Saturday, March 8, 2014

Trekking Bukit Gombak in search of WW2 relics.

Last November, I wrote about the suspected World War 2 Japanese pillbox that may still exist on the slopes of Bukit Gombak. With the recent dry spell, it was perfect weather to organise a search and to identify the concrete structure, or what's left of it,

This morning a team of enthusiasts brought together over Facebook made the exploratory trip.
Among those who came along were Andrew and Christopher, who had previously been to the structure itself, Kim Frost, a WW2 vehicle expert and Jingyi, one of the few trained archeologist in Singapore, heritage blogger Jerome, and with experts from the Bukit Brown team, Andrew and Fabian.

I had brought together this team on my own premise that the structure there could possibly be Japanese or at least WW2 related. But, in order that I would not disappoint anyone if it turned out to be a wild goose chase, I decided to embellish the trip with some side itinerary.

1. A good mornings' hike up the hill.
2. An understanding of the geology of Bukit Gombak and the region.
3. A visit to the mysterious hidden lake at Bukit Gombak.
4. A history of the war in relation to Bukit Gombak.
5. The primary purpose - to view and identify the damaged concrete structure.

The trekkers reaching the base of the spur where the concrete structure is located.

Climbing the steep cliff face. Part of the concrete can be seen above/

Andrew cutting the vines to create a passageway.

The hidden lake near the top of Bukit Gombak.

Part of the concrete structure. Anyone recognise what these are?

Kim Frost digging and trying to identify the structure.

A large metal protrusion.

Were we able to positively identify the structure? Unfortunately, no.
There was simply not enough visual evidence to indicate what it was or what it was used for.  The structure was in total ruins as though it was purposely destroyed but this is not likely to be as Andrew and Christopher had seen the structure semi-intact before the roof caved in.

Even then, the group found other distractions at the site.
Apparently, some unknown people, probably the residents living in the nearby HDB flats, have created a sort of vegetable garden and it was thriving in this isolated hillside. Pandan, tapioca, pineapple, bananas, sugar cane and chillies were found in neat plots.
And, best of all, we discovered a new and easier route to the structure that didn't involve climbing the cliff!

A real Pandan garden

Alas, we also saw signs of a recent field survey, which could possibly mean that some sort of development might be on the cards for this place.

As for the concrete structure, I guess it has to be left to more professional people in future (if there is a future for it).

Here's a little trivia about Bukit Gombak which I shared with this group.
Bukit Gombak contains the oldest known rocks in Singapore.
Contrary to the misconception, Bukit Gombak is actually not made of granite but of another type of hard rock called Norite. Though one is easily forgiven for not knowing the difference.
Samples of norite can be seen strewn all over the Gombak hill.
Bukit Gombak Norite is estimated to be 500 million years old, in comparison to the granite of neighbouring Bukit Timah which is a young 250 million years old.

A geological map of Singapore,

Bukit Gombak as seen from the East (Upper Bukit Timah side)

Watch a clip of the Gombak Trek