Arts faculty group (I think some drama major students) who made a movie on the railway. The movie is excellent because like you many people who go for regular joggers dont even know the background of the Jurong Line.

Redstorm said...

Regarding the article on 1 SIR along Ulu Pandan Rd. It was mentioned that the School of Military Medicine (SMM)took over after that. It is incorrect. The place was subsequently took over by HQ 3 SIB before it was finally handed over to SMM.

Unknown said...

I believe the camp you are talking about was called Camp Temasek and was 2SIR. The 'ghost' stories attached to it emanated from stories from old soldiers who said that the bodies of our SIR soldiers killed in an ambush by Communist terrorists in Kota tinggi in Johor were brought to this camp and placed in what was the cookhouse for identification before burial.
When I served my reservist in Slim Barracks in Portsdown Road, I was told that the soldiers who were killed were station ed in Slim Barracks. Camp Temasek in SAF days, was HQ2SIB (maybe HQ3SIB) it thne became a driver training school, a reservist training centre and then SMM before it was returned to SLA. It is now a hostel for students.

Nelson Kwan said...

Hi Folks:

I was from 2 SIR from 1997 to 2000 and I found out from you guys that it was based at Ulu Pandan area back in the old days (it was at Amoy Quee Camp during my time). I found a webpage from MINDEF stating that the camp was Camp Temasek:

I have a question regarding the history of Mowbray Camp. Does anyone have anymore information regarding the usage of camp during British days? I understand from that the camp used be the location of Buona Vista Battery. What's more impressive is that the battery had x2 15" guns (similar to Johore Battery in Changi). I understand that these guns are one of the largest weapons ever to be mounted by the British. If such massive guns did exist, there might be people out there who mind know a thing or two concerning it.

peter said...

Nelson Kwan,

Mowbray was not a camp pre-war era. It was a temporary camp after the war until probably 1948. By then the concrete buildings like what you still see if you stand at the overhead bridge across Ulu Pandan Road and peeping through the rear gate. It was a temporary camp bcos the Brits were building Ayer Rajah Camp (now 3 SAF Tpt base and future Mediacorp site). Soldiers slept in tents from the hill down towards Clementi Road. Check more details with Peter Stubbs who runs Fort Siloso web site.

Nelson Kwan said...

Hi Peter:

Thanks for your information. I'm checking with Peter from for more information regarding the area.


Nelson Kwan said...


I've got a reply from Mr Peter Stubbs who kindly provided a detailed explanation of the locations of the 2 guns in the vicinity of Ulu Pandan and Holland Road. He also referred me to a book "Over Singapore 50 Years Ago" which contains an aerial photo of the area. The photo clearly shows two empty gun emplacements (they were destroyed by the British prior to surrender). Gun No. 1 was within the former Mowbray Camp (currently Police training camp). Gun no. 2 was just on the right of Ulu Pandan Cemetery (which was also clearly shown on the photo in the 50s).


peter said...


I am not sure whether you can see from that aerial photo but worth checking again.

There is a railway track that links #1 & #2 gun pits all the way to the main civilian railway line (the future Malayan Railway). Ammo was brought to those guns via railway. This is not the same railway track that supplies ammo to the present pill-box at Science Park 2. If you go to kent Ridge bus terminus, there are some NUS hostels. Between the bus terminus and hostels was that WW2 railway track. I believe when they built NUS they excavated those tracks (running across Heng Mui Keng Terrace).

Anonymous said...

When I was young boy, we used to roam around Singapore taking cheap bus rides and trying to evade the conductors. One of the places that we like was the British cinema where latest releases were shown. This was at the junction of Dover Road and Folkestone Road. There were also a few centres (British Supplies) where they offered essentials to the British families. The place was really ulu (off the track) with no big buildings around. Portsdown Road still maintain some semblance of what it was before.

Lisa said...


I chanced upon your blog while I was searching for a certain species of pine tree that was grown in pine grove. I actually came to read about all the history under the Ulu pandan tag from your post about casuarina trees!

I am extremely delighted reading all these posts about the railway and also pine grove's history. I've actually lived in Pine grove my entire life(I am turning 20 this year) and i recognise the railway tracks and everything but I never knew more than any of that! Your posts have been so wonderfully informative and exciting to read.

At the end of last year, the government sadly decided to do an expansion project for the bukit timah canal due to flooding and the expansions include the space next to the main entrance of pine grove and next to police KINS camp. I was extremely saddened when I witnessed the cutting down of all these 17 storey tall trees which have been there my entire life, and i suspect for much longer before than that. As I wasnt sure what species of pine trees they were i was doing some research online, when i came to a link on your blog. Thankfully, the forest opposite pine grove is still intact but i dont think pine grove itself will be intact for much longer.

Thank you for your wonderful blog!

Lam Chun See said...

Thank you Lisa for your kind compliments and sharing your thoughts. One of the reasons I started this blog is to educate/inform younger Sporeans like yourself. There are many many more stories here for you to catch up. And do get a copy of my book Good Morning Yesterday (available at Times Bookshop @ Centrepoint and Kinokuniya @ Orchard)

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for this post! I got here because one cab uncle just told me where I live used to be a cemetery so naturally I had to Google it! i ended up reading the Ulu Pandan series too, especially about the bridge, since I jog near it quite often.

Lam Chun See said...

If you check an old street directory of Spore, say before 1980, you will be surprised to see that many parts of Spore used to be cemeteries.

Unknown said...

I have tried to find the military cemetery on ulu Pandan road but there appears to be no trace of it. Is the chapel that stood at the entrance still in existence? Grateful for any information.