Saturday, June 23, 2012

Bukit Batok Hill

As a child, I lived at Princess Elizabeth Estate built on the flanks of Bukit Gombak hill.
In my youth, I moved to Fuyong Estate on the slopes of Bukit Timah Hill  before returning to Princess Elizabeth. Now as an adult, I live at Bukit Batok.
This meant that all my life, I have been domicile within an area of less 3 km from each another.
So I am truly a 'swa teng' person and my 'kampong' can be considered as the Hillview/Gombak/Bt Batok & Bt Timah area.

Central to this area is Bukit Batok Hill at 120m high.
As I previously mentioned in other articles, Bukit Batok Hill played a significant part during the Japanese invasion during World War II.
Map showing the World War II positions of the opposing forces surrounding Bukit Batok in Feb 1942.

Capturing Bukit Batok and Bukit Timah Hills meant that the entire area came under your control.
In those days, the hills of Gombak, Batok and parts of Bukit Timah were not as forested as it is today.
Capture of these strategic high points meant that you were able to observe and thus take control of movements in the surrounding areas. It was no stretch of imagination that some of the biggest battles were fought between the Japanese army and the British forces for control of this area.

Click on the picture for a panoramic view.
This is the view from Bukit Batok taken around 1960. The view is towards the city in the far background. Bukit Timah Hill is on the left and the Clementi/Holland area on the far right.

The strategic importance of both Bukit Batok and Bukit Timah is illustrated again in the above photo from the National Heritage site (PICAS) taken in the 1960s.
Photos shows the clear view from the summit of Bukit Timah Hill towards the West Coast area.
The housing development in the middle is Hoover Park.

Today, the views are all blocked by secondary forests due to the trees planted by NParks during the greening campaign of the 1970s &1980s.
I remember that even in the late 1970s, the view from the top of Bukit Batok was 360 degrees.
You could see the entire Jurong area from one side and also you could also see all the way to Mandai in the north.

So significant was the Battle for Bukit Batok Hill  that the victorious Japanese army built a shrine on the hilltop to commemorate the bravery of those who fought and died there.
This was the Syonan Chureito shrine built on the summit. 
They also allowed the British to erect a smaller memorial cross nearby to honour the British soldiers who perished in the battle. 

The Syonan Chureito Shrine at the summit of Bukit Batok in 1942.
The road built by British prisoners of war to the shrine is today known as Lorong Sesuai.

Nothing remains of the Syonan Chureito shrine today except for a recent heritage marker erected on the steps leading up to the summit.
Bukit Batok Hill is now part of the Bukit Batok Nature Park with the prominent Mediacorp TV broadcasting tower as its landmark.

The Batok Batok Nature Park incorporating the old granite quarry

The Mediacorp TV broadcasting tower is on the summit of Hill 345 - Bukit Batok.

A second microwave broadcast tower was built in the 1990s.

Related links:
My video of Bukit Batok Hill
Infopedia on Syonan Chureito
An old Japanese war grave discovered at Bukit Batok


  1. Just bought a book "Over Singapore 50 Years Ago - An aerial view in the 1950s" (Brenda Yeoh, Theresa Wong" - it was pages after pages of RAF air photos taken in 1957-58 with captions. Photos were from National Archive. Pretty interesting but they marked Fuyong Estate as Princess Elizabeth Estate! Also they mark the Union Carbide factory as National Carbon. I think they also mark the Bt Panjang Post Office incorrectly. I recall visiting it in 1964 to open a Post Office Savings Bank account and it was in the Jalan Teck Whye side but the book seems to mark it at Bt Panjang Plaza side. Need to orientate the photo later to verify. But overall interesting. Only wished it also cover HM Naval Base where I was born.

  2. Hi Terraleah,
    You got me so excited with the revelation that there is an aerial picture of the old Princess Elizabeth area that I dropped everything immediately and rushed over to the Library to borrow a copy. Luckily the Library is just across the road from my house!

    You are right. They mis-labelled Fuyong estate as Princess Elizabeth Estate and also the Jln Teck Whye P.O.
    I was about to write an article on the JTW post office by coincidence! My granny use to live at JTW and like you I too had my 1st savings account opened at that branch. I remember we had to paste postage stamps onto a card and present it at the post office to get our account credited.

    The Dairy Farm Road is also mis-located. It should be nearer to Fuyong estate.
    Though National Carbon as marked IS correct. Union Carbide used to be called National Carbon before they change the name to Union Carbide in 1957. Both my parents worked at National Carbon and like many older staff there, had always referred to it as 'National Carbon' even after the name changed.

  3. Hi, im interested in the map u have there indicating the site of the future bukit batok new town. Currently studying the landscape morphology of bukit batok and am keen to know where i can obtain that map from! Thanks!,

  4. Hello Kid,
    It's not a 'map". It's a photograph of the diagram showing the British army movement during WW2 taken off a board at the Memories of Ford display. The blue letters were added by me, but this is a familiar diagram found in most WW2 books about the fall of Singapore.
    You might want to know that during the war years and up to the 1970s, the area where Bukit Batok lies was known as West Bukit Timah and not Bukit Batok.

    1. Ah... so there were no developments at the stipulated Bt Batok new town area back then until 1980s? This is very interesting, so the only residences there were where u guys stayed (ie Bukit Timah) ?

      by the way i live in Bukit Batok new town too, i was real happy to have chanced on your blogsite. It feels encouraging to know that the place has actually a rich history. Especially when we (teens) are brought up in New Towns where it just appears to be the sort of tabula rasa (blank slate) masterplanning that URA and HDB employed back then even before i was born.

    2. Yes, if you mean no highrise developments in the area till the HDB flats started coming in the 80s. Previous to this, Bukit Batok area was mainly rural farm areas with many brickworks. Bukit Batok Town started from the old Jurong 10 miles village which was located somewhere in the region near blks 101-109 near the present MRT station. It grew from that core. Bukit Batok was the site of famous WW2 battles during the Japanese invasion of 1942.

  5. Hi James, I reading something (I think it was from the Changi Chapel) about a Australian chapel built at the foot of Bukit Botak during but this disappeared after the war. I just wonder if the site is where the current Franciscan church sits?

    Yum Shoen Liang

    1. Hi Shoen Liang,
      It would be a coincidence it if was!
      The Franciscans bought the land from some farmers there ard 1958 and built a chapel as well as an office/living quarters block on top of the hill. There was a small chinese village school beside it (Wei Sin School).
      So they did not own the land during the war and neither did they re-built and existing chapel.

      Another coincidence was that where the church is now on the hilltop is exactly the spot where the Australian Special Reserve Battalion were camped on on 10th & 11th Feb 1942, before they moved out on that fateful 11th morning only to be ambushed by the Japanese about a km down south.