Sat 9th Feb 2019 – some 70 members of the public with a special passion for heritage gathered before dawn to commemorate the Battle of Pasir Panjang. Fought through the ridge 77 years ago, it would be the last two days before Singapore fell on 15th Feb 2019.
We traced the steps of the Malay Regiment as they held off the Imperial Japanese Army, and then were forced into a desperate and retreating battle. We began, as they did, at the junction of Ayer Rajah Road and Reformatory Road – what is today Ayer Rajah Expressway and Clementi Road.
We remembered the observations of Penrod Dean before we set off:
The Malays started to fight the Japanese on Reformatory Road,” said Lt. Penrod V. Dean of the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion. “They had dug slit trenches but they didn’t have a lot of weapons. They started fighting the Japanese just with rifles virtually. And when the Japanese broke through them, the Malays took to them with bayonets, they put bayonets on the rifles and with a bayonet charge they drove the Japanese back across Reformatory Road.”
“They were very brave people. They fought very hard, but for every Malay soldier there was about 10 or 12 Japanese soldiers. So it was inevitable what was going to happen.” [link]
After the 7.00am briefing amidst a grove of Gelam trees next to the NUS University Cultural Centre, we made our way up the ridge, onto Kent Ridge Road, past The Gap into Kent Ridge Park and finally Bukit Chandu.
Along the way, we shared stories of the battle, interweaved with the history, geography and biology of the ridge. This year – also the 200th anniversary of modern Singapore’s founding – the recurring theme was a biologist view of human behaviour: from expanding civilisations to colonialism, World War 2 and beyond: the exploitation and manipulation of humanity by a minority of their own kind.
But importantly, we took heart by remembering these men who had been banded together, who faced impossible odds, fought on these grounds beyond the call of king or country, neither for creed nor ethnicity but simply for each other.
- by Kenneth Pinto on Habitatnews Flickr,
also on Pasir Panjang Heritage Facebook page
- by MJ Photography on Facebook