Fort Siloso And The 1915 Singapore Mutiny

On 15 February 1915 during the Singapore Mutiny, LTC Edward V Martin, Commanding Officer of the 5th Light Infantry asked for searchlight support from Fort Siloso to illuminate the grounds around his house at 7 Royal Road, Alexandra Barracks. However I have not been able to find a definite answer anywhere concerning how many searchlights were involved or their locations. In my earlier post In Search of the 1915 Fort Siloso Searchlight, I highlighted one searchlight post as a possibility. In this post I will attempt to answer the question by introducing another 2 structures, one of which at the old jetty seems to be an ideal candidate. I will show not only the locations, but also how they look like today, more than 100 years after the incident.

For background to the mutiny, also see my earlier blog posts

Singapore 1915 Sepoy Mutiny and Alexandra Barracks

Tanglin Barracks and The Singapore 1915 Sepoy Mutiny

The following quotes regarding the searchlight(s) give important clues about the matter :

LTC Edward V Martin  – Report in connection with the mutiny of the 5th Light Infantry at Singapore (1915) (From SECRET DOCUMENTS ON SINGAPORE MUTINY 1915 by T R Sareen)  :

Just before it was dark, I telephoned to Fort Siloso to throw the light on both sides of the house but not on the house itself…”  (pg 576)

“I telephoned to Fort Siloso searchlight and arranged for the ground to be lit up around the house…” (pg 582)

“I was in connection with Blakan Mati late in connection with the searchlights.” (pg 605). Notice “searchlights” in plural which may indicate more than 1 searchlight post, or it may refer to 1 searchlight post shining at different parts of 7 Royal Road (“both sides”) at different times.

Malcolm Bond Shelley (written in 1927), LTA in Malay States Volunteer Rifles at time of the mutiny. (From Sareen pg 802) :

“The telephone in the house was in good order and some time in the evening communication was established with Mount Siloso where a search-light was installed.  It was arranged that this search-light should be frequently shone on to the mutineers’ barracks so as to keep them under observation.  It was always an exciting moment when the search-light operator, in the course of seeking for the barracks, rested the light for a moment full on the house!  On those occasions the directions given over the telephone were forceful and peremptory, and the offending beam of light was quickly lowered on to the barracks below the house.” 

R W E Harper & Harry Miller in page 89 of their book “Singapore Mutiny” mention 3 :

“…it then became obvious that under cover of darkness, mutineers could easily move forward for an attack.  Martin telephoned the duty officer at Fort Siloso on Blakang Mati, explained the situation, and a few minutes later two searchlights steadied their brilliant beams along two sides of the bungalow, thus lighting up a considerable area of foreground and background. A third beam was switched on at irregular times on to the barracks…”  

The following is a road map for this blog post:

  • 1. Investigation of relative positions and terrain.
  • 2. Evidence from maps.
  • 3. Investigating the structure next to the old jetty (pier).
  • 4. Investigating the western structure.
  • 5. Video of the 2 structures.
  • 6. Evidence from England.
  • 7. Were searchlights at Pulau Brani involved?
  • 8. Final conclusions.
  • 9. Notes.

1. Investigation of relative positions and terrain .

The following from Google Maps shows the relative positions of the searchlight at the old Siloso jetty (at the bottom of the map) to the present Dragon’s Tooth, 7 Royal Rd (LTC Martin’s house) and 5 Cornwall Rd (vicinity of Native Officer Barracks).  Note that as the beam towards 7 Royal Road is to the right of the present Dragon’s Tooth, it will not be blocked by Batu Berlayar. 

Relative positions of the Siloso jetty structure to 7 Royal Rd (LTC Martin’s house),
5 Cornwall Rd (vicinity of Native Officer Mess) and Dragon’s Tooth

Centre of the beam from the old Siloso jetty structure passes through the lowlands between “Labrador Villa” and “Keppel Camp” towards 7 Royal Road. (The lowlands is presently an open field at Port Road)(More about this 1906 map later)
This contour map overlay from shows location of 7 Royal Rd , confirming the location of 7 Royal Rd in my previous map with the blue arrow.
The above photo from Google Maps shows the flat open field (lowland) at Port Road through which the searchlight beam from the old Siloso jetty structure may have passed.

Height of the area around 7 Royal Road:

The above map shows that 7 Royal Road is on very high ground 145 feet (44.2m), thus making it easier for searchlights on the lower slopes near the beach at Fort Siloso, to illuminate the slopes around the house.

The searchlight illuminated the front of 7 Royal Road
The searchlight also illuminated the area behind 7 Royal Road.
Locations of front and back of the house


2. Evidence from maps.

The following maps show 2 searchlights on the northern coast at Fort Siloso at about the time of the mutiny, one at the old jetty and another further west.  Both seem to be in line of sight of LTC Martin’s house at 7 Royal Road. (I am grateful to Peter Stubbs for bringing to my attention one of the maps and his valuable input.)

1902 map showing underground cables linking the 2 structures (No. 5 at the jetty structure, and No. 4 towards the west.) Source: The National Archives, United Kingdom. Accession Number: D2016_000063 Covering Date: 1902
Key for the 1902 map showing the red line as “Cables submarine or buried”


1904 map shows No.1 EL (Electric Light) (next to the jetty) and No.2 EL further west
Source: The National Archives, United Kingdom
Accession Number: D2016_000069. Covering Date: 1904


1906 map shows No.4 EL (Electric Light) at the jetty and No.5 EL towards the west. Both beams with 45 degree arcs.
Source: The National Archives, United Kingdom
Accession Number: D2016_000072. Covering Date: 1906


1909 map also shows No.4 EL was located at the jetty.
Source: The National Archives, United Kingdom
Accession Number: D2016_000429. Covering Date: 1909

Later I will show that the existing structure at the old jetty and the other slightly larger structure towards the west, have apertures pointing in roughly similar directions to the map. (And more importantly, the jetty structure points directly towards LTC Martin’s house at 7 Royal Road).  At the very least, the maps show that the searchlight beam from the jetty area pointed more towards the right (ie north) than the other one, which corresponds to the apertures of the 2 existing structures shown in this blog post.


3. Investigating the structure next to the old jetty (pier).

(I came across this structure years ago when it was more easily accessible. Now there is a fence. Anyway there is a link to a video of the 2 structures later on in this blog post so you know how the 2 structures look like without having to go there. You’re welcome.)

Of the 2 structures, I believe the one at the old jetty is the one with the best location and orientation for shining at both LTC Martin’s house at 7 Royal Road, as well as the Native officer’s (and men’s) quarters in the vicinity of 5 Cornwall Road and will therefore start with this one.

Entrance of structure at old jetty
Aperture of structure at old jetty
Aperture of structure at old jetty from inside.

Photo taken from just outside the aperture of jetty structure.
7 Royal Road and 5 Cornwall Rd are to the right of Dragon’s Tooth.
By placing the edge of a compass at the edge of the aperture of the jetty structure, I got 330° (red reading)
Stitched Panoramic view taken from 2 feet inside the structure at jetty showing compass bearings (from mobile phone) and possibility of 45 degree arc of beam (357-307) with centre of beam pointing to 329 degrees.
Coordinates and bearings from structure at old jetty.
Azimuth 330.22 degrees to 7 Royal Rd.


How did I derive the azimuths? As the following show, I first ascertained the coordinates of the various places using a phone mapping app:

Coordinates of structure at old jetty (using phone mapping app)
Coordinates of 7 Royal Rd (using phone mapping app)

I then input the coordinates into a website to get the calculated azimuths:

Calculated azimuth of 330.22 degrees from jetty structure to 7 Royal Road. Using

From this information, we derive the following :

The aperture of the structure next to the old jetty points directly towards 7 Royal Rd and is not blocked by Batu Berlayar. (Azimuths are from phone compass app). Note that 45 degree spread would mean 307.5 to 352.5 degrees (based on azimuth of 300 degrees), meaning 5 Cornwall Road is easily within the arc of the searchlight beam.

Conclusion so far :

A searchlight at the old jetty structure could have illuminated both 7 Royal Road and 5 Cornwall Road area.

Interestingly, I uploaded the old maps to and by visual inspection got the following results which are very close to our compass readings :

Overlay on the 1906 map – azimuth of the centre of the beam from the jetty structure shows 330° (270+60).
Overlay on the 1909 map shows 333° (270+63)

There! Congratulations for reading the 1st part of this blog post! Now make yourself a nice cup of coffee before proceeding. Its on me.


4. Investigating the western structure.

The structure is not easily accessible as the slope above is very steep and I would not recommend people to try to go there.  I am grateful to Harry Carlito Bogard from Temasek Rural Exploring Enthusiasts for telling me about it a few years ago.

Entrance of structure to the west.
Aperture of structure to the west from inside.
Interesting looking bar near the ceiling. I wonder what it was for.
Aperture from outside the western structure
Close-up of hinges for steel shutter outside the western structure
Dragon’s Tooth – view from the aperture is blocked by foliage, so the photo was taken from in front of the western structure
Calculated bearings based on phone GPS location of the western structure

Compass bearings from western structure 300 degrees. Note that the edge of the ledge at the aperture is dirty and worn out, making it difficult to get an accurate reading. (How about my eyes? I have 4.)
As the above reading of 300 degrees is based on the searchlight being placed in the middle and pointing perpendicularly out (Taking middle as 300 degrees and 45 degree arc, gives us arc of 277.5 to 322.5 degrees), it would seem that a searchlight here might have been able to illuminate 7 Royal Road (and perhaps 5 Cornwall Rd area) only if the searchlight was swiveled to the right. A lot depends on the accuracy of the location coordinates used for the 2 structures as well as the compass bearings. A few degrees could make an important difference.

Remember that the above results are based on position coordinates of the western structure using phone GPS reading.

This is slightly different from the coordinates from the phone mapping app shown below, resulting in the difference of calculated azimuths of 326.59 phone GPS vs 331.9 mapping app (But as you will see later, the conclusion is the same) :

Based on position coordinates from phone mapping app.

It doesn’t matter:

The below 2 diagrams show that no matter which position coordinates of the western structure is used, if the searchlight was swivelled right (340.72), it would have been able to illuminate 7 Royal Road, provided the beam was not blocked by Batu Berlayar :

The above illustration shows that swivelling the searchlight to the right (maximum azimuth 340.72 )
should enable it to illuminate 7 Royal Road (and perhaps even 5 Cornwall Rd area). Note that the searchlight being 2 feet behind the aperture is a guess based on photos of searchlight posts.

Conclusion about the western structure:

A searchlight at the western structure may have been able to illuminate 7 Royal Road and 5 Cornwall Road.


(Side note: What’s with the red line thingy? How did I derive azimuth of 340.72 degrees? Well, just elementary trigonometry – Try Once Again TANGENT formula. Remember? No? Same here. Come to think of it I can’t even remember where I chucked my precious Cambridge Mathematical Tables. Just kidding of course.

Into the dustbin. Why is it you always need something only after you have thrown it away?

For readers who like me, have thrown away their precious tables or can’t find their dusty scientific calculator, here is a youtube video that shows you how to use Excel to derive the angle in degrees : ie =DEGREES(ATAN(Opposite/Adjacent)). You can also use the built-in Windows Calculator. Type calc in the Windows search box and choose Calculator. When the calculator pops up, choose Scientific mode from the left menu (the 3 small horizontal lines on the left top corner), key in the ratio of the sides, eg 1.1619 (122/105), then under Trigonometry click on 2nd, then Tan-1 ; and it will show 49.28. So azimuth is 300+40.72 = 340.72 degrees. Or directly 0.86065 (105/122) gives 40.72 ie azimuth is 300+40.72 = 340.72 degrees 🙂

You could also use websites like the following that Peter Stubbs likes – or


Now back to the investigation.

For those who are curious, the 1906 and 1909 maps show the middle of the beam pointing to 292 and 294 degrees respectively, as opposed to 300 degrees I got from my compass:

1906 map shows centre of the beam of the western structure has azimuth of about 292° (270+22)
1909 map shows the western structure has beam with azimuth 294°


5. A youtube video of the 2 structures can be found here:


6. Evidence from England that the 2 structures were searchlight posts.

The article below is extracted from A Guide to the Archaeology of the  20th century defence sites of Tyne and Wear – by R Whaley, J Morrison and D Heslop.  Published by Urban Design And Conservation, Newcastle City Council.   Downloadable from here :  

4 Tynemouth Castle, Searchlight

Emplacement (HER 1572)

To allow the guns at Spanish Battery and Tynemouth Castle to fire at night, a searchlight was emplaced on the south side of Tynemouth Castle, near to the quarry, and just by the path that lead along to the pier. It was manned and maintained by the Tyne Electrical Engineers, who were based at Clifford’s Fort, and was in use throughout World War One. By World War Two it had been replaced by a new searchlight nearer to Tynemouth pier. There had been a similar emplacement at the Spanish Battery, which has now been demolished. This site is the best surviving searchlight emplacement on Tyneside, and remains in good condition. It is a low, concrete building with a large aperture at the front (now sealed up), out of which the searchlight would have shone. Although it is slightly overgrown, it is easily visible, and much of the original form survives

(information provided by Alan Rudd, 1995).

Tynemouth Castle Searchlight. Notice that the aperture of the searchlight post in the structure looks similar to that of the 2 structures at Fort Siloso. ie this is evidence that our 2 structures were searchlight posts.

The following 2 photos are from Google Maps:

The searchlight emplacement is now largely hidden by vegetation.
Position of searchlight and direction of beam


7. Were searchlights at Pulau Brani involved ?

Singapore Mutiny by Mary Brown and Edwin A Brown:

“The RGA were all on Blakan Mati… The RE, including the Volunteers of the same arm, were on Pulo Brani, an adjacent island, the Volunteers being there especially for Searchlight duty.” – pg 15

“…across the sky stretched two narrow beams of light, the searchlights from Pulo Brani fixed on Col Martin’s bungalow.” –pg 49

The Singapore Mutiny, of February 1915 – Ian F W Beckett. Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research. Vol. 62, No. 251 (Autumn 1984), pp. 132-153 (22 pages). Published by Society for Army Historical Research. :

“Most of the engineers and artillerymen were stationed on the two offshore islands  of Pulau Brani and Blakang Mati”. – pg 134

“There was desultory sniping during the night but any concerted attack on Martin was deterred by playing searchlights from Pulau Brani on the ground around his bungalow”. – pg 140

(Many thanks to Professor Beckett for his clarification about the source: The reference to searchlights from Pulau Brani comes from the account of A H Dickinson written in 1960 as contained in Mss Ind Ocn s 243 at Rhodes House Library, Oxford. There is a duplicate in the Imperial War Museum (Old reference  P277 AHD3). A reference to searchlights from Fort Siloso is in the Royal Commonwealth Society British Association of Malaysia Collection,2nd Draft Report by W Lowther, Reserve Straits Settlement Volunteer Corps, March 1915. From the same collection, searchlights from Fort Siloso  also mentioned in the account of M B Shelley of the Malay States Volunteers written in 1927.)

I think it is unlikely that Brani searchlights were involved because as the following maps show, the searchlights on Brani were at Fort Silingsing and Teregah (also spelled as Teregeh), on the east coast, facing the sea in the opposite direction from 7 Royal Road.  I am also indebted to Peter Stubbs for pointing out that the searchlights there were located on the lower slopes :

“The lights were low on the slope and would not have been able to bear on the house…You can see by the lie of the land and the contours that it would not be possible for either light to bear on the house. The lights would have been difficult to move to enable them to bear, and the power supply would require to be moved also.” – Peter Stubbs

The following maps show searchlights on the lower slopes at Fort Silingsing and Teregah on Pulau Brani pointing in the opposite direction from 7 Royal Road:

Source: The National Archives, United Kingdom. Accession Number: D2016_000421
Covering Date: 1914 .
Source: The National Archives, United Kingdom. Accession Number: D2016_000428
Covering Date: 1913.
Source: The National Archives, United Kingdom. Accession Number: D2016_000069
Covering Date:1904

For more info on Silingsing, see

For more info on Teregah, see


8. Final conclusions.

a) The 2 existing structures at Fort Siloso I have been writing about were designed to be searchlight posts and were the ones shown on the maps. This is also the opinion of Peter Stubbs :

These were I’m certain, two CASL posts for small searchlights…They illuminated the harbour for the 12 Pounders emplaced in the old No.1 7 Inch RML emplacement by the Magazine.” – Peter Stubbs

Peter Stubbs also states that the 12 Pounders had disappeared from the list of mounted armaments by 1907 and that the emplacements may have been used for machine guns after that.

b) If there were searchlights there at the time of the mutiny, the searchlight at the old jetty area should have been able to illuminate both LTC Martin’s house (7 Royal Rd) and the mutineers’ quarters (5 Cornwall Rd area).

However as pointed out earlier, I am not so sure about the western structure. As I have shown, it probably could if the searchlight there was swivelled to the right.

(Short of documentation like unit reports or personal memoirs/letters of old soldiers based at Blakang Mati, I think the best that can be done would be – a) Trim the foliage that is blocking the view from the aperture of the western structure. But even then, high rise buildings along Alexandra Road would obscure 7 Royal Road. Which leads us to – b) A drone photo from above the structure pointing towards 7 Royal Road. Better still, a drone video of the path from the structure to 7 Royal Road. But it might require a special permit.) ; c) I doubt if anyone wants to do land surveying 🙂

c) It is unlikely that any searchlights on Pulau Brani were involved.

d) Finally, although some maps like this 1913 map (, and this 1914 map ( do not show the 2 structures, it is my belief (for what its worth :)) that the evidence as a whole points to the jetty structure being involved on 15 February 1915 during the mutiny and the western structure also being a possibility.

If there were 2 searchlights involved, then perhaps both could have illuminated 7 Royal Road, while the one at the jetty could have switched its beam intermittently towards the mutineers’ barracks at the vicinity of 5 Cornwall Road. If there were 3 lights involved, then perhaps the old searchlight (as described in In Search of the 1915 Fort Siloso Searchlight or another as yet unidentified one may have been involved (which would be another mystery to solve :))

Know of any better candidates for the 1915 searchlight(s) ? What do you think? Please share in the comments section.


9. Notes :

A) The above discussion relies to an important degree on compass readings taken from the apertures of the 2 structures. However Compass North does not equal Geographic North (Map True North). Fortunately, the magnetic declination in Singapore is less than 1 degree (0° 7’ E   ie  0.116667°) and can be ignored for our purposes.

For more information on what is magnetic declination, you can go here:

B)  The old jetty/pier

From the information plaque for the old jetty.
From the information plaque for the old jetty.
Present day ruins of the old jetty.

C) The concrete slope near the old jetty/pier

View of the concrete slope from Siloso Road down towards the beach.
View of the concrete slope from the beach up towards Siloso Road

The concrete slope may have been used for hauling up guns and other heavy items from ships/the beach by “parbuckling” (see for a description of parbuckling).

Mock-up of parbuckling at Fort Siloso.
Source: The 9.2-inch Coast Defence Gun in Canadian Service. By Doug Knight (pg 31)

C) Forgotten 100+ year old structure in the forested area at Fort Siloso. Guess what it was 🙂

The following is a video of the structure:

If you still cannot guess what it was, here is a 1912 map showing the structure (no not a 100 year old British army KTV):

Blue arrow points to the structure – Latrine.
Source:  The National Archives, United Kingdom
Accession Number:  D2016_000412
Covering Date: 1911

(Important note: I’m afraid it is no longer open for business and paying 20 cents won’t make a difference. 🙂 ) On a more serious note, I visited the structure recently and was disappointed to come across litter (a discarded plastic drink bottle) on the ground.

D) Underwater World (13 May 1991 – 26 June 2016)

Some people may remember the Underwater World that used to be just next to Fort Siloso at 80 Siloso Road. Here is a video taken on 14 Aug 2016 after it had been closed but before it was demolished. When I was there, the turtles with accompanying fishes were the only exhibits still there :

Here is a news segment in 2016 announcing the closing of Underwater World:

1942 Alexandra Hospital Massacre

(This post was updated on 14Apr2022 with mention of a new book on the subject by Stuart Lloyd at the Notes section.)

I have often wondered about the locations of the massacres that occurred at Alexandra Hospital on 14/15 February 1942.  We know many were massacred inside the hospital.  But what about the 200 or so who met their fate outside?  “The Matter of a Massacre” by Peter Bruton is a book detailing these events and dedicated to his late uncle CPL John Bruton and other fellow victims of the massacre.  The following 2 diagrams and excerpts are from his book and with the help of the diagrams and descriptions, I will reveal what I believe to be 2 railway drain culvert crossings (A and C) near the hospital shown in his book.

Peter Bruton’s diagram of the area and path taken by the victims.  Area D is indicated as the massacre site.  I don’t know what was area B.  However both areas B and D are gone as far as I can tell.  I have only been able to locate the 2 railway crossings A and C.
1959 map of area with the 2 railway crossings A and C shown
Google map with the 2 railway crossings A and C shown
Crossing A is a bit before bridge (shown with a truck crossing) to Jalan Hang Jebat
Crossing A
Crossing C. Between the bridge to Jalan Hang Jebat and junction of Portsdown Ave and Queensway. “The prisoners were then taken through a drain tunnel under the railway embankment…”

Excerpts from “The Matter of a Massacre: Alexandra Hospital Singapore 14th/15th February 1942” –  By Peter Bruton.  National Library Call No. 940.5425 BRU

pg10. In the early afternoon of Saturday, 14th at about 1pm the first Japanese troops were sighted from an upstairs veranda…

Thirty minutes later (by 3.30pm) more than two hundred men were assembled, taken out of the hospital… The prisoners were then taken through a drain tunnel under the railway embankment… to the Ayer Rajah Road then to a range of buildings a quarter of a mile from the hospital and set about fifty yards back from the road…

Peter Bruton’s diagram of the massacre site

The buildings to which the main body of prisoners had been taken were the servants’ part of the old hospital Sister’s Quarters – a red brick two-storied house part set above the ground on piles.  A small courtyard was formed by a row of outhouses.  This outbuilding, built of more flimsy brick than the Quarters, contained three small rooms of varying sizes, the largest 10’x 12′, the smallest, 9’x9′.  Each room had double doors opening on to the courtyard and a window looking on to the Ayer Rajah Road and railway line. The last room in the building had steps leading up to the door of the quarters. Situated at the top of these steps was a Japanese machine gun position with another at the corner of the house, covering the road and beyond as far as the railway embankment. Along the roadside was a monsoon or “storm” drain overgrown with foliage.

All the prisoners were crammed into the three rooms of this outbuilding…

Two hundred wounded and sick men and their medical staff were incarcerated in these three small rooms…

Early in the morning of Sunday 15th… about 11am that day… started taking prisoners from the most distant room… They were led from left to right along the courtyard and around the corner of an Asiatic latrine… At first nothing was heard… but after a while screams of anguish were heard…

Those remaining confined were finally convinced that their comrades were being killed…

Between 2 and 3pm…British shells… began to land around the building again.  One blew open the doors and window shutters… Several prisoners were wounded by the falling debris or shrapnel but those who were able made a dash for freedom… A number managed to get clear of the building but most were shot down by machine gun fire at short range.


  1. Life lessons from Fergus Anckorn’s Alexandra Massacre and other WW2 experiences  :

2) “The Matter of a Massacre : Alexandra Hospital Singapore 14th/15th February 1942” by Peter Bruton

Call Number: q940.5425 BRU -[WAR].  Available for reference at Lee Kong Chian reference library, 11th floor.

3) The following is a very well researched blog site that includes information about the massacre.  It was set up Jan Beranek who writes :  “I have set up this dedicated blog site to document and capture my search for my great uncle Silvestr Nemec. He fought and died in the battle of Singapore, serving as a volunteer and private under the SSVF.”

4) The book “A Bleeding Slaughterhouse” by Stuart Lloyd is a new book published in 2021 and is the most comprehensive account of the incident to date. The official website of the book is at :

Battle at junction of Pasir Panjang and Alexandra Roads

(This post was updated on 24 Apr 2022 with additional material in the Notes section. Update of 21 May 2022 in the Notes section – reply from National Heritage Board.)

Mention the Battle of Pasir Panjang and Opium Hill and the Southern Ridges come to mind.  However not so well known is the story of the battles at the junction of Pasir Panjang and Alexandra Roads.  The book “Singapore The Inexcusable Betrayal” by George Chippington (National Library call number 940.5425 CHI) gives a interesting detailed account of this and this post draws on a diagram and passages from the book and shows how some of the places mentioned in the book look like today.

Chippington’s diagram of the battle

1959 map showing the “Narrow Waterway” (Berlayer Creek) and the bungalows on the hill where Chippington was positioned.

The position south of the road proved even better than imagined.  lt consisted of a steep little hill dominating the main road,  with a large house on top, said to belong to the late harbour master. A private drive way wound up from the main road to the house with four or five bungalows on its left, leaving the slope facing west entirely uncluttered by buildings,  trees or undergrowth down to a narrow waterway or canal which ran from under a small bridge on the main road to the sea at Keppel Harbour mouth a couple of hundred yards away with Blakang Mati across on the other side.
At the back of the position lay an extensive and very pleasant golf course and beyond that, Keppel Harbour itself and the city of Singapore. To the west the hill provided a splendid open view for some hundreds of yards down the road, along which we had just marched, to trees in the distance with level ground and buildings to the right beyond the road junction with Alexandra road.
Immediately to our front, beyond the canal, between us and the trees in the distance sweeping down to the shore on our left, the ground appeared water-logged…
Just behind our hill, on the seaward side, half a dozen Bofors guns with their crews in tents provided a very pleasant surprise. They had hammered away at the bombers as they passed over but without success. The Japanese knew their effective range and flew just above it.
Eddie took the position from the main road up to the tennis court near the house and Eric the remainder along the lawn between the house and the slope and the area overlooking the Keppel Harbour entrance.
The house became our H.Q. much to the annoyance of the owner’s servants still living in quarters just behind the house, who grumbled constantly at our interference…
By using a side door, it was possible to follow the driveway under cover of a thick hedge and bushes down to Eddie’s position and then up by the tennis court to Eric without at any time being visible to the front…
The men immediately set to digging themselves in, using the thick hedge skirting the driveway and any bushes to mask future movements between our positions, being careful not to advertise our presence to the air by careless disposal of the newly dug soil.
From the top of our little hill, no trees or bushes obstructed our field of fire in any direction from along the Alexandra road right round to the harbour mouth and the golf course behind. It was a joy to behold. All we needed now were the Japanese.
To guard against any possibility of surprise by the Japanese crossing the canal during darkness three men dug themselves in on its bank below us as a listening post. We had no mines but Eddie later scattered stones and soil on the road near the little bridge over the water-way to give the impression that the road had been hurriedly and rather carelessly mined…
A young English officer, a stranger about my age, suddenly appeared out of the darkness from behind us. His civilian job in Singapore, he told me, was connected with drainage, water-works etc. so I guessed he was with the Malay regiment. He knew this area well. He offered, if I agreed, to crawl forward across the bridge to the far side of the canal and the Alexandra road where, on the right hand side, he would be able to make his way down into a large, underground storm drain. This opened out again near where Japanese casualties were lying on the road. He would be able to listen and bring me news of what was happening. He doubted very much whether the Japanese would know of or could find the opening to the drain at their end. I thanked him and he disappeared alone into the darkness…
He had managed to crawl within a few yards of the Japanese…
The Japanese had brought up trucks as far as possible along the road and were rapidly stretchering away the dead and wounded… He could not see the tanks… nor had he heard them moving – just the medical orderlies muttering among themselves as they sorted the dead and the dying…

Outside Berlayer Creek today

Berlayer Creek (the “Narrow Waterway”)

The former “Berlayar Hill” where the bungalows were located

Entrance to the storm drain that the British officer used to spy on the Japanese.   (Note that Pasir Panjang road was widened years ago but towards the sea.  So this may be the original entrance to the storm drain mentioned in the book.)

Today, the storm drain runs under a pedestrian walk way.

Grills along the path of the underground storm drain

Today, you can walk and crawl along the storm drain for more than 100m.  Exactly how far?  Only way to find out is to get dirty…

It has been reported that Keppel Club will be moving to Lornie by the end of 2022. As such, I have requested the National Heritage Board to consider doing an archaeological survey of the present site. The former Berlayar Hill area not only had bungalows that were used by the British during 1942, but there is also mention of an underground dugout:

“Later I went into their bungalow…On the front lawn over-looking the sea and the entrance to the harbour – an under-ground dug-out housed signallers and a telephone – why or where from I did not enquire. They were there and that in itself was reasurring…”
– Singapore The Inexcusable Betrayal – pg 201/202

Also, according to the Keppel Club website

1942 – Keppel Golf Club falls into the hands of the Japanese during World War II. During the three-and-a-half years of their rule, the Japanese built their headquarters on Fairway 1. Their makeshift premise consists of a sawmill workshop and jetty with a short railway line running to the eighth tee box. The golf course survives World War II unharmed, after it is used for food production.

Perhaps information plaques could be installed at the former Berlayar Hill and other sites in the area after an archaeological survey has been done?

The link to an informative report by Straits Times reporter Michelle Ng can be found here:

The following are plans by Nparks to enhance and build new nature parks in the area:

Labrador Nature Park Network

Labrador Nature Park Network comprises core habitats such as Labrador Nature Reserve and the mature forests along the Southern Ridges (Kent Ridge Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park and Mount Faber Park), as well as Nature Parks and areas that buffer Labrador Nature Reserve such as Berlayer Creek Nature Park, Labrador Nature Parkand the Pasir Panjang Park.


  • Pasir Panjang Park (enhancements)
  • Berlayer Creek Nature Park
  • Alexandra Nature Park
  • Park at King’s Dock
Map of Labrador Nature Park Network (Credit National Parks Board)


I wrote twice (17 and 24 Apr 2022) suggesting an archaeological survey and got a reply for the one dated 24 Apr 2022):

Regarding the redevelopment of the Keppel Club site, may I suggest that the National Heritage Board consider doing an archaeological survey of the area and then install some information plaques.

Among other things, the site has significant value regarding world war 2.  For example at the former Berlayar Hill, there were bungalows that the British used as a temporary base during the battle at Pasir Panjang, and there was even an underground dugout there during that time.  Also, the Keppel Club website mentions that the Japanese had a short railway line built in the golf club. 

More information can be found at this blog post :

Reply from NHB dated 17 May 2022:

Thank you for your interest in the upcoming development at Keppel Club.

NHB and HDB note your suggestion to conduct an archaeological investigation prior to development works and are looking into the matter.

We appreciate your feedback on this issue.

Thank you.

Alexandra tunnel entrances and other seldom seen places

I have often wondered where exactly are the tunnel entrances located.  Here they are!

Alexandra Hospital tunnel entrances “A”, :B”, “C” and “D”

Tunnel Entrance A

Tunnel entrance A from far

A entrance

A inner entrance

Inside entrance A

Tunnel Entrance B

B from far

B nearer

Inside entrance B

Tunnel Entrance C

Entrance C

Inside Entrance C

Tunnel Entrance D

Entrance D from far

Inside D

Did I miss out any tunnel entrances?

Railway was a stone’s throw away from the hospital

The railway line used to be only a stone’s throw away

Reminder that there used to be a mini railway coming into the hospital

In one of the episodes of Hey Singapore! (The secret tunnels of Alexandra), Romen Bose says while doing research at Kew, he came across a military plan of the hospital showing a mini railway going into the hospital.  Perhaps one day someone will find remains of this!

Old water facility

I didn’t know there was a shrine in the hospital grounds

Mystery of the Underground Chamber & Memories of Outram


In my walks around Singapore, I have come across many “manholes”, but this one proved to be intriguing and special.  When I first came across the opening, I suspected it might be just a drainage manhole.  However upon closer inspection by shining a torchlight down and taking a video with a selfie stick, I noticed the interior was large and the floor was flat and there seemed to be a pipe (For water drainage or ventilation?) sticking out from the wall.  Could it be a bomb shelter?

Opening in the ground.  The opening is 21.5 inches wide and it’s 8 ft deep.  The bottom is flat and there is a ladder at the corner.   What is it?

Entrance to underground chamber

After going down to take a look, I discovered another entrance/exit with ladder at the other end with its own pipe, as well as a vent on the wall near the middle of the room.  But if this was a bomb shelter why isn’t there an entrance with stairs?  (Thankfully there was no graffiti or discarded mineral water bottles inside.)

Pipe next to entrance

Entrance from further in

Vent at the side

Pipe at the other end

Close up of pipe and ladder at the other end

Exit hatch at the other end

Video of the inside of the underground room here:

Thanks to Peter Stubbs who suggested it might be an “Emergency water tank”.   After some investigation, I realized Peter was right and that it may be more than 100 years old.

Peter Stubbs also commented about emergency water tanks :

“The tank would hold water for emergencies such as fires etc. Unlikely to be drinking water give the looks of the storage. There was such an emergency tank in the grounds of the General Hospital in 1942. Towards the end, it was used as a mass grave for servicemen and civilians alike. over 400 people still lie in that grave. There is a small memorial cross over it. I don’t know if it was an open or closed tank.

The concrete beams forming the ceiling of the underground room … mean that is was constructed before the 1930s. Ceilings after that would have had steel troughing….

If you happen to stumble upon it or other such places, please remember not to leave graffiti or litter.  (No, I better not publicize the location or it will likely soon be sealed up.  Hope you understand.  So if you happen to come across it please be discreet about the location.  Anyway the video/photos here would give a good picture of what its like inside  🙂  )


The Outram Road area is rich in history, and I have many memories of the hospital.  As a young child in the early 1960s, I was warded at “GH” (General Hospital) and had to make monthly (later once every few months) visits to the hospital for check ups and to get my supply of medicine which I had to take daily right up to my early 20’s.  The hospital  was later renamed Outram Road General Hospital and is now known as Singapore General Hospital.

History of SGH :

SGH had its beginnings in 1821, when the first General Hospital was located in the cantonment for troops near the Singapore River. After relocating several times, it finally settled at Sepoy Lines in Outram Road in 1882. 

The modern history of SGH began on 29 March 1926, with the opening of 800 beds in the Bowyer, Stanley and Norris Blocks. Today, only the Bowyer Block with its distinctive clock tower remains. It has been designated a national monument. 

In 1981, the hospital was rebuilt, with its current 8-block complex housing inpatient wards, ambulatory and support services, as well as research laboratories and a postgraduate medical institute. 

On 1 April 1989, SGH became a restructured hospital – run as a private company while remaining a not-for-profit institution wholly owned by the government. This was part of the government’s initiative to enable all public hospitals to be more responsive to the rapid pace of change in healthcare services and patient expectations for better service. To ensure access to affordable healthcare, two thirds of the beds in SGH are allocated to patients who receive subsidies from the government for medical services.   On 31 March 2000, following a major reorganisation of the public sector healthcare services, SGH came under the management of Singapore Health Services or SingHealth. The Group includes 1 other hospital, 5 National Specialty Centres and 9 Polyclinics.


Unlike nowadays where hospital doctors sit in rooms with flashing screens outside showing the queue numbers –  back then, the outpatient department was a large room with doctors sitting on simple desks about the size of the teacher’s table in classrooms (or smaller), open concept style, and nurses or orderlies would call out the queue numbers in Hokkien and Malay.  Also, back then there were no computers and patients’ case sheets were filled in manually and the whole paper docket was retrieved by nurses/orderlies from a room (like a library) on the ground floor.  Later they “modernized” by adding a document transport system like a monorail with a bucket hung from the ceiling.  (It was more sophisticated than it sounds and I might be able to describe it more accurately if I struggled till I became a lunatic, but it wouldn’t be half as funny 🙂 )

The most painful memory for me was the drawing of blood from the finger.  Nowadays with the use of lancets, it’s a painless procedure.  Back then the technician would use a cork with a needle stuck in it and poke your fingertip kung fu style.  Yes it hurt (try it). If I remember correctly, apart from squeezing my fingertip, he would use a glass straw to suck the blood out to fill a small bottle.

Instead of “7-11”, there was a “mama” store selling “555” notebooks (the original computer notebook/electronic organizer), comics, sweets and “kana” like dried plums, ginger and orange peels. (My favourite was the dried olives.)

I also remember once buying a comic about world war 2 from the store.  (At that time comics about world war 2 and soccer were plentiful.)

Also, when I was warded in the early 1960s,  I could see Outram Road Prison from my ward.  But more on the prison later.

Building on the left is Bowyer Block C today. The prison was along Outram Road at the foot of Pearl’s Hill (view of the area now blocked by the white hoarding).


There are 2 memorials at the hospital.

a)  The following one is located in the open air car park (Car Park C) between Bowyer Block (the one with the old clock tower) and Block 8 and is the one mentioned by Peter Stubbs :

According to Romen Bose in his book “KRANJI.  The Commonwealth War Cemetery and the Politics of the Dead”,

(pg 34)”Before the war, an emergency water tank was dug in the grounds of the Civilian General Hospital (Singapore General Hospital).  In the last hours before Singapore fell to the invading Japanese, the tank was used as a common grave for the dead…The tank and its contents went unnoticed during the Occupation…It was not until a year after liberation that the government medical department took over and it was almost another year before the fate of the bodies was discovered…

The wooden cross at SGH located at “Car Park C” in front of Bowyer Block along Third Hospital Avenue and opposite block 8 and National Cancer Centre.  The memorial marks the spot where more than 400 bodies are buried.  (Bowyer Block houses a museum containing old medical equipment, books, journals and photos.  Mon-Fri 9am – 6pm. Sat 9am – 1pm. )

The cross from the front

Plaque below the cross.

b)  The other world war 2 memorial at SGH (the student memorial) is located at the junction of College Road and Macalister Road, diagonally opposite the former College of Medicine Building (now Ministry of Health).

According to Wikipedia:

“On the morning of 14 February 1942, Yoong Tat Sin, a fourth-year medical student, was fatally injured by Japanese shelling while on duty at the Tan Tock Seng Hospital along Balestier Road. He was rushed to the Outram Road General Hospital (former name of Singapore General Hospital) for an emergency operation, but he died soon after.[5]

That same evening, his fellow friends, about 25 students from the medical and dental faculties of the College of Medicine decided to give Yoong a proper burial within the grounds of the hospital. One of the five trenches dug out earlier for air raid purposes was converted into a grave for Yoong. As the grave was being prepared, they were spotted by Japanese gunners which began pouring a heavy barrage of shells at the defenceless students. Some quick-footed students managed to flee to safety towards the College building. However, those left behind only had time to leap into the trenches and Yoong’s grave. As a result, 11 of the students were killed, three were wounded and only two managed to escape injury in the aftermath.[5] Those who were killed instantaneously were given a burial on the morning of 16 February, a day after the surrender of Singapore to the Japanese, in the trenches where they fell.”

SGH student memorial plaque

SGH student memorial plaque close-up.  The original plaque is in the former “College of Medicine Building”

Here is an interesting blog post on the memorials:

Map of SGH heritage trail


Along Macalister Road there is a hill with interesting old structures.  Among these structures are remains of the “New Lunatic Asylum“.

Old stairs

Ancient wall

Here is an interesting documentary on the New Lunatic Asylum:


Opposite SGH along Outram Road and at the foot of Pearl’s Hill is where Outram Road Prison used to stand.  As I mentioned earlier, when I was hospitalized at the General Hospital in the early 1960s, I could see the prison from my ward.

Outram Road Prison plaque

1958 Street directory showing GH and Outram Prison (H.M. Prison).   (Go to this link to view old street directories:  )

Aerial view of Outram Road General Hospital, now known as Singapore General Hospital. (Bowyer Block C is at bottom left hand corner). Aerial photographs by the British Royal Air Force between 1940 to 1970s, from a collection held by the National Archives of Singapore. Crown copyright.

SIDE VIEW OF OUTRAM ROAD PRISON. Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore. (Link here: )

Inside Outram Road Prison. Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore (Link here:

More info on the prison here :

PEARL’S HILL SERVICE RESERVOIR (Built from 1898 – 1904)

Pearl’s Hill Service Reservoir

Pearl’s Hill Service Reservoir entrance

Here is an interesting blog post on Pearl’s Hill:

Heartfelt thanks

Thanks to Peter Stubbs for his input about the underground chamber.  He has a website called “” that’s a mine of information and Peter has re-written/improved it.  Do read it.


In this age of “fake news”, some people with an overactive imagination may suspect that my video of the underground chamber is fake.  (That perhaps I switched off the lights and did it in my bathroom.)  Well, I assure you that’s not true.  My bathroom’s not that clean.


Regarding notebooks, the 555 notebooks were indispensable for keeping organized.  Much handier than electronic organizers/notebooks of later years.  Where now you can fire off an email or instant message, back then you could do the same with tiga lima – but with a personal touch.  Just write down your message, tear out the page, fold into an aeroplane and throw through your friend’s window.

Tanglin Barracks and The Singapore 1915 Sepoy Mutiny

(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.

75 Loewen Road. Air Raid Shelter next to the building

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:


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 :

Tanglin 1

Tanglin 2

Annotated map showing Tanglin Barracks and Woodneuk :

Annotated google map (If the map appears small – left click with  mouse to enlarge)


Tanglin Village Clusters : Minden Cluster – 4 to 7;  Dempsey Cluster – 8, 10 to 13; Loewen Cluster – 9, Other Areas )                                                                                                                                                                 Map is online here: 

(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:  )


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 🙂

Tyersall Palace and Woodneuk

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.[3] 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…

Photo shows verandahs at Woodneuk


Field at Woodneuk



Officer Mess (now Ministry of Foreign Affairs) 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.


“Garrison church”, parade ground and “Married Quarters”


“Garrison church”, parade ground and “Married Quarters” overlay


“Garrison Church” (St George’s church) and parade ground beside it.


Parade Ground


Parade Ground


Site of Married Quarters


Nice stairs behind married quarters


Cricket Pavilion, Morris Tube Range, “Swimming Bath”, 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.” )

Cricket Pavilion on the right.  Still at original location as shown in the old map
Cricket at Tanglin Barracks 1869. (Credit - Gift of Mr M Kayser)
Cricket at Tanglin Barracks 1869. (Credit – Gift of Mr M Kayser)

One of the interesting things I find about the above photo (from National Heritage Board ROOTS website: ) 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 ? 

Photo shows 2 floor plaques on the hill at Gillman Barracks and Bourne Secondary school on top of the hill. Credit - Paul Cook
Photo shows 2 floor plaques on the hill at Gillman Barracks and Bourne Secondary school on top of the hill. Credit – Paul Cook.

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 :

Gillman Barracks – Insignia of Middlesex regiment on left and Loyal regiment on right on the now forested hill.


The hill at Gillman Barracks today 500
The hill at Gillman Barracks today

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 🙂 –

Today the slab on the right of the stairs is visible but the left one is hidden
Tanglin – today the slab on the right of the stairs is visible but the left one is not

Close up of the visible slab and stairs

Jerome Lim has a picture of the cricket field showing both concrete slabs in this excellent blog post:


Swimming pool area


Old stairs to pool area


Old stairs to pool area


Must have been a driveway here.


Shades of Green.  Vicinity of the pool.


Path leading to swimming pool as in the old photo in the link below?

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:

Water valve made by John Morris and Sons Ltd , Manchester


John Morris and Sons Ltd, Manchester

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:

John Morris and Sons name plate

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.


Former canteen area along Harding Road opposite the cricket ground


Canteen area opposite cricket field in the vicinity of PS Cafe, Harding Road


Site of the Canteen with Oil Shed behind it (in the vicinity of present day PS Cafe, 28B Harding Road)


Area behind the former canteen. I think the former oil shed was located somewhere in the forested area. Wishful thinking to hope there is something still there 🙂

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…

Canteen (Blk O), Guard Room (Blk U), Blk R and Q

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.

Canteen on right of picture, path leading to stairs up to Guard Room in middle, cricket ground left


Path to stairs to Guard Room


Steps to the Guard Room


Former Guard Room (Block U)


View from top of stairs to field


Steps down to the jungle. (Other blocks also have steps leading down to a field)



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…

Canteen (Blk O), Blk T, Guard Room (Blk U), Blk R and Q


Between R (on the right and now blk 8) and Q (on the left now blk 9)


View from behind.  Blk R on left. Q on the right


A path in the jungle leading up to the main blocks

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.):

Path now leads up to Dempsey House



According to the hospital had 240 beds.

Tanglin Barracks Hospital. Block CC is the double storey admin block

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.

Loewen Road. Site of former Tanglin Barracks hospital.

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…

Block “CC” Admin Block with 2 verandahs, and storerooms downstairs


The other 2 main blocks are still single storeyed



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…

Detention Barracks on left


Detention Barracks on left and other blocks

(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.)

Continue reading “Tanglin Barracks and The Singapore 1915 Sepoy Mutiny”

In Search of the 1915 Fort Siloso Searchlight

“…it was considered that these precautions had undoubtedly thwarted the mutineers from making a frontal attack in darkness….”

“Singapore Mutiny” page 90, by R W E Harper & Harry Miller

In my earlier post “Singapore 1915 Sepoy Mutiny and Alexandra Barracks“, I mentioned that during the 1915 mutiny, a searchlight at Fort Siloso was used to illuminate the area around LTC Martin’s bungalow (present day 7 Royal Road).  This blog post is a record of my search for the location of that searchlight – an ancient searchlight that played a part in Singapore’s history.

(Note: I have not come across proof that there was only 1 searchlight, nor proof that there were more than 1.  However R W E Harper & Harry Miller in page 89 of their book “Singapore Mutiny” state:

“…it then became obvious that under cover of darkness, mutineers could easily move forward for an attack.  Martin telephoned the duty officer at Fort Siloso on Blakang Mati, …and a few minutes later two searchlights steadied their brilliant beams along two sides of the bungalow, …A third beam was switched on at irregular times on to the barracks…”  )

Deciding where to look:  

Parts of the hilly area at present-day Labrador Park are higher than the highest part of Fort Siloso.  Also, some parts are as high as 7 Royal Road; so this gave me a clue as to where not to search for the searchlight at Fort Siloso.


The above map shows why I believed that the searchlight would have had to be located high enough and/or not too far to the west so as not to be blocked by Labrador Park.  I reasoned that it should probably be to the right of the brown line.

The following picture taken from near the Surrender Chamber shows prominent buildings on the mainland.  7 Royal Road is somewhere between Normanton Park and Alexandra Point (the building with the pointed top).



The above is the view of the mainland from roughly the location of the searchlight near Siloso Point.  Normanton Park is no longer visible and 7 Royal Road is somewhere to the left (west) of Alexandra Point, perhaps somewhere to the right of PSA Building ?

The following map shows Fort Siloso today:



1st Stage of the search:

I first went to Fort Siloso and asked the staff the locations of the existing searchlight posts.  The staff then brought me to see “Tunnel Complex A” (which includes the Direction Tower above the searchlight posts).


There are at present 3 searchlight posts on the beach.  The above picture from an information plaque shows 2 of them with the Direction Tower above.

The above link shows the Direction Tower (referred to as the Director Tower in the website) and all 3 searchlight posts on the beach.

I discovered that the 3 searchlight posts on the beach were too low, and seemed to be pointing/located too far to the west.  Later I also discovered (thanks to Siloso expert Peter Stubbs) that the searchlights were inside the posts and did not swivel.  Most importantly however, these 3 searchlight posts and Direction Tower were built long after 1915.


The above photo (taken from above) shows one of the 3 beach searchlight posts.

Here is a video of the 3 searchlight posts:

Below are photos of the Fire Direction Tower (Director Tower) area when I went with 2 very helpful Siloso staff:





According to Peter Stubbs, the 3 searchlights on the beach were controlled from the Direction Tower.  (All were built between 1937 and 1941 so the information plaque showing “1885” for the Direction Tower is misleading.)

Next, I discovered there was a room inside “Tunnel Complex A” that had a small slit that faced the mainland in the correct direction.

The below 2 photos are of Tunnel Complex A:



The below 2 photos are of the room (Observation Post, which Peter Stubbs says was for observing “the area of the mines, and to order detonation at the appropriate time”) :



Regarding the searchlight, Peter said that it would have been located on top of a structure and not inside.  Since I was also told by a Siloso staff that there is no access to the roof from within this Observation Post, I concluded this was not it.

I also thought it possible that the searchlight was located inside or on the roof of the Battery Command Post as it is high up on a hill with an electric light director post inside.




The above pictures are of the Battery Command Post today, which does not look very different from the way it was in 1915.  (The electric light director post is the lower room in the above picture).  However upon visiting it I found that the windows of the building face in the opposite direction from 7 Royal Road and there is also no access to the roof; so I concluded the searchlight would not have been here.  (Later I also learnt that the searchlight director post would have had to be some distance away from the searchlight as the view from the searchlight post of the target area would be poor –  only an array of lighted airborne particles would be visible.)

The following is a link about the Battery Command Post:

Fortunately, Peter very kindly provided some maps/diagrams to show what he believed to be the shape and location of the 1915 searchlight.  An area he had always wanted to explore but never got the chance.  This dispelled my notion that the Battery Command Post was the location.




The above diagrams are reproduced with the kind permission of Peter Stubbs.

Regarding the above searchlight, Peter wrote to me that: “According to plans of the fort, there was no searchlight overlooking the harbour around about 1915.  However, there was such a light shown there in earlier years.  I’m fairly sure that it still will have been there in 1915.  At that time there were two machine guns in the Fort defending the harbour entrance.  There must have been a searchlight for any night engagement.”

2nd Stage of the search:

Equipped with this new information, I embarked on the 2nd stage of the search and went looking for it in the forested area…


There are many concrete remains that are scattered in the forest and the above is an example.


After some searching, I came across these ruins.



The above pictures show the ruins. (Pictures taken from directly above and from different angles.)

The ruins are located in the vicinity indicated in Peter’s map and the following pictures show that the right angled wall points towards NNW, which is the same direction shown in his old map.



If these really are the ruins of the searchlight post shown in the old map/diagrams, then the front bullet-shaped part (or what remains of it) drawn in brown in the picture might still exist under the earth.


The above photo shows what might be the front bullet-shaped part of the searchlight post.


The above photo shows that a brick wall still exists at the area that should be the front bullet-shaped part of the searchlight post.


The above photo shows what should be the water drainage pipe (protruding from the earth at the top left hand corner of the photo) for the “outlet of drain to cliff” indicated in “Searchlight post.  Underground plan view”.  (Notice there are also bricks behind.)

In response to the initial pictures/video that I took and sent to Peter, he wrote :

“If there are the remains of any stairs there it could be the Post.  The stairs may well be completely covered over now by leaf litter etc.  When Serapong was cleared in 2006, we uncovered stairs that could not be seen before.  Bricks were used in the construction.  It’s more than likely that some demolition work was carried out when it was no longer required.  That and the build up of vegetation and natural debris can often seem to alter the shape of an object.  All in all, you may have found it.” (emphasis mine :))

(This response was after I sent Peter photos/video that I had taken from directly above the ruins in August 2016.  It was only in January 2017 when I went with someone that I ventured below and took photos of the drainage outlet, and the wall in what should be front bullet-shaped part of the searchlight post.  Needless to say the evidence is now much stronger that this is the searchlight post shown in Peter’s diagrams.)

Watch YouTube video of the old searchlight emplacement here :

There you are!  The possible remains of the Fort Siloso searchlight (or one of them) that helped the British during the Sepoy Mutiny in 1915. Historically significant – Yes ? 🙂

A note of caution.  I don’t recommend people to go into the forest to look for the ruins as there is an element of danger and no visible trail.  Instead there are plants in the jungle with ants, and thorns (as long as an inch) that easily break off and become embedded in your flesh, (yes I’ve tried it  🙂  ); as well as vines that can trip you.  There are also dried twigs that can injure your eyes.  Also, the ground is sometimes not visible due to the undergrowth.  However most importantly, the ruins are located on a slope (watch the video) and if you are not careful, you could slip or trip and fall into the ravine.  Obviously it would be even more dangerous to go after a rain as the ground would be slippery.


I recently discovered there is another searchlight post that may have been the one (or one of them) that illuminated the area around 7 Royal Road and the Indian barracks in 1915.  This is mentioned as located at map reference 799053:

“In secret message from the G.O.C. Malaya to the Under-Secretary of State at the War Office on 22 April 1937 was:

…(b) the defence electric light on MOUNT SILOSO at 799053 can be moved to a point lower down the cliff (from which its arc is unchanged) to make a site for an Anti Motor Torpedo Boat equipment from which a satisfactory shoot can be got close to the South coast of BLAKANG MATI….”


I checked with Peter about the location of this searchlight at 799053 and he said it was probably this one (E. L. Empt No. 1):


Courtesy of British Museum:

ie near the present day Direction Tower/gun emplacement area:


The above map provided courtesy of Peter Stubbs shows calculations he made regarding the location of the searchlight at 799053 (ie at the vicinity of the existing Direction Tower/gun emplacement at Siloso Point.)

So this searchlight at 799053 existed in 1915, and was eventually replaced by the present day 3 searchlight posts on the beach between 1937 and 1941.  Was it possible for this searchlight to be swivelled to point towards 7 Royal Road or the Indian barracks?  If it could, would it have been blocked by the Labrador Park area?  ie could this searchlight have illuminated the area around 7 Royal Road/Indian barracks in 1915?  I don’t know.  I went to take another look at the Direction Tower/gun emplacement area but the view towards the mainland was blocked by trees.  (At present there is usually no access to the Direction Tower and the rest of Tunnel Complex A.)

Till next time!

Amazing Walker



A post on Tanglin Barracks and the mutiny has been published here:

Finally solving a 100-year-old mystery ?  A follow-up post about the 1915 Singapore Mutiny searchlights has been published :

Fort Siloso And The 1915 Singapore Mutiny


1)  After discovering that the 3 searchlight posts on the beach did not seem to point towards 7 Royal Road or might have been blocked by the Labrador Park area, I considered the possibility that they were not used to shine directly at 7 Royal Road surroundings and the Indian barracks, but indirectly – by providing “artificial moonlight” by bouncing their beams off clouds as had been done before during wartime.  Here is some info on searchlights and “artificial moonlight”:

“Early in the Second Boer War, Colonel Robert Baden-Powell improvised searchlights to deter night attacks on his lines during the Siege of Mafeking. Soon afterward Major Rookes Crompton led a detachment of the Electrical Engineers Volunteers to South Africa where they operated electric arc lamp S/Ls of his own design, the first use of such equipment by the RE on campaign. They provided a primitive ‘artificial moonlight’ by reflecting the searchlight beams from clouds.”


More info here:

1899 The army first used searchlights during the Boer War (1899-1902), for coastal defence and “artificial moonlight” for battlefield illumination by directing the beams at low level clouds.


Bouncing searchlight beams off low lying clouds is also mentioned here:

“The relentless attack continued through the night illuminated by eerie “artificial moonlight” created by bouncing searchlight beams off the low flying clouds.”

2)  At the moment “Tunnel A” is usually closed as it has been rented out to a company providing a laser combat experience (Tunnel Battle), which is available daily from 1030am to 5.30pm.   You might have better luck if you tell the staff you only want to visit the Direction Tower and gun emplacement and not the rest of “Tunnel A Complex”.  (I was told by a Tunnel Battle staff that the game does not involve the Direction Tower area.  However this Tunnel Battle game will cease in early March 2017 when parts of Fort Siloso will undergo renovations.)


3) Peter Stubbs wrote about Tunnel A and the Observation Post, as well as the searchlight I came across (shown in plans as early as 1885), online here:

Tunnel A:

The early searchlight:

At the time of writing this blog post, the website states that :

“LEFT: By 1911 the temporary Electric Light Emplacement had gone, and two new Electric Light Emplacements had been constructed to replace it.”

Apparently the searchlight post I came across in the forest was no longer shown in maps by 1911 but 2 others were shown instead.  However as I quoted Peter earlier:

“I’m fairly sure that it still will have been there in 1915.  At that time there were two machine guns in the Fort defending the harbour entrance.  There must have been a searchlight for any night engagement.”

ie there must have been a searchlight facing north, and that is why he believes this was the 1915 searchlight.

As the ruins I came across have potentially significant historical and heritage value, I think it would be good for a historian/archaeologist to take a look and perhaps do a dig.  What do you think?  🙂

4)  The following remains of walls at the top of the staircase leading down to the Direction Tower and gun emplacement are the ruins of “Infantry Post No. 1” shown in the old map.



Watch Youtube video of the old infantry emplacement here:

PS.  Why did I not go down to take a closer look at the ruins of the searchlight post when I first came across them?  If truth be told, I was sorely tempted and could imagine myself gliding down with a smirk – like James Bond or Indiana Jones.  However I was alone, and my brain automatically kicked into action – what if?  It eventually computed 2 likely outcomes:  (a) I could trip – and tumble down the ravine like Humpty Dumpty; and (b) I could slip – and sprain an ankle (or two) and not be able to climb out of that place.  Neither of these scenarios appealed to me.  However I WAS sorely tempted, and seriously considered (for a full 10 seconds) going down.  However in the end Wisdom (cowardice?) prevailed when I was reminded – “Better a living fool, than a dead idiot”.  With that I gladly scampered off, without a smirk, but with my head held high…   🙂

11 Leaves, an Old House and A Tree … a lesson about life


Oxley Road. Nowadays this road is particularly famous among Singaporeans because of number 38 Oxley Road, the family home of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who was the Prime Minister for many years from 1959 and who passed away on 23 Mar 2015 at the age of 92.  At present Mr Lee’s daughter Dr Lee Wei Ling still lives there.  Indeed it was because I wanted to see this house that I went to Oxley Road, and by so doing, stumbled upon a large compound with the ruins of an old bungalow. This is the story of that surprising discovery and the lesson about life that it showed me.  Perhaps it will be meaningful to you as well.

First, some history about the road…

Oxley Road was named after the colony’s surgeon – Dr Thomas Oxley (1805 – 1886).

In 1837, he bought 173 acres of jungle land from the East India Company and turned it into a nutmeg plantation, naming it Killiney Estate (It was also known as Oxley Estate).


The above map shows Dr Thomas Oxley’s nutmeg plantation.  It was bounded by Orchard Road, Grange Road, Leonie Hill Road, River Valley Road and Tank Road. In 1842 Dr Oxley built his own house on Oxley Hill and named it Killiney House (located at the present day Bella Vue Residences at 15 Oxley Walk).

However in the 1850s, the nutmeg plantation was failing and Dr Oxley began to dispose of his land in lots for building houses. By 1862, there were 38 houses within the estate, mostly along St Thomas Walk and the area between Killiney and Oxley Roads.

Oxley Road Today


(Above shows junction of Oxley Rise and Oxley Road) Care for a seat ? 🙂



The above from google street view of Oxley Road shows a road barrier, and below it is how the barriers look like today.  I was told by a long time resident of the area that the barriers on both ends of the stretch would be closed from midnight to the next morning and those who needed to drive in and out during that time would have to get the Gurkhas manning them to open up for them.



The above from google street view shows the famous 38 Oxley Road (formerly known as “Castor”), the way it used to be guarded by Gurkhas, and below it is how it looks like today.

In the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s book “The Singapore Story”, he wrote:

“With the Japanese gone, my mother and I looked for a suitable place to move into.  In Oxley Road, we came across two identical houses – Numbers 38 and 40 – built by a Jewish merchant, who named them Castor and Pollux.  They were empty except for some heavy furniture, and we decided to make a bid for the tenancy for Number 38…”

Online at:


The above portion from an old map shows 38 Oxley Road (CASTOR – The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s house), 40 Oxley Road (POLLUX – which has now been subdivided into 40, 42 and 44 Oxley Road), and the then 42/42A Oxley Road  – the old house we are referring to.


The above photo shows the old house I stumbled upon (formerly 42 Oxley Road), next to present day 44 Oxley Road on the right.


Photo of Oxley Road bungalow © Lee Kip Lin Collection, courtesy National Library Board, 2009

Above is a 1968 picture from the Lee Kip Lin collection that seems to show how the house looked like before it was demolished.  The information about the picture says simply “Oxley Road bungalow: side view” with no mention about the house number.  However there is a remarkable resemblance to the present day ruins.


See what I mean?  🙂

From the old picture one can see a sloping driveway and steps to the left which still exist in these ruins.  The old picture shows the front building with green timber posts.  There is also at least one other building behind it and the last building has a grass patch next to it.  The picture also seems to show a white wall at the end of the compound.

But what especially piqued my interest in the old photo are a few low lying leaves visible at the left edge of the photo.


The rest of the tree is not visible.  This is the reason for the title of this post. But first lets take a look at the existing sloping driveway, steps and floor slabs of the building and how they correspond to the picture.


The above picture shows the first staircase from the driveway going down towards the left.


The above picture shows the first staircase viewed from the other side.

Below are some other pictures of the ruins:


Floor tiles.




The above pictures show part of the back of the compound.


The above shot of the front of the compound looks like Fort Canning yes?  Nice place for a wedding photo 🙂


Back to the front entrance.

You will remember I mentioned the few leaves at the left edge of the old photo from a hidden tree.  Well interestingly, today there is a tall large tree located at roughly the spot where that tree could have stood.


A tree whose leaves appear to be of the same shape as seen in the old photo.  The Parks department say this should be a mango tree but unfortunately they cannot estimate its age.  Could this be the same tree? Wishful thinking perhaps. But having said that, it is interesting to consider the possibility, that some trees that were here when the photo was taken in 1968…are still here today.

And, if this tree standing in the midst of ruins really is the one in the photo; isn’t it a testament? A symbol of RESILIENCE & SURVIVAL amidst a troubled and crumbling world?  It reminds me that although the 2nd world war brought suffering and death, some survived – including my late parents.  “Luck” plays a part in who survives (and in what condition) and who doesn’t, but so do the decisions one makes.

This tree reminds me to make the best use of life’s opportunities even when faced with hardship, heartache, and fears of uncertainty.

Till next time.

Amazing Walker


•  Photo of leaves of Oxley Road bungalow © Lee Kip Lin Collection, courtesy National Library Board, 2015


  • Janice Loo, Associate Librarian who got me a better resolution picture in the end. (The file size is too big to post in this blog post and I used it mainly to get a clearer image of the leaves at the left of the old picture.)
  • Jennie from Nparks plant info unit for helping to identify the type of tree, and the staff at Botanic Gardens who were extremely helpful.  A credit to the park.


See a video of the old house on youtube here:


•  SINGAPORE: A PICTORIAL HISTORY, 1819 – 2000 (by Gretchen Liu)

(National library: 959.57 LIU)

Excerpt online here:

•  THE SINGAPORE HOUSE 1819 – 1942.  (by Lee Kip Lin)

(National Library: 728.095957 LEE)

Excerpt online here:

•  Online article about early nutmeg plantations in Singapore:

Singapore 1915 Sepoy Mutiny and Alexandra Barracks

Alexandra Park is a beautiful area with beautiful colonial black and white bungalows, rolling hills and heritage trees. But while many are aware of the heritage buildings of S P Jain School of Global Management’s campus at 10 Hyderabad Road that were built in 1935, (as well as the fact that Alexandra Hospital was opened in 1940 and was the site of a world war 2 massacre), few are aware that there are buildings and terrain features in the vicinity that go back more than 100 years.  If you read testimonies about the 1915 mutiny, some intriguing questions will come to mind – for instance in what kind of “pool” near the hospital did Sub-Asst Surgeon Asher Varthun hide from the mutineers in 1915?  Where was this hospital located?  Where was Normanton Barracks?  Where was the parade square in Alexandra Barracks?  How does it look like today?  Where was the “swamp” that existed in Alexandra Barracks?  Does it still exist?  The answers may surprise you!

In this post I will take you on a tour of such places, and show you with the help of photos, old maps as well as descriptions/testimonies of the 1915 Singapore Mutiny, the location where significant events of the mutiny occurred and how these places look like today.  (Not quite Indiana Jones, but close ! 🙂 ).  (Note that I have included references to the quotes I included because fact is more interesting than fiction, and so that you can do your own reading.)  Anyway hold on to your hats – and enjoy the tour!


The mutiny started some time after 3pm on 15 Feb 1915 during the Chinese New Year holiday at the “Quarter Guard”.

It involved about half – about 400 of the 5th Light Infantry who were stationed at Alexandra Barracks (present day Alexandra Park) as well as some from the Malay States Guides who were camped to the south of Alexandra Barracks. The mutineers took ammunition, and then some went along Pasir Panjang Road towards the harbour and city. Another group went to Tanglin Barracks to free the German POWs and tried unsuccessfully to enlist their help. Yet another group of mutineers went to attack the old Alexandra Hospital, and then on to the Normanton Barracks. The mutineers later besieged their Commanding Officer’s (LTC Martin) bungalow at present day 7 Royal Road. However, whatever may have been their goals, the mutineers were defeated and rounded up within a matter of days with the help of men from many nations, including Russians, French, Japanese and the Sultan of Johore (Sultan Ibrahim).

(Note to readers : I suggest you open the maps in separate browser tabs so you can toggle between maps and the narrative without losing your way.)






The above 1910 map (Sht 2) shows the eastern half of Alexandra Barracks, and the old Alexandra Hospital at the top edge.

( Source: The British Library Sht 2 )


Click for google earth here:


The above shows google map with annotations for the post.


The quarter guard was located at the entrance to the camp ie Hyderabad Road next to Alexandra Road.

What was the Quarter Guard ?

“In the Indian Army the quarter guard is the main point of security arrangements for the army camp/garrison Regimental depot. The regimental colours, the armoury and the treasury would be kept in this building. In addition to this the quarter guard also has a lock up often in the guardhouse to hold soldiers charged with minor crimes (absent without leave, drunkenness being among the usual crimes).

…The Armoury is a part of the quarter guard.”



The above is a ZOOMED portion of map Sht 2 showing the Quarter Guard on the right

The mutineers took ammunition from the magazine (S A A STORE in the map), the quarter guard (perhaps the GUARD AND DETENTION ROOM in the map), as well as from the lorry onto which small arms ammunition was being loaded. This was while it was parked in front of the Quarter Master’s store (QR MRS STORE in the map). (see “Secret documents on Singapore Mutiny 1915 – Dr T R Sareen pg 28 for Report in connection of the mutiny of the Court of Enquiry. Also Testimony of Naik Sazawar Khan, in Sareen pg 55)

Notes :


According to the armourer in his testimony during the Court of Inquiry, the mutineers told him to go to break open the “treasure chest” (presumably containing money) but he did not do so. (see Sareen pg 114, 73 etc)(pg 717 of  “The Quarterly Indian Army List – January 1919, Vol 2 mentions the position of “Treasure Chest Offr” in the Indian Army).  Also the Report mentions LTC Martin reply under cross-examination : Q. What about the regimental treasury chests? How many were there and what did they contain? A. There were two chests, a regimental and a private one…$210 in the public chest and $920 in the private chest…The private chest was broken open and $920 was looted.  The other had an attack made on it, but it was not a successful one.  It was recovered by me with the money intact” (see Sareen pg 609).  Interestingly, there is also mention of a chest (see Sareen pg 557) containing “500 rounds of Mark VI, Small Arms Ammunition, in charge of the guard commander.  This was kept in an iron safe, the keys of which the guard commander kept.  This was ammunition which had come in late the night before and had been given in by detachments relieved from posts.  As far as I know, the safe keys were never recovered : the safe was found broken open.” 

“FOLLOWER QRS” – what was it?

“FOLLOWER: Indian units had a complement of non-combatants that would follow the unit around the cantonment towns of India and on campaign.”


The Quarter Guard area today (within the grounds of S P Jain campus) :



It was located at the present day Alexandra Hospital. (The Office and General Ward blocks were located at the present day Alexandra Hospital sports field.


The above is s ZOOMED view of a portion of 1910 map Sht 2 showing the hospital.


“I was hiding in a pool of water with my head under water up to my ears…The pool was half a mile from the hospital, between Normanton Barracks and Tanglin…” – Testimony of Sub-Asst Surgeon Asher Varthun. (Sareen pg 152)


The above 1925 Singapore map shows the old Alexandra Hospital still in existence, and a large area of swampy land (fed by water from Sungei Alexandra) towards the west of it.

If the surgeon had hid in a swampy pond towards the northern end, he would have been roughly between Normanton Barracks and Tanglin.


The swampy pond above is within the swampy area in the 1925 map and is between Normanton Barracks and Alexandra Hospital. Perhaps it was in such a “pool” that Asher Varthun hid.


MAJ Cotton, CPT Ball and CPT Boyce were moving eastwards, pass the Indian officer quarters to investigate when they were fired upon. Remembering that the Malay States Volunteer Rifles (MSVR) were camped at Normanton Barracks (North-West of Alexandra Barracks), they fled towards it to warn the soldiers. However they knew they would likely be shot if they went by the direct route through the vicinity of the parade square, (this was later verified by Mrs Cotton who related that she saw mutineers waiting at the Parade Square area to ambush), so they went in a south-westerly direction and passed the Adult School (Testimony of CPT Ball, Sareen pg 422), then westward along Hyderabad Rd and then present day Canterbury Rd.


The above ZOOMED image from map Sht 2 shows the Parade Square, Indian Officer Quarters, Adult School etc


Today there are houses, (eg 1 Cornwall Rd and 1A Berkshire Rd) bushes and trees occupying parts of the site. However the area is still level/flat as one would expect from a parade square.


Parade Square – The above photo was taken from vicinity of junction of Berkshire/Cornwall Road


Parade Square – The above photo shows front lawn of 1 Cornwall Rd


Parade Square – The above photo was taken from behind 1 Cornwall Rd



The above photo is of 7A Hyderabad Road located at/near the site of the Adult School. This does not appear to be the original building.  (Do you know why I say this?)

They were shot at from the Indian Officer Quarters until they passed the bend along present day Canterbury Road below/behind the CO’s bungalow. They then went down through the swamp, pass the Officer Mess, the range, and then turned right to Normanton Barracks.







The above 1910 map (Sht 1)shows the western half of Alexandra Barracks

ZOOMABLE map here:

Click for google earth here:



The above photo shows a possible point along Canterbury Rd below the CO’s bungalow (7 Royal Rd) after which MAJ Cotton, CPT Ball and CPT Boyce, were shielded by the hill and LTC Martin’s bungalow, from fire originating from the Indian Officer quarters towards the east. (see Sareen pg 403, 422)


There are many references to the swamp/swampy ground below the CO bungalow/Officer Mess in testimonies/reports of the 1915 Mutiny. eg. Testimony of Naik Abbas Khan : “I got separated…when crossing the marshy ground to the west of the Commanding Officer’s bungalow.” (Sareen pg 177). MAJ Cotton: “We ran along the ridge behind the Indian officers’ quarters and from thence into the swampy ground below the Commanding Officer’s bungalow, thence below the spur on which the Mess House is situated across the range…thence into Normanton Barracks. .” (Sareen pg 386). An example of testimony of the swamp being below the Officer Mess is from CPT Ball (Sareen pg 404)



The above photos shows the swamp (or what remains of it). It is west of CO’s bungalow (7 Royal Rd) and between the CO’s bungalow and the Officer Mess. The ground here today, including parts of the slope is always spongy and water-logged.


The targets and butts were on the south west side. Traffic along Ayer Rajah Rd would have been much lighter than it is today and so it would presumably have been easy to close the affected section when there was shooting practice.


The above is zoomed image of part of the range from Sht 1.


The barracks consisted of 2 long parallel buildings “20 or 40 yards or 60 apart…bounded on the side nearest to the Alexandra Barracks by a very tall bamboo hedge…a party of the mutineers had come to…bamboo hedge…peered through…decided to leave MSVR alone.” (Testimony of Malcolm Bond Shelley who was a LTA in the Malay States Volunteer Rifles. See Sareen pg 799)


The above is ZOOMED section of 1910 Map Sht 1 showing Normanton Barracks


The above photo shows an area beside present day AYE. The track to Normanton Barracks probably went through here, curving towards the left corner. The barracks would have been somewhere between the tree line and the present day Jln Hang Jebat.


The above photo shows the heritage colonial houses beside Jln Hang Jebat.

Info on the houses by the National Heritage Board can be found here:


The above photo shows one of the flight of steps behind the houses along Jalan Hang Jebat, leading up the slope towards the jungle where Normanton Barracks was earlier located. (It is highly unlikely that there are any remains of the barracks as the buildings were apparently made of wood.  Also, in 1942  the Malay Regiment which distinguished itself at the Battle of Pasir Panjang was stationed at Normanton Camp which I presume was at the same site or nearby.  As far as I know nothing remains. But who knows ! 🙂 )


There is an interesting account from the Straits Times of 26April1915 about the MSVR (Malay States Volunteer Rifles), online here:

It describes how CPT Ball, and then MAJ Cotton and CPT Hall came to Normanton Barracks to warn the MSVR, and how they later went to protect the CO’s bungalow.

“83 strong…We fell in and took up positions behind the 700 yds range…and advanced in open order up the hill upon which the officers’ mess stands, opposite to our camp”

Alexandra former firing range 1024
Former Normanton firing range at Alexandra Barracks

The above photo was taken from AYE towards Normanton Range (present day Normanton Park) and the officer mess on the hill (out of sight). Note that there were Oil Tanks built years later, but not at this portion of the range.  Interestingly today there seem to be parallel ridges/mounds here.  Are they the remains of man-made firing points from 100 years ago?  (Take a walk there and decide for yourself. 🙂 ).



Interestingly, the present tennis courts (above) are located where the tennis courts were in the 1910 map.



Photo above of the Officer Mess (8 Winchester Rd)


“…We had then to descend into a valley and up another hill upon which, COL Martin’s bungalow stands…



The above are photos of the valley, (“Ravine” as marked on the 1910 map sht 1) taken from present day Winchester Road.


The above is another view from below Officer Mess at present day Winchester Road towards CO bungalow on the hill in the distance.

“…and up another hill, upon which COL Martin’s bungalow stands…”

(You will know what was being referred to when you walk between Officer Mess and CO house.)



Above Photo of a heritage Bodhi tree just below the back of CO’s bungalow


Above is ZOOMED section of 1910 map Sht 1 showing CO’s bungalow (7 Royal Rd) with stables at the back (ie on the north-west)


The above photo shows former stables on the right when approaching 7 Royal Road from the back (ie from direction of Officer Mess)


Above photo shows old drain behind 7 Royal Road (CO’s house)


Above is 7 Royal Road (CO LTC Martin’s house) taken from the front entrance with former stables on the right.

During the siege, LTC Martin asked Fort Siloso to use the searchlights to illuminate the area beside his bungalow. (Would you like to know the location of the searchlight at Fort Siloso?  So would I and I will try to write another post about this – if time permits.)(Update: read about the latest investigation into this here and earlier investigation here.)


Above photo of heritage tree on south-east of 7 Royal Rd. Behind this tree is a gap in the bushes leading to the other side (back of the house).


Photo above of short cut from front to the back of 7 Royal Rd (behind the heritage tree)



Photo above of 6 Royal Rd, MAJ Cotton’s bungalow (marked as FO’s QRS NO. 1 on 1910 map Sht 1).

The photo shows the gap under the house where Mrs Cotton hid from the mutineers before she was brought to the CO’s bungalow on 15 Feb 1915. Note that the house marked as FO’S QRS NO. 2 was MAJ Stooks’s but no longer exists.  Today, 2 York Road stands roughly where MAJ Stooks house was, but it was built years later. Do you know why I say this?  Go take a look and decide for yourself !

At the CO’s bungalow on 15 Feb 1915:

“the language on the verandah was delightful…” until Mrs Cotton exclaimed “What dreadful language these men are using.”

Even at the height of the firing, LTC Martin’s Chinese servants were walking about serving tea etc, utterly indifferent to the firing, partly due to their “national stoicism”, and partly because PTE Huxley had assured them that “the whole show was nothing but main main.”

Meanwhile LTC Charles William Brownlow, a veteran army officer in India and now CO of Royal Garrison Artillery, with a hastily assembled mixed force of men from the HMS Cadmus, Royal Artillery personnel and untrained civilians under CPT Edwin Arthur Brown, was tasked with confronting the mutineers.

Brown had brought written instructions to Brownlow to assume a defensive position, but experience told Brownlow that he needed to seize the initiative and proceed towards Alexandra Barracks to break the siege on LTC Martin’s bungalow.

Brown, in his book “Singapore Mutiny” describes how Brownlow reacted to the instruction and arrived at his decision to attack the mutineers :

Brown Pg 125: When I delivered this written document to Brownlow at the corner of Alexandra Road and Pasir Panjang Road, …and after he had read it, he handed the message to me. He gave me a chance to read it again, looked at me, and said “Brown, you have never seen this message, have you?”, and I, feeling that there was something funny about his remark, and guessing what was toward, said promptly “No, Sir.” Brownlow then quietly and deliberately tore up the paper, held it in the flame of the little lamp till it had burnt away, and said, “That is over then, we shall attack from here as soon as it is light enough.”

Brown also describes the untrained state of the civilians under his command as “most of whom had never had a rifle in their hands before, of which they gave ample proof later on…” (Brown pg 46)

“Now Kemp and I were walking in the middle of the road…when there was a “bang” in front of our toes…The thing that made us extra angry was the foolishness of the idiot for pointing his rifle into the middle of the road where we were walking, instead of into the scrub on his right…I am writing this, to say that we were safer with our rifles unloaded than with them ready for action…” (Brown Pg 57). This reminds me of a SAFRA advert a few years ago (prominently pasted in MRT stations) showing a section commander pointing his rifle at the buttocks of one of his men who was lying prone in front of him. The reader will please forgive me for not posting the picture here, thereby embarrassing SAFRA. (However I did post the photo on facebook. 🙂 ). But back to the story.

According to CPT Hall’s testimony (Sareen pg464), Brownlow’s force were advancing towards LTC Martin’s bungalow in “successive lines”, when mutineers fired from the south. Hall then took a megaphone and shouted to the advancing party, “left form!” (pivot towards the left) which they did and drove the mutineers off.

The MSVR narrative also describes how Brownlow’s force drove off the mutineers,”dancing and yelping with delight” as they drove the mutineers “helter skelter like the Gadarene swine down the valley in the front of us…”

The narrative then relates rumours of the plans mutineers had of killing the 5th Light Infantry officers, MSVR officers; as well as men of MSVR as they rested/ate dinner at Normanton Barracks, before going on to Tanglin, Orchard road –

“…Then on to Government House to transfer His Excellency to a better world than this. The whole to wind up with an orgy of murder in Singapore. This intelligence did not sweeten our tempers with our kind friends….”

After the siege was broken, the British retreated to the harbour. It was only the next day that Alexandra and Normanton Barracks were secured.

For those interested in our history/historical places, reports/testimonies about the 1915 mutiny also mention many other places of interest, eg P&O wharves, Tanglin Barracks, Woodneuk, Outram Road Prison, Sepoy Lines, the former Central Police Station along South Bridge Rd, Alexandra police station, Government House, Fort Canning, Orchard Rd police station, the old Drill Hall along Beach Rd, Raffles Hotel, the Padang, Johnston’s Pier, Jardine steps etc. Happy hunting!

(I think the National Heritage Board should consider doing a documentary or series of documentaries about the mutiny in conjunction with the annual Heritage Festival, especially in relation to Alexandra Park. It will add a layer of heritage info and places to visit for locals and tourists alike.)



MO’S QRS NO. 4, is today 6 Russells Rd. The so called Plantation House.


According to Julian Davison in his book BLACK AND WHITE: THE SINGAPORE HOUSE, 1898-1941, this house was in existence since at least 1905.

Other than this Plantation House, the Officer Mess (8 Winchester Rd), CO’s bungalow (7 Royal Rd) and MAJ Cotton’s bungalow (6 Royal Rd), I don’t know of any buildings that survived from 1910/1915.  Do you? 🙂



The above photo taken from present day Canterbury Road shows area where there was a disused miniature range


According to the Singapore Scout Association website:

“1915 Scouts rendered service to the Government and the people during the Sepoy Mutiny by taking over from the Army and Police Force duties of telephone operators, dispatch riders and clerks etc.”


When reading about the mutiny you will come across many names of people.  The following list will help you know who is who:

5th Light Infantry

Lieutenant Colonel Edward Victor Martin (CO)

Major William Lewis Cotton (2IC)

Captain Lionel Romer Ball double company commander

Captain William D Hall double company commander

Captain P Boyce double company commander (killed after he separated from MAJ Cotton and CPT Ball)

Lieutenant H S Elliot company commander (killed)

Lieutenant Wyndham George Strover (Adjutant)(company commander)

Lieutenant E M Malone (Quatermaster)

Lieutenant R V Morrison (Medical Officer)

(The 5th Light Infantry was disbanded in 1922.)

Malay States Volunteer Rifles

Captain Sydney Smith (OC of the detachment)

Malay States Guides

Captain M F A Maclean (Battery Commander) – one of the 1st to be killed by the mutineers


Lieutenant Colonel Charles William Brownlow CO of Royal Garrison Artillery.

Gen Officer Commanding, Singapore Brigadier Gen Dudley Howard Ridout

Governor Straits Settlements Sir Arthur Henderson Young

Singapore Volunteer Corps

Captain Edwin A Brown

Arrived in Singapore in Jan 1901 aged 23 to work for German firm called Brinkmanns. Eventually promoted to Major and awarded the Volunteer Decorations medal. Served 13yrs as Municipal Commissioner, music promoter and was successful businessman. Interned in Changi during WW2.  Died 1955. His wife Mary died during internment in Sumatra during WW2. Plaque in St Andrews Cathedral.

More info online about Edwin A Brown:

Info about Mrs Mary Brown: Film “Paradise Road”. Book: “Women Beyond the Wire” (National library ref: 940.547252095981WAR Central library lvl 11)


1.  Secret documents on Singapore Mutiny 1915 – Dr T R Sareen

(National library ref: 940.41354SAR. Central library 11th Level)

2.  Singapore Mutiny – Mary Brown & Edwin Arthur Brown

(National library ref 959.5703BRO)

3.  Singapore Mutiny (Published 1984)

R W E Harper & Harry Miller

(National library ref: 355.13340959HAR. Central library 11th Level)

4.  Black and white: the Singapore house, 1898-1941. Julian Davison 2006, 2014

(National library ref: 728.37095957DAV)

5.  Alexandra Hospital – Jeff Partridge

(National Library ref: 362.11095957PAR Central library 11th Level)

6.  World War One In Southeast Asia: Colonialism and Anticolonialism in an Era of Global Conflict – Heather Streets-Salter

(National Library ref: 940.359STR)

On the causes of the mutiny:

Pg 52 ” As imperfect as the final report may have been, it was nevertheless far more balanced than the public explanations offered by the British metropolitan government and the government of Singapore in the immediate aftermath of the mutiny. In fact, the final report from the court of inquiry was never publicly released, which gave British authorities the opportunity to “spin” the event for their own purposes. The public explanation of the mutiny, therefore, was significantly different from the version reconstructed by the court of inquiry.

…And because the report of the court of inquiry was never made public and was only declassified in 1965, the official version of the mutiny as a purely local affair has cast a long shadow over later interpretations.”

Hints on visiting Alexandra Park:

How to get there: take Yellow line MRT to Labrador station. Then walk to bus stop along Alexandra Rd outside the ARC. Alight at 2nd bus stop, ie at SP Jain school.

There are toilet facilities and a drinking fountain at Hort Park. (Advise you to carry at least 1.5 litres of water. If you go in the evening please bring insect repellent.)

In Closing:

I do not claim to be a historian or expert in anything, but merely an ordinary person interested in history and historical sites. My purpose of writing about Alexandra Barracks and the 1915 Singapore Sepoy Mutiny is to share with you things I discovered (freely receive, freely give). I hope it will make your “walk in the park” more interesting, and perhaps kindle an interest in Singapore’s heritage. Indeed, sometimes there are interesting stories hidden in plain sight.

Please feel free to share your thoughts, and your own discoveries by writing in the comments section. Thanks and bye for now !

Amazing Walker


The blog post about the searchlight has been published.  Click here to read it :  

A blog post about Tanglin Barracks and the mutiny has been published here:

Finally solving a 100-year-old mystery ?  The second post on the Fort Siloso searchlight has been published :