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.

With James Tann and Peter Chan
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

The SAFTI Admin Building was shaped like a horse-shoe with the wing on the left on the ground floor being the main offices of the entire SAFTI including the director and other top brass.  The official entrance into the building was that concrete roof at that wing on left of photo.  The second to fourth levels of both wings housed the officers’ bunks.  In the centre of the horse-shoe, (hidden by the wing on the right) on the third level, was the officers’ mess from which my photo was taken one morning.  All officers’ bunks had wooden single beds.  All bachelor regular SAF officers had accommodation in this building.


TheSounDOne said...

The last 2 photos of SAFTI brings back memories. Had served in the "old" SAFTI/Pasir Laba camp in 1989~91 as medic. During my time there, it look pretty much the same as in the photos.

Memories as follows;

1. SISL was by then know SAFINCOS (SAF School of NCO).
2. Had stayed in the original old single storey bunk. Didn't know the signifance of these building until years after I ROD.
3. If I remember correctly, the canteen was behing the HQ building?

Lam Chun See said...

One of the first places in Safti that we got to know was the canteen, known to us as Safticana (as in Tropicana - the popular night club). We were taught to purchase things like Quick Starch - necessary for spraying onto our uniform before ironing it. Also had to buy a whole lot of other stuff like flanelite (not sure of spelling) for cleaning rifle, brasso, becos what they issued were not sufficient, barber, snacks like lor-mai-kai etc.

All these from our $90 allowance.

Anonymous said...

Mr Lam,

Selarang barracks used to be the 42nd SAB. This was in the early 70's. They may have changed the name since. Like Gillman Barracks was SOFE when the camp from Sentosa was shifted there in the early 70's. I believed the name was later changed to SOCE.

rambo said...

I was at SISL Juliet Company in 1981. Just beside our double storey wooden barrack was the barrack for Lady OCS. I recalled booking in on Sunday nights seeing a group of my bunk mates hiding behind the glass windows to look out for lady cadets changing after booking in.

Lori24 said...

Hi everyone,this is the first time I've posted so I hope it works! My name's Lorraine O'Connor and I'm from the u.k.This Xmas I'm returning to Singapore for the first time in 42 years.My father was in the army but based at R.A.F.Changi in the S.A.B.C.We lived in Selerang Park Rd and I was at school at Changi Grammar School.This was 1969-1971. From reading various posts I understand that a lot of old Singapore has gone but can anyone tell me how easy it is to get around Selerang and Changi to find the old camps? Is Selerang swimming pool still there?We lived on the hill above it and I only had to walk through my back garden and down the hill to reach it.Any advice would be appreciated.As you can imagine cant wait to get there!

Anonymous said...

I stayed at Sembawang Hills Drive ( off Sembawang Hills Estate)from 1960 to 1981. Very much attached to the British family stationed at this Housing Estate in the 60's. My father name is Rajoo who worked as a civilian at Royal Navy Base at Sembawang. I am willing to share my memories as far as I can remember if anyone have any question