Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Remember the kitchen sink?

It may look just like an ordinary sink, and it really is.
However, this picture of the sink will bring back memories for ex-residents of Princess Elizabeth Estate.

This was the standard kitchen sink that was installed in every flat in our estate.
It came with the standard brass tap and the side drain tray that was made of a ceramic material.
I can't remember if it was granite, cement or some other natural material.

If you thought that today's HDB kitchen is small, you have not seen the old PEE kitchen.
It was minuscule! It was so small that 2 persons standing together was a crowd.
That was why if you had a fridge, it would normally be located away from the kitchen.

The trade off was that the bedrooms were much larger than today's apartments.

Now my blog can claim to be  Everything About Princess Elizabeth Estate,  including the kitchen sink.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

P.E.E.S. Class Reunion (1960-1965)

After almost 50 years, ex-classmates from the batch of 1960-1965 were reunited at a Class Reunion last Saturday.

I am happy to say that this blog played a large part in re-uniting almost three-quarters of the class.
I hope that they will send in their comments and share this joyous occasion.

Seated L-R: Betty Chua Sok Yong, Irene See, Anne Moss, Chan Kum Sung, Brenda Phua, Rosalyn Tan & Elaine Yau.
Standing L-R: Ernest Wee, Daniel Lai, Wong Chin Yeow, Richard Choo, Tony Cheong, Victor Chee, Donald J.,
Seetoh Hon Hoi, Chen Ming Yoong & Baharuddin A. 
Pr 6A - 1965
(Form Teacher - Mr KL Venugopalan)

Class of 1960 - Primary 1A
(Miss Pat Ortega Form Teacher)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Searching for an unmarked grave.

When I started this blog, it was to recollect and record memories of the past. It was to help old friends, old neighbours, new friends and readers to remember and connect with those days we spent in our small estate.

Some articles stretched a bit further back than most of us can remember, like the piece about  the Tragedy at Sleepy Valley.  Here it was more to let others know of the places near where we lived and how it related to the past.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I received a note from Paul Cameron of Perth, Australia.
Paul had read my blog on the events that happened at Sleepy Valley during the war in Feb 1942.
Paul could relate to the story personally because his grandfather, William Cameron, had fought and was killed in action at Sleepy Valley.

This was what he wrote, "... it is of great importance to me, as my late Grandfather William Cameron, of the Special Reserve battalion, E Coy, 2/4th Machine Gunners, died in battle here.
He died approx. 10am on the morning 11th Feb 1942 , whilst retreating from the Battle , and to this day our family do not know where he was buried."

I was very touched by what he wrote and emailed to him. What he knew of the events on that fateful day came from the recorded history of his grandfather's military unit, the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion of the 2nd Australian Imperial Forces. The E Coy, 2/4th MG Bn was part of the Special Reserve Battalion which I wrote about in my earlier blog. This battalion met their demise at Bukit Batok during the Japanese invasion when they were ambushed.

From details found in a book called "Colour Patch" by author Murray Ewen, it said that the Commanding Officer of the unit, Major A.E. Saggers, obtained permission from their Japanese captors to return to Sleepy Valley to recover and bury the remains of the soldiers killed there. This was after 10 months had past since the British forces surrendered to the Japanese Army.

Major Saggers and his burial party managed to recover about 62 bodies of their fallen comrades which they buried in an unmarked mass grave somewhere in the vicinity. The only record was that it was marked on a map with grid reference 753147.

I consulted my friend Peter Chan, who is a WW2 history enthusiast, and he managed to translate the grid reference into a GPS coordinate for me. So with this stroke of luck, we managed to determine that the unmarked grave was located at what is now Eng Kong Gardens / Cheng Soon Gardens housing development at Toh Tuck Road.

The 1961 map of the battle site that was used to identify the location of the unmarked grave.

Google Earth screen capture of the location today.
The unmarked grave site is at Upper Toh Tuck Terrace/Lorong Kismis. (green arrow)

It is fortuitous that the site is today a small park in the midst of a sprawling housing estate.
How fortunate can that be! 
Below is a picture of the Eng Kong Gardens Playground where the unmarked grave was located.

From the shape of the land, it can be seen that the park was levelled out from the hill slope. 
There is the possibility that during the construction of the park, they could have found and exhumed the grave. However, I searched the newspapers archives but couldn't find any record of such a find. 

I then came across an article that said that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission had, between 1947 to 1950, gone around Singapore to recover and rebury the remains of Commonwealth soldiers killed during WW2. The remains were reinterred at the Kranji War Memorial. It is also very possible that the CWGC had recovered the bodies there for reburial as Sleepy Valley was a known major battle site during WWII. 

I went to the Kranji War Memorial and checked the burial register. There is no record of a William Cameron from 2/4th MG battalion buried there. However, I found that his name is engraved on the wall at the Singapore Memorial of the Kranji War Memorial. That would indicate that his remains was unidentified and could possibly be buried together with all the unidentified remains in the un-named mass grave at Kranji.

On my suggestion, Paul has written to the CWGC and as well as to NParks, who built the Eng Kong Garden Playground, for some further leads. Paul Cameron will be visiting Singapore in March and a visit to his grandfather's epitaph is on top of his list. I am happy that Paul will be able to reconnect with his grandfather.

Related links:

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Places around P.E.E. (9) - Rail Mall

I was wondering if I should be writing a blog article on Rail Mall?
The simple reason was that Rail Mall didn't exist when Princess Elizabeth Estate was still around and vice versa. But I decided I might as well as some of you may not have been there since moving away from Princess Elizabeth.

Rail Mall is a misnomer. It is not a mall, more of an arcade and comprise shops along 3 rows of converted old style shophouses. It fronts Upper Bukit Timah Road between the old KTM Railway truss bridge (hence its name) and the Praisehaven Salvation Army opposite Hillview Road.

The majority of the shops there are eateries. Some of which are quite familiar such as Eat, Subway, Harry's and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaves. There are also shops like Cold Storage Supermarket, Watson's, RHB Bank and a few specialty service shops.

It is a regular haunt for residents who live around the Hillview condo belt and as yet is uncrowded and has a laid back atmosphere that attracts the young and trendy. It is also a welcome waypoint for trekkers to and from the Dairy Farm Nature Park and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, located at opposite ends of Rail Mall.

BBQ Gangnam Style !

The old shophouses were actually part of the housing development called Fuyong Estate that is located behind Rail Mall. In fact, I lived at Fuyong Estate for about a decade in the 70s and can still remember the old run-down shops. Fuyong Estate used to house many of the British Forces staff. As such, the old shops catered mainly to them as they were quite isolated.
I can clearly remember the Chinese sundry shop (now occupied by Coffee Bean) that stocked mainly British provisions. I used to buy canned Irish Stew, which almost became a staple for my lunch! There were hardly any fast food for schoolboys those days!

The old shophouses around 1970. These were beside the old Chia Eng Say Road.
The same row of shophouses after conversion into Rail Mall.

The shophouses as it were in 1992. Some units were used as warehouses and storage.
There was a provision shop, a Chinese laundry, a hairdresser, a medical store and even a tyre repair shop then.

The same shophouses after the 1995 conversion as Rail Mall.

For those who remember the area before Rail Mall. Across the road were squatters on the KTM Railway land.
These included a lumber yard and an aquarium shop.

Here's a well kept secret. There's a nice quiet park just beyond Rail Mall.
Perfect for that evening walk or picnics. There's a shortcut to the Singapore Quarry Park nearby too.

Related links:
Fuyong Estate
Dairy Farm Nature Park
KTM Railway bridge
Singapore Quarry Park