By Sugen Ramiah
The Qing Ming festival, or tomb sweeping day, is observed by the Chinese worldwide. It is a day for them to pay homage to their ancestors, either by visiting graveyards, columbariams or ancestral tablets in ancestral halls.
The actual day falls either on the 4th ot 5th of April, but families have a window of ten days before or after the actual day to conduct Qing Ming. This year, I was fortunate to have been able to observe Qing Ming in Bukit Brown and other locations.
Qing Ming, has many stories to its origin, but is mainly observed as an act of being filial and for geomancy (feng-shui) reasons. The Chinese believe that the bones of their ancestors and the lives of the descendents are inextricably connected. For abundance in wealth and happiness, firstly, one has to be filial. Secondly, there has to be a good flow of Chi (positive energy) on the forecourts of their ancestors. During the dry season, the foliage clogs the drainage causing an obstruction to the flow of water. During Qing Ming, the drainage is cleared, to allow the flow of water (Chi) onto the forecourt of the tomb. Qing Ming is also a perfect opportunity for extended family members to get together amidst busy work/family commitments.
Descendents set off as early as first light, to wash, sweep, and weed the tombstones. Inscriptions on the headstones are then re-inked using red or gold paint. A stack of coloured paper or a stone is placed on the headstone to signify that the dead is not forgotten. The paper is also scattered on the mound of the grave. This recalls how an emperor from the Han Dynasty in China could not find his parents’ tomb after he returned from war. He was then told to throw five coloured paper into the air and where they lodged, that was the location of his parents’ tomb.
Two sets of offerings are prepared by the families. First set is for the earth deity by the side – a pair of candles are lit, food and incense offered to the Tu Di Gong who is the guardian of the tombstone. Paper money is also burnt as a form of offering.
Second set is for the deceased – a pair of candles are lit, offerings of tea, fruits, favourite food, and longevity cakes are placed on the tombstone altars. Incense sticks are firstly offered to long departed ancestors and subsequently to the deceased. Incense sticks are placed in an urn and sometimes around the mound, and then descendents wait for the deceased to ‘finish’ their meal Sometimes during the wait, incense sticks are offered to neighbouring tombs – recalling the days of the kampong spirit.
Once approval has been given through the moon blocks or coins, offerings of hell notes and silver paper, clothes, shoes and even latest technological gadgets such as the ipads are burnt for the deceased. Sometimes the required items are packed in a paper treasure box, sealed with the name of the ancestor and burnt for them exclusively. To conclude, tea or any form of liquid is poured around the offering to “secure” the area of the burnt offerings, so as to avoid invasion by other wandering spirits.
It has been a rewarding experience, to learn from family members on how they up hold traditions that has been handed down to them. All they hope is that these traditions will be carried on by the generations to come and that their ancestors will not be forgotten. I will close with a quote that is close to my heart.
“To acknowledge our ancestors means we are aware that we did not make ourselves that the line stretches all the way back, perhaps to God; or to Gods. We remember them because it is an easy thing to forget: that we are not the first to suffer, rebel, fight, love and die. The grace with which we embrace life, in spite of the pain, the sorrow, is always a measure of what has gone before. ” – Alice Walker
Sugen Ramiah is a teacher by training and his interest includes observing and documenting Chinese festivals and rituals conducted by temples.
Read about the tombkeepers’ Qing Ming here
All Things Bukit Brown received an email this morning (14 January) addressed to Raymond Goh. It was from Gillian Mendy (Lim) from London, asking if her grandfather’s Lim Hock Seng’s grave was affected by the highway. Her email read:
“Your Bukit Brown website is incredibly informative and interesting. We have only just discovered about the planned road works through the cemetery.
My grandfather is buried at Bukit Brown and we are trying to find out if his grave is affected by the road project. The family now live in England. If it is affected then we would come to Singapore to claim the remains.
On 2nd January, 2014, June Tan witnessed and photo documented the exhumation of her grandfather, Ong Kim Soon. She also shared with us the testimonial of how a promise was fulfilled to carry on the lineage of another family. It speaks to men and women of honour and ties of kinship which live on till today.
By June Tan
My grandfather was an ordinary man. He worked hard to make ends meet and was an honest man of principles. When he passed away at the age of 47 , he left behind his wife & 6 children aged between 6-22 years old then.
The story I want to share of my grandfather has to start from my great great grandparents.
My great great grandfather Ng died at a very young age. He was in his 20s then. He left behind his wife but no descendants. The women of that era usually did not remarry if their husband passed on. It was deemed to be their duties to take care of their in- laws .
However, my great great grandmother was a young lady in the prime of her life at that time. Her mother- in- law decided that she should not stay as a widow and allowed her to remarry. She, however, set a condition for the man (suramed Ong) who was to marry her- that the first son born by them had to take the surname “Ng” (黄). As a gratitude to the old lady, they readily agreed.
Soon after, my great grandfather was born and he took the Ng surname. However, great great grandfather Ong soon fell very ill and with his wife they were unable to produce a 2nd child. Their son, my great grandfather had no option but to reinstate his surname to Ong in order to perpetuate the Ong family line.
The older generation is a generation of principles. It was resolved that the next male child born in the family will carry the surname of Ng to honour the promise of my great great grandparents.
Years later, my grandfather was born and he adopted the “Ng” (黄) surname. In fact, of the 3 sons born in that generation, my grandfather and his 2nd brother took on the Ng surname as a gratitude to the Ng family.
At age 47, my grandfather passed away. All that he left behind was a meagre sum of S$24. The family was faced with the task of paying for a decent burial place.
Seh Ong Sua (which adjoins Bukit Brown) was the only cemetery with free burial grounds available for the Ong descendents . My grandfather’s brothers, my grand uncles, approached the person in charge of the Ong Clan then. However, only descendants of the Ong clan could be buried there. After hearing the origins of my grandfather’s surname, the Ong clan agreed to accord him a burial ground in Seh Ong on condition that that he had to use his Ong surname on the headstone of his grave.
Hence, the surname on his tomb is Ong (王) whereas his children will continue to take the Ng surname.
For these reasons, my great grandmother had “set” a rule for my mum’s generation that they are allowed to marry Ngs’ but not Ongs’ as that is the origin of their bloodline.
A few photos from June Tan’s album of her grandfather’s exhumation. The coffin was fully intact and the set of bones, nearly complete. With her permission, the complete album which she has captioned as a photo essay, is available here
Ong Kim Soon has moved to Yishun Columbarium. Rest in Peace.
Editor’s note: We would like to thank June Tan for sharing her photos of her grandfather’s exhumation and her family story with us. If you are a descendant who has ancestors staked for exhumation, please share your story with us.
Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can read about another first hand account by a grandson, who witnessed his grandfather’s and aunt’s exhumations, here
by Sugen Ramiah
While exploring Hill 4, I stumbled upon a tomb of a young man, by the name of Ee Tean Choon.(E Tean Choon on tombstone)
It was very unique because the tomb was of a modern design in marble. And so I started a little research on his family in early November 2013. It was on the 31st of December 2013, while strolling with brownies Peter and Ee Hoon, that I was told that there was another art deco tomb, similar to that of Ee Tean Choon that also belonged to the Ee family, his grandparents. Here’s what I have traced of the Ee Tean Choon family tree.
Grandparents: Ee Swee Hin and Khoo Swee Yee
Ee Swee Hin passed away on the 8th September 1942 and his wife Khoo Swee Yee, on the 19th February 1955. They are buried together in Hill 5 Division B with LTA tag #1122 and will be exhumed in March.
Father: Ee Yean Keat
Ee Yean Keat was the eldest son of Ee Swee Hin and Khoo Swee Yee. He had two other siblings, Ee Yean Bee and another adopted brother – Tan Eng Yam. Born in Malacca in the year 1884, he was educated in a high school there and came to Singapore to look for a better future. He married Seow Joo Neo and had seven children. He first started work with Netherlands Trading Society in 1904. After 6 years, in 1910, he worked as a cashier with the KPM shipping company. He wanted an early retirement after 25 years with the shipping company. However, he later joined the Straits Times Press (Malaya) Ltd and officially retired in 1959 at the age of 75. He was also known as the “Grand Old Man’ of the accounts section of Straits Times Press (Malaya). He passed away on the 24th of September 1968 at the age of 84. The Obituary section in the archives indicates that he left behind 2 wives. Seow Joo Neo the mother of Ee Tean Choon, passed away on the 4th of January 1985 at the age of 102. She left behind 19 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren. No information has been uncovered about Ee Yean Keat’s other wife.
Ee Tean Choon (E Tean Choon on tombstone)
Ee Tean Choon born in the year 1910 and was the first born of Ee Yean Keat and Seow Joo Neo of No.350 East Coast Road. He was the eldest of seven children. He married Ruby Chia Boey Neo , the fifth daughter of Mr & Mrs Chia Keng Chin of No.8 Saint Thomas Walk, on the 3rd of October 1936. Chia Boey Neo the grand-daughter of Mr Chia Hood Theam, was born in July 1914 and was 22 years old when she married Ee. They didn’t have their own children but adopted two babies -Willie Ee Kean Leong and Margaret Ee.
Sadly, Ee Tean Choon died of typhoid, on the 3rd of April 1938, at just 28 years old. He left behind a young widow and two infants, barely two years after his marriage. The two infants were then adopted by his brother, Ee Tean Cheng and the young widow returned to her parents’ house.
Inscribed on the tomb is an epitaph :
‘In the prime of his life death claimed him, In the pride of his manhood days, none knew him but to love him, None mention his name but with praise.’
I believe that the epitaph was taken from ‘The life of Rev. William James Hall, M. D.: Medical Missionary on the slums of New York, Pioneer Missionary to Pyong Yang, Korea’ 1897. It is about how Rev Hall ministered to the sick and wounded of Korea and his martyrdom. Coincidentally, both William (Willie for short) Willie and Margaret, were the names of Dr. Hall’s great grandparents.
Ee Tean Choon is buried in Hill 4 Division C with LTA tag #2612. He has been claimed by the family of his wife, the late Mdm Chia Boey Neo.
Brother : Ee Tean Cheng
Ee Tean Cheng was actively involved in many athletic associations such as the Useful Lads Badminton Party, Horlicks Badminton Party and was elected as vice president of the S.A.S.U (Singapore Armature Sports Union) in 1940. The tournaments, training and meetings were often held in the badminton court of the Ee’s residence at East Coast Road. He worked for Ford Motors and married to Ong Lian Neo Nellie on the 15th December 1940. Unfortunately, she passed away on the 26th October 1941 while in labour, both mother and child didn’t survive. She was buried in Bukit Brown and Raymond Goh has a blog post on her life here
Ee Tean Cheng had a second marriage to Lily Oon Siok Neo. They had a son, Winston Ee Kean Leng and also adopted the late Ee Tean Choon’s children – Willie and Margaret. He had five grandchildren. He passed away on 3rd April 1999, coincidentally the anniversary of his brother, Ee Tean Choon ( 3rd April 1938)
Brother: Ee Tean Chye
Colonel Ee Tean Chye was the first Commander of the Singapore Air Defence Command and in 1972, the first Chief of Air Force of the Republic of Singapore Air Force. He has three children, Patricia Ee, Laura Ee and Christopher Ee.
Son: Willie Ee Kean Leong
Willie Ee Kean Leong was the director of Sankyo Seiki Singapore Pte Ltd. He married Lim Eng Hong, eldest daughter of Mr Lim Kim San, former cabinet minister and first chairman of HDB. They had two children, Ee Kuo Ren and Ee Yuen Ling.
Daughter: Margaret Ee
Margaret Ee married Mr Richard Png and had two children, Dr Kenneth Png and Keith Png.
Postscript : Unfortunately both grandparents and grandson will be moving house to make way for the new highway. However both grandparents and grandson will be interned in the same block in Choa Chu Kang Columbarium. This is just another story of another ordinary family that has contributed to this country. May they rest in Peace.
Sugen Ramiah is a teacher by training and his interest includes observing and documenting Chinese festivals and rituals conducted by temples. This is his first foray into researching family trees.
References for Ee Family
The life of Rev. William James Hall, M. D. : medical missionary to the slums of New York, pioneer missionary to Pyong Yang, 1897. (E-book) Emmanuel College Library, Victoria University
Announcement. (1936, June 23). The Straits Times
Tean Cheng-Ong. (1940, December 16). The Singapore Free Press and the Mercantile Advertiser
Deaths. (1941, October 26). The Straits Times
Cashier, 75, Retires for Second Time. (1959, December 31). The Singapore Free Press
Deaths. (1968, September 25). The Straits Times
Deaths. (1985, January 5). The Straits Times
Condolences. (1994, September 4). The Straits Times
Deaths. (1999, April 4). The Straits Times
Deaths. (2000, June 20). The Straits Times
The Air Force, Singapore : Republic of Singapore Air Force, 1988
Controlled Growth Restriction Policies For Certain Closed Food-Chain Systems by Patricia G. M. Ee 1992. Simon Fraser University, April 1992.
By Ishvinder Singh
In search of a shared heritage – how a once-forgotten Chinese cemetery re-connected me with my Singapore heritage.
In 2011, when the government announced that a part of Bukit Brown was to be re-claimed for a highway, I was not too concerned. Bukit Brown did not matter to me because the material culture was foreign and I had no intentions of messing with the supernatural. Growing up in a conservative Indian family I was often warned not to venture into unknown territories or investigate matters that did not concern me. Hence, I initially thought that I did not have any business being in Bukit Brown. As a result this non-Chinese Singaporean did not care about Bukit Brown until one fine Saturday morning spent on Facebook.
As I was scrolling through my news feeds on Facebook, a whole bunch of turbaned and bearded statues appeared on my screen that look so much like me!
They were the Sikh statues of Bukit Brown and more than 24 pairs of them have been re-discovered by Peter Pak who has carefully documented them on his blog, Rojak Librarian.
I was struck by the careful detail of the turban and every handcrafted curl of the beard. Simply, I fell in love with Bukit Brown. I was sold and soon I found myself rallying around the “Save Bukit Brown” campaign, now feeling that this place mattered to me. Bukit Brown preserved this identity and this ideal of what it meant to be a Sikh, which made me and my turban feel at home at the cemetery. There is a pair of Sikh statues which I adore very much, given the fine workmanship and attention to detail. They stand guard at the tomb of Wong Chin Yoke who received the King’s Police medal for his efforts in suppressing subversive organizations as a police Intelligence officer in 1938:
The statue is seen with an ammunition belt, is accompanied by a little dog and even the folds of his shirt are so realistically captured. It also has a riffle in his hands. It was a standard issue riffle known as the Lee-Enfield Riffle which is still used by the Singapore Armed Forces’ Military Police for ceremonial purposes. I also like this other statue very much that is much smaller in height and has a small dagger by its side:
This is known as Kirpan, one of the five Sikh articles of faith and symbolic of a Sikh’s commitment to defending his community. It is just so amazing how much attention is given to make these statues as life-like and accurate as possible.
Over time as my curiosity grew, I began studying Bukit Brown deeper and did things I never imagined doing such as understanding tomb architecture, appreciating grave art and its symbology. The schematic of a tomb resembles a compound, consisting a few layers before you reach the tombstone. Typically in the front section, there would be a pair of Warrior Gods, Sikh Guards or some similar representation protecting the overall property. This is followed by the celestial servants, a pair of Golden Boy and Jade Maiden statues. The earth deity comes next and followed by a pair of lions or lion-dogs to ward off evil spirits. It is fascinating to see that every element had its place in creating an auspicious aura.
The Sikh guards are not just security guards here. Instead they are elevated to guardians of the afterlife and I find that truly remarkable as it shows the degree of respect and reverence the Sikhs have received.
Ong Sam Leong’s life and death exemplifies this. He was Peranakan and the coolie labour contractor on Christmas Island, a former asset of the British known for its phosphate deposits. Besides labour he also operated a Kongsi, a society on Christmas Island which supplied food, opium and entertainment for the labourers. The Sikh guard statues at his tomb were probably inspired by Sikh police force posted on Christmas Island. British colonialist had capitalized on the commanding appearance by stationing Sikhs to protect British assets and even to squash riots by the Chinese coolies.
Sikhs were therefore seen as protectors of property and guards in the eyes of prominent Chinese merchants and traders, both on Christmas Island and in Singapore. My research took me from Bukit Brown all the way to Christmas Island and in this excitement I asked myself if there were other forms of Sikh imagery in Singapore? I was not left disappointed. There are two instances in which Sikh and Indian guards are captured on motives imbedded into the walls of shophouse entrances at Geylang Road and Balestier Road. The shophouse at Balestier road was owned by Madam Sim Cheng Neo in 1928. The Sikh guards here seem to be a stand in for the Chinese Warrior Door Gods typically used in Chinese Temples to ward off evil spirits.
This is remarkable evidence of how Singapore’s unique ethnic diversity inspires local architecture.
There is also a pair of Sikh statues at Katong Park presented in a more contemporary form:
And if you think that these statues could not get any bigger, wait till you see these guards which were placed in front of a Chinese residence in Singapore in bygone times:
In fact, Singapore is not the only country which has such Sikh imagery. Penang, Malaysia has one too. This is the Sikh statue standing guard over the prayer hall of the Khoo Kongsi Temple in Penang:
As all these re-discoveries grew over time, I felt that this information had to be shared, so the idea of the Singapore Sikh Heritage Trail was born and will include other sites of interests. I hope that through this trail, Sikhs and Singaporeans will be better able to re-connect with their Singapore heritage. This trail is still in its conceptualization stages and should be ready by 2014. It should be pretty evident that I grew up with the idea that Sikhs are a martial race, that we are fierce fighters and defenders of the community. Most Sikhs come from Punjab, India, that sits right at the gateway of invasion into India. From 9th century till the formation of Sikh empire in 18th century, India was routinely invaded via the Khyber pass by central Asian armies and empires. Sikhism, a peaceful community of believers in the concept of unity and social improvement had to adapt to becoming defenders of their land. The saint-soldier concept evolved when the repeated invasions made it tough to live peacefully. There is a small community of Sikhs known as the Nihangs:
They are the guardians of the Sikh martial spirit and still maintain the traditional styles of an early 17th century Sikh army, much like the Samurai warriors. When the Sikh Empire fell to the British, the British decided to harness the martial spirit of Sikhs by deploying them as arms of British dominance over the colonies. As instructed in British recruitment handbooks: “the Sikhs displayed masculinity, [were] fairly uncorruptable and made good policemen.”
In policing the colony, the British further reinforced adherence to the Khalsa Sikh identity through their recruitment policies. Only turbaned and bearded men of a certain height and weight and from specific clans were accepted into the ranks. As such, military service became a domain that could produce and police the British vision of a coherent Sikh identity.
The import of this particular image eventually led to many prominent figures in the Chinese community employing Sikh guards as well, which I see it as a reproduction of that Sikh image masculinity and martiality.
In that space of Bukit Brown, I saw an intermingling of histories, between the Chinese pioneers and the Sikh guards. It was an era frozen in time. Then it dawned upon me that this was not just about “my” people or “my heritage”, but rather was about “our” heritage.
I asked myself, if it was possible to conceive the notion of a “shared heritage”? I surprised myself for having discovered a commonality amongst that bewildering array of personal and collective identities. That was how I reconnected with the Singapore story where Bukit Brown reminded me what it is to be a Singaporean; that we are willing to invite, embrace and accept differences, even taking them to our graves.
If a nobody like me can have the audacity to put myself in an uncomfortable position by learning about another culture, by being in a cemetery, by questioning my own faith, then so can you. Get out there, search and you too might just find a crazy relatable connection that binds us all together.
This article has been adapted from Ishvinder Singh’s speech at TedxYouth@SG on the 17th December 2013. Acknowledgments: Ms. Vithya Subramaniam and Mr. Amardeep Singh in researching and documenting the Sikh statues of Bukit Brown Cemetery, along with the development of the Singapore Sikh Heritage Trail. Vithya is a recent South Asian Studies and Political Science graduate from NUS interested in the intersections of these fields with the visual. Amardeep is a creative photographer: www.amardeepphotography.com
With a passion for history, Ishvinder Singh has set out to document the history of the Sikh community in Singapore. His goal is to create a heritage trail in Singapore that traces places of historical significance to the Sikhs. This idea was first conceived in Bukit Brown cemetery, where numerous Sikh statues stand guard at the tombs of Chinese merchants. Intrigued by this curious sight, he wanted to learn more about the motivations behind those statues. What began as a personal endeavor to reconnect with his past, has evolved into a project to share the collective history of the Sikhs in Singapore.
Ishvinder is a fresh graduate from the National University of Singapore and is currently a supply chain professional for an American Oil and Gas company. He has also spent a significant amount of time in the United States pursuing his other passions of entrepreneurship and business management. At any other time, Ishvinder may be found in Bukit Brown documenting the statues, or in the archives reading up on Sikhs in Singapore.
What are you waiting for? Join us on our tours at Bukit Brown. You may well run into a Sikh guard statue, or even Ish himself.
Ishvinder Singh’s TEDxYouth talk on a shared heritage at Bukit Brown.
Claire Leow’s TEDx talk on how Bukit Brown helped her come home from abroad.
Pre- exhumation rituals for the nearly 4,000 pioneers who will have to be exhumed to make way for the highway, took place on the morning of Thursday, 28th November. A short and simple ceremony, it was organised by the Land Transport Authority and Swee Hong construction company for descendants. More than 500 descendants together with well wishers and brownies were in attendance.
The rituals were conducted by 7 members of the Inter Religious Organisation.
Prayers were offered for the peaceful move of the soon to be exhumed pioneers to their new homes and for the safety of the people who will be working on the site.
The descendants who arrived were confronted by a new almost “fortress-like” Bukit Brown where barriers had been put up in preparation for exhumations, scheduled to begin in December 2013
The area for the ritual prayers was under a marquee enclosed by a metal barrier and restricted to descendants. Registration was required.
The area within was quickly filled to capacity
It quickly became standing room only
The scheduled time to begin the prayers was 10am. It was delayed because of the unexpected crowds and started about 15 minutes later.
The religious leaders took their turns to pray starting with Jain leader in pink, followed by Buddhist leader. (photo below)
The Taoist leader (in black robes) was followed by the Hindu religious leader
The prayers took about 10 minutes and the ceremony was over. A few descendants took the opportunity to also pay their last respects personally to their ancestors and came bearing offerings.
Victor Lim, a brownie offered his own prayers of remembrance and respect to the earth deity at the Lorong Halwa gates. Bukit Brown to him is a place to remember his ancestors and affectionately as he is always wont to say “my playground”
Victor Lim : “I don’t know when we can meet again. Since the past 1 1/2 years, we have been meeting with those lonely souls every week. This morning we are departing from this endless, from a party that needs to be dispersed. Alas, we would still need to leave and this brings me good memory. I wish you all the best, bless you peace when you leave, and may this good luck come forth to your new home. We will think of you now and then, and we will be together , not forgetting the milestones of our social memories and roots.”
And finally, all the way from London, Sugen Ramiah remembers Bukit Brown in his prayers at the Westminster Cathedral. His message : While Rev Fr Paul Staes said a prayer for the dead in Bukit Brown, I too lit up a candle and said a prayer for the dead in the Chapel of Holy Souls.
grant unto them O Lord,
may perpetual light
shine upon them;
May they rest in peace. Amen
Amen, indeed amen. A ceremony that seem all to short, commemorates a farewell to those for whom Bukit Brown has been home for decades. We wish you all a safe and peaceful passage to your new homes.
Read Walter Lim’s blog on the rituals in Chinese here
A postscript. Thursday, 28 November 2013, was also the day the Roundabout became a Road.
Follow the path of destruction here
Dateline Sunday 10 November, Kranji War Memorial.
Remembrance Day was commemorated at the Kranji War Memorial in a ceremony dedicated to those who died fighting for Singapore during World War II. Brownies Khoo Ee Hoon and Mok Ly Yng who attended the memorial service had another mission when they were there, to seek out the names of 5 soldiers who had been listed as missing in the Battle at Cemetery Hill (Seh Ong and Bukit Brown Cemeteries).
Based on war records, Ly Yng had already mapped out the dead and missing soldiers from the 4th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment, whose last known positions are right in the middle of the proposed 8-lane highway cutting across Seh Ong and Bukit Brown Cemeteries.
The 5 soldiers, named are not the only ones fallen in the battle.
“4x in yellow to the left of the green box represents 4 individuals known to be buried at that position. At the top of the bo along Lornie Road are know to be 5 soldiers (5x), as with the 1x (in green) at the Lornie Road houses. As these soldiers were located outside of the immediate threatened area, I did not include their names, so as to reduce map clutter.But I decided to keep them in the map to provide some context and indicate that there are in fact more soldiers around the area within the Greater BB area.” Mok Ly Yng.
At the Kranji War Memorial, the soldiers’ names on the memorial wall :
Corporal Davis Angus Adcock
Singapore Memorial Column 53, Kranji War Memorial
Missing: 12 Feb 1942
Lance Corporal Cecil George Meadows
Singapore Memorial Column 53, Kranji War Memorial
Killed: 14 Feb 1942
Private Harry Thomas Cattermole
Singapore Memorial Column 54, Kranji War Memorial
Missing: 14 Feb 1942
Missing. Last seen on Hill 95, badly wounded on 14 Feb 1942.
Mok Ly Yng clarification of Cattermole’s position: “Due to the large map coordinate error, Cattermole could be buried within 50 m of the map coordinate’s position. in other words, he could be very, very to Oon Chim Neo’s grave too. In fact the uncertainty area overlaps her grave. “
Private Ivan Jonathan Warne
Singapore Memorial Column 56, Kranji War Memorial
Killed: 14 Feb 1942
Buried top of Highest hill Chinese Cemetery East of Adam Road in Adam Road – Lornie Road Area by padre Polain 2/26 Bn AIF 14.2.42 (crossed out May 1942) Effects 2 Identity Discs, 1 cross.
Private Ivan Jonathan Warne’s position is not affected by the road construction. He is listed as the only known unrecovered casualty to be buried in Bukit Brown Municipal Cemetery proper (Hill 1).
Mok Ly Yng on the case of Private P Sawyer in the map:
“The 5 named individuals on the map were known to have been killed or last seen at those map coordinates just before or after the surrender. But after the war, those who were recorded as’ buried’ could *not* be found again and their remains are still missing. Private P Sawyer is the most difficult to find. His records showed that he had ‘Died in Singapore’ on 14 Feb 1942 and that he was buried on 17 Feb 1942 but this burial record was crossed out at a later unknown date. This leaves him with no records and hence he does not appear on the Singapore Memorial at Kranji nor the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) database or nominal roll, unlike the other 4 named soldiers presented here.”
In battle, the Cambridgeshire Regiment and the Suffolk Regiment fought in adjacent sectors. The Cambridgeshire Regiment held the Adam Park area while the Suffolk Regiment the Bukit Brown Cemetery area. In death, casualties of the two regiments are buried in adjacent sections at Kranji. This photo shows the boundary between the Cambridgeshire Regiment and the Suffolk Regiment in Kranji.
‘The fate of the missing Suffolks on Bukit Brown is just part of the rich WW2 heritage that can be found on the hills. There were many other units fighting in the area, constantly passing over the cemetery during the ebb and flow of warfare. It is most likely that there are more missing men to be found amongst the headstones.
There will also undoubtedly be spent ammunition and equipment to be found across the site, the remnants of fieldworks and bomb craters and the general detritus of war. Each item will be the part of a big jigsaw of artifacts and by plotting the locations in the landscape it will be possible to gather invaluable information about fighting that took place there.
The impending work on the hills will peel back the top layers and will undoubtedly expose these traces of the past.Hopefully the construction teams, with proper instruction will identify these clues and call in the experts to catalog and retrieve the material before the concrete is poured over it. There is a chance; just one chance to collect this invaluable evidence.
But most of all there is the possibility that we may come across the remains of our missing men. A chance to identify them and lay them to peaceful rest amongst their own. The fact that we go to great lengths to retrieve these men says as much perhaps about the attitude of Singaporeans today as it does about their generation of sacrifice.’
Mok Ly Yng is part of the documentation team tasked by the government to record and document graves affected by the impending highway
The Kranji War Memorial is dedicated to the men and women from United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Sri Lanka, India, Malaya, the Netherlands and New Zealand who died defending Singapore and Malaya against the invading Japanese forces during World War II, it comprises the War Graves, the Memorial Walls, the State Cemetery, and the Military Graves.
Ubique Quo Fas Et Gloria Ducunt
Everywhere – Where Right and Glory Lead
Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice® 2013 Winner “Ranked #16 of 665 attractions in Singapore. “
6 November, 2013.
“Get there before its too late…This is a very special place – peaceful, beautiful, historic, and a natural wildlife haven”
Visit Bukit Brown cemetery while you still can – before the bulldozers move in to create yet another expressway. This is a very special place – peaceful, beautiful, historic, and a natural wildlife haven. Intricately carved statues guard many of the old gravestones, which are often adorned with gorgeous antique tiles painted with flowers and peacocks. There are several pathways to explore and so the cemetery also makes a lovely place just to visit for a ‘country’ walk. Kingfishers, monitor lizards, monkeys and nightjars are common sights, and some of the huge banyan trees are staggering. In recent months the ‘Friends of Bukit Brown’ have painstakingly signed and cleared pathways to the gravestones of many notable names from Singapore’s history, making this an even more interesting place to visit.
Visited October 2013
Singapore is a concrete jungle and if there is a garden, it is man-made, like Gardens by the Bay…..(except for) a historical site called Bukit Brown.
Today, I had the privilege of touring a historical site called Bukit Brown. Bukit Brown is a cemetery, where many of Singapore’s pioneer are buried and may soon be “awakened” from their peaceful slumber to make way for 8 lanes highway.
I toured with volunteers of Bukit Brown, and learn about the tombs of Tan Kheam Hock and his family. History is being collected as I write this review. The tour is made even more interesting with the descendants of Tan Kheam Hock in our midst. A definitely worthy visit for any tourist to Singapore, to see a side of Singapore which money cannot buy.
As Bukit Brown tour is manned by volunteers with a passion to preserve the heritage and culture of this little city state, one will need to visit Bukit Brown FB page to make enquiries of any tours.
Visited October 2013
It was like stepping back into another place and time. You can see rays of sunshine illuminating the misty verdant hills, rich smell of the forest and hear sounds of delightful birds. It was somewhat surreal in heavily urbanised city but the oasis of tranquility calms the soul and the mind is clarified. What a wonderful place to go for a walk!
I joined a friend to witness the Cheng Beng festivity and was overwhelmed by the throngs of people with their prayer paraphernalia and the heavy traffic winds patiently through the hills. It was BUSY!
Then some 3 months later, I took a trip with the Brownies who gave free guided walks through Bukit Brown practically every weekends! It was like stepping back into another place and time. You can see rays of sunshine illuminating the misty verdant hills, rich smell of the forest and hear sounds of delightful birds. It was somewhat surreal in heavily urbanised city but the oasis of tranquility calms the soul and the mind is clarified. What a wonderful place to go for a walk!
Yes, we have the crowded Botanic Gardens, the monotonous MacRitchie & Pierce reservoirs, the hot Sungei Buloh Reserve and Chek Jawa Park is a little too far to reach but Bt Brown is way too cool! If you dare venture off the main track, you will encounter unusual structure, designs, engravings, statutes, reflecting the various cultures, beliefs & eras. You might encounter a monitor lizard, horse riders and almost always expats walking their dogs. Join the Sats & Suns groups of 10-20 people on the guided walks like the one I’ve taken, listening to the passionate guides who are bursting to share with you the stories of the hills.
Visited September 2013
“The most beautiful place on earth”
Jo Prudence, descendant of George Henry Brown, after whom the cemetery is named.
A spectacular time-lapse aerial video of Bukit Brown
More beauty shots of Bukit Brown here
This is a blog post that will be updated as the destruction continues……
Thursday 28 November ( Pre Exhumation Rituals) : The Roundabout has become a road
A reminder of what it once was, almost exactly a year back in December 2012 :
Friday 22 November
Wednesday 13 November , roundabout paved
Saturday, 9 November. Morning 9am, no works within the grounds.
Guided walks proceeded from the ‘ole rain tree. Respite!
Thursday, 7th November. The road works in progress
Paving the roundabout, and putting up hoardings along Adam Road.
Photos on Flicker on 7th November, 6pm here
Wednesday 6th November, other areas barricaded by concrete blocks
Wednesday 6th November, 2013 clearing continues at the roundabout
Tuesday 5th November, 2013. The roundabout is destroyed.
Friday, 11 October, 2013. The roundabout is barricaded and sealed
Before Oct 11, 2013. The Roundabout
The Victorian Learning Journey at Bukit Brown
We did all we could in the name of education. As educators, our team believe we do have an obligation to do justice to our subject – History. Since Bukit Brown is a living classroom, it is thus a fecund ground for teaching and learning of History and across other subjects such as nature. We can’t let this opportunity slip away; rather late, but better than never.
We are truly proud of our student guides. They did an excellent job. They were so passionate and they fretted when the rain wouldn’t stop at 2 pm yesterday. The IP Year 2 guides, who are the younger ones (age 14), took the initiative to even share on the bus with their classmates while the rain was pelting on the roof and windows of the bus. When the rain stopped, they were so happy and eager to lead their peers out to meet Ong Sam Leong and all. Good kids. At the end of it all, I thanked them and encouraged them to volunteer as guides if their time permits. They seemed keen.
Caricatures of Fabian and Steven after a “training session” sketched by one of the boys.