Monday, September 21, 2009

Ammo Base @ Depot Road

If I were to ask you what was the most prominent landmark in Depot Road, you would probably say that it was the Mindef Complex comprising the Central Manpower Base and the two huge Defence Technology Towers. During my years at the National Productivity Board in Bukit Merah Central, I could see this complex taking shape from scratch from my office on the 19th floor of what is today called the Spring Building. Unfortunately, I did not have the foresight to take some photos and so I cannot describe to you what the place looked like then. Do you know what used to occupy this area prior to the building of the Mindef complex?

From what I can recall from memory, it was a place we called Ammo Base. During my NS days when I was in the combat engineers, I remember coming to this place to chop bamboo trunks. You see for us field combat engineers, we needed to have two huge bamboo poles in our three tonners at all times. This was for the purpose of camouflaging the vehicle using the standard camouflage net. We used these bamboo poles to prop up the camouflage net to break the shape of the vehicle. In fact, for the section proficiency test, the section commanders were tested on how fast they could complete this task.

The Ammo Base was located at a rather secluded corner of Depot Road. Surrounded by thick vegetation, it was not very visible from the main road. There were several huge bamboo trees outside the camp and so we did not have to actually enter the camp to get our bamboo.

I have always been rather curious about this place that I have visited long ago and so I asked Karu if he remembered; and this is what he said:

"The Ammo Depot you are talking about was called Magazine Area. I used to be on duty there. I was with the Army Depot Police from 1969 to 1971. Sometimes when on Night Duty, we needed to patrol in pairs down the roads inside the Magazine Area. Saw many snakes there, and it was very eerie at night, when the bamboo rubs against each other, they create a kind of eerie noise. There is also this 'jambu' like fruits there. As you patrol in the night, suddenly one will drop in front of you and roll down. Quite scary when on Night Duty."


Icemoon said...

Eh, tekan session? Those bamboo poles should be stores right? Just draw from MT line store.

Lam Chun See said...

When our platoon is on standby, the 3-tonner is 'decorated' in very special way. The front has coils of barbed wire (concertina, I think), on top of the drivers cabin is the camouflage net neatly rolled up and can be opened up very quickly. Inside the vehicle, hanging above the 2 rows of seats are the 2 bamboos. These are huge bamboos as thick as a clenched fist. Even growing up in a kampong, I have not seen such huge bamboo trunks before. To prop up the camouflage net, we had to tie and cover one end with a sandbag so as not to damage the camouflage net.

Lam Chun See said...

By the way, that part about not having to enter the camp proper to reach the bamboo trees .... I am not 100% sure.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Depot Road. Shifted there sometime in 1978 maybe, and the old ammo depot was very much concealed by foliage and opposite were some kampongs and small farms. There were no AYE highway and very bad lighting after 6 at night along that road. Nearby, is what they call the 'Glass Factory' or in hokkien, 'Poh Leh Long'.

As a kid, I'd always try taking a peak into that place and what it seems to be, as much as I can remember now is some typical huge concrete bunker like structures with rather huge doors. Like one of those atop Labrador park.

Well, the army boys on duty in those days would always, out of boredom maybe, make funny animal sounds to disturb passerby. Fond memories.

Anonymous said...

This old ammo depot was called the Alexandra Ammo Depot "AAD". I think it was used to store only the small arms ammunition. The heavy ammunitions were stored in other larger ammo dumps such as the Seletar East Ammo Depot "SEAD", which had been also closed down.

In 1983, I was involved in moving wooden pallets from AAD to SEAD (where I was serving my NS). So this is the year when the AAD was closed down.

David Lee said...

My name is David Lee. That's an English Lee. I was stationed in the camp at the top of Depot Road from 1961 to 1964. I was REME attached to 3 BOD.
The actual stores depot was a fenced compound within the main camp. The railway ran between it and the road. within the stores depot was another enclosed building that the ammunition was housed in. The RMP put a dog in that compound at night.
There were at least five sub-depots in Singapore and the whole outfit was known as 30 Battalion Royal Army Ordnance Corps.
I lived in barracks there until I got married then I moved to Sophia Road behind the Cathay Building.