Monday, March 09, 2009

SAF (public) training areas - Where is Hill 180?

Today, it is called Sispec (School of Infantry Specialists), but back in 1971 when I was first enlisted into national service, it was called SISL (School of Infantry Section Leaders). It was during my time in Lima Company, SISL that I did a few days of Defence Camp at a hill in Marsiling called Hill 180.

Over the years, much changes have taken place in Marsiling. A whole new Woodlands New Town, complete with MRT lines, have emerged and I had assumed that Hill 180 had long vanished from the face of this earth. Still I was very curious to find out where exactly Hill 180 used to be, and where would it be today.

With the help of my friend Peter Chan and one of my readers, Keith, we went on a ‘mission’ to find Hill 180 and Hill 265 last week. I am very happy to report that our ‘mission’ was a success. We believe that Hill 180, or at least part of it is still intact. We also found what was left of Hill 265. I will blog about the former and let Peter tell you about Hill 265.

We did not have much to go on. First, my memories from 38 years ago.

1) I saw two blocks of flats

I remember that as our 3-tonner approached the foot of Hill 180, there were two blocks of what looked like HDB flats on the right side the road. I saw some Malay women and children in front of these flats. A short distance after passing the flats, we reached the foot of the hill where we unloaded our defence stores – stuff like iron pickets, sandbags, wooden beams and changkols. We carried our stores up the hill along a gentle slope, continuing in the easterly direction from where the road ended.

The reason these two blocks of flats remained quite fresh in my memory is that in subsequent years, when I traveled along the present Marsiling Road, I often saw these two blocks of flats. But last week, when we went there, I did not expect to see them anymore. Hence I was happily surprised to see them still there in an open field, but fenced up. According to Peter, they belonged to KD Malaya, or Royal Malaysian Navy and were the housing quarters for staff of the Malaysian Navy camp which used to be located at Admiralty Road (near the present Riverside Road).

Today, these flats are called Marsiling Apartments; and they even have a website here.

2) I could see JB

The hill was divided into sectors. My platoon was in charge of one sector called Apple (or maybe Orange) Sector. One night I was on guard duty. In the dead of the night when most of the others were asleep, I sat in my shell-scrape and admired the beautiful sight of the Johor causeway as well as the neon lights of Johor Bahru. (I seem to recall seeing a grey tower-like structure which was part of the JB prison. Can anyone confirm?). Of course, it was also a time for reflection; and as you might expect, I felt lonely and homesick.

3) A newspaper article

Another vital piece of clue was this 1974 news clipping with Peter sent me. It was about a soldier who was killed by lightning on Hill 180. It mentioned that Hill 180 was off Marsiling Avenue. With the help of a map from YG’s 1970 street directory, we were thus able to work out the rough location of Hill 180. We suspected that it should be next to Woodlands St 13. Peter even singled out Block 118.

What we saw last week

As we traveled along Woodlands Street 13, I was so glad to see the Marsiling Apartments and thought to myself – could these be the same blocks that I saw in 1971?

It soon became apparent that they were. And then we saw this hill near the bend in the road. There was a track leading up the hill which I was so sure was the very same one that we took in 1971. Once we reached the top of the hill, the first thing I tried to confirm was, would we be able to see JB from here?

The answer was yes. Even though the view was blocked by some flats, JB and the causeway would definitely be visible had the flats not been there.

We were thus very sure that we had found Hill 180 or part of it at least. But two doubts lingered.

a) Peter remarked that the hill was too low to be Hill 180.

b) I recall clearly that the 2 blocks of flats were to my right hand side in 1971 when we approached the hill; and they were quite near to the road.


Hence, our final conclusion is that Hill 180 was located in what is today the Woodlands Town Park East. In 1971, there was another road parallel to Woodlands Street 13 which was north of the Marsiling Apartments. Maybe it was today’s Marsiling Road. The actual Hill 180 would be slightly to the north of and probably joined to this hill that we climbed on 5th of March 2009.


yg said...

chun see, yes, hill 180 is located in woodlands town park east. i was there on 6 mar, one day after you all had been there. i parked my car near blk 104 and then took the path to the top.
i have been waiting for you to blog about hill 180 before i post mine about the park.

Icemoon said...

How did yg know about Hill 180 when he hasn't been through NS?!

yg said...

hello icemoon, not having been in the army does not mean i didn't do ns. i was a vc member for 10 years, going around s'pore 'beating the rats'.
anyway, it was my marsiling friend wo told me about hill 180.

Life is Short said...

2ndshot is correct. Hill 265 no longer exists. I mistook Hill 265 for Hill 255, which still exists but remains non-accessible to the public.

Hill 255 left a deep impression on me because I was thrice there doing training. I don't think I ever did training at Hill 100, 180 and 265.

Anonymous said...

YG you should share some stories about the VC. It was also a form of NS, part-time basis. Together with many others who turned 18 yrs whilst we were in our final JC year, we were conscripted into part-time NS in the Special Constabulary (SC). Unlike the VC, we were armed with Smith & Western pistol and did street beat duty. We were paid by the hour. minimum 3 hours per call, 2 times a week. During the school holidays like 1 month, we were sent out on beat duty. So never enjoy our school holidays.

Funny thing, what we did in the SC was not counted to the overall NS liability period.

Maybe the government or Ministry of Home Affairs should shed some light on this anomaly. BTW we were the last batch of SC in 1972.

Anonymous said...

I used to live in Blk 11. I remember as a kid, I would look out my window across the road and see thunderflashes etc.. If there is any question if that was a NS training area, I can validate that it was. That area is now populated with flats in the region of blks 108 etc.. above those flats is still a hill. I used to go up and collect blanks...

Anonymous said...

Blk 11 faced Hill180.

Blks 134 to 137, Blk 137 to 120 were a part of the original Hill180 but now shaved to make way for the HDB flats. Blk 123 location was formerly terraced vegetable plot at the foot of Hill180. The present hill is Hill130.

Lam Chun See said...

Thank you very much Anonymous of Blk 11. That was really helpful.

Can you pls tell us more about the two block of KD Malaya flats. Was the road that I remember travelling towards Hill 180 the present Marsiling Road.


Anonymous said...

Hi Chun See,

I'm anonymous (aka kepalahunter). I responded to a previous post about Gillman Barracks.

Yes, that would be Marsiling Road. Directly opposite that used to be Woodlands Primary School and that slight incline of a hill used to also lead in the direction of Marsiling Primary School.

I remmember cowering under my blanket as my room filled up with the bright lights during army exercise days. I was about 10/11.

Lam Chun See said...

I went back to explore this hill in more detail yesterday. As YG has said, there are lots of granite boulders on the hill. I think this could be one reason why the govt has not flattened the entire hill.

Where large granite boulders are present, the only way to remove them efficiently is to use explosives. For example, my aunt who lived just across the street from the Spore Sports School told us that they heard many explosions when they were clearing the hill to build it. In the case of Hill 180, maybe becos of the proximitiy to school etc. they may have found it not worth the effort for such a small piece of land.

Anonymous said...

hi Chun See, (

I've lived in Marsiling/ Woodlands since I was in Primary 1. Am now 41 years old so that quite some time already.

That hill is the training hill, cannot confirm if its named 180 but absolutely certain that its a training ground.

Lam Chun See said...

Hi Kelapahunter. Are you still living in Marsiling. So you witnessed the clearing of the part of Hill 180? Did you hear any explosions .. I mean to clear the granite boulders?

Anonymous said...

Hi Chun See,

I did not recall any major explosions. In fact, I can recall the very day that the trucks rolled in and start laying the ground work. It was always exciting as this usually meant that a "fun fair" was being set up.. but not this time.

I am now living in Woodlands and I do visit the old place often.


Lam Chun See said...

Did you read about the lightning accident in the newspapers today. Six OCS cadets were injured by lightning last week at a hill in Marsiling. But I think the area is in the Lorong Asrama area which Peter blogged about here. It is just south of the SLE.

Reading about this accident reminded me of the news clipping shown above in my post.

Lam Chun See said...

To Anonymous who posted this comment at my article on Hill 100 .... "I studied in Marsiling Primary school from 1975 to 1980. Behind my school was the hill where the soldiers trained."

Could you pls confirm my recollection that in those days, as we ascended the hill from a road in front of the Marsiling Apartments, the aparments were indeed to our right. In other words, we will first past the Marsiling Apartments on our right then the school; also on our right.


Anonymous said...

I moved to woodlands about 10 yrs ago. They did use explosive to clear the land. I remembered the area south of woodlands ave 1 (the location of singapore sports school) was fenced up. There were signboards telling the public to stay away because of the use of explosives.

Anonymous said...

The two blocks of Marsiling Apartment have just been torn down.

Today it is a piece a flat land, with plenty of trucks coming in and going out and dozen of bulldozers compacting the land.

Anonymous said...

I studied at Marsiling Primary School in the 70's.

Hock Choon Road was lengthened to become today's Marsiling Road.

Marsiling Avenue was a part of today's Marsiling Street 13.

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Do you have picture of Marsiling Quarters.

ricohflex said...

So much talk about Hill 180. But no mention of the famous Mei Lan drink stall (operated by a pretty girl) in Marsiling? I have charged up Hill 180 many times during NS.
At that time (1974/1975) the song 梅兰梅兰我爱你 - mei lan mei lan wo ai ni was popular. It was composed and sung by 劉家昌 Liu Chia Chang in 1971.