|With James Tann and Peter Chan|
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Return to Selarang
In my previous post, I mentioned about a visit to the Selarang Camp and the Changi Air Base last month. I said that I did not know why I was invited me because I did not have much memories of Selarang Camp. The only time I had visited Selarang Camp was around 1980. At that time, my section mate from Officer Cadet School, KG Lim, who had signed on as a regular with the army, was the QM (Quarter Master) of the armour regiment (I think it was 40 SAR) stationed at this camp. At that time the game of squash was very popular in Singapore, and as I reported previously, squash courts were very scarce in Singapore. And so, on one Sunday afternoon, KG, who was the one who introduced me to the sport, brought me and some friends to Selarang for a game of squash. Other than the squash courts and the officers’ mess, I don’t remember seeing any other part of this camp.
Still, I very much looked forward to this visit because I hoped to take some photos of old parts of the camp so that I could share them with my blogger friend, Tom Brown. Early followers of this blog would know that Tom Brown served in this camp at a time when it was still known as Selarang Barracks; and before the SAF was even formed. Tom arrived in Singapore in 1961 as a 19-year-old soldier with the regiment known as Queens Own Highlanders. Read Tom’s interesting experience of life in Singapore more half a century ago here, here and here.
When I informed Tom about my forthcoming visit to Selarang, he asked me to look out for two places, if they are still existing – the guard room and the NAAFI building. Unfortunately, when we arrived in Selarang, we were informed that most of the old buildings had been demolished. Only part of the parade square, the water tank and officers’ mess remained. Even then, we would not be able to see the Water Tank as that section of the camp is now part of the Selarang Drug Rehabilitation Centre. Still it was not a totally failed mission because from the old newsletter that we received, I was able to scan some photos of the old Selarang to share with Tom.
One interesting part of our tour was the visit to the Heritage Centre. There on the walls, I saw this old photo of the 9th Division HQ and it brought back strong memories. Can you recognize this place?
Yes; it’s the Safti HQ/Admin Building in Pasir Labar. This is the place where I toiled for one-and-the-half years as a trainee in SBMT, SISL and OCS. This was one place that we trainees dreaded because of the many senior officers and NCOs there, and where one can easily get into trouble for not marching properly or not properly saluting an officer. But, unfortunately, it was one place we could not avoid; having to pass it on the way to the training grounds and when we booked in and out of camp. My friend Peter Chan, on the other hand, would have less unpleasant memories of this place, I suspect. This is what he recalls about this place.
It so happens that I have a 1974 photo of this part of Safti.
1. School of Infantry Section Leaders (SISL) HQ
2. Guard Room
3. MT Line
4. 25 Pounder in front of SAFTI Admin Building
5. SAFTI Main Gate
6. SAFTI Admin Building