“Why are these Punjabi soldiers marching in fours instead of threes,” wondered Second Lieutenant Adnan bin Saidi from the C Company of the 1st Malay Regiment. Upon realizing that these soldiers were Japanese soldiers disguised as Punjabi soldiers, Second Lieutenant Adnan immediately ordered his troops to open fire with their Lewis machine guns and eventually killing and wounding some of the Japanese soldiers.
This was one of the heroic exploits of Second Lieutenant Adnan bin Saidi during the Battle of Pasir Panjang between 13 and 14 February 1942 that our guides from the National University of Singapore History Society (HISSOC) shared with our tour participants.
In commemoration of the 73rd Anniversary of the Battle for Singapore and the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Singapore, NUS History Society collaborated with the National Heritage Board (NHB) to bring to the public a guided tour ‘Tales of the Opium Hill’ at Bukit Chandu. It took place in the evenings of Fridays and Saturdays over two weeks in February.
The tour started off at the entrance of Pepys Road, along Pasir Panjang Road as the guides started the tour with the history of Bukit Chandu and also pointing out on the existence of a Malay kampong at Bukit Chandu called Cherry Tree Mosque Kampong, which was still around till the 1980s.
As we made our way up Bukit Chandu, the guides shared on the history of the Malay Regiment as well as the 18th Infantry Division led by General Renya Mutaguchi. The military and strategic importance of Pasir Panjang and Alexandra area during WWII was also given due coverage so that our participants could make sense of the Battle of Pasir Panjang against this backdrop later on.
As we approached car park ‘C’, the guides began to narrate how the Japanese soldiers started their attack on Pasir Panjang Ridge on 13th February 1942 and due to the use of tanks and the overwhelming Japanese forces, the Malay Regiment which was tasked to defend the ridge was forced to withdraw to Bukit Chandu, point 226. At Bukit Chandu, the Malay Regiment took their last stand against the Japanese troops as they fought valiantly, resorting to hand-to-hand combat when there was no ammunition left. If we were to mentally reconstruct the battle scene, we would hear the Malay Regiment troops shouting, “Ta’at Setia!” (meaning “Loyal and True”) while the Japanese soldiers rushed up the hill of Bukit Chandu shouting, “Banzai!” (in short, meaning Long Live the Emperor).
We then proceeded to Reflections at Bukit Chandu, a WWII Interpretative centre housed in a restored black and white colonial bungalow, where our guides pointed out the roll of honour and also showed our participants a replica (etched into the tempered glass) of the famous oil painting by Mr Hossein Enas, depicting the Battle of Pasir Panjang.
Next, we were privileged to have volunteers from the SAF Veterans League to bring our participants around in Reflections at Bukit Chandu. The participants were first led to watch a ‘sound spectacular’ called Sounds of Battle that helps participants to mentally recreate the scenario of the Battle of Bukit Chandu. Following that, the volunteers from the SAF Veterans League shared with us their valuable experiences during Singapore’s early days as a nation such as during Konfrontasi. They also reminded us of the lessons learnt from World War II and also during the turbulent times when Singapore was struggling to survive. Below is a short reflection piece by one of our guides, Shan Wei, after listening to the sharing done by the SAF Veterans.
“It was certainly an honour to able to hear the first-hand from the veterans of the SAF Veterans League. Hearing them share their accounts of Konfrontasi, the riots of the early 60s and the early days of nation building was, without a doubt, enlightening. While those of our generation would never fully understand the tough times that preceded us, talking to these pioneers made us rethink what we take for granted everyday – mingling freely with friends of other races, traveling without restrictions to neighboring Malaysia or Indonesia for holidays and even whining “why must we serve?” when it’s time for us boys to serve the nation. It’s amazing to think how these living legends share these amazing stories with us now, with a laugh, but I would have imagined it certainly was no laughing matter back then. I would like to once again, thank LTC(Ret.) Sadar Ali, MAJ(Ret.) Ashim, MAJ(Ret.) Tommy Wong, MAJ(Ret.) Peter Loh, CPT(Ret.) Zainal, 2WO(Ret.) James Chua and 2WO(Ret.) Tina for their service! Singapore salutes you!” – Guo Shan Wei
With that, we would like to thank National Heritage Board (NHB) for giving us this opportunity to be part of their list of guided tours and commemorative activities for Battle for Singapore this year again (HISSOC did it last year as well). Our appreciation also goes out to the volunteers from the SAF Veterans League! It was also a pleasure to meet and share our knowledge with the public and we hope that you have gained a little nugget of Singapore’s history from us.
For more photos of the tours, you may visit our NUS History Society Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/nushissoc