I had also mentioned some places in the vicinity being famous as World War II heritage sites like Bukit Batok Hill and Ford Motor factory.
From historical records, we learned that Bukit Batok and Bukit Timah were the places where some of the fiercest battles were fought between the defending British forces against the invading Imperial Japanese Army.
Though there is a heritage marker at the top of Bukit Batok Hill and another at Bukit Timah Hill, most people today do not know exactly where these battlefields were. I will take you to one of the sites of a battle at Bukit Batok.
One of the most tragic events of the war in Singapore happened at a place called Sleepy Valley.
Sleepy Valley was a rubber estate in then what was called West Bukit Timah. Today the area is called Bukit Batok.
During a retreat from the enemy forces, a whole battalion comprising 1500 Australian, British and Indian soldiers was trapped and almost annihilated by the Imperial Japanese Army.
Of the 1500 men, only 400 eventually managed to escape from the ambush.
A little background of the war till that time:
At 10.30 pm on 8th Feb 1942, the Japanese Army crossed the Straits of Johor and invaded Singapore through the Lim Chu Kang Sarimbun area. These areas were defended mainly by British soldiers from the Australian regiments.
By 9th Feb, the British forces were pushed backed where they formed a defensive formation called the "Jurong Line". The Jurong Line covered the entire stretch from Kranji River in the north to the Jurong River in the south. Tactically, this blockade would contain the Japanese forces within the western sector of Singapore island.
However, the Jurong Line didn't hold, and by the afternoon, the British forces began retreating again.
|(Photo; Old Ford Factory Museum)|
The 12th Brigade in the north retreated towards Bukit Panjang and defended its position there.
The 44th Brigade located south at the Jurong River, retreated towards Pasir Panjang and the City.
In the centre, 15th Brigade and the Special Reserve Battalion moved east towards Bukit Timah.
It is this last group of soldiers under the command of Brigadier Coates that re-grouped and fought the Japanese around Bukit Batok* area.
By the evening of 10th Feb, the commander realised that they were almost surrounded by the Japanese and made plans for his troops to retreat south through Sleepy Valley towards the British lines at Ulu Pandan. This was to be at first light in the morning of 11th Feb 1942.
(* I use the term Bukit Batok as a reference to the area found today. In 1942 the entire area was still called "Jurong/West Bukit Timah" . Bukit Batok region was named by HDB/MND after the 1970s.)
Unknown to the retreating British forces, the Japanese Army 18th Division, whom they had been fighting, had already bypassed them along the ridge line that borders today's Jalan Jurong Kechil. (See the black arrow movements above)
The British forces regrouped, in an area where today the Bukit Batok Nature Park and St Mary of the Angels Church lies, and was ordered to move in columns through Sleepy Valley.
This escape route was unfortunately open farmlands with little cover and the Japanese Army had them trapped when they closed the pincer movement at the end of the valley, a location where today's traffic turnoff from Toh Tuck Road to PIE lies.
The result was that 1100 men out of 1500 were killed at Sleepy Valley. By 10.30 pm, only 400 soldiers managed to escaped from the Japanese to the Australian defence line at Ulu Pandan.
|An aerial view of the region where the British forces were caught in the open|
Today, this former battle site, Sleepy Valley, is long forgotten. Very few now have heard of it, much less know about its tragic history.
Bukit Batok East Ave 3 runs through it with Yusof Ishak Secondary School and condominiums like Park View and Burgundy Hill occupying the site where the massacre of British forces took place.
|A graphic representation of the final movements of 15 Brigade and Special Reserve Battalion|
superimposed on today's street map showing the location of the Sleepy Valley battle ground.
If you live in Bukit Batok or will pass through it, do remember this unmarked heritage site where once men fought and died for their country.
|The Bukit Batok area today where the tragedy took place on 10th & 11th Feb 1942.|
(Click on photo for enlarged view)
A grave discovery
Ford Motor Factory
Bukit Batok Hill War Memorial
Bukit Batok Hill
Bukit Batok New Town
Searching for an unmarked grave at Sleepy Valley
A dirt track saved 400 soldiers