Of course these items are quite different nowadays; and of better quality. The webbing for example is made of some kind of water-proof synthetic material which can be washed and dried. In our time, it was a kind of fabric-canvas which soaks up all your sweat ….. and that of everyone else who had used it previously. The only washing it gets is when we did our training in the rain!
As for the helmet, I was surprised to see that it was quite heavy. I have heard people say that nowadays the helmet is much lighter than ours. I don’t think so.
I noticed that he didn’t have a belt. He told me it was optional. I guess it is because nowadays, they don’t need to tuck in the shirt. In our time, we had to kiwi and brush our belt until it shines whenever we had drill period. Otherwise you will be punished when the CSM checks your turnout. And your belt must not be loose. He will grab it at your tummy level and tug and shake you to see if there is any slack. By the way, the belt was very handy for removing soft drinks bottle caps.
But I saw two items which looked exactly like ours - the mess tin and water bottle.
To the ‘lau pengs’, what comes to your mind when you see these two items?
For me, the mess tin brings back three memories.
1) Maggie Mee
The sight of the mess tin immediately brings back memories of times when we had to cook our instant noodles in the field. We were issued solid fuels which came in white packets.
2) Queuing for our food behind the 3-tonner
How can one forget the routine? First you wrap your mess tin with a plastic sheet to prevent it from getting dirty. Then you will queue up behind the ration truck where the cooks will sit at the edge of the 3-tonner and scoop the food from stainless steel containers (I cannot remember the name) into our mess tins. After that, we would look for a shady/comfortable spot to eat our meals.
Man … how I envied our commanders who not only were served on proper plates, but sat on wooden chairs and ate at GS tables in the shade of huge tents (again I cannot remember the name of the tent).
3) Stand by bed
One of the things the commanders liked to check was the cleanliness of our mess tins. I have heard friends say that any dirty mess tin would be flung out the window, but I have not actually witnessed this myself (neither did I do such things when the time came for me to check others). But I do remember using steel wool to polish our mess tins until they shone. Needless to say, nowadays the NS boys don’t need to do that.
As for the water bottle, ours had an alluminium cup as a base, and it was always a hassle to remove it from the water bottle pouch.