Sunday, March 17, 2013

From my Inbox – Robert Wong remembers Mandai and Seletar Camps


Dear Chun See,

I stumbled upon your blog when I surfed for articles for 35 SCE. Your blog is an excellent piece of work that let people like us take a nostalgic walk back to a much beloved past existence. Allow me to introduce myself and you will understand why your blog resonates so strongly with me.

I was born in 1951 and enlisted for NS in 1971. I took the 4th Combat Engineers Officers Cadet course (later on, they started referring to it as the JOE course, but not during my time)I was commissioned in September 1972 and took my first batch of recruits on Pulau Blakang Mati. After that, while waiting for my next posting, I was a GD officer and you know what: … I was the young 2Lt they sent to take over your beloved Mandai camp. It was brand new and empty. I was given a big box of keys and told to fit the right keys into every door and after that to pass the keys to the respective company commander. We moved in and I was posted to Plant Company.

Later on, I was posted to 35 SCE as Plant Officer and after ROD, continued my love affair with the beautiful houses left behind by the British, facilitated by 13 years reservist training reporting back to RETC. I remember the Yacht Club and the jetty and the big hangars that housed my heavy plants. And also the Officers Mess, where I had a big room to myself. I would give up a lot to go back to 1973 in Seletar Base.

Thanks to Geoffrey Pain for this photo of the RAF Seletar Entrance (dtd around 1965)
In the mid 1990’s, I went back again to Seletar Base, this time with my wife, to learn to play golf in the Seletar Base Golf Course. The road names of Lambeth Walk, Edgeware Avenue are very familiar. Even today with so many beautiful houses torn down (together with the SBGC clubhouse) to make way for the Aerospace Park, I still drive through sometimes, but all I get is a lot of heart aches. They have this highway that runs right through the golf clubhouse!

In 1972, when I drove through the main gates, the sentry would salute me. Even in the 1990s when we played golf inside there, we had to show our pass. Today the guardroom is deserted and forlorn-looking.

Thanks for reading my email. I am now 61 years old. All I have of Seletar is a lot of fond memories of a bygone era and place.

Thank you so much for your blog once again.

Lta Wong Peng Keong, Plant Officer (1973 ), 35 SCE.

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Here’s another old photo from my good friend Stephen Lai.  Taken around 1969/70, it shows Gillman Barracks viewed from Alexandra Rd.



2 comments:

FL said...

I was posted to Seletar East Camp (35mm AA Bn) in Feb 1971 after my recruit training. I am familiar with road names there mentioned by LTA Wong. I also frequented the Yacht Club by the sea, NAAFI supermarket, Astra cinema,etc in the camp until my 10 yrs cycle. When I was posted there, the main entrance (or guard house) was still mended by the British solders ! I think for about one or two months and the British left (with parade ceremony, I remember). During my years there, the camp, including West camp) were full of army activities, but not now, I think.

Kenneth Ong said...

5980I too was in Seletar East Camp 35mm AA Workshop. But later, from 1978 to 1981. I did not stay-in camp but travelled everyday on bus service 163 from Thomson Road.

Before reaching Bn along Batersea Rd, was the Base Commander's building and the School of Manpower (army clerks). I oggled the girls going there to be trained as clerks.

The Yacht Club was a place to eat on payday and also the swimming pool canteen, whenever I felt rich.