(July 2021 – This post has been updated with new material for the CRICKET PAVILION, Tanglin Detention Barracks, (11) FIRING RANGE AND “FIRE TRENCH” and at the end Notes section about H) Ruins on the hill at Gillman Barracks)
“CMPB”. The above power substation reminds me of the 1970s. Indeed for many Singaporeans who did National Service, the Dempsey/Minden road area brings back memories of the Ministry of Defence, Central Manpower Base and other SAF units when they were there from 1972 to 1989.
The above photos of 75 Loewen Road would ring a bell for some, and not very long ago there was an interesting opening in the ground beside it (Old air raid shelter?). An old map shows a 5,000 gallon underground water tank at this location. Perhaps this is the tank and it was later used as a bomb shelter? I have provided links to the old map – Tanglin 1 and Tanglin 2 further down this blog post for you to do your own exploring. Click the following link for photos taken by someone a few years ago when the air raid shelter opening was still visible: https://abandonedplaces.livejournal.com/1444417.html
TANGLIN BARRACKS’S ANCIENT HISTORY
A few words: I considered breaking this post up into 2 parts as some may find it a bit long and be tempted to rush through. However after much agonizing, I decided to leave it as one post (I ran out of Panadol 🙂 ) The places mentioned are divided into clusters and numbered and those who are in a hurry can easily read the post in bite sized portions over 2 or more readings. Besides, it will be more convenient for you this way when you refer to it while walking at Tanglin. Finally, I have included eyewitness testimonies about the mutiny to enrich your understanding about the places, bring them to life and act as a kind of storyline (although some of you may want to skip some of the them – on your first reading 🙂 ) Anyway – hold on to your hats and here goes !
A little reading reveals that Tanglin Barracks has a history reaching back to the 1800’s and that many buildings and fields have survived from that time. Indeed the area featured prominently in the Singapore Sepoy Mutiny of 1915. Journey through history as we visit places in Tanglin where events occurred a hundred years ago and see how they look like today; including some areas that have been reclaimed by the jungle and largely forgotten.
This blog post uses an old map from the British Library (sheet 1 and 2 prepared in 1899 and revised in 1923); eyewitness accounts of the mutiny (Secret Documents on Singapore Mutiny 1915 – by Dr T R Sareen), as well as pictures of the present day.
The following are links to the old map :
Annotated map showing Tanglin Barracks and Woodneuk :
(1) THE MUTINEERS ATTACK TANGLIN BARRACKS. On 15 February 1915, about half (about 400) of the 5th Light Infantry mutineed at Alexandra Barracks and some of them came over to Tanglin Barracks to try to enlist the support of the 309 German prisoners held there. (See my earlier post about the start of the mutiny at Alexandra Barracks: https://amazingwalks.wordpress.com/2016/10/16/singapore-1915-sepoy-mutiny-and-alexandra-barracks/ )
(2) POLO AT TYERSALL
Sareen pg 247: Thomas O Naughton, dental Surgeon – On 15th Feb 1915, practising polo at Tyersall with Coates and Olliver…All 3 rode on their ponies to Tanglin Barracks to see what was the matter…
Polo field at Tyersall? I didn’t know about that either 🙂
The above 1921/1934 map shows Tyersall Palace and Woodneuk.
The following is some information on the polo field: “A public meeting held on 9 February 1886 marked the beginning of the polo club in Singapore. The club’s six committee members voted in that day were Captain Craig of the Royal Artillery, A. Currie, Captain Blackmore, Lieutenant Philips, Major Allsopp and Captain Hughes. Representing the Singapore Sporting Club was Ernest Birch, who was named honorary secretary of the polo club. Governor Frederick Weld was president with Sultan Abubakar of Johor as vice-president. The club also received much support from Abubakar’s son, Sultan Ibrahim, who not only learned the game but offered the grounds of Tyersall, his 65-acre home in Singapore, for polo matches.”
Sareen pg 218: Corporal Todd, SVR: “The firing slackened, and we doubled up the hill to Woodneuk where we had a splendid view of the camp. I put Maclean on the top verandah and Drummond I sent to telephone to the General…“
(A) MINDEN CLUSTER
(4) OFFICERS MESS & QUARTERS “A”, AND TENNIS LAWNS
The above shows the old map overlayed on google map. The big Officers Mess building is now occupied by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The tennis lawns are still located there today.
(5) GARRISON CHURCH (ST GEORGE’S CHURCH), PARADE GROUND AND MARRIED QUARTERS
(6) CRICKET PAVILION, SWIMMING BATH, MORRIS TUBE RANGE, CANTEEN
From the diary of Major C H Malan (the first lay chaplain at St.George’s) :
“Within six months of that time the jungle was gone, and there, in its place, was a cricket-ground.” ( http://stgeorges.org.sg/anyone-for-cricket )
One of the interesting things I find about the above photo (from National Heritage Board ROOTS website: https://www.roots.gov.sg/Collection-Landing/listing/1113553 ) are the 2 concrete slabs on either side of the old stairs on the slope below the building. Are they regimental insignia like those at Gillman Barracks in the photo below ?
The above photo showing Middlesex Regimental insignia on the left and Loyal Regiment on the right was from a compilation by former teacher of Bourne Secondary School, Mr Maurice Hann : http://www.singas.co.uk/HTML/bourne_school.html
Some photos of the ruins of Bourne Secondary School, the continuation of Malan Road and other structures in the now abandoned forested area are at the end of this blog post.
Now back to the Tanglin story 🙂 –
Jerome Lim has a picture of the cricket field showing both concrete slabs in this excellent blog post: https://thelongnwindingroad.wordpress.com/?s=tanglin
The following link has pictures of the swimming pool (circa 1960s ?).
Suggested fun activity – go and take a look at the area today and find out the location from which those old photos were taken from 🙂 (Hint: the radio towers in the background tell roughly the direction.) :
The following photos show an old water valve made by John Morris and Sons Ltd, Manchester at the vicinity of the former swimming pool:
The company started in the 1800s or early 1900s and was based in Salford, Manchester and were makers of “anything and everything” for fire fighting including fire engines, hose couplings and fire extinguishers.
The following is a link to information about the company:
The following is a picture of the company name plate from Wiki commons:
The following link is to a picture of an antique John Morris valve:
What was the Morris Tube Range?
“According to the National Rifle Association a Morris Tube was inserted into the barrel of a rifle enabling it to fire a smaller caliber round.”
This would allow target firing in a drill hall without the need to construct a full rifle range.
(7) CANTEEN WITH OIL STORE BEHIND, GUARD ROOM
Sareen pg 234: PTE Robertson, Singapore Volunteer Rifles: Several of us got round to the end of the canteen under cover. There is a small oil store at the back of the canteen about 30 yds away…I was at the side of the store opposite to the guard room…I then found that I had been hit and noticed there were 3 men firing from the canteen at us…
Sareen pg 218: Corporal Todd, SVR:
…The mutineers had left the high ground and made off in the direction of the prisoners of war guard room and were attacking us on the flank and I told Oldfield to retire with me to the back of the canteen. I saw Pte Holt, one of the guards, standing in the road. He seemed to have lost his head. He looked round and made a dash for the guard room. I took cover with Oldfield behind the canteen, but seeing that was unsafe we left. At the back of the canteen there is an oil shed and there I picked up Pte Drummond, SVR, Pte McCullen, and Pte James Robertson. We were all at the back of the oil shed. They were shooting from the other side on the hospital road and the direction of the guard room… The place was still very dangerous and then I directed that Oldfield, Maclean and Drummond should move towards the Holland Road. We all retired there. I took the men through the barbed wire as I thought it was too dangerous to follow the goat track around by the camp….We did the next 50 yds at the double and crossed the ditch at the bottom… The ditch lines Holland Road…The firing slackened, and we doubled up the hill to Woodneuk where we had a splendid view of the camp. I put Maclean on the top verandah and Drummond I sent to telephone to the General…
Sareen pg 226, LTA W N Seesby: I am officer-in-charge of the Royal Engineer stores, and live at “F” Bungalow, Tanglin Barracks….I offered my services as guide and the Admiral and myself went in the direction of the camp. Just after passing the married quarters we could see the prisoners’ camp very plainly…The Admiral and myself then went in the direction of the guard room. We arrived at a road the name of which I don’t remember, but which is between the canteen and football ground… the Admiral and myself continued on our way and went up the steps leading to the guardroom…
Above map shows the path leading from Canteen (Block O), up the stairs to the Guard Room (Block U), as well as Blocks R and Q.
(B) DEMPSEY CLUSTER
(8) BARRACK “T”, GUARD ROOM, CANTEEN, BARRACKS “Q” and “R”
Sareen pg 242: 2LT Ungku Aziz, formerly in the Johore Military Forces: I was quartered in Barrack “T” which is to the west of the guard room…I was in one of the NCO’s rooms in the barracks in the NW corner…We went into “T” barrack in a southerly direction and stopped about the middle of the barrack…a lot of shooting going on from the direction of the Recreation Ground. It seemed to come from the NW around to the SW, that is, from the direction of the canteen round as far as “Q” barracks…I opened the door to the west of the building in the centre and ran straight down between “Q” and “R” blocks in the valley…
The above overgrown path exit seems to be the one shown in the old map below. It originated between block Q and R. Perhaps 2LT Ungku Aziz (…I opened the door to the west of the building in the centre and ran straight down between “Q” and “R” blocks in the valley…) ran down this path. (The present Dempsey House did not exist then.):
(C) LOEWEN CLUSTER
(9) TANGLIN BARRACKS HOSPITAL
According to http://www.dempseyhill.com the hospital had 240 beds.
The above shows the hospital. You can clearly see the 2-storey “CC” Admin Block, with General Store and General Medical Store on the ground floor.
Sareen – pg 220: SSG Vickers, RAMC employed as NCO in charge at the military hospital, Tanglin, said…On the afternoon of the 15th Feb 1915, at about 3.45pm, a volley of rifle fire opened close to my office window in the administrative block “CC”…I got away from the window…They did not attempt to come in but they gradually surrounded the hospital. They were at the time practically all round the administrative block…
Sareen pg 232: SSSG Farrer, APC: I live in the married quarters of the hospital…I got up and a bullet came through the wall opposite me in my room. Royal Army Medical Corps NCOs came scrambling on to the verandah…We were upstairs and had no rifles with us…The firing seemed to go farther towards the camp, and we ventured downstairs as we knew there were some rifles and ammunition in the General Medical Store…
Sareen pg 225, CPL J A Bews, RAMC: On the 15th Feb I was in “A” barrack room at the Tanglin hospital…I came down from my bed in the administrative block, the centre block in the administrative ward, and went on to the far verandah, there were 2 verandahs and there I saw 3 Sepoys coming up a little pathway which leads right past the hospital…They were coming from the native village in the hollow and were going north along the path…I could hear shooting coming nearer as they were advancing towards the hospital, and then I could hear the shots going farther away and I supposed they were going towards the German camp. They passed to the west of the hospital and went off towards the German camp…When I thought the shooting had stopped I went downstairs…and I got a rifle and 20 rounds of ammunition from the stores…
DEMPSEY CLUSTER AGAIN
(10) DETENTION BARRACKS, RIFLE RANGE and “S” BARRACKS
Sareen pg 243: SGT C Keeble, Royal Garrison Artillery: I was on duty at the Detention Barracks at Tanglin.. I opened the gate and once outside 3 shots were fired along the wall from the barrack direction…I could see some 70 5th Light Infantry men there…There were about 70 in the neighbourhood of the cookhouse and the latrine to the south of “S” barracks..I had the gate locked as there were 2 prisoners there. They were Seaman Tonks and Gunner Wall who were detained at the time. …They (mutineers) turned to the left towards a rubber plantation at the back of the detention Barracks. I sent Seaman Tonks up to the window to see where they had gone. I went to open the gate a 2nd time..I armed the prisoners as best I could, and gave the order for the the 2 prisoners to be released. We only had miniature rifles. I told Wall to stand by…The sailor got to the top of the doorway to see where they (mutineers) were going. They went through the rubber plantation towards Alexandra…When we first heard the rifle fire I said “We will lock up.” I am positive of this big man. The mound at the corner where he stood is not 50 yds from the prison…
…As arranged yesterday, SGT Keeble attended the Court for the purpose of identifying certain individuals…and identified, without hesitation, …Lance Naik Feroze Khan…as the man mentioned in his evidence as standing on the top of the bank of the rifle range at Tanglin…
(Note that the Detention Barracks area became the British Army Military Correction Centre and was handed over to SAF in 1972 to become Tanglin Detention Barracks along Smart Road which is now part of Dempsey Road. The whole complex has been torn down.)
The above photos show Tanglin Detention Barracks in 1972 from the SAF Military Police Command 40th Anniversary Commemorative Book which is downloadable here:
(11) FIRING RANGE AND “FIRE TRENCH”
“…The mound at the corner where he stood is not 50 yds from the prison…
…As arranged yesterday, SGT Keeble attended the Court for the purpose of identifying certain individuals…and identified, without hesitation, …Lance Naik Feroze Khan…as the man mentioned in his evidence as standing on the top of the bank of the rifle range at Tanglin…”
(I don’t know which part of the firing range was referred to in the above-mentioned testimony but my guess is that it was the crescent-shaped butts area behind the “30 yds range”. Although the above structure seems to be located at the “Fire Trench” area shown in the old map, I don’t know when it was built, but thankfully no graffiti. If you have any idea about this or when the range was last used, please share in the comments 🙂
See a video of the Fire Trench area here:
The regiment had been sent to Singapore in 1915 to help quell the mutiny.
The above 2 photos are from ROOTS by the National Heritage Board. Collection of National Museum of Singapore.
Notice the raised area at the firing point. I wonder where was it located. This reminds me of the parallel ridges/mounds I saw at the field at Normanton Park where there used to be a firing range for Alexandra Barracks (see my earlier blog post Singapore 1915 Sepoy Mutiny and Alexandra Barracks). I don’t know if anything remains of those mounds now that Normanton Park has given way to a new condo. Only one way to find out 🙂
(12) OLD 18″ CHANNEL OPEN DRAIN
(13) 70 STEPS TO DETENTION
These steps lead up from the field to near the former Detention Barracks. Not well-known or well maintained like “One Hundred Steps to Heaven” at Mount Sophia, but just as interesting 🙂
(D) OTHER AREAS
(14) If you take a look around you will come across more interesting old objects/places in the area such as these:
The Camp Road area (off Tanglin Road) is also very scenic and has some interesting objects as well :
The area at the bottom of the slope has some interesting ruins :
Area behind parade ground :
(15) The Old Well, or Dry Hole ? 🙂
There are many depressions and trenches in the ground at the Camp Road area and most of these holes are probably caused by uprooted trees. However there is one that is a bit peculiar because there seems to be old concrete and metal embedded at the sides of it (that was not put there recently by someone having a barbecue as seems to have been the case with another hole nearby 🙂 ) and it is located in the vicinity of a Well that is indicated on the old map:
Well, that’s it for now. Look out for my next blog post, probably entitled “MYSTERY of the Underground Chamber & MEMORIES of Outram” or something like that 🙂 (Assuming I believe anyone would be interested to read such posts. If this isn’t a BIG hint I don’t know what is 🙂 )
A) Map of Tanglin Barracks 1868.
The map shows which buildings were already in existence then. Note that the married quarters were not constructed yet. Thanks to Peter Stubbs for bringing my attention to this map.
B) History of Dempsey Hill area and Tanglin Barracks:
“…construction for Tanglin Barracks began in 1860. The first barracks were built at the area where Dempsey Hill and the Loewen cluster are now. There were ten service barracks for 50 men each. In addition, there were wash and cookhouses, hospital wards, a school, reading room, library and officers’ quarters.
With thatched attap roofs and …open verandahs wrapped around each building.
In 1911, the thatched roofs were replaced with more durable red French tiles that have remained to this day…
…The 240-bed Tanglin Hospital was used as a military hospital for British forces until 1940, when increased troops in the years preceding World War II called for a larger hospital. The Military Hospital was then transferred to Alexandra Hospital.”
C) History of St George’s Church:
Excerpts from the Diary of Major Malan (1868-1870)
The following account combines excerpts from the diary of Major Malan, the first lay chaplain at St. George’s, and commentary from David Jones, a member of St. George’s congregation.
…What delight I had during those two years in the study of His Word! I often gave five hours a day to it. I commenced the first line of Genesis when I left England, and I went on over every line, annotating page by page. It was this that gave me strength for my work. Nothing but the thorough rest and refreshment which the soul of man gets in the quiet study of God’s Word could have sustained me in the severe physical labour I had at this station on the equator. Working hard as I did all six days, and still harder on the seventh, I should have been soon completely worn out, if it had not been for the continual renewal of strength which a man obtains in the study of God’s Word. He giveth power to the faint, and to those who have no might He increase the strength. I could not, perhaps, better express the state of joyful communion with the Lord in which I lived during these years, than in copying a few lines I wrote one morning before going down to the barracks on Duty. They flowed out of my heart faster than I could write them…
D) Interesting video on Tanglin Camp:
E) Interesting blog post on Tanglin Barracks with interesting comments: https://remembersingapore.org/tanglin-barracks/
F) An interesting website about World War 1 shooting ranges can be found here: http://www.cpat.org.uk/projects/longer/ww1/CPAT%201386.pdf
G) More info about Morris Tube Range:
H) Ruins on the hill at Gillman Barracks:
Here is an informative blog post about Bourne Secondary School: http://mimiworld-catcat17spiritual.blogspot.sg/2015/08/the-lost-soul-of-bourne-school.html?m=1
Finally solving a 100-year-old mystery ? A follow-up post on the Fort Siloso searchlight has been published here :