Friday, November 6, 2015

For Your Information: Former Combined Ops Room Tour and Exhibition at Police Pearls Hill Headquarters

After donating blood on the same day, I went to the Former Combined Operations Room at the former Lower and Upper Barracks at Pearl's Hill Terrace, the Police Headquarters. The police force moved out in August 1977 before moving to New Phoenix Park.

This exhibition was described as "Tour Only" and booking must be made through the Singapore Police Force themselves. Walk-ins will not be entertained. Me and fiancee was supossed to go and I did made a booking for her. But because she was having and preparing for her A Levels, she was unable to come with me.

When I was there however, there was not much people around, and other than myself in the tour group, all of them are walk-ins. My group consists two families and myself, a lone ranger.

Building main entrance. Note the crest of the Straits Settlements Police.
Former Police Headquarters at Pearl's Hill.
The building is currently used and rented out to various art workshops, design companies and cafes. 

The tour guides are former police officers. I wish I had caught his name though. He really did a great job illustrating the exhibits.

The old police car was the real attraction.
I was told that the car was an actual police car which had been restored close to its original glory but not to the exact replica as depicted in photos. Our our guide told us that he once crashed this exact car, but it was fixed afterwards.

A vintage photo during the 60s, with a Ford Zephyr patrol car
Outside of the Combined Ops Room is located. 
The Ops Room's wall thickness, vs typical building walls.
We were told by our guide that the FCOR wall thickness is so thick and solid that it is able to withstand any bomb blasts, tremors and other attacks. As shown by the photo above, it functioned more like a bunker than a ops room. Without any windows or openings, the FCOR relied on air-conditioning for ventilation, quite rare and unique during the 60s.
Corridors of the FCOR.
Another corridor.

We were told that only the British police commissioners offices are in the room as shown. Once Singapore became independent, tan Teck Khim shifted his office to another building. The reason given is that the FCOR was a noisy and rowdy environment, and as respect to the commander, his office had since been shifted out.

Office of the General Officer Commanding, Singapore Base District.
Office of the General Officer Commanding, Singapore Base District.
Above are the photos of the office of the General Officer Commanding, Singapore Base District. Part of the Malaya Command, a British military formation. The office ceased after Singapore merged with Malaysia in 1963. Here, a part of the office has been replicated faithfully from archive photographs. It was a simple office without too much decorations.
Our guide explained what these items are used for.
Communication devices back in the day.

This was formerly on top of the communications tower.
Our guide sharing what it was like to be a policeman in the 70s
Read ups on major incidents.
NS Riots and Hock Lee Bus Riots
Maria Hertogh Riots.
Dates to reflect upon.
Gas mask and a baton.
We go to the room next to it featuring displays and read ups on turbulent times. Our guide explained the displays to us and also shared his past experiences as a young policeman. Apparently, when Singapore first got independent, to help with the manpower crunch, policemen from Malaysia, particularly Chinese and Indian from Melaka, were brought in. Also in those days, people mostly speak Hokkien and Malay, so bringing in officers from Malaysia makes much sense as we share the same culture and language.

The famous UFO desk that is used to take 999 calls back in the day.
Paperwork depicted on the desk
50s era telephone
Old era first police officer form.
Photos from the Hock Lee Bus riots.
Back of the UFO table, where there is steps and a place for the duty officer to work. 
A map of Singapore Town in the 50s

Our guide telling the how the different division were set up back in the day.
Managed by a duty officer and female subordinates under him, the population was small back then so from the 50s till the 70s, all of the 999 calls are handled within this small radio control room. Some studies show people in general are more amicable, and share more information over the phone, if they are talking to a female. As such, the ‘999’ hotline in the past was manned solely by female police officers who quickly earned the nickname ‘Triple-Niner Girls’.

Our guide explained that it was a very noisy and chaotic room and there was a lot of shouting going on. Despite the noise, officers understood what was being relayed to them.

Officers from other forces were also present and sat behind the counters.
Our guide explaining the purpose of this room.
A map with toy cars tracks where the resources are at at realtime.
Resources and other forces assigned to attend incidents are written on this giant chalkboard. A ladder was used to reach the top.
Photograph on how it was back in the day.
Photograph on how it was back in the day.
The next area we were shown is where police and its other forces monitor police resources. Being a combined operations room, other forces present at that time include the Army, Royal Air Force and Navy. During major incidents, such as riots, the Chief Police Staff Officer would monitor the situation off the handwritten updates on the display wall.

Showing the chain of command of communication between division from that era. 
Cardboard standee of a typist.
Showing how facts are being typed out, and relayed to the officers.
A photograph depicting how it was back in the day
Air conditioning unit from the 50s
Read ups on how the radio network evolved into the 70s

From the 50s.....
....Till today.
Police Officer's rest room.
We were also shown a recreation of the rest area for senior officers to sleep. Junior officers don't use this room because usually have a lighter workload and have their own quarters nearby. But they hardly get to use the beds because the officers were so dedicated that they finished the mission before getting the rest they deserve.

Me and the tour guides.
Kudos to the Singapore Police Force for opening up this exhibition and the tour guides for making the effort to retell the stories and giving us the insight on what it was like for the FCOR back then. and specially for sharing your experiences while serving in the force yourself.

Definitely an eye opener and highly recommended to come for a visit. Exhibition ends on 31st January 2016. Opening hours are from 10am to 5pm, Tuesdays to Sundays. Best of all, it's free!

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