After reading my January 2006 article of my memories of Gillman Camp at Yesterday.sg, reader Chia Keng Wah posted a lengthy comment sharing his own memories of what was then called Gillman Barracks. Since many of my readers are unlikely to have seen his comments, I have posted them here as a separate article for your enjoyment. Thanks Keng Wah.
I would like to add my recollection of Gillman Barracks. I was stationed in Gillman Barracks after three years training as a boy soldier in the Army Boys Trade School in the Far East Training Centre, Nee Soon Barracks (January 1962 to June 1964) and at the Royal School of Military Engineering in Chatham, England June 1964 to November 1964).
After the three years training I was posted to Gillman Barracks in January 1965 till it's closure as a Royal Engineers Barracks in 1971. That was the year when the British Army pulled out completely from Singapore and Malaysia. My unit, known as the Singapore Engineers Squadron was among one of the six squadrons that made up the Engineer Base Group for the British Army in Singapore. By the way, the Royal Engineers name their units as Squadron from military traditions rather than as Company as in other infantry units.
Our squadron had only two Troops (platoons), one being the Plant and the other the Field Troop, commanded by an OC with a Major rank. The Plant Troop (this Troop was later commanded by then Cpt Cheah who later joined the SAF Engineers) had the earth moving equipments for roads and airfield construction while the Field Troop did the bridging and other field constructions.
Our squadron office is the first building on the left as you enter Gillman Barracks. It is that building behind the red umbrella in the photo posted by Lam. The building is still there after all those years that it was used as a Pub. Further along the entrance road was the Base HQ where the Commandant (a Full Colonel) had his office. Also in the same office block we had the no nonsense, RSM.
For entertainment in those days we had the Regal Cinema managed by the Army Kinema Corporation popularly called the AKC which screened shows twice nightly except Tuesdays. That building is still standing to this day. It was last used as an Italian restaurant till the Gillman Village ceased operation in early 2011. That building you can also see in Lam's photo.
That photo posted by Lam as the officer's mess was used as our WO and Sgt's mess. The RE Officer's mess then was across Alexandra Road where the HortPark is. It was converted into the Institute of Dental Health till the late 1990s or early 2000s which after that was being used as the Jain Institute after the Institute of Dental Health moved to its new home at the Sepoy Lines beside the SGH. I suppose it was from there that those Dental Nurses went swimming on Thursday afternoon?
Lam was correct about the swimming Pool in the valley between the then our WO and Sgt's Mess and our accommodation blocks. It was packed with swimmers every afternoon during those days in the sixties. The Brits were as now, sun worshippers and there was more sun tanning rather than swimming!
As a small Squadron, we carried out many small scale development projects for Singapore during our existence between 1965 till 1971. Just to mention a few: we built the Sarimbun Scout Camp; cleared the land on which the NUH and ITE at Ayer Rajah now stands. We had two powerful tractors with Rolls Royce engines and four smaller powered Fowler dozers to do the job over a year in 1965. Other major projects we did was the Runway improvement for the FPDA exercise up at Trengganu state in 1967 and an access road at the then Jungle Warfare School (JWS) in Ulu Tiram, just before Kota Tinggi in 1968. We would commute to and from the JWS daily. One good thing was that the traffic in those days was much lighter than now in 2011.
Now that all those accommodation blocks have been demolished, I wonder what will be built in their place.
There were eight accommodation blocks on top of the hill next to the Hiap Guan San cemetery. One of the blocks was occupied by the Royal Military Police in Block A, while another was occupied by Bourne School in Block B. Of course we had an other ranks' club known as the NAAFI in Block E. That was the place for beers in the evenings.
There was Local Married Quarters behind the Gymnasium on Maran Road. Together with other buildings on the hill these were also being demolished, I suppose after the HQSCE pulled out those buildings were of no use anymore.
One more mention, that Brazil Restaurant that stood on a small hill between our Squadron office and the Commandant's office was our Guardroom in which I spent six months - as Provost Corporal of course.
I ended ten years of service in the British Army in total from 1962 to 1971 and now live just next door in Telok Blangah Heights. It will always be part of my life I suppose.
Below are some old photos of Gillman Barracks from Memories of Singapore courtesy of Tom O’Brien.
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