Saturday, January 24, 2009

Another bridge that I ‘blew up’

Last year, Peter and I blogged about the old Jurong Railway Line. I kicked of the series with a story of how I was involved in ‘blowing up’ the railway bridge at Clementi during my combat engineers training course more than 30 years ago. In that article I mentioned that we had a similar exercise to ‘blow up’ another bridge near the western end of the Jurong Line. This was a bridge that joined Shipyard Road to Pulau Samulum. I had wanted to blog about it earlier but did not have any photos of the bridge to show you.

I finally got the chance to revisit this bridge on 20th December last year, when I accompanied some friends of to explore the remnants of the Jurong Line. One of my friends, PY has in fact started a series of articles about our trip that day. But what I want to blog about today is that army exercise.

The name of the exercise was either Exercise Mongoose or Exercise Punch 2; I cannot remember for sure. It was a demolition raid and our mission was to blow up this bridge as well as a section of the railway tracks near the junction of Shipyard Road and Tanjong Kling Road. I was in the main force involved in ‘demolishing’ the bridge whilst a smaller group carried out the secondary task.

I cannot remember much details except that some of us were lowered by toggle rope to attach the ‘explosives (charges)’ to the columns. Of course we did not use real explosives, just sandbags to simulate the real thing. I remember as we were being pulled up, one of us (me?) hit the head on a horizontal concrete beam. Mind you, all this was happening in the dead of the night. Fortunately he had his steel helmet on and was not hurt.

As usual, after the ‘explosion’ and ‘fire-fight’ with the ‘enemies’, a technical break was called by the exercise controllers for us to tidy up the area and load our stores onto an awaiting three-tonner. When the exercise resumed, we had to carry out the most dreaded part of the exercise which was withdrawal and the obligatory evacuation of casualties.

As I think back, I realize, we did some pretty crazy stuff during our NS training which today’s soldiers won’t have the chance to do because Singapore is so heavily populated nowadays. For example, I remember one occasion when we went to recce the Toa Payoh Flyover at Braddell Raod. With all the traffic around us, we (in army uniform) had to run around and take measurements of the ‘vital statistics’ of the flyover. That time it was only a technical exercise to calculate the type and amount of explosives required to do the job.

Ah …. those were the days my friend. We thought they’d never end.


Victor said...

I wonder if soldiers today still have such hands-on practice of 'blowing-up' a real bridge. If so, how would the authorities tell them apart from the real terrorists?

Anonymous said...

Simple lah! If terrorists, the bridge would have gone by then; I mean really blown-up.

Lam Chun See said...

I don't think we have much danger of terrorists blowing up our bridges. Blowing up bridges is applicable mainly for conventional warfare to deny enemy troops and armour movement. Terrorists are more interested in vital installations.

With the heavy traffic nowadays, it would be too dangerous for our boys and too disruptive to have this type of training in public areas.

Icemoon said...

Should 'tekan' those blue beret combat engineers. Ask them construct bailey bridge, blow it up, casualty-evac, then dismantle the bridge .. all-rounded training.

Aiyah Nonya said...

Hi !
Here's wishing you wealth, health and everything swell this year.
Gong Hei fatt Choi !

PChew said...

Hi Chun See, I must kick myself for not joining you all for the Jurong Line trip. When I saw the map of Pulau Samulun and the railway line nearby, I remembered visiting the island almost weekly in the second half 1974 in connection with my job. I had to stopped the car when the barrier was down for the train to pass.
Thanks Chun See for the fast backward to the memory lane.

Lam Chun See said...

Philip. Didn't you know about this planned outing? The emails were circulating among the foyers for some weeks before the trip.

You would have been surprised by the many changes in the nearby roads, such as Pioneer and Tanjong Kling roads which have been realigned and widened. The sharp bend in Pioneer Rd near the former PB petrol station is completely gone. And many of the small factories in Liu Fang road areas have been removed. But not much change along Shipyard Rd though.

Anonymous said...

All i know was during my time in 30sce, going out of camp to day this kind of "mission" never heard off. Beside hearing from my CSM saying he got a chance to go to sunset way rail bridge for this kind of "mission".

Lam Chun See said...

Spore is too crosded for this sort of thing today. But nowadays the NS boys are more fortunate in that they get to go to overseas for training. My son went to Brunei, ROC and Australia.