Thursday, April 16, 2009

EX. RED BERET: the old version of the Amazing Race (by Peter Chan)

1984 was the last time I saw Pasir Ris when land was cleared for a future HDB town. Today Pasir Ris Estate looks so much different from what it used to be. Back then, Pasir Ris referred to the Elias Road area only. Instead of the name “Pasir Ris Estate” it should have been “Tampines-Loyang Estate” – the old geographical definition from the east of the Sungei Api-Api to the west of Loyang Avenue, and north of the TPE to the sea.

Photo1: Old Tampines Road – THEN & NOW. The thicker green arrow indicates the Start Point at Mariam Close and the route taken by the two OCTS through Kuala Loyang Road and Jalan Loyang Besar. The jagged white patches were the sand pits and the dark shades were the coconut estates.

By the early 1970s, the “Tampines-Loyang” area had a mixed landscape. At both ends of the Tampines Road (Upper Serangoon Road and Upper Changi Road ends were modern private estates. The rest were coconut estates, sand pits, fresh water ponds, pig farms, Chinese temples, PDF camps and rubber estates. There were the SIA Holiday Chalet and Dari Laut at Jalan Loyang Besar, and Golden Palace Holiday Resort at Jalan Ang Siang Kong. The land sloped from Tampines Road towards the sea. Ulu Bedok (now Tampines Estate and Simei) were hills accessible from Jalan Tiga Ratus and an un-named track opposite the Anglican High School. Tampines Road had 2 lanes, very winding with varying gradients and only became a straight road after a long bend behind the Paya Lebar International Airport runway.

Ex. Red Beret’s mission was to complete within 24 hours a planned 80km route from Changi to Pasir Laba. The planned route took us through the Tampines-Loyang area. The exercise included a platoon assault on Chua Chu Kang Hill (Spot Height 286 ft.) and a withdrawal to Pasir Laba.. We were dressed in FBO, worked in pairs, equipped with topography maps (Scale 1:25,000), magnetic compass, compo-ration biscuits, and no money allowed.

Our exercise began at 0145 hours when we entered Kuala Loyang Road (now New Loyang Link). My partner was OCT CK Pek, a Nantah graduate/Chinese-educated who hardly spoke any English. Our relationship was far from satisfactory; he “followed every page of the book” and always made negative comments of my suggestions. It was only after we were judged to be the winners of Ex. Red Beret that he became more open to the English-educated cadets.

Because of the exasperation “walking in circles” around the many fresh-water ponds and the difficulty reading the topo-maps in the dark we took to Tampines Road at Sungei Tampines. That night I saw the future TPE under construction at the junction of Jalan Ang Siang Kong and Tampines Road (now Coral Secondary School). Land for the TPE was acquired on the Tampines Estate side of the old Tampines Road.

Our joy was short-lived because there were many SAF Rovers on Tampines Road; stimulating an ambush. So we were forced to get into Elias Road and walked towards the Pasir Ris Hotel, later through the coconut estates to the smelly refuse dumping grounds at Lorong Halus before emerging again on Tampines Road at Lorong Teban (now Buangkok Drive). To avoid detection, we brisk-walked, ran, hid in the monsoon drains, and zig-zagged Tampines Road several times until we reached the Upper Serangoon Road junction.

Photo 2: Jalan Simpeh is now the Tampines Mountain Biking Trail. Jalan Guan Choon is now the Livia housing project next to Pasir Ris Drive 8.

A memorable experience I cannot forget was when we walked on the water pipeline in Teck Hock Village. OCT Pek slipped because a woman screamed. She must have heard boot sounds when she had her early morning shower. OCT Pek fell into a pig-sty and I joined him not long afterwards whilst trying to pull him up. With no change of clothes, a chipped rifle butt and sore elbows, we continued our journey to Pasir Laba.

Photo 3: Left: The rear of the Pasir Ris Hotel at the end of Elias Road (now CP D Pasir Ris Park). Right: The Tampines Road-Upper Serangoon junction. Blue Arrow was original intended route to Simon Road. Green Arrow was the actual route to Lowland Road.

We reached the Upper Serangoon junction just 0530 hours and were about to make a dash across the road to Simon Road but halted after seeing two SAF Rovers parked at the corner coffee shop. One Rover had a flashing red light on its roof. Dam it! LTC Tan Chin Tiong, CO OCS was chatting with section instructor LTA Goh Cheng Hui. We back tracked and chose an alternative route through Lowland Road to get to our first checkpoint at the Serangoon Garden School.

Next episode begins after we crossed Upper Serangoon Road.

19 comments:

unk Dicko said...

Interesting account! When did this mission take place...the year? The photo showing Simon Road/Tampines rd/Serangoon Rd junction...was it taken that year, that time?

Lam Chun See said...

I have heard a lot about Ex Red Beret, but thankfully did not have to go through it during my OCS. My time, we had Ex Starlight in ROC and the equivalent of it was called Ex Green Beret. But I think not so 'siong' as yours becos I don't remember much about it. But I do remember most of the exercises we had in my Engineers course.

timesofmylife said...

Wah interesting account Peter. But some how the photos are really too small especially those satellite maps.

Keith said...

No wonder CK Pek fell into the pigsty. With a name like his, no woman has any chance of avoiding him !

Ha! Ha! Mr Pek, nothing personal but trainees with unusual names always got marked by instructors.

Icemoon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Icemoon said...

That night I saw the future TPE under construction at the junction of Jalan Ang Siang Kong and Tampines Road (now Coral Secondary School).That night must be mid 1970s. TPE took 15 years to build?! I remember the section at Loyang Ave was completed during late 80s.

peter said...

Dont forget the government had to acquire land from the private estate owners and pay compensation for land/properties acquired. This can go on for years. refer to hearings from the former statutory body called Tenants Compensation Board to get some idea of the procedures and awards made. Actual construction wont take that long.

peter said...

Loyang Avenue's present alignment was already in existence in those days as Kuala Loyang Road. It was linked to the back of Raf Changi and back of Selarang Barracks. So pretty easy to expand that road. see the aerial photo which shows Kuala Loyang Road.

Ang Sar Lee said...

I remember seeing pairs of OCTs passing hurriedly through Serangoon Gardens into Cheng San Road in the early morning and onwards to Upper Thomson during these exercises.

Tom said...

Tom said...
Peter I remember Loyang road, to get on to the road you had to walk down into the valley at the back of Selarang barracks if my memory is corect, Iam sure the road was part dirt and tar in places.

Verilog2001 said...

Very interesting picture. I grew up in Simon Rd in the 70s and the picture of Tampines Rd-Upper Serangoon junction brought back old memories.

I do believe the picture is older than 1970s. Can you tell me what is the date of the picture?

polestar said...

Hi! Im living near simon road now, in fact i walk pass it everyday when i take the mrt! but i really am unable to figure out where is this section.. is it near the old "six mile stone" market? the place where it sells the nasi lemak now?

peter said...

There was an old wet market similar in architecture to the one at Macpherson Road at the junction of Yio Chu Kang Road and Upper Serangoon Road. Some call it Chia Keng Market.

I vaguely heard about the nasi lemak kopi tiam. The photo is at the junction of Upper Serangoon Road and Old Tampines Road.

Lam Chun See said...

Peter. I think the market at junction of Yio Chu Kang Rd and Upp Serangoon Rd was call Gor Ko Chio market or 5th mile market. I think it was Lim Tua Tow Rd to be precise.

The one at MacPherson Rd was called Sa Kor Chio or 3rd Mile. That place was called Jackson Place. The area was Woodesville Circus. Big developments should be taking place now.

unk Dicko said...

Chun See is right about the 5th mile market at Lim Tua Tow Road.
"goh koh chiok" ( Hokkien/Teochew)or in Cantonese "Umh Chi Pei" refers precisely to that market location. I was a regular visitor there for over 25 years when it was still existing.
I have a couple of interesting posts with photos about that place and some of the most famous food that attracted people from far and near.
You can go to my other blog"SERANGOON OUR KAMPONG" and look for Lim Tua Tow and Simon Road Market( 6th Mile stone ) or " lak koh chiok". That blogsite is listed on my main Owl blog.
The most famous "muah chee" stall in Sg was at Simon Road.It has relocated to Hougang...today.
I will update with more posts soon.

Lam Chun See said...

For us we say "umh tiew sak" not "umh chi pei".

burns_kazuo said...

Stumbled upon this old Simon Rd photo. I used to stay in this area when I was little. There's a hawker centre at the bottom left corner of the photo. Its like in the middle of the road, between the entrance to Simon Rd and the area now known as Kovan. And there used to be a big wet market at the entrance of Simon Rd. There used to be a timber factory/supplier behind the row of shophouses on the left.

Ben Choong said...

Wow! so interesting to look at these old photos of Pasir Ris. Thanks for sharing!

a resident of Jln Loyang Besar

Bee said...

Hi, I was looking at the marriage cert of my parents. On it, the address was "Jalan Tiga Ratus". Upon a quick google search, it shows an existing road from Simei Road. But there is no old photo available. The place has left me some vague memories...perhaps fond one, with my dad riding his bicycle, my late mum seated at the back, & a pre-schooler, who was me, seated in a slotted-in chair made of cane in the front. And off we went to the shops in the main streets. To me, that was the only time my mum & I could go for outing. We called it "Gai Gai" in Hokkien. After we moved to HDB flats in 1978, we no longer go for family outing...Back in the days in Jalan Tiga Ratus, my late grandfather who doted on me the most was still alive. I am asking if anyone out there has any old photo of Jalan Tiga Ratus and Jalan Perwira where my late mum's home was before she got married. She would bring me back to visit my late grandmother over the weekend. I got to play with my young uncles and aunties...Having a slip of F&N orange from the glass bottle was a luxury then. Watching a set of manual type-writer brought home for my aunty was so fascinating.