Friday, February 26, 2010

Thank you for the photos (Part 2) - Arthur Poskitt

In my previous post, I mentioned that I received an email from a gentleman by the name Michael Frost who generously offered to share his photos with me and Peter. I must sincerely apologize to him for getting his name mixed up. Michael Frost was the name in the ‘Sender” of the email. But his actual name is Arthur Poskitt. I reproduce below excerpts of his emails to me first and then to Peter as well.


Singapore Jan 1948 – Jun 1949

Hallo I would like to introduce myself.

Arthur Leonard Poskitt (80) I served in Singapore as a Signalman and ran a drawing office at a village called Yio Chu Kang for about eighteen months with the Royal Corps of Signals.

My main duties were supervising line parties to repair underground communication cables and service test huts as the location of all underground cable routes were destroyed at the onset of the Japanese occupation.

The handwritten notes read: “Strangely miserable picture a few weeks after arrival at Yio Chu Kang!”

While I was in Singapore I took the opportunity of taking several hundred pictures of the area through the eyes of a national serviceman. I covered the whole Island from the Causeway and the southern islands then known as Blakang Mati now known as Santosa, Paulu Brani and other islands in the area.

Pictures include army life under canvas and city street scenes which no longer exist!

I found your blog/website and thought you might be interested in the above.

The handwritten notes read: “Birds eye view of the island city from the height of the Cathay Building”


Regarding army service, I departed from Liverpool on the White Star liner 'Georgic' (then converted into a troop ship) in December 1947 arriving at Nee Soon transit camp in Singapore in January 1948 and thence to join the Singapore District Signal Regiment at Yio Chu Kang and put in charge of the drawing office. My duties took me across the Causeway to Johore Bahru and further north until curtailed by the terrorist insurgency of 1948. This did not prevent me from taking leave in both Penang and Kuala Lumpur traveling by steam train. My close-knit group of army friends seem to spend a lot of time at the cinema. Does the Pavilion cinema and restaurant on Orchard Road still exist? Also the Cathay, once the highest building in Singapore! The Shackle Club will have long gone. We also spent some Saturday nights watching wrestling at the Great World arena.

Hereby lies the problem. I have no prints except an album with captions and very substandard contact prints produced on return to England in July 1949 and thus unable to provide a sample. Everything is digital these days!

You tell me you are interested in all things military in the late forties and this is all here, together with street scenes (ie: ancient tramcars on the Serangoon Road), country kampongs and rubber plantations in which we lived under canvas during the interminable monsoon. I also have pictures of the war cemetery at Kranji and the ancient graveyard at Fort Canning.

Not only do I have negatives but also kept a very extensive diary of army life. Even the original camera still exists!

Though now approaching my eightieth year I still travel extensively when my work as an advertising artist permits. Journalists with whom I have worked and count as friends say that I have enough material for a book and would hate to think that on my demise this unique and valuable archive might be lost forever.


Arthur Poskitt.


peter said...

Chun See

You forgot that on my plead for assistance, my friend Lawrence CT Wong in England took the trouble to travel 80km to where Arthur lived to collect the album/negatives and hand-carried all the way from Heathrow Airport into Singapore. He also did me the favour to return the same to Arthur.

I am very fortunate to have good such good buddies who live up to the standard of "a friend in need is a friend in deed".

Brian and Tess said...

I think these photos will be extremely interesting - a great addition to the archive being built up.

Still working at 79 and no intention of retiring - are we going to manage that Chun See?

JollyGreenP said...

Chun See, did you scan the negatives whilst you had access to them? If not I would be happy to volunteer to get that task done here in the UK as that should provide better quality images.

Arthur, if the negatives have not been scanned would you be willing to entrust the task to me? We could then publish the pictures on Tom O'Brian's Memories of Singapore website.

John Harper

Lam Chun See said...

Peter. Of course I did not forget your friend. Its just that I wanted to keep the post short and focused on the man behind the camera and his time in Spore.

John. Peter managed to make arrangement with Arthur to borrow the negatives and made print copies of those that he liked. Those pictures you see in this post were scans from Arthur's old photo album; and thus not very sharp.

Thimbuktu said...

The Folding "Brownie" SIX-20 by KODAK Made in Great Britain would had been a priceless collectible camera, Arthur. What a pity on the camera's demise.

Lam Chun See said...

James. I think you might have misread Arthur's last sentence.

Zen said...

There is a saying that a human life is measured in term of decades and we should treasure life as such. Since photos that can rekindle good memories which are so dear to Arthur and also to most of us, more of such photos should be shown in gmy, so that we can lovingly reminsce on our past, enjoying fully our presence and positively look towards the future.

Victor said...

So Michael Frost is actually Arthur Leonard Poskitt. Then I have credited Arthur with the wrong name in my post on the Sultan Mosque. Thanks to Arthur for the photo. And also to Chun See and Peter for making it available for me to blog about the mosque.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

The Cambridge Road photograph and bird-eye view from Cathay Building say it all. It IS, "Good morning yesterday."

Great article from great friends.


Siti Zalinah said...

I love your blog. I find your entries extremely interesting and informative. Thanks for sharing with us, readers.

~ Zalinah

Anonymous said...

I am a fan of this page! Would we get to see more of the photos sent by Arthur? It would be nice if you could share them with us here at the blog :)


Lam Chun See said...

Thank you Zalinah, DK. Glad you liked the stories and photos in this blog. Actually I also found the photos quite educational becos they were from the 40's before I was born. As time permits, I will certainly share them with readers of GMY.

Lam Chun See said...

That classic Kodak is a beauty isn't it?

I noticed the older generation liked to take photos of Cathay building and from its rooftop. No wonder .... at that time it was the tallest building in Spore. Shall share some photos with you later.

Haddock said...

Too good. These pictures are for keeps. And what a camera.
Its good that this gentleman at 80+ is still very keen on sharing.

Anonymous said...

My name is Brian Phillips and I wonder if the following could be passed on to Arthur (Poskitt).

I was also posted to Singapore District Signal Regt - but by the time I arrived in 1951 Singapore District Signals were located at Calcutta Camp Pasir Panjang - we were all 'under canvass' and the camp long ago built over, and I enquire whether or not Arthur has any recollections or photos of this large tented camp, The Princess Mary Barracks was newly built nearby into which R Sigs
were the first to occupy and still stands today - if this is of any assistance, I have returned to Singapore in recent years and most of the places we then knew have all been built upon,

With best wishes from Brian D Phillips

Ex Royal Signals.

My alternative web contact is

'at' will need to be replaced with '@'

Lam Chun See said...

Hi there Brian. I have relayed your message to Arthur including your email address. Thanks for sharing about your time in Spore. I have never even heard of Calcutta Camp Pasir Panjang. I think this is a job for Peter and Super-Icemoon - to dig up some details for our benefit.

1951 - I wasn't even born yet. You must be about the same age as Arthur Poskitt.

peter said...

Calcutta Camp could be where the present SAF Gloucester Camp is located i.e. between Portsdown Road, Portsdown Flyover and Ayer Rajah Road.

Postwar era Ayer Rajah Road was referred to as Pasir Panjang District.

Icemoon said...

Didn't know we had few "Indian" camps. Remember we had Colombo Camp in Clementi described by Peter. Now there is Calcutta Camp. Could Calcutta Camp be in today's Clementi area?

Icemoon said...

Peter, if Calcutta was Gloucester, which means the area was not a camp per se, i.e. no billeting facilities in 1951?

Brian .. you heard of Slim Barracks? Did you see any railway tracks nearby?

peter said...

Before India/Paskistan got their independence in 1947, many Indians served under the British. The bulk of the British Army in Singapore in those days comprised Indian Other Ranks under British officers and NCOs. Calcutta Camp was one such location for the Indian infantry units.

To be sure that it is the Portsdown Road area as I descrive, Brian has to tell us also whether he saw oil storage tanks across the Ayer Rajah Road. If he did see them, then indeed this is the original location.

One clue Brian told me was that he boarded a Singapore Traction Company (STC) bus from his camp to town. There was such a service at that time, I think a #5 which served the British military camps in Portsdown Road area only.

peter said...

To Brian Philips:

My error. The Singapore Traction Company bus service that served Portsdown Road in your time should be #24.

Anonymous said...

Calcutta Camp was a sister camp to Princess Mary Barracks on Dover Road separated by a military cemetary. Princess Mary became part of Singapore Poly. Calcutta Camp was also known as MiekTila Barracks and the entrance was opposite St Johns School, now the United World College

Icemoon said...

Ooh, this makes sense. The military cemetery must be the Pasir Panjang Military Cemetery. Now that we know the location, Peter can fill us more on this.

peter said...

The Pasir Panjang Military Cemetery was next to the St John Garrison Church (now just called St John, an affiliated church of St Andrew's Cathedral). The word "garrison" rightly suggest that it was set up for the british Army like the other 2 in Minden Road (one Protestant and one Catholic) or two in RAF Changi area.

The cemetery today is a block of private condos, to the right side of the church main entrance.

I believe the cemetery was for the Gurkha community.

The Singapore Poly was PM Barracks (as indicated by anonymous) but was not separated by the cemetery.

peter said...

I apologise and like to clarify on "The Singapore Poly was PM Barracks (as indicated by anonymous) but was not separated by the cemetery."

I meant that I do not know the exact location of Calcutta Camp.
If indeed it was in that location as suggested by annoymous, I only remember seeing in the 1960s some wooden one storey buildings which was accessible by a road called "Dover Crescent". The name Miek Tila sounds familiar to me but I didn't know where it was or related to Calcutta Camp.

The cemetery is now a big carpark as I saw way back in 2005 (apologies for making mistake in previous comment. I need to get my bearings correct).

The big carpark is to the right side of the church main entrance (church on higher ground). The Calcutta Camp could be where I saw the wooden one storey buildings (now some blocks of condos accesible through Dover Crescent and behind the church).

So in a sense, PM Barracks and Calcutta Camp were separated by the cemetery.

The cemetery had 2 plots, one Christian and one Hindu. There was a small chapel at the entrance just like the Ulu Pandan Cemetery.

Unknown said...

Calcutta Camp, later the Signal Training Centre is just next door to Meitila Barracks, which is next to Rochester Park. Remember the big field at the corner of Dover Road and and Boana Vista Road. Calcutta is just about 200 yards down the road and if you go futher down, you will pass the St John's (the cemetary cannot be seen from the road) and then we reach Princess Mary and then on to Sussex Estate.

Lam Chun See said...

Thanks to MY for that clarification. It helps me with something that had puzzled me for a long time - which Peter did try to explain before.

As recently as the early 80's when I was the squash convener at Philips Spore, I used to book the squash courts at ACJC on Saturdays. I remember that the squash courts, which were located at the rear of the school far from the main road; and across the fence was an army camp. I had always wondered what camp that was.

Anonymous said...

this is a blog and subject i should have discovered long ago,i hope it still thrives,and the likes of Arthur are fit and brother joe brown served in spore in 1948,i always assumed he was in the signals,would have been national service,he was not back(to lincolnshire)very long before he went to Korea 1953, again in the signalls,i know it's a long shot,but very interested in the area,hope to visit there in the near future,keep the good work.....thos

Lam Chun See said...

Hi Thos. Thank you for your comments and sharing about your brother Joe Brown.

Anonymous said...

Gil Higham
I was at Nee Soon barracks from July47 til January 48 serving with the RAPC,Officer's Accounts Branch,I had a pair of shoes made for my late wife at a cobbler's in the village which led up to the barracks' entrance,happy days,I remember the NAFFI opposite the Raffles Hotel and the taxi dancers therein,Great World.Happy World etc.Regretfully I have lost touch with all my colleagues from those days and at 85 I suppose some of them will be no longer with us.I found this site by accident when I googled Nee Soon.I am going to do the same with Meerut and see waht that brings!!!Best wishes to all.