The history of Alexandra Estate
Battlefield archaeologist JON COOPER gives us the lowdown on the history of the Alexandra Estate.
There is a clue in the title – it’s not called the Battle for Singapore for nothing. So, as you stroll around the leafy suburbs of Singapore, look out for the older pre-war architecture and you can almost guarantee that the place will have a story of conflict heritage to recall.
The Alexandra estate has a unique claim to fame when we look at its World War II pedigree. The 2nd Battalion of the Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire) was one of the residential units posted to Singapore before the war, and their officers and men were housed in the Alexandra Quarters and Gillman Barracks. When the Japanese invaded the Malaya, the Loyals were sent up country to halt the tide. They, like the rest of the allied army, suffered heavy casualties before being forced back onto the island in January 1942. As the Japanese invaded across the Straits of Johor, the Loyals were redeployed to positions along Pasir Panjang Ridge alongside the Malay Regiment and, in a remarkable twist of fate, during the final days of fighting, they fought amongst their own homes and quarters in the estate.
The Alexandra estate has a further story of conflict to share. Many of the buildings date back to before the First World War, to the time when the military camp at Gillman was constructed. In 1915, during the Sepoy uprising in the city, the mutineers of the 5th Light Infantry tried to storm the bungalow of their commanding officer, Lieutenant-colonel EV Martin, who lived on the estate. The British despatched a relief column to relieve the besieged soldiers and there followed a sharp firefight across the gardens and tennis courts around the estate before the surviving mutineers were rounded up.
So, if you do find the odd bullet or cartridge lying in the undergrowth, don’t be surprised. The Alexandra estate is a unique heritage site littered with remnants of Singapore’s more violent past.
PS: Just as Jon has mentioned the possibility of finding bullets in an Alexandra Park house, we’ve received an email from a family who has done exactly that; so look out for a story on the topic in the future!