Friday, November 16, 2007

Visit to Army Museum

Went to the Army Museum today.

Not surprisingly, the exhibits did not arouse much feelings of nostalgia except for the army bed and the once so familiar green blanket (Photo by Acroamatic). But one scene from the video did trigger a gush of emotions. It was the part where this recruit lay down to sleep at night just after sending an SMS home to report that everything was fine. Of course there was the familiar shout of “Bravo company, lights out!”

After a long and hectic day as a recruit, I guess the only time you can have the luxury of some peace and quiet to think about home is when you lay down your weary body to sleep. During those few minutes before sleep arrives, you think about the new life in the army and contrast it with your life as a student. The feelings are strong and they stay in your mind for decades.

I remember one particular evening. I was listening to the radio in the dark. My tiny transistor radio was held close to my ear, volume turned so low that only I could hear it. The song was Butterfly Lovers (梁山伯与祝英台) violin concerto.

Even today, every time I hear that tune, I still think of that night three-and-a-half decades ago in Safti.

I think this photo was taken at Chestnut Drive during my section leaders course's AG (anti-gurella) Warfare training. In case you cannot recognize me, I am squatting in front, left.


zen said...

I know nothing of NS that is because I was overaged then and therefore unable to join the army, but still I have something to comment on. When NS was in its initial stage, the army was in dire need of manpower, so they came up with a clever plan of netting in more men. An announcement was made in the newspapers that those overaged guys probably in their twenties, doing the so-called 'higher studies' were eligible for NS, They were to report to manpower base somewhere in Kallang. My Malay port officer and I fell into this category and both of us went for medical checkup at the base. Regretably for the army both of us were disqualified - my officer for having hernia and myself having a physical handicap in my left hand (a war time injury). When our colleagues came to know of this episode commented that we had a 'narrow escape' - very unpatriotic people.

Victor said...

I remember that there was another form of NS called Vigilante Corp (VC) at that time. My brother, born in 1949, was drafted into it. It was considered as an "inferior service" when compared to the army or the police because its members did not carry firearms. They only carried a baton. Hence the service was commonly known as 打老鼠 or "beating rats".

zen said...

Victor - In fact your brother did contribute much through the VC, though not visibly, despite of not bearing arms. The locals then perceived negative views of the VC, forgeting that this force acted as the 'eyes and ears' for the public. VC was formed during the confrontation days when Singapore was part of Malaysia. That was the first time Singapore was being threatened externally by Indonesia using sabotage tactics through terrorists, culminated through the Mcdonald house bombing. I would be the least surprised should our govt resurrect the VC movement again when facing a terrorist threat in future.

peter said...

Here someone forgot about NS thru the Special Constabulary (SC).

I still have a phopto of ourselves in 1972 when we were still in Singapore (and attached to the Police Reserve Unit at Queenstown) and we were drafted to do SC on a part-time basis when we reached 18 years of age. Apparently this was not counted for the 2.5 years NS thru the army. I further recall many of my older schoolmates from the 1967 had to do SC when they were still schooling in Pre-U.

How come someone forgot about NS during schooldays when we only think of the army museum.

peter said...

I thot this was funny. Apologies for the "XXX".

"When I was just a chao recruit,I asked my sergeant, what will I be?

Will I be PC? Will I be 3SG?

Here's what he said to me. BXXXs to you, recruit, This is not your father's army, Your future's not yours to see, Sign extra for me. (sung to the tune Que Sera Sera)

zen said...

I had a cousin who studied in UK for many years, graduated as a surgeon and later returned to Singapore to work in KK hospital as an assistant registrar. During a social gathering, I told him that we now had NS and he replied that he certainly missed the chance of becoming a soldier to serve the country. I was thinking to myself whether his positive attitude derived from years of living in a foreign country and therefore being culturally influenced, or was it just plain talking of something nice to hear.

Lam Chun See said...

My son who will be 18 next year recently asked for my advice regarding his options for NS. His teacher advised him to go for the commandoes which is a surprise to me becos I thot only 'tan-chia' or regular soldiers can opt for commando trg. I guess I have become completely out of touch with army and NS. That was one of the reasons why I went to the Army Museum, not so much to reminisce about the 'army daze' but to ask some questions.

The major I met at the reception was very helpful and I learned a lot from him.

I guess that is the reason why the scene of the recruit lying down to sleep brought a lump to my throat - I wasn't picturing myself in 1971 but my son in 2009!

peter said...

Chun See
The SAF nowdays streamline your vocation before u do NS. Your son will sit for all sorts of test - psych, phsyical, etc to determine whetehr can make it to OCS/SISPEC or not. Of course during BMT you got this Situational Test - tell your son not to flop and when PC interview/Sect L interview, chiong and say YES to everything - that's called good attitude and good aptitude. Also dont take 1/2day off too often or report sick.

Dont b surprise u find commandoes wearing specs today bcos there's a shortage of suitable 6/6 males