As for the 40SAR camp, it is now occupied by the Civil Defence Training Village and used for rescue operations training. During my last few years of reservist training, I was posted to SCDF, and we went there a couple of times.
Here’s a sketch of my camp drawn from memory. I am pretty confident about what lay to the right of the main entrance, but am a bit hazy about what was to the left as I seldom went there. We had a small demolition range but you are not allowed to fire more than certain number of kg of TNT. But judging from the occasion rumble and shaking of the buildings, we know some people didn’t follow the standing orders. Beyond the pond, there was also a magazine (ammo dump). The pond was used for Bridging training and next to it was a huge warehouse for storing the bridging parts.
I was posted to Platoon 6, Bravo Company, one of three engineer companies. My OC (company commander) was a regular officer by the name of Lta Ajmeer Singh. My fellow platoon commanders were 2LTs Loh Wing Thye, Chan Wing Kong and (I think Tan Chin Poh, who was acting 2IC for a time).
Our first encounter in this camp was an extremely unpleasant affair. Since three decades have past, I think it is alright to blog about it.
Altogether there were about a dozen of us new officers who have been posted to the camp. As a tradition, there was a welcome Happy Hour at the officer’s mess. I believe it was held on 11th October. The group of us new 2nd Lieutenants assembled in our best No. 3 uniforms in front of the officer’s mess and the first item of the evening was a ‘water baptism’. They had collected pail loads of dirty water (after mopping the floor no doubt) and poured onto us from a few storeys above.
After we had changed to dry clothes, the actual Happy Hour began. This comprised the usual dinner followed by drinks. The rookie officers were each served with a concoction of liquors which included the Chinese ‘mao tai’. This drink was dubbed the Mandai Rocket because just one glass was certain to send you ‘high’. As a precaution, each one of us had a pail hung around our necks so we would not throw up onto the floor.
Of course we got drunk pretty soon. I remember clowning around and displaying some of my boxing moves – yes for a time, I learnt boxing at OCS (officer cadet school). And then there was this nasty chap (I can remember his full name), the S2 or intelligence officer who gave me a punch in the face. What kind of officer and gentleman punches a fellow officer when he is drunk? I didn’t feel much pain because I was tipsy anyway, but I pretended to be knocked out so as to avoid further torture. (Although I am a teetotaler, I have a pretty high tolerance for liquor).
Actually, except for the punch, what happened up to this point was acceptable to me. But it was what happened after we got drunk that was truly despicable. But to protect the innocent, I cannot go into details. Anyway, to keep the story short, one of my friends was seriously injured and there was a Board of Inquiry. I remember going down to Mowbray Camp in Ulu Pandan to give my testimony. Shortly after, we got a new CO (battalion commander) by the name of Balwant Singh.
My last day was an uneventful and quiet one. Because I was a disrupted case, I was the only guy RODing on that day. I remember going over to the Medical Centre next door for a checkup. The M.O. took a look at me and said; “Hey! I think you are a bit flat-footed.” What the hell do you mean by “a bit flat-footed"? I thought to myself, mindful that the joker had the rank of Captain. You mean, I went through two-and-a-half years of Peng Kang Hill and what not when I could have been enjoying the company of pretty SAF clerks in Dempsey Road like my friend Victor? (I won’t let you get off so easy my friend!!!). No wonder, I have been getting backaches all these years.
I remember taking an SBS 171 to Bt Panjang terminus and changing to TIBS 181 to bring me back to my home in Farrer Road. It was late morning and very quiet. A strange mixture of feelings went through my mind as I sat in the TIBS 181 waiting for it to start. Happy of course to be finally back in civilian life, sad to leave a place that held many fond memories and fearful of what lay ahead as I was to begin a new career shortly as an Industrial Engineer in Philips.