Heritage tour of war depot to mark Battle of Singapore

SINGAPORE - To commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the Battle of Singapore, the National Heritage Board (NHB) has launched a new heritage tour of the Woodlands North Depot, a former fuel reserve depot used by the British Royal Air Force and the Japanese during World War II.

Called the Marsiling Tunnels Tour, it will be conducted by NHB researchers yesterday and next Saturday, and will take 15 participants per tour to the sealed entranceways of the depot in the Marsiling jungle along Admiralty Road West.

However, that is as far as participants will go. They will not be allowed in the tunnels because three of the four entranceways have been sealed. The remaining entranceway is too dangerous for participants to enter, according to the NHB.

Rusted pipes and sealed entranceways are all the public will see of the well-preserved depot, most of which descends two storeys underground.

"This tour offers a good opportunity for the public to get up close to an otherwise inaccessible World War II site and learn about NHB's new discoveries regarding the tunnels," said Mr Alvin Tan, NHB's policy group director.

It is one of the few remaining World War II military facilities used by the Japanese, as most were destroyed after the war.

During the tour, NHB researchers will share why the depot was built, details of the structure, as well as what role it played in the war.

The depot is isolated in a jungle on state land, making it inaccessible to the public.

Participants will be picked up from Kranji MRT station and taken to the site, which is 20 minutes away.

The Marsiling Tunnels Tour is one of five free tours organised by the NHB to mark the Battle of Singapore, which began with the Japanese landing at Lim Chu Kang on Feb 8, 1942, and which ended less than a week later with the British surrender at the Ford Factory in Upper Bukit Timah on Feb 15.

Mr Tan said of the significance of the tours: "Through these activities, we hope to inculcate in Singaporeans a culture of remembrance, because we believe that in remembering the past, we can better appreciate the present and prepare for the future."

Other than the Marsiling Tunnels Tour, the other tours have been conducted during previous years' World War II commemorative events.

Interactive Battlefield Tours of Kent Ridge and Labrador Park uses interactive activities and multimedia to help participants identify important military sites in the parks and to bring to life the Battle of Pasir Panjang, which was one of Singapore's last stands against the Japanese.

Another tour is the Tiong Bahru Air Raid Shelter Tour, where participants can visit Singapore's only remaining pre-war civilian air raid shelter in the basement of Block 78, Guan Chuan Street.

On the Adam Park Project Tours, participants have the chance to learn about battlefield archaeology. Artefacts dug up on the site will shed light on the events of the battle and the lives of the prisoners who lived there.

One tour offers a new twist on an old favourite.

For the first time, the National University of Singapore History Society will be conducting its popular Tales From The Opium Hill Tours at night.

The two-hour-long tour will lead participants along the Kent Ridge trail and up Bukit Chandu to recreate the heroic deeds of one of Singapore's war heroes, Second-Lieutenant Adnan Saidi, who died in battle.

All the tours will be held at multiple times tomorrow and next Saturday.

For information and to register for the tours, visit www.nhb.gov.sg or www.museums.com.sg


Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.