Alexandra Road was named after Queen Alexandra, consort of King Edward VII who reigned from 1901 to 1910. The military hospital built on Alexandra Road was named officially as British Military Hospital, commonly known as Alexandra Hospital. The 32-acre site was chosen because of its close proximity to the railway tracks, so that the wounded can be transported to the hospital quickly, when needed. Established in 1938, it served as the principal hospital for the British in the Far East during the World War II. It was officially handed over to the Singapore Government upon the withdrawal of British troops in September 1971.
Alexandra Hospital in 1938
The origins of the hospital can be traced from expansionist policy adopted by the Meiji Japan. Ten years before the outbreak of the World War II, the Japanese conquered Asia by invading Manchuria in September 1931. In July 1937, Japan instigated a war on China and announced their plans for a Great East Asia Prosperity Sphere to "liberate" Asians from the Colonial Masters. In order to safeguard its military base and protect its colony in Asia, Britain fortified its garrison in Singapore and set up naval bases. Among the most important facilities to be provided is medical facilities.
Laying the Foundation for the Hospital
Alexandra Hospital was built at a cost of 266K pounds. Before Alexandra, the first British Military Hospital was built in 1909 on Sentosa. Then, Alexandra Village (opposite the hospital today) was a row of shops and attap shanties which sprang up to serve the needs of the hospital staff. Female construction workers, known as Samsui woman (because they came from Three Rivers district in Guangdong, China) were engaged in the construction of the hospital. They wore distinctive headgear that is red in colour.
Then, Singapore has several civilian hospitals. There are Kandang Kerbau maternity hospital, Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Tanglin Hospital, Changi and Sentosa Hospital.
Samsui woman in the construction of Alexandra Hospital
The British soldiers lived and worked in the Barracks Block, a modern three-storey building equipped with showers and wash basins at each floor. The dormitories accommodated on each floor have mosquito nets, wooden cupboards and metal lockers. Tamil servants and Silk cobblers were attending to the needs of the soldiers then. Soldiers would hold civilian concert party and played football next to the barracks.
So what happened to Queenstown then? Queenstown was still a kampungs, with plantations of pineapples and papaya in the orchard. These kampungs were occupied mainly by Chinese but with some Malays and Indians.
Kampung Life in Queenstown in 1940s+
What happened to Alexandra Hospital During World War II + A Guide to Some of the Exhibits inside the Tunnels, Catch Next Week's My Father and I Series!