15 June 2010

Command House at Fairy Point Hill

Most people from the older generation remember the * Command House at Fairy Point off Cranwell Road as the former Commando HQ. This building has seen different functions and owners, first was pre-WII base for the British HQ Far East Air Force (HQFEAF), followed by the British's Royal Engineers HQ. Afterwich it was taken over as one of two RAF Officers' mess, subsequently it was took over by Singapore's elite force as their headquarters before the Red Berets moved over to their new premises in Hendon Camp.

Cranwell Road is situated in a well hidden corner of Changi. Only regular visitors to the Changi Beach Club would notice a small road leading uphill (recorded on the map as the western part of Netheravon Road) off Cranwell Road. Situated at the bottom of this road uphill is a heritage tree, a Buah Ca-na (Chinese White Olive) tree. Follow the road and you'll be standing face to face with the Command House on Fairy Point Hill (one of three hills in Changi, the other two being Battery Hill and Temple Hill).

It contains a two-storey building of the Neoclassical Style (a style principally derived from the architecture of Classical Greece, hence the Greek pillars on the front facade of the barracks). Built by the British Colonial architects and engineers between the 1920s and 1930s, the building was part of a British naval and air base protecting the eastern approach to the Johor Straits from the Japanese attack from the sea during the 2nd World War.

The hill that the building was located on is known as Fairy Point Hill, and the jetty which the Commandos used to utilize on the other side of the hill facing the sea was known as the Fairy Point Jetty.

Fun Trivia - A long time ago, wild tigers were believed to have swam from Johor to the neighbouring Pulau Ubin, attracted by the feast of wild boar and deer, before completing their long swim across the Straits by landing at Fairy Point, making Changi their new home. Fairy Point, being a cape (outcrop of land into the sea), was the closest in proximity to Pulau Ubin. This gave rise to the belief that Changi was the favourite haunt for tigers. What they did not know was that Fairy Point itself was the main point of entry for these "illegal immigrants". Changi was also mapped as Tanjong Rusa (literally translated as The Cape of Deers) in several old maps dating back as far as the 1600s. Did the overwhelming presence of wild deers in the Changi area give the place such an interesting name? And could these deers have attracted wild tigers to relocate their habitat?

The old Command House was given conservation status on 27 June 2002 and there have been talks by the URA to redevelop the place into a resort, hotel or recreational club.

The walls may be weathered but the beautiful architecture remains intact.

While our previous visits were made at night largely in an effort to capture paranormal footage on film, this recent one was to photograph the unique facade and architecture of the building, hence the day visit. The slightly overcast sky gave the place a dreamy feel, and we certainly appreciated the shade provided by the clouds and the occasional sea breeze. The majestic building would have provided a perfect backdrop for a wedding photo with its rustic charm.

We made our way around the main block and decided to enter it from the rear. Cutting across the small grass courtyard at the rear of the main block, we entered the ground floor of the building and made our way into the former Multi-Purpose Hall.

The wooden doors that surrounded the hall gave the place a majestic feeling even though the interior of the hall was dilapidated and part of it was in ruins.

For the time that it had been abandoned, the doors still felt heavy and sturdy, a testament that the previous British owners did not compromise when it came to using top quality doors.

The floor of the multi purpose hall was extremely dusty and parts of the pinstripe wallpaper had peeled off, giving the whole place a shabby feel.

At the front of the hall was a small elevated stage area. A beam that ran across the top of the stage still bore faint markings of the words "Honour And Glory" - the motto of the SAF Commandos.

For Honour And Glory - The motto that gives Commandos a strong sense of image and identity.

Making an about-turn, the team proceeded to the other end of the hall, where there was a narrow doorway leading into another room. We noted that the lower part of the wall at this part was completely peeled off, leaving behind crude and ugly glue marks on the original wall. Our guess was that probably a row of wooden panels or fabric was previously used to cover this bottom part of this wall, but was later removed when the unit moved out.

The guys examining the height of the wall's lower portion.

Proceeding through the ground floor, we entered the toilet, which had the standard white square tiles running halfway up the wall.

The paint on the ceiling was peeling badly, and some of the metal tubes which were used to hold the ceiling lights in place had already fallen out of place.

A few metal rods were strewn all over the floor, posing a hazard for unsuspecting explorers moving around this place in the dark.

A window, which was letting in a fair amount of light to illuminate the room, was broken and pieces of glass were all around. We had to be careful not to step on any pieces of broken glass or broken floor tiles to create any more hazards for future explorers.

The green tinge on the window glass lent a greenish hue to the light coming through the window. The whole area felt surreal.

Exiting the toilet, we headed for the flight of stairs that led to the second floor. As we edged towards the bottom of the stairs, we realised that there were some cracks along the banister wall of the stairs which had some tree roots growing through. Did the cracks appear first due to old age, followed by the roots growing through or were the roots strong enough to create cracks in the wall in their search for water?

As we ascended the staircase onto the second floor, we were greeted by a long corridor which had a similar layout to the corridor on the ground floor.

The parapet on the right side overlooked the former parade square, and right in the middle of this parade square stood five desolated flag poles, where the national, state and unit flags once fluttered proudly in the gentle sea breeze. The tarmac flooring also suggested that this could have been used a carpark as well.

On our left, the long dusty corridor was lined with blue wooden doors. Some of these doors were ajar, others were closed.

Most of the rooms along the corridor were lying in the same condition, broken floor tiles, peeling wall paint, dusty ceiling fans.

Theses rooms have pretty high ceilings as compared to today's standards. The architects probably designed it this way to help provide better ventilation to help dissipate the scorching heat inside the rooms.

As we entered the toilet on the second floor, the room was permeated with the same greenish light that we saw in the ground floor toilets. Many of the urinals were chipped and the wash basins were filled with pieces of broken ceramic. The mosaic flooring is certainly a blast from the past.

Looking out through one of the windows, we could see the grass courtyard at the rear of the building. To the right of the building was the multi purpose hall, and there was a shorter building linked to it. The 2 little chimneys on top of this building were a dead giveaway that this was probably the cookhouse.

Further down the corridor, there was a flight of stairs that led down to the right wing of the building. Peering back into the corridor, we could see water stains and moss growing on the corners of the ceiling. There was also a portion of the ceiling which had a gaping hole which was filled with interwoven branches, presumably the work of a weaver bird which had made the shady compound it's home.

There was also debris on the ground but it seemed like they have been swept to the sides, up against the wall.

As we walked along the right wing, we could see that the rooms along this part of the compound were squarish, in stark contrast to the rooms along the main compound which were long and rectangular.

One particular room that caught our attention had a gaping hole on one of it's walls. Was it a vandal who punctured a hole in the wall with a sledgehammer? Or did the contractors who helped with the camp relocation do it? Pieces of broken bricks were scattered all over the floor, an indication that the hole was created after the Commandos had shifted out.

As we entered another room, which had refreshing white walls for a change, we caught sight of the words 'Signal Platoon" stenciled on the inner wall. This room was probably the office where the signal officers and specialists used to ply their trade. Upon seeing this, we guessed that this entire wing was probably an office block. There was also a vintage electrical box on one of the walls with a few of the wires still intact.

After walking to the end of the block, we went down the stairs and headed towards the link house beside the multi purpose hall. It was a pretty large room, with two smaller, separated rooms at the back. As we guessed, the walls which were tiled up halfway looked exactly like a kitchen area.

As we went around the back, we found a room with a metal rack full of electrical boxes and wires. This was probably a backup generator room of some sort. There was a grilled window between the main walkway and this room, and we noticed that someone had stuck a hefty number of joss sticks into the bottom part of the grill. Was it the work of punters looking for "lucky numbers"? Or was it the contractors giving offerings in exchange for peace?

A few years ago, the team visited the Command House at night. However, those photos were never shown to the public before. While we're on this topic, we thought it'll be interesting to shown a few of the photos we took that night. Notice how different the place looks at night, probably how stories of hauntings are concocted by visitors.

Some people claim that there's a stain near the roof of the front facade, made up largely of algae and moss, looks like an angel with his arms wide open. perhaps to embrace mankind?

What do you think?

(Note: I think these people have an overactive imagination, or perhaps their eyes are playing tricks on them in the darkness? - Aaron)

The Command House / Old Commando HQ, is certainly a place which is extremely rich in history. Senior Commandos will certainly reminisce of the days they spent in this compound, while the younger ones will never have a chance to soak in the ambience, having moved to Hendon Camp. If the place is indeed converted into a resort in the future, I sure am glad that we have managed to amass a number of photos before the place is refurbished or torn down.

*Article edited for correct historical info, much thanks to information from Charles (API) and Krisgage

Slideshow from the photo album on Flickr
Album on Flickr

Reference links
Rediscover the East - Changi Point
DBHKer on Flickr
Singapore Infopedia
Final notes from a great island - Neil Humphreys

Article and photos copyright of Aaron Chan & Andrew (熊赴龍).

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  1. Hi there! Just wanted to ask if the place is open to the public to visit or is it cordoned off? Thanks :)

    1. We believe it is currently closed off for future estate developments (there's a signage that indicates near the slip road to the location).

    2. Hi, just another update:


      The old building and it's site are revamped.

  2. hi there! is the command house at fairy point hill still there? how u all get in?

  3. HI there! is the building still there? how u all get in?