Friday, September 04, 2009

Gordon Sargent remembers Mowbray Camp

Recently I received a letter all the way from Bulwick, in the UK, from an ex-British serviceman by the name of Gordon Sargent. Gordon took the trouble to write out his letter the old-fashioned way in beautiful cursive handwriting. He shared with me about his time in Mowbray Camp in Ulu Pandan Road from way back in the 50’s. He even included photo copies of two photos.

So thanks to Gordon, you will be able to learn a bit about the history of one of the few remaining British army camps in Singapore. Thanks to contribution from Gordon and other readers, I shall be able to start a new series about old British Army camps in Singapore.


Dear Lam Chun See,

I discovered your photograph from your kampong days when I was doing a little research on Singapore. I spent 19 months at Mowbray Camp a little before your kampong days. I was stationed there from July 1957 to February 1959, so I left Singapore fifty years ago. Amazing where the time goes.

In 1957 the camp was called No. 3 AWDU (Army War Dog Unit). The name was changed some time in 1958 to No. 3 AGDU (Army Guard Dog Unit).
At that time the unit was the base of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps comprising around 150 officers and men with 80 to 100 dogs. Our job was to guard all the army supply bases on the island, including the base ammunition depot which was at Kranji area.

Please find enclosed photo copies of photographs of barrack block.

In 1957 when I arrived at the unit, there were 4 tents in front of the barrack block. We spent the first month in tents. The mosquitoes were hell! The 1957 photo shows 3 tents, so the one I was in had been removed and I had graduated to the barrack building.

I had not been able to establish who in in the camp at present but it is still recognizable on the Google Map.

I hope the enclosed is of interest and would like to hear from you. I am hoping to make a trip to Singapore before I get much older to see several sites I did not see whilst in service.

Yours sincerely,

Gordon Sargent

** Today this Mowbray Camp is known as the Police KINS (Key Installation Protection) Training Camp.

Akan Datang (Coming Soon): Reader Karunakaran shares about his time in the Army Depot Police.


Icemoon said...

Oh gosh, we have another potential eyewitness to the old Mowbray railway, the gun pit and the secret tunnel!

Peter, are you there?

Zen said...

I, like what Gordon feels, that age is fast catching up on us. There are a multitude of excuses or reasons for us not making a nostalgic trip to the place of our affection, not realising that, as what we locals used to say, 'at a brink of an eye, few decades have already slipped away'.

Lam Chun See said...

For me the main reason is time. I feel guilty if I take time away from 'working hours' just to visit an old place and take photos for this blog, even though I am self-employed and have control over my own working hours. Still I usually do it during lunch time.

Whenever I hear people talk about how "swiftly flew the years", I am reminded of the old black and white Cantonese movies. They liked to show a scene of a waterfall and then the next scene is several years later. Perhaps they are saying; "Swiftly flowed the years" :)

Zen said...

As chun see fully understands, being a 5S specialist, perception of time is rather subjective. To quote Enstein explaining his theory on relativity by using a simple illustration: 'The time you spend with your girl friend seems to be rather short like 10 minutes but the same amount of time spent sitting on a hot spot seems like an hour'. There is saying which explains that person should extract a little time to relax himself even if he has a busy work schedule(that is if the situation permits, and it does not mean that e.g. a surgeon should steal some time off in the midst of an operation to relax himself). I subscribe to this type of logic provided I work for myself.

Lam Chun See said...

Interesting to note that Gordon wrote "Late Summer 1957" in the first photo. Having just arrived from the UK, his sense of the time of the year still revolved around the 4 seasons. I guess he would soon realize that in Spore we have summer all year round.

I had a friend from my JC days who migrated to Canada for a number of years before moving to US. He told me that over there they count the years by the number of winters.

peter said...

woof woof woof

Brian and Tess said...

Yes Chun See and like English summers it can rain at any time as well! Funny how I remembered Spore being a lot drier than it was on my visit in March.

I think I heard on the radio the other day about how the Chinese have many more seasons, carefully describing the coming and going of the main weather elements.

Zen said...

There is a school of thought here that people who live in places that have four seasons have a sense of rhythm especially coming to winter - a time to slow down, relax and enjoy particularly during the festive season of christmas, therefore healthier. What about people in the tropics - sunny all the year round? Likewise, they have to find their own rhythm and relax themselves, or else burning their candle at both ends.

Dogcom said...

Hi Chun See, your's is such a wonderful blog and a delight to read. It brings back a lot of memories.

I was serving my National Service as a Military Police at Mowbray Camp 1972-1973. It was the Headquarters of the Military Police. We have the Military Traffic Police unit there. The Singapore Police and Army Dog units were also housed there.

If I am not mistaken the building in the picture should still be there and it was used during my time as the School of Provost. It sits at a high point of the camp.

peter said...

At one time in the late 1970s, the HDB abd URA wanted to take over Mowbray Camp and turn it into a HUDC. That plan did not materialise and we now got Pine Grove on the opposite side of Ulu Pandan Road.

Lam Chun See said...

Thank you Dogcom. Mowbray Camp is now located in Chua Chu Kang next to the Warren Country Club and Kranji Camp.

Dogcom said...

Hey Peter, Talking about Pine Grove, do you remember it used to be a cemetery, I think for the British Forces; rows and rows tomb stone in white.

Lam Chun See said...

Dogcom. My friend Peter has in fact blogged about the British Military cemetery in Ulu Pandan here. His article was the first of a series on the Ulu Pandan Heritage Trail which he and I co-wrote. You can check out these articles by clicking on the label Ulu Pandan on the right side bar.

Rahil said...

Has anyone here actually seen the tunnels or know someone who has?