For many years, I have always wondered what lies beyond the NUSS Guild House located at 7 Adam Road but somehow, I never did get the chance to explore the 19 black-and-white colonial houses that make up the Adam Park estate. Lady luck was on my side when I found out that the National Heritage Board was organizing “limited edition” tours to bring visitors to Adam Park and discover for themselves the role that the estate had played during World War II. And yours truly, along with my ever-adventurous mum, were fortunate enough to get ourselves the last couple of spaces left on the last tour! 🙂
Unlike the usual war attraction places that tend to focus on military warfare and buildings (forts/ tunnels), The Adam Park Project, or TAPP for short, is a battlefield archaeology project that aims to educate people about the wartime heritage of the Adam Park housing estate through the eyes of an archaeologist. Think about how the location of the remains of bullets and cartridge could show you where the actual fighting between the English Regiment and Japanese troops took place. Pretty cool, huh? Ironically, this project was founded not by a local but an Englishman battlefield archaeologist, Jon Cooper, who is in Singapore to accompany his wife who’s working here! I have learnt so much about Adam Park through Jon’s very passionate and detailed narration – This relatively hidden place is simply steeped in history and I would honestly encourage all who’s interested in our country’s history to join his tour. I promise you that there will not be a single dull moment on the tour with Jon around! 🙂
It will be a huge challenge for me to squeeze 1.5 hours worth of information into this entry without making it sound like a thesis paper or boring you out. So, I’ll try my best to capture just the main points and share a teaser of what to expect. Please get in touch with Jon through the project FB page and be ready to unearth little known facts about Adam Park!
That’s our tour guide, Jon, who’s extremely animated and passionate about the battlefield history behind Adam Park estate.
The colonial house at 7 Adam Park was originally the HQ for the Battalion Cambridgeshire Regiment that was defending Singapore from the Japanese. This house was selected as it sits on a reverse slope and is thus hidden from a downhill view. Strategic location for the military troops to plan their attacks. It is categorized as a Class 3 house; Class 1 houses are located at the top of hill (better feng shui).
House no. 17 served as a hospital during WWII. Unfortunately, it was heavily bombed thus leaving most of the original building burnt to the ground. The house that stands in its place now has been heavily restored and even comes with a private pool!
Research shows that there used to be a POW’s chapel located in an upstairs room of 1 of the houses. In spite of its relatively simple set-up, it boosted a beautiful mural that was painted by 1 of the POW. The location of this chapel still remains a mystery to-date but Jon & team are in the midst of conducting more on-site investigation to solve this mystery. House no. 12 was once suspected to be home to this chapel; alas, research findings had proved otherwise.
The group of us was also very fortunate to be invited by the expat owner for a tea break at her lovely and huge home! Super excited to be able to get a glimpse of life behind these colonial houses as it was once my dream to be able to live in 1 of the walk-up apartments at the quaint Wessex estate! 🙂
As much as I love to learn about the battlefield history of Adam Park, I must admit that a war-focused tour can be a tad dry for the ladies. So, thanks to an ingenious suggestion by his wife, Jon has incorporated elements of social history into his tours specially for the ladies.
At House no. 16, we learnt that it used to be home to a Dutch family that, unfortunately, died on their way to seek refuge in Australia and a German-Jewish family whose descendants had returned to Singapore from Australia for a visit. They even brought along original photographs of their grandparents living in this house back in the 1940s! Wow!
1. Do you know that this site was the last battle line before Singapore fell to the Japanese on 15 Feb 1942? There was an intense series of fights between the Battalion Cambridgeshire Regiment and Japanese 41st Regiment during the last 3 days in the battle for control of MacRitchie Reservoir (water source).
2. Adam Park also served as a camp for an estimated 1000 British and 2000 Australian POWS, who were tasked to build the Shinto shrine in MacRitchie Reservoir. Many of these POWs were later sent to work on the Thai Burma Railway that claimed the lives of many.
3. According to the personal accounts of some of these POWs, they felt that their existence at Adam Park was boring as the work that they did on local shores was a walk in the park compared to the harsher conditions that they had encountered in other countries.
4. The POWs were even paid a couple of cents a day for the work that they did to build the Shinto shrine. In addition, they were given about 625g of rice a day for their meals … Quite a big portion! What some of these resourceful men did, in their quest to survive, was to keep a portion of the rice to barter with the locals for extra food and supplement their diet. Smart eh.
5. Jon and a group of volunteers have held periodic archaeology digs at the estate over the past few years and managed to dig up about 1000 WWII artifacts, ranging from ammunition cartridges to military badges and even, vintage toothpaste tubes!
“Finding an artifact and piecing together a war narrative can be very addictive. It helps to verify historical accounts and shared memories of the battle site.”
– Mrs Helen Mummery, volunteer –