The his­tory of Alexan­dra Es­tate

Bat­tle­field ar­chae­ol­o­gist JON COOPER gives us the lowdown on the his­tory of the Alexan­dra Es­tate.

Expat Living (Singapore) - - Contents -

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!

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