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.
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.
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.