10 minutes with: Jon Cooper

Having given many ANZA tours around Adam Park, we hear about author Jon Cooper’s recent book ‘Tigers in the Park: The Wartime Heritage of Adam Park’ – surrounding his extensive research into the area’s significance during WWII.

How long have you been doing tours around Adam Park for?
Almost from the very beginning. It took a few months to research the site but we quickly found there was so much to talk about. I am always adding to the script as new stories come in and we complete the latest round of surveys. That’s the great thing about the estate; there are more and more stories to tell. The Adam Park Project (TAPP) has now closed and I have no plans for any more tours. It’s now up to the general public to use the book and website and come up with their own tour.

When you came to Singapore in 2009, did the story of Adam Park find you?
In a way. We chose to live in the Arcadia Gardens condo, and the day after we signed all the papers I found the heritage board outside 7 Adam Park that recounts the story of the defence of the estate by 1st Battalion Cambridgeshires. It failed to mention anything about the Japanese side of the story, or the fact that it was a POW camp as well. All that came later through the research. By the by, my son is called Adam. He spent the first six months of his time here thinking the whole area was named after him.

Having studied 16th Century warfare at univeristy, was it hard to jump four centuries ahead to more modern warfare?
Absolutely. You are lucky to get a passing comment about many 16th Century battles in the parliamentary records. For WWII there are hundreds of accounts, photos, documents and diaries to consult – and of course you can still talk to the veterans who fought here. If only we could do that for early medieval battles.

What was one of the discoveries you made when researching that really took you by surprise or made you even more curious?
During one of the excavations on what appeared to be a post war rubbish trench, a rather large fragment of a mills grenade was revealed. What was slightly disturbing was that the pin was still in place. How the fragment became a fragment is still a mystery.


One of the bungalows in Adam Park.

How did putting a book together come about?
TAPP was always going to end, and I always had in the back of the mind that there may be enough material for a book. But in this day and age books are not the only way of sharing the research material and findings. I felt it was essential to link the book with a virtual museum and provide as much background data as we possibly could, allowing others to participate in their own research and draw their own conclusions about the estate’s heritage. The book and website are linked. I think it’s the first time a battle site has been presented like this – most certainly in Singapore.

Will people be able to make their own mini-tour around the area?
Yes, that’s the aim. We don’t want to spoil the peaceful tranquillity of the estate by encouraging busloads of tourists to visit the site. We hope individuals and small groups will plan their own excursions, carry out their own research before taking a leisurely stroll around the area. I hope visitors will get more out of the trip that way other than simply being spoon-fed facts and figures.

‘Tigers in the Park: The Wartime Heritage of Adam Park’ can be found online at ethosbooks.com.sg.