Today, 8 Feb, marks the 72nd Anniversary of the battle for and eventual fall of Singapore during WWII. As part of the line-up of activities to commemorate the anniversary, the National Heritage Board has organised a series of heritage tours that will take participants to the historical sites to “relive” the WWII battles. Being a WWII history buff, my mum was so excited to discover more about these places that played such pivotal roles in the Japanese Occupation that she actually signed up for all the tours within 5 minutes! Honestly, I think I have the coolest parents! 🙂 Now, you should know where I have inherited my sense of adventure and exploration from! Unfortunately, I was not able to join my parents for this heritage tour as I had already made prior appointments.
Nonetheless, I’m really looking forward to share with you guys about this relatively unknown historical spot – Singapore’s only remaining pre-war air raid shelter which is nestled in the heart of Tiong Bahru.
Background: Built in 1939, the air raid shelter located at Blk 78 Guan Chuan Street is the only public housing building by the Singapore Improvement Trust (the housing organization before HDB) to be built with an air raid shelter as part of its design. It occupies an area of about 1,500 sqm (equivalent to the size of 13 5-room HDB flats) and could accommodate up to an estimated 1,600 pax. Forward 75 years later, this air raid shelter is the last remaining pre-war civilian bomb shelter still existing today! Click here to read up more about the history of this shelter.
Exterior: Entrance of the air raid shelter that is located below the flats
Interior: Main corridor that leads you to more individual rooms within
Interior: According to my mum, the interior of the shelter had been left pretty much the same condition as it was back during the pre-war days, thus giving visitors a better visualization of the original state.
Do you know that the air raid shelter even witnessed its first birth back in 1942? A baby girl named Mary Magdeline Pereira was delivered when her mother and siblings sought for shelter during the bombings.
Interior: Overhead wooden planks that serve as alternate escape doors for the residents to enter/exit. Kinda like the trapped doors that you often see in old American homes that have a basement!
Interior: See the structure on the left side of the picture below? My first assumption was that these are bunk beds placed for the residents, in times of war. However, these turned out to be storage racks put in after WWII as the air raid shelter was temporarily used as an underground storage area in the 1950s.
Notice the bricks labelled “Alexandra”? They are made by Alexandra Brickworks. That’s how ABC Brickworks Market & Food Centre in Bukit Merah got its name!
* all pictures credit to my AWESOME parents