Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Football @ Sembawang in the 1960s

Recently, I watched the episode of Project Neighbourhood on Sembawang. This programme was aired in November last year, and I had recorded it for subsequent viewing. There was quite a bit of history of the presence of the British forces at the Sembawang Naval Base. Of particular interest was the interview with local soccer hero, Quah Kim Song, who said that he developed his speed and courage through his matches against the British soccer teams.

I thought my friend Mike Robbins might be interest in this documentary and asked him to go Mediacorp’s xinmsn website to watch Episode 6 of Project Neighbourbood. Following that, he emailed me.

Hello again Chun See,

Have just watched episode 6 with interest and have attached two photos.

The Singapore football photo below includes me playing my last game in Singapore (I am in back row 2nd from right end of picture). This was a game played before one of the Indian employees returned to India I seem to remember. It was played on the pitch adjacent to the Dockyard Swimming Club.

The second photo (project neighbourhood) features an evening celebration with the Quah family previously mentioned to you. Sitting at the table 4th from right is myself and on my left is one of the two other British members of my section. That same person, Tony Walker, also appears in a photo in episode 6 at about 18.52 minutes! He was single and lived in the club mentioned.

As you can imagine after being at sea for some time, sailors clearly needed to let off steam. It was a navy tradition that each ship had several sports teams - football, tug of war, cricket, rugby etc. Whichever port a ship visited, it would be part of the goodwill visit to arrange to play some sport with the local community.

As far as Singapore was concerned this was the base of the Far East Fleet with many ships going and coming. There were often inter-ship and inter-service (Army and Air Force competitions). The base was also used by the US Navy at that time for R & R from their Vietnam patrols. I remember seeing aircraft on the deck of an US carrier showing scars of their action - the odd bullet hole here and there.

The ships on arrival would be up for any matches they could arrange hence competition also with the local base employees. Through these matches I am sure local friendships were formed. Clearly many of the sailors would be bigger than Quah Kim Song. I imagine his speed enabled him to avoid many crunching tackles!

As an aside the Naval Golfing Society in the base had a monthly day at the Island Country Club - thoroughly good day out. I remember the little kids coming out at every other hole to sell us cold drinks. I am sure times have very much changed there.


Tim said...

Hi Mike

I spent a couple of years in Italy, and was occasionally asked to play for the British Embassy against other embassies or against visiting services teams. Occasionally we would go to the Naples Nato base for a game. Needless to say, we were always thrashed umpteen-nil by the sailors. These fellers were unbelievably fit.

Lam Chun See said...

Mike has since connected with some friends of Naval Base at a Facebook page set up by Sofea Milo called, Old Sembawang Naval Base Nostalgia Lane.

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