Pasir Panjang Heritage

Stories and photos about Pasir Panjang's Heritage.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Penrod Dean (video) on NAS webpage

In response to news of Penrod Dean's passing in 2006, the National Archive of Singapore posted a webpage called "A Tribute to Lt. Penrod Vance Dean (19 Nov 1914 - 16 May 2006)." This includes two short video clips of him honouring the memory of the Malay Regiment soldiers.


You can view the longer version of the clips at the shows screened at Reflections at Bukti Chandu and Memories at Old Ford Factory.

Penrod Dean

Thanks to Kenneth highlighted this page to me earlier today.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

MIA 2007- Plunge into Darkness....

The MIA Trail 2007 was made up of 2 sessions, one at 5.30pm and another at 6.30pm. The revision of timing was made as the last year's event ended rather late (12-1am!) and both the participants and the guides were worn out. Manpower, however, was more of a problem this year. With many of the guides unavailable for various reasons, Ooi Yee, Airani, Wendy and I set out bravely to bring a total of 80 participants on a trail that they (hopefully) would not forget!

Ooi Yee and Airani took the first session while Wendy and I took the second session. Being the man and all (just kidding, last year it was done by Airani!), I took up the role of the Bus Guide, who is in charge of introducing the Trail on the bus by using the on board microphone. Being a poor karaoke singer, the fear of handling the mike coupled with my rusty guiding technique spelled for a rocky introduction. As I silently swore under my breath, I prayed that the guiding session at the Raffles Museum would go much more smoothly.

When we reached the Raffles Museum, which is home to more than 500,000 specimens from all over the region, we caught a glimpse of the guides and participants of the earlier session. They have overshot the supposed timing! Well it wasn't surprising as the Museum gallery, with it's multitude of amazing specimens, has a wealth of interesting stories to be told.



Now it was my turn to give a tour around the Museum! With a time limit of an hour (which seemed very long to me), I secretly hoped that the previous year's training, my secret cheatsheets and hours of Discovery channel would help me spin interesting and realistic stories of the various exhibits. And that is what I did!



Amongst other things, I talked about the various types of natural habitats found in Singapore, how to handle a live tree climbing crab (with alcohol-preserved specimens), King Cobra Encounters "Do's and Don'ts", ultra environmentally destructive Facai harvesting, man eating sharks... Wendy managed to do it too! It seems that as long as you have a passion for nature and willingness to learn, you can tap the treasure trove of information of the Museum Gallery! Hence guiding is a piece of cake, so do come join us if you are interested. You'll have a swell time too!

Next stop: Kent Ridge Park. The view of the Pasir Panjang port, ships at sea and the Southern Islands from Kent Ridge Park was stunning. So many lights!


The participants were brought through the "Tembusu Grove", where the enchanting scent of the flowers of the Tembusu filled the air. Participants would be more at ease with the aromatherapy if only the guide hadn't linked the fragrance to the female vampire, the Pontianak, of Malay Mythology. A little mischief on our part :-)


But it seemed that the park was up to some mischief itself, for when I tried to find cicada moults on the rough tembusu bark to show the participants, I had no luck. It must have been the recent rain that washed the moults away.



And when I tried to look for graffiti on the barks of the Eucalyptus tree bark, I too had a problem cos they were all MIA. I guess the park was trying to fit into the night's theme as well.

Then came the final straw. The bats were all MIA too! Oh well, except for one, which gave me face by flying over our heads while we were on the broadwalk. The rain does seem to affect life in the forest in many ways, most of which I have yet to learn.

We then headed to Reflections at Bukit Chandu, which is an interactive visitor center which is focused on the Battle of Pasir Panjang. There, the National Heritage Board (NHB) guides gave an in-depth description of the events leading up to the Japanese invasion of Singapore and the valor of the Malay Regiment who fought bravely to defend the island during the Second World War.

I took a break at this point, and slipped into an uneasy repose as the "Sounds of Battle" interactive show raged on. My unease was quite expected as the realistic explosions and screams tend to switch us into a reflective mood, as we remember the horrors of war and the value of living in peaceful times.

The final stop was at Memories at Old Ford Factory. As there were NHB guides too at this location, Wendy and I said our goodbyes to our charming participants who were very engaging and inquisitive. I hoped that they had as much fun as we had guiding them. See you next year!

Monday, June 12, 2006

The MIA Night Tour reviewed

On the 26th of May 2006, the Raffles Museum's Pasir Panjang (PP) guides, in collaboration with the National Heritage Board's National Archives of Singapore, conducted the MIA Night Tour. What is MIA? It represents both Museums In Action and Missing In Action! This activity involves a trip to three members of the Musum Roundtable: The Public Gallery of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR), Reflections at Bukit Chandu (RBC) and the recently opened Memories at Old Ford Factory. "In Action" aptly describes the turnout by staff and volunteers of NAS and RMBR that night for event. As for other dual meaning, Missing In Action is the theme of this event, that was revealed along the way.

We started the trip at 2 timings: 6pm and 7pm. Late night explorations always fascinates people and it added a veil of mystique to our MIA content. The trip began with RMBR where the PP guides introduced the public to the interesting specimens of the museum. Many of the specimens showcased were once commonly sighted in the Singapore of the past, but in recent times, they are all effectively MIA. While not extinct but with habitat loss and mindless poaching, their numbers are steadily dwindling.





The next stop was supposed to be Kent Ridge Park, but a thunderstorm left some of us wet and most of us in awe of the spectacular lightning show! It was thus decided to go directly to Reflections at Bukit Chandu. It was disappointing for participants and even more so for the guides - we knew they were missing the interesting sights and animals that was only possible at night. For instance, the night view of the Harbor from Kent Ridge Park is beautiful, and the bountiful fruit bats feeding at the Broadwalk is a sight few people have seen! Still it was important to be safe.

When the first group arrived at Reflections at Bukit Chandu, the rain had stopped but the lightning threat was still significant - the guides witnessed streaks of blue lightning arc across the sky, starting from a spot in the clouds which did not seem too far away!

Reflections at Bukit Chandu (RBC) was a good spot to hold up at. Fully air conditioned and filled with interactive and static information about the invasion of Singapore, RBC is a good spot to learn about the war history of Singapore as well as the relatively unknown Battle of Pasir Panjang. The story of this Battle is hardly known so the PP guides always bring participants to RBC. The trip there was enjoyable as the staff were friendly and the interactive shows were engaging and informative. Unfortunately the participants missed out an interesting show as the interactive show "Sounds of Battle" was under maintenance.





The final stop was Memories at the Old Ford Factory. This new heritage site showcases exhibits about the Japanese Occupation of Singapore. The participants were treated to a documentary on the Japanese Occupation, which started from the Invasion of Singapore to the surrender of the Japanese in 1945. They were then brought around the Ford Factory by the friendly staff of NAS, who also introduced them to their Wartime Garden. This is where NAS staff have meticulously planted and maintained a number of crops grown by people during the Occupation. Their effort is truly commendable as they have even managed to grow and harvest two batches of Padi Rice!





The MIA participants were very pleased with the whole trip. Some even wanted to tip the guides for their good performance when they realised that we were volunteers!

Some suggestions for improvement were raised during the debrief at the Raffles Museum:

- Some participants had difficulty locating the guides at the meeting point. This will be rectified by the confirmation email which will include advise to look for someone wearing a luminous pink cap!! This is more proactive than simply using a banner which is a waste of money and an additional item to fetch and carry.

- Guides had difficulty identifying the participants after they made contact (meeting point was a public bus stop). This will be solved by giving participants a sticker like they do in a some tours!

- Although Kent Ridge Park had to be skipped due to the lighting threat, the tour bus could have made a detour there just to get a glimpse of the beautiful night view.

- Some participants indicated that the RBC stop was too long. This was due in part to the fact this section was largely unguided as is our usual procedure after a long walk in the park. In this scenario, more guiding should have ben carried out. Also since we spent more time there waiting out the schedule, the guides could have gathered smal groups for more stories in the canteen at the rear of RBC.

- The long break could be scheduled as a rest and snack point as it is a long journey.

- PP guides should be co-opted as RBC guides and know the existing resources. It was later learned that it was possible to view other documentaries in the AV room where the Sounds of Battle is usually shown.

- The tour was about 6 hours in duration. Some participants were unprepared for this despite being provided with the itinerary beforehand. Also, it was conducted on a Friday evening, and participants who came from work were very tired. Hence the MIA tour should be conducted on a Saturday in the future, with emphasised instructions for participants to bring food which can be consumed at the RBC stop.

See also Raffles Museum News

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Penrod Vance Dean, R. I. P.

Penrod Vance Dean, R. I. P.

We were lucky to have the accounts of Penrod Dean - most recently, National Archives put together a documentary you can see at Memories at Old Ford Factory. There he gives an account of "The Malays" in the hours leading to the Battle of Pasir Panjang.

"The Malays started to fight the Japanese on Reformatory Road," said Lt. Penrod V. Dean of the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion. "They had dug slit trenches but they didn't have a lot of weapons. They started fighting the Japanese just with rifles virtually. And when the Japanese broke through them, the Malays took to them with bayonets, they put bayonets on the rifles and with a bayonet charge they drove the Japanese back across Reformatory Road."

"They were very brave people. They fought very hard, but for every Malay soldier there was about 10 or 12 Japanese soldiers. So it was inevitable what was going to happen."

- Transcript by Trey tm at Mind's Eye.

The Pasir Panjang Guides were just informed by Kenneth that Penrod Dean has passed away. RIP.

"Changi conquered on courage." By Mark E. Dean. The Australian, 06 Jun 2006.

Penrod Vance Dean
Farmer, soldier and writer.
Born Perth, November 19, 1914.
Died Melbourne, May 16, 2006, aged 91.

PENROD Dean was a survivor of the Changi prisoner of war camp in Singapore, where he learned Japanese and later had the satisfaction of giving evidence against his captors at the war crimes tribunal in Tokyo.

Dean was the fourth of five sons born to Edward and Alice Dean. His father was the chief draftsman for Perth and laid out several of the early suburbs there. Alice Dean was known as a woman of strong disposition and drove the streets of Perth in an aging, open-top V8 Fiat purchased at a bond warehouse sale.

Dean was educated at Hale School in Perth but following the early death of his father in 1930, during the Great Depression, was forced to leave school early to work and help support the family. In his late teens he worked as a stockman on Roy Hill station in Western Australia.

His early years are evocatively described in Singapore Samurai, an autobiographical account written of his extraordinary experiences in World War II. He describes waiting at his post above the Straits of Johor for the arrival of the Japanese army, reflecting on his days as a child playing on the banks of the Swan River, sailing his skiff and catching abundant blue manna crabs.

In 1937 he met Mabel Molloy and they were married shortly afterwards. Nellie Melba had coined the name Bunny for Mabel in 1927 and it stuck. Bunny's uncle, Thomas Molloy owned and operated His Majesty's Theatre in Perth and a number of nearby hotels.

In 1941 Dean joined the AIF, completed officer training at Randwick in Sydney and was commissioned lieutenant. He left for Singapore later that year and following the surrender of the allies in February 1942 became a prisoner of war in Changi prison.

Shortly before his capture he was involved in an intense battle at the village of Bukit Chandu on the coast of Singapore. The battle was fought in and around a rubber plantation and plantation house. In 2002 he was invited by the Singaporean government to the opening of a war museum established in the plantation house. The museum contains interviews with Penrod and excerpts from Singapore Samurai reproduced in an audio-visual installation. During this visit he also attended services to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the fall of Singapore at Changi and the Kranji War Cemetery.

The story of his years as a prisoner of war are an extraordinary tale of courage and the will to survive. On March 12, 1942, he escaped from Changi with another prisoner John MacGregor. They were captured after living in the jungle for three months and tried before a Japanese military tribunal in the High Court building in Singapore. Both were sentenced to two years solitary confinement in a military prison. They escaped the death sentence because the Red Cross was in Singapore at the time and was investigating allegations of war crimes and atrocities committed by the Japanese on allied prisoners of war.

During his two years in solitary he was taught Japanese by one of his guards.

He and MacGregor were among a small number of survivors who completed their sentences before being returned to Changi, where they remained until the surrender of the Japanese in 1945. Prior to returning to Australia he assisted in the surrender by working as an interpreter.

Following the war he was one of 12 Australians, including nurse Vivian Bullwinkle and Brigadier Arthur Blackburn VC, to give evidence to the war crimes trials in Tokyo. His affidavit is held at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

The family lived on a farm at Roleystone in the Darling Ranges near Perth, where they grazed cattle and grew oranges. They moved to Victoria in 1953.

In Victoria Dean pursued a career in business and was a director of a number of private companies and ran his own importing business for many years. Golf became a passion and he won the annual handicap at Greenacres golf club in 1955. Between 1962 and 1968 he was a director of Moomba.

In 1971 he and Bunny moved to Sorrento and more recently they lived in Mount Martha, returning to Melbourne in 2005.

Simon and Schuster published Singapore Samurai in 1998. Writing in The Weekend Australian on July 5, 1998, Red Harrison described the story as one of extraordinary courage, resilience and comradeship.

In November 2005 Bunny died with Penrod by her side. Over the next six months he adapted to life without her and lived happily at Waverley Valley, where he was cared for with great concern and good humour.

Dean was a voracious and wide reader; he borrowed five books every week from the Hawthorn library. He also continued to write and was completing a work of fiction when he died.

During his long and eventful life Dean displayed many fine qualities but his enormous courage was always at the fore and he will be deeply missed by his five children, younger brother Kerry, 14 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

© The Australian

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Pasir Panjang - "splendid scenic views"

"Pasir Panjang means "the sandy stretch, long beach". It became a popular resort like Tanjong Katong towards the end of the last century, which accounts for the many seaside residences,notably Haw-Par Villa and Labrador Villa. What DIsneyland is to the Occidentals, Haw-Par Villa is to the Orientals. It is a special tourist attraction, like its Hong Kong counterpart."

"Parts of Pasir Panjang give splendid scenic views of the adjacent islands and back country. The Gap is one and named Marina Hill after the late Duchess of Kent when she visited it [Singapore] with her son, some years ago. Also Kent Ridge. Bouna Vista Roads (North and South) were so named because of the views they offer (bona vista means good view)."

- S. Ramachandra, 1969: p36. "Singapore Landmark."

Thanks to Timothy Pwee (National Library) who transcribed part of the text and emailed me a photo of the page this afternoon, in response to my urgent SMS! This was referenced by "Toponymics. A study of Singapore Street names." By Victor R Savage & Brenda S A Yeoh, 2004 (2nd edition). Eastern Universities Press, Singapore. 436pp.

See also Oi Yee on the Ridge, and the Kent Ridge Commemorative Plaque.