Thursday, August 07, 2008

SAF Display, June 1978

In June 1978, shortly before my ROD (run out date) from full-time National Service, I took part in the SAF Display (I think it was part of SAF Day celebrations). At that time, I was a platoon commander in 30 SCE, Mandai Camp. My platoon was given the task to provide the pyrotechnics and build some of the structures for the tanks to run over and show off their destructive power.

On the big day itself, from the place where we were ‘hiding’ whilst all the action was taking place, we actually got a much better and more exciting view than even that of VIPs in the spectator stands. The tanks and assault troops were actually charging towards us and the paratroopers were air-dropping all around us. But we had to endure the hot afternoon sun without proper shelter.


Below are some photos I took for your enjoyment

And now I have a question for you. Do you know where is this place? Take a good look first before your scroll down to the bottom of the page for the answer.





Answer: Changi Air Base. At least those were the words I wrote at the back of my photos. I think it was at the part of Upper Changi Road where I used to see the dark green RAF planes from the main road as a kid. The huge piece of open land you see in my photos is the reclaimed land where they would build the world famous Changi International Airport.

Read about Changi Airport available at Singapore Infopedia


34 comments:

Brian Mitchell said...

Well I was surprised by the answer as I did not recognise the rather featurless area, nor spot that it was near the sea -so I was going to suggest it was at the airbase at Tengah.

Those dark green aircraft you mention were Shackletons over at the Eastern Dispersal area(which I mentioned in a comment on the previous blog on Changi below), they were anti-submarine and air-sea rescue aircraft of 205 Squadron and based I think on the old WW2 aircraft the Lancaster

Brian Mitchell said...

Actually Chun See maybe those aircraft were not Shakletons - did they last until 1978 and was the RAF still using Changi as late as that?

Victor said...

Well, I don't think I would have guessed the right answer either as I didn't notice any familiar landmarks. However, I did notice your new rubber stamp on the photos.

Lam Chun See said...

If you look closely at photo no. 3, you can see a mountain in the distance. That is actually beyond the sea I believe.

Brian. In 1978, there were no more RAF planes, What I meant was, I wasn't sure where this place was. It was probably the place where as a kid in the 60's, whenever I passed this place, what caught my attention was the RAF planes. I think it is the area you described as Dispersal Area in one of your articles.

Tom said...

Tom said...
Looking at all five photographs I would never have thought it was Ghangi air port. Chun See, I was having a good look at Photo no.2 is that an island in the back ground?., and the Tank in the photo at firstIthought it was Scorpion Tank?,but know I thing its a bit small to be one.

peter said...

The "mountain" is Johore which is behind Pulau Tekong. The difference between Ubin and Tekong is bcos of the "mountain". Ubin does not have this "mountain" feature

Lam Chun See said...

Tom. I think that is the French made AMX-13 light tank. I seem to recall that name during my NS days.

Zen said...

Not being good at topo, I could only make some wild guesses. The only thing I got it correct is the place must be reclaimed land, and likely around the Jurong area, reasoning that Singapore could not have such an extensive flat piece of place, unless it is being reclaimed - completely off the mark. I usually associate Changi Air base with full of war planes during the British administration, but forget the fact that the RAF has since left the base. This is a problem of having an old mindset. In conclusion, using perception is usually very unreliable. It is better to see things actually on the site itself.

alex said...

Yes the tank was the AMX 13 light tanks, I was from Armour, Chun See.

The location is likely Changi air Base too, I was the advance party who took over Selarang and the airbase is just next to the Married Quarters. Our guard duties covers the MQ, just before the airbase.

Regards

pehsk 白成杰 putih said...

Dear Chun See,
I saw your photos come with your name. How did you do it?
regards
pehsk

Tom said...

Tom said...
just been looking up a book a bout Tanks , the AMX-13 light Tank is there, It says it has a oscillating turret equipped with an autoloader, Alex, and chun see it is French, it is true you learn every day , thats the first time I have seen one.

Lam Chun See said...

Hi Alex. Maybe you know my OCS section mate, Lim Kheng Guan. At one time he was posted to Selarang Camp as the QM or S4 - not sure which. Brought me there once to place squash. He was a regular. Also served in ROC as QM.

Zen said...

My nephew joined NS as a tank crew. As instructed by his higher officers, during live training in Australia, tanks were not supposed to stop in the midst of a mock battle unless ordered to do so. Unfortunately his tank swerved and stop, trying to avoid hitting a kangeroo, as a result he suffered a bad knock. However, my sister did not mention whether her son and his fellow crew member were punished for disobeying order, neither did she say whether the kangeroo was killed or not.

Ngiam Shih Tung said...

You gave the answer already, but I was going to say Changi Air Base as well. I remember going there as a young impressionable kid for SAF displays like this one.

The demonstration area probably was the reclaimed land that would eventually become Changi Airport - that's why it's so flat.

Lam Chun See said...

I think, our govt being sensitive to the Australians' well-known respect for animal rights (remember Steve Erwin?) would not punish the boys.

I heard that in ROC, Taiwan, whenever our training killed any animals, the SAF would quickly and quietly compensate the local farmers generously.

Lam Chun See said...

The reclamation project for Changi Airport was quite an engineering feat. I saw a tv documentary some years ago about the construction of the airport. They were somehow able to speed up the process. Usually, after reclaiming the land from the sea, you have to wait a number of years for the water to drain off or something, before you can build anything this big on it.

sgporc said...

Having just watched the NDP a few hours ago and reading your blog, I remember being brought to one such display once by my dad. I was a very little kid then (probably around 1980) so I have no idea what the occasion was or where exactly it was held. I need to ask him some day...

But I vividly remembered that there was a live-firing attack display that was performed. It started with fighter planes dropping live bombs onto enemy positions, followed by artillery fire from armor (ie. tanks) shooting and blowing up enemy "tank structures" as they advanced, and then followed by infantry advancing across the warfield. Thinking of it now, it was impressive that they really actually had such live-firing displays in front of a public audience, and I don't think we were very far away from the explosive action (probably about 500m). I haven't had any experience that even came close to this ever since, even through my stint in NS. It will probably never be held at such a scale again, so I wonder if anyone remembers what it was and can blog about it...

peter said...

Someone loaned me a documentary produced by SIA. The documentary provided a background on how Changi Airport was reclaimed from the sea and how the airport was eventually built.

From what I can recollect from the documentary, PWD Airport Project Team decided to sink pipes deep into the ground; reaching the seabed. Through these pipes, clay or soft soil was sucked up and replacing them were harder soil types. Hundreds of these pipes were bored into the ground.

Quality sand was dredged off the Singapore waters close to the international boundary between Singapore and Indonesia and brought to Changi for land reclamation. By this time there was little earth left on Singapore which was suitable for land reclamation.

Not too long ago there was a stand-off between Indonesia and Singapore over sand "illegally sucked" from the coves in/around Batam for the Pulau Tekong land reclamation project. Someone told me to go down to Changi Staging Point near the Changi Naval Base and Changi NeWater Plant, to take a look at truck-loads of earth taken from Singapore's Circle Line/Downtown Line MRT projects. The earth is bound for for Pulau Tekong. I did so and found it very interesting. Instead of building a jetty like the Bedok Jetty, the sea is deep enough for barges to berth next to land. It is also a good spot for anglers.

peter said...

Although I am not a civil engineer, I had been fascinated since childhood days about construction. There is very little left in Singapore about heritage and heritage that we already know (fully or partially).

I see these new infrastructure projects as the "beginning of future heritage landmarks". 50 years from now we can sit in a/c comfort but have no clue how these were built.

A group of friends are "hot into it" and have decided to build their local version of heritage trail projects. Some are working on the Marina Barrage Tunnel Crossing, some on NeWater underground pipes running all over Singapore, some looking at the evolution of the Pulau Tekong coastline, others at Downtown Line stations, golf course construction, to name a few.

alex said...

Hi Chun See,
Yes, I remember Lim Khen Guan, now that you have mentioned his name. Yes, we were the very fortunate guys who have our own squash courts, and even a small electrical model car racing track, complete with landscape in the officers' mess, the bar set up is like a old English pub. In the early days, there was even a PX store outside the camp which sells items to the British families,and I remember the very large block of LUX soup on sale, together with unknown brands of all sorts items, certainly new to a young man in 1971. Those were the days indeed!

Zen said...

When I was working at Sembawang, we work closely with NZUK forces side by side, and therefore able to lunch at their canteen which served western dishes. We fondly remembered the apple and chicken pies served there. This canteen was located within the protected zone, but not the NAAFI store which was housed in ANZUK staff quarters (formerly British)- comprising huge bungalows (on stilted concrete columns) with high ceilings, specially built to for senior officers. These structures could lessen the intensity of tropical heat, and the reason why they were on stilt was to keep the mosquito menace at bay (for fumigation purposes). Junior officers were housed in one storey rectangular houses usually painted in black and I believed the paint had a specially repelling effect on mosquitos. The whole complex was populated by large trees, bushes on undulating ground bordered by the Sembawang-Admiralty East and Canberra Roads serving the former Bristish Naval and later on ANZUK forces. I once asked an Kiwi officer why he felt so sad leaving and going back to his country New Zealand. He replied: "I enjoyed the life here, not only this, from here, I can visit many countries in S.E.Asia".

alex said...

Thank you Zen for putting the name correct, it was the "NAFFI" store and not PX, which is the american version of such store.

Regards

ThESounDOne said...

if i remember correctly, my dad brought my family to this particular SAF Day Display..... i remember 1 paratropper landind on the rooftop of a building behind the crowdline... another soilder while jumping off a obstacle, seems to had landed too hard and injured himself.... just some of the memories i had ......

Lam Chun See said...

This morning I drove my son to Sembawang MRT station becos he had to go to the Navy Centre of pre-NS check up. I passed by old Sembawang Road and Canberra Rd. The whole area has changed so much. Took me some time to get my orientation right before getting back to SLE.

Anyway, I was reminded of many neon-lit bars and pubs and restaurants along old Sembawang Rd in the old days when there were many British servicemen in Spore.

Icemoon said...

Zen seems to belong to the oldies group like Chun See and I can see he has many stories to tell.

Is there a blog where I can read his stories?

Thanks.

peter said...

My cousin who signed on in the SAF - air force side - told me that year they had to hurridly refurbished 3 C130 Hercules transport planes which were purchased from the Israeli Self-Defense Force. They were to be used to drop commandos for the parachute display.

Chun see
your son probably join Navy Diving Unit - water commando unit for sure.

Zen said...

Like Alex I simply loved the Lux or Palmolive soap sold in the NAAFI store. The size of the soap was about one third larger than those sold outside and the scent was 'solid' lingering for quite some time after a bath. All in all, it was value for money when we bought items from this specialist store which was tucked away at an obscure corner. Many shops as described by Chun See sprung up at the fringe of the naval base which was so
extensive that it covered almost the whole northern shoreline along the Johore strait. The former land area of the base is now occupied by PSA, Sembawang Shipyard, PUB Senoko power station, incinerator, training ship, shell installation, SAF, factories, HDB housing estates, even a refugee camp (in the seventies) and the list goes on. Our neighbour calls us a little red dot, but in my view sometimes small can be big.

Lam Chun See said...

Icemoon. Zen is my elder brother. He is 9 years my senior and finds it too much of a hassle to write his own blog.

Icemoon said...

Oh! So Zen is Chun Chew. I think you have other siblings as well (I remember Pat and David), typical of people from your generation. Must be fun reminiscing around the dinner table.

Zen said...

icemoon - You have incredible memory. I went through your blog today and found your story and lovely pictures on railway tracks - a continuation to what Chun See and Peter have originally written, very well researched into, showing thoroughness in your effort. Keep up your good work. A person with a passionate goal can crash through all barriers.

Icemoon said...

Haha, I think I have poor memory, but was fascinated by some of Chun See's stories. So you should thank your brother for his storytelling abilities. =)

Zen said...

icemoon - You are right about Chun See storytelling ability which is able to evoke and express through his writing skill. Recently I related to him a story of U.S. senator Obama (a to-be U.S. president) who enthralls and captures the hearts of many Americans. The writer of this story, which is published in a renown U.S. magazine, describes him as a master story teller. I truly believe storytelling could enhance the stature of GMY.

Victor said...

I just came back from Kent Ridge Park. Caught a spider there during lunch time. But I think it is not the fighting kind. Will try to upload a photo of it if it is still alive by tonight.

I also saw the M-114 155mm Howitzer at the entrance of Vigilante Drive and also the MX-13 Light Tank parked at the top of Kent Ridge Park. These 2 items were donated by the SAF and restored by Singapore Technologies. They are now used as permanent exihibits to mark that vicinity as the last battleground during the Japanese invasion.

yg said...

victor, i have sent chun see an email, with pictures, about the dangers of handling spiders you are not familiar with. i have requested him to forward it to you.