Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gunfight at Siang Lim Park...August 1965

The famous gunfight at Siang Lim Park took place on Thurday 5 August 1965. Those interested in the full details of that unforgettable episode can access the Straits Times report of 6 August 1965 under the heading, " The Bravest Act of all in Siang Lim Park " and an accompanying article titled " Inspector and thug die and 4 houses gutted ". The archived reports are only available at certain libraries including the National Library. They are not accessible online.
For Unk Dicko's story, join me as I try to recall what I saw and experienced that fateful day in Siang Lim Park's history.

Eyewitness account...Unk Dicko
In mid July 1965, I went to work for the first time in my life as a Public Health Inspector. Training for the exciting and challenging job began immediately after I reported to the Ministry of Health Hqrs in Palmer Road. Some days we had a few hours of lectures at No: 2 College Road Training Centre, followed by attachment training at Havelock Road Cleansing Depot. Much, much later, I went through the whole gamut of attachments at various Govt agencies.
On 4 August 1965, in the pre-dawn hours I was on an observation field attachment. I had left home in the middle of night. Those days, I had 4 means of transport to and from work. If it was nearby, I could use my old Raleigh bicycle. If in the city or further away, I took the bus or taxi.
Sometimes I got a lift from one or two senior Health Inspectors living in Geylang.

That morning of 5 August, my training was over for the day. As I crossed Geylang Road over to Lorong 40 side, the junction was guarded by fully armed policeman and Gurkhas. They stopped me from going into my own Lorong without saying why. It was still dark. The sun wasn't up yet.
It was between 6 and 6.30 am. I told the officers I live at 94 Siang Lim Park and produced my
NRIC as proof. After a short while and some consultation, they let me through telling me to go straight home and not wander about. I asked what was all the fuss about as there was a sizeable number of policemen present. I had the right to ask as my family was living there. That was first time I learnt they were conducting a dangerous operation. I had no idea against whom or the number of criminals involved. But I knew roughly where as they told me to avoid the left side as I walked slowly home.
On reaching home, I found some of my family members were already awake. I asked my late mother if she was aware of the situation "outside". She told me that "something is happening at
Bibik's side but wasn't sure what". I decided to check things out for myself.
Changing into some comfortable home clothes, I went out through our backdoor which led to our backlane. There were no policemen around. They were mostly scattered and positioned at the other side ( Today the Waterina side ). The furthest I could proceed was near the house along our same row with the huge Jambu Ayer tree. That junction was blocked off by officers.

A number of my fellow kampongers were just like me eager and dying to find out what was developing. I went to a friend's house opposite the corner house and there watched the proceedings. Unknown to me earlier, the police had received a tip-off that the most wanted gunman Morgan Teo aka Morgan the Kidnapper was holed up in a house near Ref#29 on map,
together with some of his henchmen. They responded quickly by surrounding the identified unit while quietly informing nearby affected houses to evacuate. It was fortunate they did that as the subsequent firefight showed.
When the area was secured, the police ambush party identified themselves and asked the occupants within to surrender and come outside. No response after repeated calls. Orders were issued to fire tear gas canisters inside. Sounds of explosions could be heard, followed by smoke.
At least 2 of his henchmen, overcomed by the choking gas, ran out to surrender. But there was still no sign of Morgan the terror.
Inspector Allan Lim Kim Sai, from the CID, then acted. Drawing his gun, he approached the front door. Just as he was stepping forward, a single shot rang out from within. Morgan Teo had fired and the bullet hit the Inspector on his head. All the other officers backed off when 2 grenades were thrown by the elusive gunman. Two policemen were injured by the blasts.
Amidst the confusion and mayhem of the fatal shooting of Insp Allan Lim, Morgan Teo managed to elude capture by climbing through the roofs of the neighbouring houses....and escaped!
It took some time before it was ascertained that there were no other gunmen left in the by then burning house ( fire was put out later).
The whole area was swarming with police and CID people. An ambulance took the injured to hospital but the brave Inspector could not be saved. He was only 28 when he died.
Days later, we took a closer look at the scene of the famous gunfight. The roof of that house was damaged and part of the interior gutted.

What happened to Morgan Teo the most wanted gunman and kidnapper?
Did he elude capture totally?
Find out in the next post.

28 comments:

PChew said...

In the 1960s there were many kidnapping cases in Singapore. The most notorious case was by kidnap master mind, Oh Kim Kee. He was Singapore's public enemy No.1. In August 1960 he was shot dead by a hail of bullets from the police at Geylang.

Unk Dicko, you were a PHI before and you went for public health training. Was it Royal Society of Health course? Were you posted to the abattoirs at French Road and Jalan Besar? I was in the same service from 1957 to 1974.

unk Dicko said...

Hi Phillip,
Another coincidence again! Looks like our path had crossed between 1965 and early 1967. Yes, I was attached to the abattoirs during my training near old Victoria School in St George's Ave(Pigs)and the one at Jalan Besar for goats,sheep and cows.
If I remember correctly, a certain Mr Phipps ( a Jew?)was the Superintendent i/c. He spoke Cantonese just like a real Cantonese! I confided in him many times about the dangers of my work and the blatant corruption that I had seen. He was a good man, kind, soft spoken and I took a professional liking to this gentleman.
There were about 25 of us in my batch for the RS PHI course. Quite a few left some years later. Some of my contemporaries were still in the service until recently.
So you must know the senior people I've worked under and with, such as...Eric Taye, Dr Sayampanathan, Khoo,Arthur, Lim Kok Hee, Stephen De'Souza, Phillip Loh etc..?
Btw,I had some news clippings on Oh Kim Kee. Will see if I can locate them.

peter said...

There was this big time detective named Ong XXXX who was the father of one of my friends. Ong lived in Oxley Rise area and when we went there, I noticed he kept a revolver in a holster behind a door. As usual I asked questions but my friend never told me excatly what his father did. It was after many years later that I kept remembering that I had seen his father's face somewhere before. Later I realised he was on the wanted list of most gangsters in Singapore and had many shoot-outs.

unk Dicko said...

That name sounds familiar...Ongxxx!
Those were very dangerous years in Singapore.Desperate criminals living in desperate times. Gangsters were everywhere...they were "kings" in their own turf and operated with impunity. Secret societies carved out their own tribal territory and terrorised those within by demanding "protection money" from shops, businesses, traders, even the poor hawkers had to pay!
Not only in Siang Lim Park or Geylang..these "sam seng kias" were everywhere.
I had seen a few gang clashes and the aftermath. The colonial police DELIBERATELY took their own sweet time to respond to such clashes for a good reason( from what I learnt long time ago). It was strategic and clever. Two or more gangs are clashing and killing each other with all sorts of weapons. Let them kill each other off. The police went to the scene to collect dead bodies and arrested those injured. The stupid gangsters did not wake up to this fact...until it was too late.

PChew said...

unk Dicko, all the PHI's names you mentioned had been called home except Philip Loh. Eric Taye should be Patrick Taye, head of Food & Drug Section. Phipps, a Eurasian was not the superintendent. It was Mr Byrne, another Eurasian. I was a permanent staff with a few others at the abattoir until 1966 before the Primary Production Dept took over. We decided to return to the Ministry of the Environment. Only two inspectors plus Phipps stayed on. Remember the porridge stall just outside the abattoir gate? I believe we met. I cannot remember you because so many health inspectors came and left. Maybe I can recognise you if I see your 1965-67 photos.

unk Dicko said...

Thanks so much for the update Philip. I had no idea so many have passed on. And thanks for the correction. Now you mentioned it, I do recall Byrne. Yes Patrick E Taye...I think the 'E' stood for Eric. That porridge stall was superb. How else not to be..sited as it was just outside the supply of meat?
Philip Loh used to give me lifts to Hqrs and back. He lived very near to S Lim Park, Lorong 36, I think.
There was another Loh, tall, lanky chap...also a PHI. I forgot his full name.
I do have some b/w photos of those days but know not where they are.
Hopefully, I can find them.

peter said...

When my father was on the board of the criminal law detention committee, I used to look through some of the police files. There were many photos of gruesome gang fights. There were Chinese, Malay and Indian gangs. Some of the photos I can still remember very well - parang wounds on the back like a long line from the neck to the buttocks. At that time fights were over territories. - protection money was a big thing. One thing I notice was the average of gangsters were in their 20s. They carry all sorts of weapons (like those in Chinese wayangs). Temples were hiding places where gang initition ceremonies took place.

unk Dicko said...

A most favoured weapon of secret societies fighters was the bearing scraper. It was triangular shaped with very sharp pointed tip at the head. Many gangsters were killed by just this weapon alone...one stab was all it took, usually under the armpit or on the back. Why was death so quick and irreversible when stabbed like that?
I only understood fully when I was attached to the Govt Abbatoir at French Road for my PHI training. The slaughter of pigs was done in a standard manner...with just one stab similar to what I had described.
Only one difference, the stab was made at the throat of the animal.. not a slit but a gaping hole. This causes air to rush in or out of the wound and the pressure inside and outside is equalised...thus no breathing can take place. Of course,massive bleeding also contributed to certain,quick death.
The bearing scraper plunged with force can penetrate the body deeply.
In those days, anyone found with such a scraper will be detained as an SS suspect.

Icemoon said...

Wah, Ong XX lived so near to Lau Lee, the govt did not evict him? Haha. So was he a gangster or detective cm ex-gangster.

Thimbuktu said...

Hi Unk Dicko, thank you for your updates on the Antartic Expedition 2009.

I've sent a "Good Luck" message to Sophia and her team of brave gals from your link.

Our Singaporean gals are made of tough stuff indeed...they have both brains and brawns too!

unk Dicko said...

Icemoon,
I believe this Ongxxx, which Peter mentioned, was a very senior CID officer responsible for some of the most high profile cases,in particular that case mentioned by PCChew above.
In that shootout of 1960 in Geylang, he was actually shot by the slain gunman before returning fire and killing the latter. Fortunately, he was wounded in the arm only.
Perhaps, Peter may like to comment?

Tim said...

Hi - I was very interested to read about Morgan Teo. I live in the Waterina condo - was the house where the shootout occurred actually on the site where the Waterina now stands? What was here before the Waterina?

The skull of Morgan Teo is on display at the police museum.

Tim said...

Ok - I have just read the other really fascinating posts on the history of Siang Lim Park, which totally answer my previous question. Little do my multinational neighbours know what once happened where they now watch their kiddies splashing in the pool ... !

unk Dicko said...

Hi Tim,
First to answer your earlier question...Yes! The gunfight took place right where your Waterina Condos are now located. However, if you want a more precise triangulation, I wouldn't really mind going down to meet you and show you the approximate houses involved. Just let me know here if you'll like that.
Actually, I still have some old photos of Siang Lim Park which I have yet to display.
If you like to print out a copy of the blogstory to share with your fellow residents ...please go ahead.
I'll be honoured to be a link from the past for you new "kampongers" of my old kampong.

Tim said...

unc Dicko - that would be a terrific idea. I'm being selfish here as I am fascinated by local history and the way that the memories of a whole generation are lost as developments like the Waterina wipe out traces of an earlier world ... please send me an email on timotheus@pacific.net.sg

I'd love to get together.

And I love the music on your blog. I recommend Ricky Nelson (better than Elvis in my opinion ... ). At least I liked it until that naff version of Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly - sounds like Cold Storage in October.

Tim

Tim said...

Ah - now it's Roy Orbison.

Much better.

Tim

unk Dicko said...

Hi Tim,
Am really glad you enjoy the music! My early and later life was surrounded by such lovely music and I never grew tired of them.
I will email you shortly.
Siang Lim Park had an old world charm of its own especially in the 50's, 60's and 70's. For those of us who were born there and grew up into adulthood...there will always be more than just a sentimental slice of S L Park kept in our hearts.
I will have more posts about those bygone days about the life, the personalities, the fantastic hawkers, the river, gangs,festivals, riots and whatever I can recall.

unk Dicko said...

Forgot to mention...you can actually select the singer you prefer by just clicking with your mouse aimed at the singer's face!
Then all the songs loaded for that singer will play non-stop until the end and it will go auto to next singer.

Bibik yankee said...

Hi,
I live in Florida BUT I think I may have found an "old" neighbor. I lived in Siang Lim Park when I was a child. Played in the kramat area and helped an Indian lady caretaker with sweeping sometimes. I loved Pak Rojak's cart under the jambu tree (tree owned by a Hakka family), was allowed to pangang my own taupok too. Was house no. 94 on the left or right when entering that street? Do you know the old mata kuching tree? Or the soya sauce house? Did you ever play with the stray dogs or fish in the longkang (canal) near the market? :)

vin

unk Dicko said...

Hi Vin,
My apologies for not replying earlier..was away in Europe.
Am very glad you are my fellow "kamponger" from Siang Lim park days. Before I answer your questions, I am very curious as to the location of your house. Using my map can you pinpoint a nearby code I have used. Also when was it that you were living there?
Ok...now for your questions.
The biggest surprise for you will be about the house with that famous JAMBU Bol tree. Not the house with the Jambu ayer tree. In the whole of S L Park there was only ONE house on which grew a kind of Jambu called in pasar malay "JAMBU BOL". When ripe, it looks like a red apple! The size was as big, if not bigger than an apple. The fruit is eaten whole, except for the large few seeds. Very tasty, fragrant and has a generous soft texture. It is not too hard like guava and not watery and juicy like the Jambu ayer.
The ONLY house in SL Park with this unique fruit tree was House No: 94...my house!!!
We had a hard time preventing people from climbing our fence to get at the fruit. The fruit goes well with the rojak that "Apek" made.
For the location of our old family house see my map. We are the corner unit opposite to the only Chinese Provision shop which is next to the only Indian provision shop.
What was you house number?
Apek Rojak used to park his cart right outside our garden, under the shade of that Jambu Bol tree. Then much later in the night, he would shift to just after the bridge, near the Lor 40 field.
The lady looking after the 2 keramats was someone I knew well although I always called her as " Makchik". It was from her that I learnt that some of the very naughty boys used to steal the fruit offerings and money placed there as donations for the upkeep of the keramats.
Have you ever heard about the case of the boy nicknamed by everyone " Ah Seng Gila"? I knew this boy and his family who lived behind the keramat, nearer Guillemard Rd side. He was normal until he deliberately pee-ed at the keramat one day. Every now and then, he would suddenly fall into convulsions. It continued for years.
The river was one of our favourite places. I had swum in it, caught fishes with "punki", caught tortoises, and even fighting fishes when the heavy rain came and flooded the ponds at Paya Lebar...many fighting fish and good-looking guppies escaped down" our" side of the river.
Our beloved family dog named Johnnie was a stray! So was Roger!
That was in the late 50's and early 60's.
The old Mata Kuching tree was at the other side of the kampong.
Btw, do you have any old photos of SL Park or your house which you would like to share?
Do let me know and I would love to see them!
I have yet to place any of my old pics on the blog. Have a pic or two of that Jambu Bol tree in our garden.
And some memories of our old home.
Also some pics of the people whom I have mentioned in my blogs on SL Park.
Hope to hear from you real soon.

Bibik yankee said...

Hi unk Dicko,
You've actually jigged my memory. Yes Ah Pek Rojak was under your tree (I never got to taste that jambu) & there was late wanton mee under the jambu ayer tree. If you are who I think you are - you have an elder brother, Anthony and a sister nicknamed "loyloy", also a younger brother (can't remember his name) who taught me how to net guppies in the canal and not get stuck in the mud. We used to go down the edge/bank near the keramat.

Yes, I remember Ah Seng Gila who had brothers, Ah Fatt & Ah Keong who made super layang strings and always charitably gave me some. I didn't know Ah Seng pee-ed at/on kramat, I only thought he had epilepsy. Your student Rose was my senior in Haig Girls' School. We used to ride in the same van driven by a Mr Chan and later his son Peter, to school. Mr Chan had a shop along Geylang Road, next to the hor-fan coffee shop. Peter was a drummer in a pop band. I knew the musical Malay family you mentioned and used to climb trees with Mat's younger brother, Ishak. If my memory serves me right, the Chinese provision store used to be owned by Ah Pui, a fat Teochew man who had a daughter named Helen but he sold to a Hokien family (1 guy and 2 sisters). Kedai Kaka (the Indian store) stayed the same I think.

Next to the jambu ayer corner house, before it was bought by a noisy lady, was a baba family with children Catherine, Harold, Jessie & Hogan. They moved to a place close to Guillemard Circus.

The widow, whose husband passed away on the beach) and ended up taking over her husband's school transport business had 3 children, Ah Hai, Ah Hoon and Ah San (sea, cloud & mountain).

A Eurasian family, the Batchelors, lived 3 doors away from the larger kramat. I used to ride my bicycle with a nephew, Arthur Kitt, who was staying with them.

My house no. was 105 and yes, you knew my dad. I will dig into old (and I mean really old!) boxes to see if I have some pics.

It's a small world after all.

unk Dicko said...

Hi Vin,
I was busy today and at this unearthly hour when I saw your reply...well let me just say of all the replies or comments I have received on this blog since it started...this is the one that has made me most emotional!
You are the very first fellow kamponger from the days of yore that has re-appeared and re-connected with me after all this long time period!
I believe we definitely know each other as you knew some of my family members too...Anthony, my elder brother, "Loy-Loy" happens to be Florence my younger sister, and the one whose name you forgot is Alfred, my younger brother. They are all faring well and still live in S'pore, including my older siblings.
I'm particularly excited when you mentioned House No: 105 ( Your house ). We were practically nearby neighbours right?
Vin...you said I knew your dad. I believe I do but dare not venture a guess. Could you please confirm for me?
I do remember your house...the number and the location, along the same backlane we shared...right?
Vin...I will post some old S L Park photos soon on this blog and hopefully they will bring back some more memories for all of us.
Your recall of the past is still excellent. Any idea where is Rose today?

Bibik yankee said...

Hi ex-neighbour,
Yes, we shared to same backlane. I used to watch the Yip boys put up the badminton net and other boys such as William & Vincent whacking the poor shuttlecock back
& forth. Did you have a nickname like Kungfu or something close?

Cheng Fong was my dad & I was the village tom-boy. I lost contact with Rose after she went to secondary school, TKGS, I think. The house next to Rose's is the haunted one? Walter lived there and his wife used to lock him out because he was always drunk. I think he died from alcoholism.

FYI, I remember the 1st house on Guillemard/Lor 40 corner was Mr Gunaratnam's then (along Guillemard) came Benny's, then 1 more, then Ah Seng Gila, right? Behind Mr Gunaratnam is a hokien family who always had mediums visiting, gongs banging away. Then it was a Hainanese family with guava tree, son Bak Jon, daughter Siew Fong.

Then come the Chinese teachers, son Ah Kiang daughter Ah Liang. Then the house with the mata kuching tree where the grandson had 6 fingers on both hands - they
bought it from an Arab family - Majeed. Then came the Hindi family who had bought the house from the Cantonese family with 5 boys. Then, the big keramat fronted by lots of bushes & fighter spiders and then a grassy piece of land with a pathway to Ah Seng's back alley. Another "block" of 4 units after that: beginning with a
Malay lady with very dark red lips & shiny golden rim specs, then the Batchelors, don't know the other 2 but the last corner one had 5 casuarina trees by its side,

105 was our corner unit, then came the Tay family (Ah Chiat & Ah Lan with daughter Leng Leng & son Ah Seng & 1 younger girl) Tay's batchelor brother Ah Cheng (who
much later was a colleague of mine for 6 mos & passed away from illness). Tay's mother had remarried a Mr Koh & step siblings Ah Hwa and Leng Hong also lived there.

Next was a "strange" family who had earlier rented a room from the widow before getting this place, children were Mei Sia, Ah Eng and Ah Siong. Then came the soya
sauce seller who drove a van selling that stuff,had 2 sons. After them was a back alley followed by a long stretch of zinc "fence-wall" belonging to Mr Sim, the taxi driver. His wife was a chapjikee agent & they had 2 daughters (forgot their names) & 4 sons, Boon Hin (who limped), Boon Boo, Boon Aun and Boon Kiat. Next to them is the Malay actor followed by a Cantonese family (the fat father rode a bicycle daily to market). Then a Chinese family (you might know the bicycling son) followed by an Indian family with banana plants in their side garden.

Whew, I think I had better give you a break :-) Please correct me if I'm wrong.
I have found 1 pic so far but how do I send it to you?

vin

unk Dicko said...

Hi Vin!
Thanks so much for all the "village" news and recap. Truly, your recall for people and names and other details is nothing short of Amazing! You have even got it right about "Kung-fu" or something close! That's what your dad used to call me.
Ok,about sending pics or private messages it's best done through personal email address. However, I do not think it's wise to simply publicise such personal e-address online.
So, the next best option is through FACEBOOK...the Wall to Wall box, which is from person to person. I have an active Facebook Account. If you have one, can you get in touch with me there? We can communicate "wall to wall" and I will provide you my email address within.
My account is under the name 'Dick Yip'...the photo will confirm it is me.
Vin,hope you wouldn't mind me asking this...I have lost touch with your dad and would appreciate deeply, any update.

unk Dicko said...

Since that last response, Vin and I have communicated direcly by email or on Fbook.

Anonymous said...

Hello abang my name kaya the eldest son of the mama shop No 93 siang lim park but i do know your late mother and maybe have seen your late father but i know one of brothers are fond of me and my siblings but i cannot recall which one but does my name kaya rings a bell. Hope to hear from you

Unk Dicko said...

Hello Kaya,
Great to hear from you! I am not sure which brother of mine it was. I have 4 other bros. It could likely be myself as I was, all through those years, very close to your father's people and shop. Can you contact me on Facebook and we can chat more. My name and profile pic will confirm me - Dick Yip.
Thanks and regards. Hear from you again !

Nonya Modern said...

I remember Kaya & have looked through old pics hoping to find 1 of the shop with him near the coconut grater. His younger siblings were always with their mother by the door going to the back. He was always helping in the shop.