Located near Mount Faber between Keppel Hill and Mount Faber, Keppel Hill Reservoir holds secrets dating back over a century. Once envisioned as a vital source of water supply for the growing island, it now rests silently, cloaked in mystery and intrigue.
The History of Keppel Hill Reservoir
Keppel Hill Reservoir is believed to have its roots in the late 19th century, although there is little to no information about when it officially came into use.
The reservoir was initially intended to serve as a critical water source for the burgeoning city-state of Singapore, supporting the ever-expanding population and industrialisation. Named after Admiral Sir Henry Keppel, a prominent figure in British naval history, the reservoir was expected to fulfil the pressing need for a reliable water supply.
Fascinatingly, Keppel Hill Reservoir had been absent from official maps for almost 60 years until it was ‘rediscovered’ by the National Heritage Board and local Singaporean media in 2014.
The Reservoir itself is only roughly one-third of the size of an Olympic swimming pool today (50 metres / 164 feet in length). Although relatively small, Keppel Hill Reservoir was believed to be the largest of the three reservoirs that served the area.
However, because of its small-ish size, the reservoir quickly became a place of recreation rather than a functioning water source. By the 1930s, British soldiers were using Keppel Hill Reservoir as a swimming pool and a place to cool off in the warm, tropical heat of Singapore. But the fun wasn’t to last…
Keppel Hill Reservoir: A Formidable Final Resting Place
On Thursday the 2nd of April 1936, the Battalion Middlesex Regiment arrived in Singapore. They had left Britain in the midst of a cold spell - Scotland and the North of England had recorded a foot of snow, and even the temperate climes of Southern England had seen some snowfall. The warm weather must have come as a relief to the soldiers who had spent a lot of time at sea.
Just five days later, two of the Regiment’s members, Private Alfred Birch (21, from Deptford) and Francis Hubbard (20, from Boreham Wood), headed to Keppel Hill Reservoir for a swim. It was the last thing they ever did -both young men drowned in the Reservoir and could not be revived. The Middlesex Regiment were banned from setting foot near the Reservoir again so as not to relive the horrific events that had unfolded.
During the Japanese occupation of Singapore, Keppel Hill Reservoir was used again as a natural swimming pool, this time by the Japanese Army. There were no recorded fatalities during this period.
After the Second World War ended, however, tragedy would strike again at Keppel Hill Reservoir. In 1948, a 17-year-old named Chew Teik Pin accompanied two friends to the abandoned reservoir. Chew Teik Pin tragically lost his life shortly after his first plunge into the water, which gives little to no indication of its depth. His death was ruled as a misadventure, but signs appeared ordering any passersby not to swim or fish at the reservoir.
As memories of Chew Teik Pin, Alfred Birch and Francis Hubbard faded and Singapore modernised, the Reservoir was left undisturbed. The jungle surrounding it began to reclaim the area, obscuring the view of the water with thick foliage. It would remain abandoned until the early 21st century when it was rediscovered.
Keppel Hill Reservoir: Claims of Haunting
Due to its tragic and mysterious past, Keppel Hill Reservoir is a place shrouded in eerie tales and ghostly legends. Over the years, numerous reports of paranormal activities and ghostly sightings have surfaced, particularly around the reservoir's vicinity. Some visitors have reported hearing faint whispers and footsteps, while others claim to have seen shadowy figures moving amidst the trees. These tales have given rise to rumours that the spirits of the British soldiers who perished shortly before World War II still linger here, unable to find peace.
While sceptics may dismiss these claims as mere superstition, the stories of Keppel Hill Reservoir's haunting continue to intrigue and mystify those who visit the area.
Whether you believe it is haunted or not, any visitors to Keppel Hill Reservoir should exercise extreme caution. The area is overgrown in places and can be steep. It's also a known habitat for dangerous animals such as snakes and insects, and visitors should only visit during daylight hours while taking extreme care.
Exploring Keppel Hill Reservoir
Despite its haunting history, Keppel Hill Reservoir has much to offer to those who seek a peaceful and serene escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Today, the reservoir is embraced by nature enthusiasts, hikers, and those looking for a quiet spot to unwind.
- Scenic Hiking Trails: The surrounding Mount Faber area boasts a network of picturesque hiking trails, offering visitors the opportunity to explore the lush rainforest and appreciate the rich biodiversity that thrives in the area.
- Bird Watching: Keppel Hill Reservoir is a haven for birdwatchers. With its dense foliage and turquoise waters, the reservoir attracts a wide variety of bird species, making it an excellent spot for birdwatching and nature photography.
- Photography: The reservoir's eerie, abandoned structure and the lush greenery surrounding it create a unique backdrop for photographers. Whether you're capturing the reservoir's mysterious aura or its natural beauty, Keppel Hill Reservoir offers an array of photographic opportunities.
- Contemplative Retreat: For those seeking solitude and reflection, the reservoir's peaceful atmosphere provides an ideal setting. Visitors can relax by the waterside, meditate, or simply enjoy a picnic in the company of nature.
While previous tragic events have left a haunting legacy, the reservoir has transformed itself into a natural sanctuary that appeals to explorers and nature enthusiasts alike.
Whether you come to appreciate its natural beauty, seek adventure along its trails, or simply ponder its haunted tales, Keppel Hill Reservoir continues to captivate the imagination and beckon those who dare to venture into its embrace. It stands as a testament to the passage of time and the resilience of nature, making it a hidden gem in the heart of Singapore.
Finally, remember that no matter how inviting the water looks, it is incredibly dangerous and nobody should, under any circumstances, enter the water.
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