Kranji Heritage Trail (part 1)

The Kranji Heritage Trail was conceived by the National Heritage Board, and introduced in late 2011. It links up 14 historical and farm sites in Kranji and Lim Chu Kang. The Kranji area was named after the Kranji Tree, a local tree that was commonly found in Singapore in the early 19th century.

Kranji Heritage Trail Map
Kranji Heritage Trail

Unlike what its name suggests, there is no single route connecting all 14 sites. Instead, they are scattered rather far apart, and it is unlikely for anyone to walk to all 14 sites at one go. I’ve visited a few of the historical sites on a few separate trips, and here’s a compilation of some of the photos I took.

Kranji War Memorial
Designed by Colin St. Clair Oakes
Constructed: 1957
Status: Found

Kranji War Memorial 01
Kranji War Memorial

Prior to WWII, this area was part of a British military base. When the Japanese took over, it became a POW hospital, and the land around it became a small cemetery. After the Japanese surrendered, the British decided to convert it into a war cemetery.

Kranji War Memorial 02
Kranji War Memorial 04
The cemetery overlooks the industrial areas

War graves from various places and cemeteries around Singapore, such as Changi Camp, Buona Vista Camp, Pasir Panjang Military Cemetery, Ulu Pandan Military Cemetery and Bidadari Christian Cemetery were exhumed and re-interred here.

Kranji War Memorial 03
Kranji War Memorial 08
The main memorial building

The main memorial, the Kranji War Memorial, was unveiled in 1957. The vertical wall columns of the memorial represent the Army marching in formation, while the roof plane resembles wings and represent the Air Force. The Navy is represented by the central tower, which resembles the periscope of a submarine.

Kranji War Memorial 09
”They died for all free men”

On the walls are names of over 24,000 allied servicemen who perished during the war and whose bodies were never recovered.

Kranji War Memorial 10
Kranji War Memorial 07
Kranji War Memorial

In addition to servicemen and civilians who died during WWII, the cemetery also has graves for servicemen who sacrificed during WWI and the Konfrontasi.

Kranji War Memorial 05Kranji War Memorial 06
Kranji War Memorial
Kranji War Memorial 12
Tomb of Benjamin Sheares

Within the same compound is the Singapore State Cemetery, where the first two presidents of Singapore were buried. The grave of Benjamin Sheares is clearly visible on the right side when you enter. I failed to spot the grave of Yusof bin Ishak though.

Kranji War Memorial 11
Kranji War Memorial

Neo Tiew Estate
Constructed: 1979
Status: Found

Neo Tiew Estate 02
Neo Tiew Estate

Neo Tiew Estate, or Lim Chu Kang Rural Centre, was built in 1979. It is located at the junction of Lim Chu Kang Road and Neo Tiew Road. A number of HDB estates from that period were known as “Rural Centres” as they housed relocated farmers who were allowed to continue with their farming activities. This housing scheme was stopped soon after to encourage Singaporeans to take up non-agricultural related jobs.

Neo Tiew Estate 10
It was also known as Lim Chu Kang Rural Centre

Neo Tiew Estate was named after Mr Neo Tiew (梁宙), who contributed greatly to the development of the village in the early 1900s. He contributed to the paving of the road (which would later be named after him), set up the first mini-mart in Lim Chu Kang (Nan He Mini-Mat at Nam Hoe Village, or 南和村 in Mandarin, located along New Tiew Road, near Turut Track) and started the Kay Wah Chinese School (公立启化学校). He also risked his life to protect the settlement from the invading Japanese during WWII.

Neo Tiew Estate 08
Used as a location for urban warfare training, the place is not maintained at all

The main school of Kay Wah Chinese School, for upper primary levels, was located at Thong Hoe Village (通和村). Branch I (启化第一分校) was at Ama Keng Village (阿妈宫村), and Branch II (启化第二分校) was at Nam Hoe Village. The 2 branch schools were for lower primary levels. The 3 schools have since been reunited as Qihua Primary School (启化小学; “Kay Wah” was the Hokkien pronunciation) and is currently located in Woodlands.

Thong Hoe Village was located on the other side of Lim Chu Kang Road, along Sungei Gedong Road (now within Sungei Gedong Camp area). Ama Keng Village was at the junction of Lim Chu Kang Road and Ama Keng Road. Both the road and the village were named after the temple that was founded at that location in 1900. It was dedicated to the holy mother, the goddess of peace and happiness. In Hokkien, ama means “grandmother” while keng means “temple”.

Ama Keng Village also had another school, known as Ama Keng School (亚妈宫学校), which was founded in 1951 and merged with Nam San School (南山学校) in 1990 to form South View Primary School (南山小学). It is currently located at Choa Chu Kang.

Two more school were located in the vicinity back then. Lim Chu Kang Primary School and Loke Yang School (洛阳学校; not to be confused with the current Loyang Primary School) were located further up north from Thong Hoe Village, along Lim Chu Kang Road. In addition to schools, these villages were also served by community centres. All these no longer exist today. The following is a map that shows the approximate locations of the villages, CCs and schools.

Neo Tiew Estate 05
The letterbox has been removed

In 2002, the estate underwent en-bloc and the residents were relocated to Boon Lay Drive. The estate then became a FIBUA (fighting in built-up areas) military training ground until the completion of Murai Urban Training Facility near Murai Reservoir in 2008. The estate was recently used as a filming location for Jack Neo’s latest BMT-themed film, Ah Boys To Men.

Neo Tiew Estate 04
Neo Tiew Estate 09
Neo Tiew Estate

The estate, often referred to as the “abandoned Kranji HDB flats” by netizens, consists of 3 blocks of flats surrounding a wet market. Shophouses were located on the ground floor of the blocks, and were connected to the dwelling units on the second level. This is a distinctive feature of the Rural Centres not seen in newer HDB estates anymore.

Neo Tiew Estate 06
Vandalised by bored soldiers or other visitors?

Lots of graffiti could be seen on the walls. Some were evidently left behind by military personnel undergoing training there, while others seemed to be cult-related. Not surprising for an abandoned estate at such a rural area.

Neo Tiew Estate 07
Void deck of Blk 5. I’m guessing it’s a coffee shop
Neo Tiew Estate 11
Neo Tiew Estate 12
Wet Market (Blk 2)

The wet market and food centre was located at the central part of the estate. According to older maps, the food centre was in Blk 1, located at the front of the estate. It seems to have been demolished, as only the wet market building remained.

Neo Tiew Estate 01
Playground and fitness corner

There was also a playground located at the front of the estate, and a fitness corner beside it.

Neo Tiew Estate 13
Neo Tiew Estate 14
The old playground

It seems that in 2013, fences were erected around the estate. Hence, it is not advisable to enter the restricted compounds, especially if there is military training going on.

Neo Tiew Estate 03
Between Blk 2 and Blk 3

I’ll be uploading my remaining photos of more Kranji Heritage Trail sites in my next post.

File Last Updated: August 22, 2013

One response to “Kranji Heritage Trail (part 1)

  1. Hi. I was a student of qihua pri sch, & if I recall my sch history correctly, it’s Kay hwa branch 1 that moved over to woodlands to be renamed as qihua pri sch, as branch II and main branch closed down. It’s not the fact of three branches merging tgt.

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