Battle of Pasir Panjang Commemorative Walk 2009 Review

Steely Eyed Warrior
Steely Eyed Warrior

Saturday 14 February, Valentine’s Day & Chinese New Year Eve.

Sunday 15 February, Chinese New Year.

The year was 1942.

Those festive occasions were probably far from most people’s minds as Singapore was on the brink of surrender.

They were most likely the least of the Malay Regiment’s concerns as they fought to hold Pasir Panjang Ridge – the present Kent Ridge.

So, the Pasir Panjang Guides gathered with a 50-strong group of diverse participants to commemorate the battle on 14 Feb – incidentally a Saturday this year.

Participants and guides gathered as dawn broke. We can only imagine what it must have been like 67 years ago at the site of the University Cultural Centre, where the Battle of Pasir Panjang began on the morning of 13 Feb.

It is quiet and peaceful as Siva introduced the walk, the battle and the guides to the participants. There were history students, biology students, a PhD candidate, educators and administrative staff from NUS, a group of eager tour guides and other members of the public.

Our route roughly corresponded with the retreat of the Malay Regiment, from where the battle began to their final stand at Bukit Chandu (Opium Hill). We followed Kent Ridge Crescent and climbed up the stairs near the Central Library to reach one end of Kent Ridge Road.

The road is lined with vegetation which is typical of the ridge, so participants got to hear more about the unique group of flora which populates this area. By the end of the walk, we heard a few participants identifying plants by their scientific names, so they were definitely listening.

In fact, a lot of them were taking notes! That is to be expected from a group which is dominated by our campus community.

We then set off to a well-hidden place, one of the few visible reminders that the Ridge was part of a sprawling military installation. This is a nice reward for the participants who dragged themselves out of bed before sunrise. This place is small, so we split into three groups.

The observation post which was built not long before World War II never fails to capture invoke a sense of wonder.

There's a caterpillar there

Besides looking at flora and buildings, we also chanced upon a few animals. The caterpillar above caught our attention, with its shape and colour enabling it to blend into the background.

Back on Kent Ridge Road, the walk continued and we took our traditional photo, which you can see at the bottom of the post. As we walked out of campus, we pointed out a plaque – another little-known part of Kent Ridge – which commemorates the renaming of Pasir Panjang Ridge to Kent Ridge.

A quick walk through Science Park Drive brought us to Kent Ridge Park and Normanton Park Estate. This used to be an oil depot, which was a significant part of the battle story.

Our walk in the park brought us to higher ground, eventually to a lookout point which gave a commanding view of the Southern Islands. Unfortunately, it was quite hazy, so we had to make do with a limited view. Still, it was enough to impress upon everyone why the ridge is important – you can see Singapore City, the southern coast, Bukit Timah and large swathes of the island from up here.

Almost at the end of the walk, we were assaulted by a brief shower. We took cover in one of the gazebos near the Canopy Walk. We brought the focus back to the Malay Regiment as we were reaching the place of their last stand against the Japanese.

Fortunately, the shower passed, and we made our way to Reflections at Bukit Chandu.

After nearly five hours, the guides bade farewell to the participants. Those who still had energy – and many were still bright and cheery after the long walk in sun and rain – explored the World War II Interpretive Centre, where they pondered on the sacrifice of the Malay Regiment.

Group photo
The Traditional Group in the Mirror Photo

– Kenneth Pinto

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