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Words that may no longer be spoken

2015 July 26

The distractions of the modern world have seen us lose many of the traditions that once coloured the streets of Singapore. One that struggles to survive is Chinese puppet theatre in its various genres, kept alive only by the passion of those still involved with it.

Words that may no longer be sung. Words that may no longer be spoken.

Controlling the Teochew Rod Puppet. Controlling the Teochew Rod Puppet.

Sadly, we would soon see one of Singapore’s two Teochew rod puppet troupes, Sin Sai Poh Hong (新赛宝丰), exit the scene. Faced with dwindling interest, a lack of willing successors and the pressures of the modern world, the members of the troupes will play out their final act in same week Singapore celebrates its tight half century embrace of modernity.

Fading with time ... Fading with time …

JeromeLim-7522

A more recent addition to the street theatre scene – Teochew rod puppetry arrived Singapore in the early part of the 20th century, the form of puppetry does have a long tradition in the land of the Teochew community’s forefathers, serving as a vehicle for the transmission of values from one generation to the next.

Part of the preparations for the performance include getting the puppets ready. Part of the preparations for the performance include getting the puppets ready.

Strange bedfellows. Strange bedfellows.

At its height in Singapore, its performances would have attracted many off the streets, although intended primarily as entertainment to the deities. Troupes such as Sin Sai Poh Hong were kept busy through the year and would on the average, be engaged ten days in a month, providing sufficient income for the troupe to be run on a full-time basis. However, pressures of the modern world in which tradition is less valued coupled with the enforced shift away from the use of the vernacular,has seen interest fall in traditional puppetry.

Music accompanies the performance. Music accompanies the performance.

The photographs accompanying this post, as well as the badly taken and edited video found at the end of this post, were of the troupe recent performance at the Chee Chung Temple at MacPherson Road. The temple, where the troupe regularly performs, was commemorating the birthday of its main deity, Huang Lao Xian Shi (黄老仙师). The next performance, the troupe’s last, will be held at the same venue on the evening of the 28 September 2015 (amended from previously reported date of 24 August 2015), the sixteenth day of the eight month of the Chinese lunar calendar (Birthday of the Monkey King). More information on this, and further updates, can be found at this Facebook post (please click).

JeromeLim-7479

JeromeLim-7574


The Chee Chung Temple. The Chee Chung Temple.

Part of the festival rituals at the temple. Part of the festival rituals at the temple.


Video (Please Click)


Other forms of puppetry once commonly seen in Singapore:


The author also blogs on The Long and Winding Road.

The lost railway

2015 July 17

Thought of as an essential transport link in the plan to transform the wild and undeveloped west into the industrial heart of Singapore, the Jurong railway line, which was launched in 1966, was one component of the grand scheme that never quite took off. Built with the intention to carry finished goods out of the huge manufacturing hub to the then domestic market in the Peninsula and to move raw materials to the new factories, the railway’s usefulness was to be surpassed by the efficient road transport network that was also in the works.

A remnant of the western reaches of the line in an area now taken over by nature. A remnant of the western reaches of the line in an area now taken over by nature.

An overlay of the western reaches of the industrial railway shown on a 1980 1:25,000 road map of Singapore over a Google Map by cartographer Mr Mok Ly Yng.

The first train that ran, on a 9 mile (14.5 kilometre) journey from Bukit Timah to Shipyard Road on 11 November 1965, was greeted with much anticipation. Some $5.5 million had been invested on the railway. A total of 12 miles (19 kilometres) of tracks were being laid for the project. Passing over eight bridges and through three tunnels, the railway was expected to handle up to 2 to 3 million tons of cargo a year (see Straits Times report dated 12 November 1965, Jurong Railway makes first public run). It does seem that the railway, even in its first decade, fell short in terms of the anticipated amount of cargo it handled. A Report in the New Nation’s 2 June 1975 edition mentions that only 128,000 tons of cargo had been carried by the railway in 1974. The railway’s last whistle blew unnoticed, possibly some time in the early 1990s, barely a quarter of a century after its inauguration. The land, leased from the Jurong Town Corporation (JTC), was returned and lay relatively untouched and the railway left abandoned and largely forgotten.

The first train coming to a halt at the western reach of the line next to the Mobil refinery (still under construction) at Shipyard Road (photo: National Archives online).

A scattering of broken concrete now marks the spot.

Now, some two decades after its abandonment, we are seeing what’s left of the railway fade further away. Large portions of the land on which it ran has in more recent times been turned over to more productive use. With the pace of this quickening of late, it may not be long before we see what is left of it lost to the now rapidly changing landscape of the industrial west. This was in fact very much in evidence during a recent walk I took with a few friends along the line’s western reaches. The once continuous corridor we had hope to walk along, is now interrupted by recent development activity, many of which take the shape of the multi-level ramp-up logistics facilities that increasingly seem to flavour the west.

What seems to dominate the industrial landscape of the west - the new ramp-up logistics facilities that now rise up above the zinc factory roofs. What seems to dominate the industrial landscape of the west – the new ramp-up logistics facilities that now rise up above the zinc factory roofs.

The more visible reminders of the railway, at least in the area west of Teban Gardens, are probably found in its final kilometre close to where it came to a halt at Shipyard Road. A scattering of broken concrete, possibly the broken foundations of the railway buffers, marks what would have been the journey’s end. Following the line eastwards towards Tanjong Kling Road from that point will be rewarded with the former corridor’s western reaches’ largest sections of tracks and a concentration of railway signs. The section just east of refinery Road, would have been where several cement factories, which the railway was known to serve, were located.

Tracing the western reaches .... Tracing the western reaches ….

Nature having its way over what's left of the tracks. Nature having its way over what’s left of the tracks.

The western end of what is left of the tracks. The western end of what is left of the tracks.

Nature taking over. Nature taking over.

A section of the tracks. A section of the tracks.

More signs of nature taking over. More signs of nature taking over.

The now widened Tanjong Kling Road, where a level crossing was located at, marks the end of the section in which the rusting tracks can be found west of Teban, that is until Jurong Port Road. The curious sounding Tanjong Kling, a cape down the road of the same name, formerly Jalan Besi Baja, is where one finds a significant landmark in the industrialisation of Jurong, the National Iron and Steel Mills. The factory, was Jurong Industrial Estate’s first to start production on 2 August 1963. It has since been bought over by Tata Steel.

Tracks close to where the crossing at Tanjong Kling Road would have been. Tracks close to where the crossing at Tanjong Kling Road would have been.

A level crossing sign. A level crossing sign before Tanjong Kling Road.

There are several suggestions as to how the tanjong got its name. A rather intriguing suggestion is one that links it to one of the many fascinating tales of the Sejarah Melayu or Malay Annals, the story of Badang. A 14th century champion of the king of Singapura whose strength was legendary, his reputation had reached the shores of the Kling kingdom (the term “Kling”, while regarded today as a derogatory reference to Indians, was commonly used term in the Malay language thought to have been derived from Kalinga, a southern Indian kingdom). This prompted the Rajah of Kling to send his strongman to Singapura to challenge Badang. The challenge, which some have it as having taken place at Tanjong Kling (hence its name), was won with ease by Badang. The champion of Singapura was not only able to lift a huge stone that the Kling strongman could only lift to the height of his knees, but also toss it, as the tale would have it, to the mouth of what is thought to be the Singapore River. There is a suspicion that this stone, was the same stone – the Singapore Stone, that once stood at the mouth of the Singapore River.

The first break in the continuity of the former corridor where a ramp-up logistics facility is being built just across the former crossing at Tanjong Kling Road. A break in the continuity of the former corridor where a ramp-up logistics facility is being built just across the former crossing at Tanjong Kling Road.

Badang, if he were to take up the same challenge up today, might have required just a little more effort to send the stone in the same direction. Man-made obstacles of a different stone now surround the area around Tanjong Kling, one of which, a tall ramp-up logistics facility, now straddles the path the trains once took - just across Tanjong Kling Road. The newly built structure, cut our intended path off towards the western most of Singapore’s railway bridges.  A concrete girder bridge across Sungei Lanchar, its somewhat modern appearance tells us that it is a more recent replacement, possibly made necessary by  canal widening, for what would have been one of the line’s original bridges.

The western most railway bridge - a modern concrete bridge. The western most railway bridge – a modern concrete bridge over Sungei Lanchar.

On the bridge over the Jurong River. On the bridge over Sungei Lanchar.

Our attempt to follow the path of the railway was further hampered by recent extensions of factory spaces into the former corridor and a detour was required to take us to the location of the westernmost rail tunnel under Jalan Buroh. The tunnel, now a series of tunnels, lies under the huge roundabout and under the shadow of the bridge linking Jurong Pier Road to Jurong Island. This was to be the last we were to see of the former railway before we came to another former crossing that carried the trains across Jurong Port Road. We were to discover that all traces of the two southbound spur lines on either side of Jurong Port Road we had hope to walk along, still around until fairly recent times, have also all but disappeared.

In search of the tunnel under the Jurong Pier Circus. In search of the tunnel under the Jurong Pier Circus.

A view of the tunnel, now obscured by vegetation. A view of the tunnel, now obscured by vegetation.

The tunnel under Jalan Buroh seen in 1965 (National Archives online).

Another logistics facility standing where the line ran along Jurong Pier Road. Another logistics facility standing where the line ran along Jurong Pier Road.

A southward view from Jalan Buroh towards what was the corridor along which the spur line west of Jurong Port Road ran. A southward view from Jalan Buroh towards what was the corridor along which the spur line west of Jurong Port Road ran.

Where the  same spur line ran northwards. Where the same spur line ran northwards.

The southward view to where the spur line east of Jurong Port Road ran. The southward view to where the spur line east of Jurong Port Road ran.

A new road, evident from the plastic protection still on the road sign, running northward along what was the spur line east of Jurong Port Road. A new road, evident from the plastic protection still on the road sign, running northward along what was the spur line east of Jurong Port Road.

Unable to follow our intended path, we settled for a walk up Jurong Port Road. This was rewarded with a rather interesting find in a factory building with its name in Chinese made using characters attributed to the hand of a renowned calligrapher, the late Pan Shou. The far end of the road from the factory, just south of what would have been Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim (now the Ayer Rajah Expressway or AYE), we find evidence of the former level crossing in a pair of metal rails embedded into the road. Close by are also several remnants of the tracks running east into what now seems to be a space for parking of heavy vehicles.

The detour we had to take along Jurong Port Road threw up an  interesting find - a factory building with its characters in Chinese made by the strokes of a renowned calligrapher Pan Shou. The detour we had to take along Jurong Port Road threw up an interesting find – a factory building with its characters in Chinese made by the strokes of a renowned calligrapher Pan Shou.

Tracks of the former level crossing are in evidence at Jurong Port Road. Tracks of the former level crossing are in evidence at Jurong Port Road.

Tracks seen in what seems to be used as a lorry parking space just south of the former Jurong Bus Interchange. Tracks seen in what seems to be used as a lorry parking space just south of the former Jurong Bus Interchange.

The end of the lorry park, which lies south of the site of another one time Jurong landmark, the former Jurong Bus Interchange, is where another girder bridge, is to be found. Possibly one of the original steel bridges, the railway tracks one the bridge is still largely intact. Further east, traces of the line disappear until the area just past the pedestrian overhead bridge across the AYE from Taman Jurong. Here, some sleepers can be seen, embedded into a seemingly well trodden path.

The bridge close to the former Jurong Bus Interchange. The steel girder bridge close to the former Jurong Bus Interchange.

A view on top of the bridge. A view on top of the bridge.

The area once occupied by the former interchange. The area once occupied by the former interchange.

Evidence of the tracks off the AYE. Evidence of the tracks off the AYE across from Taman Jurong.

Further east, we come to the part of Singapore that will serve the railway of the future as its end point. The journey of the future, to the west of Singapore from Kuala Lumpur, would involve an amount of time that would probably be a little more that the time it might have taken the industrial trains of old to make the journey down from Singapore’s north – not counting the time it would take to clear border formalities. Just across the AYE from the future terminus, the industrial trains, running along the former Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim, would have passed over Sungei Jurong. A long span concrete girder bridge, another that is probably more recent, tells us of this, as does the remnants of another steel girder bridge – the last piece of the railway we were to discover before the end of what turned out to be a 10 kilometre walk.

The concrete bridge - across the Jurong River. The concrete bridge – across the Jurong River.

On the evidence of what we saw during the long but not so winding walk was how the landscape of the industrial west is rapidly changing. Ramp-up logistics hubs are now growing out of spaces that would once have been given to low-rise production facilities and large parts of the former rail corridor. This signals a shift towards a fast-growing industrial sector that now accounts for some 9% of Singapore’s GDP.  What was also evident is that it will not be long before all traces of the railway in the industrial west is lost and with that the promise with which the first train ran in the first few months of our independence, will completely be forgotten.


See also: Photographs of the remnants of the same stretch of line taken by Mr Leong Kwok Peng of the Nature Society in 2011.


The author also blogs on The Long and Winding Road.

The monster guns of the east

2015 July 13

Tucked away in a forgotten corner of Changi is a reminder of one of three monster guns of the east installed as part of the coastal defences to protect the island’s naval base from an attack by sea. The reminder, the No. 1 gun emplacement of the Johore Battery and its underground network of support structures, topped by a replica of the 15 inch gun that once stood proudly over it, is in an area today dominated by the high fences of the area’s prison complexes that make it seem an unlikely site for a coastal defence gun.

A photograph of one of the monster guns from the Imperial War Museums collection ©IWM (K 758) (Captioned as: A 15-inch coast defence gun at Singapore, November 1941). A photograph of one of the monster guns seen in November 1941 [Imperial War Museums collection ©IWM (K 758)].

The terrain and its surroundings would of course have been very different in the days when the guns were installed. The considerations for locating them in the area go back to the 1920s, when the British were in the midst of planning on turning Changi into a military base. How it came to be chosen is already well documented by Peter Stubbs on his Fort Siloso website (see: Johore 15-inch Battery) in which there is a wealth of information also on the battery and other coastal defence sites across Singapore.

The replica gun at the site today. The replica gun at the site today.

Named in honour of the then Sultan of Johor who had donated a substantial sum of money (in the order of £500,000) – much of which was used to set up the battery, the Johore Battery was one of several batteries of the Changi Fire Command, established to protect the entrance to the Tebrau Strait and the Naval Base. These also included 6 and 9,2 inch guns that were set up around the eastern tip of Singapore in an area that extended to Pulau Tekong and Pengerang in southeastern Johor. The 15-inch guns, installed in 1938, had a range of 21 miles.

Gun No. 2 of the Johore Battery being fired in November 1941 [Imperial War Museums collection ©IWM (K 755)]. Gun No. 2 of the Johore Battery being fired [Imperial War Museums collection ©IWM (K 755)].

Besides the Changi Fire Command, the coastal defences also included a Faber Fire Command to protect the port and the city of Singapore and a total of 29 large gun batteries were distributed between the two commands. The Faber Fire Command also included a Buona Vista Battery with two 15-inch guns.

The labyrinth above ground. The labyrinth above ground.

Much has been discussed on the effectiveness of the guns in the days that led up to the Fall of Singapore. It could be suggested that the coastal defences did served their intended purpose in deterring an attack by the sea. What is quite certain however, was that although the flat trajectory of the guns and their ammunition made them unsuitable for use over land, two working guns of the Johore Battery were trained to the north and west and fired a total of Johore Battery (Infopedia) in the defence of the island. An account of one of the gun’s use is found in a paper “The Story of the end of Johore Battery during the Battle for Singapore” based on interviews with Malcolm Nash, the son of Gunner William Nash:

Once the Japanese had commenced their attack my father stated that his gun was turned around so that it could fire to the north. I believe that he said that turning it round took 12 hours. My father was the gunner responsible for firing the gun and thought the firing to have been merely a morale booster to frontline troops, as the shells available had been designed to pierce ships’ armour. During his time at Changi Prison he said that fellow soldiers had commented that the shells had sounded like a train going overhead when they were fired.

After eighty shells had been fired it was noticed that the rifling had started to protrude from the barrel and a member of the Royal Engineers was consulted. His view was that the gun was no longer fit for action and if fired again would not have his named attached to it. The gun was fired once more which caused its destruction, and the oil tanks around my father to explode and bathe him in oil.

An 800 kg shell on display at the Johore Battery site. An 800 kg shell on display at the Johore Battery site.

The same paper describes an account of a Japanese Colonel, who recounts the guns’ armour piercing shells producing craters 15-16 metres in diameter and 5-6 metres deep and that the guns most intense phase came during 10-12 February 1942 when they were used to shell the centre and west of the Singapore. The guns were said to have been destroyed on the night of 12 February 1942. Following the end of the war, the remains of the 300 ton guns (the barrel alone was thought to have weighed 100 tons) were sold for scrap.

A soldier loading a shell into the lift below the 15-inch gun [Australian War Memorial, copyright expired]. Loading a shell into the lift below the 15-inch gun [Australian War Memorial, copyright expired].

Besides the emplacements, a labyrinth of underground structures – a trace of which can now be seen above ground, were also built in an around the guns, in part to allow ammunition to be fed to the guns – the shells were loaded to the guns using a hydraulic lift. It was these tunnels and the emplacement of the No. 1 gun of the Johore Battery that was rediscovered in April 1991 in an area that became the Prisons’ Abington Centre and was then turned into the Johore Battery historic site and unveiled on 15 Fenruary 2002.  The underground structures are currently unsafe and access to them is not possible.


The author also blogs on The Long and Winding Road.

The seduction of Alan Wee Kheng Soon

2015 July 8

AlanWeeThe Cold War was a period that now seems a distant past. It wasn’t that long ago that it actually ended, its end coming with the demise of the fast crumbling Soviet bloc at the start of the 1990s. Having grown up during a period during which the Vietnam War was very much in evidence, as well having witnessed as a wide eyed boy, the exciting phase of the space race during which the first lunar landing was made, I was never short of seeing the Cold War being played out in one way or another. Of of the many ways in which the Cold War had been expressed, the one that probably caught a young boy’s attention most was the tales of espionage that we never seemed to be short of: of both the fictional variety in the guise of Secret Agent 007 and later living the tales out through the novels of John le Carré; and of real-life drama that never failed to catch the attention of the boys around me.

One of the real life dramas that caught my attention when I was in my teenage years was one that involved a Bulgarian dissident, playwright Georgi Markov, who whilst in exile in London, was killed in a James Bond like fashion. Markov had been working in London with the BBC, and while waiting for a bus on the Waterloo Bridge near the BBC’s offices during rush hour, felt a stinging pain in his thigh. He had apparently been stabbed by an umbrella, which was modified to fire a pinhead sized pellet which contained ricin, a poison. He had thought nothing of the incident, and continued on his way home. He died three days later. The umbrella had reported been carried by a Bulgarian agent, and was developed by the KGB, an acronym synonymous with Soviet espionage, which referred to the Komitet Gosudarsvenoy Bezopanosti, the Committee for State Security, which acted as the Soviet secret service.

There were many other lurid espionage related tales – one well known one that preceded my arrival into the world that was still a hot topic was the one dubbed as the Profumo affair, which was made into a movie Scandal in 1989. That incident involved a typical setting associated with a spy thriller of society girls, politicians in high places, sex, and deceit. This involved a certain John Profumo, an up and coming politician in the Conservative set up, and the Secretary of State for War. His affair with Christine Keeler who was the reputed mistress of an suspected Soviet spy and subsequent denial in the House of Commons about the affair, not only brought him down, but was perhaps instrumental in Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s resignation.

In Singapore, we weren’t far from similar incidents ourselves. One such incident that came to light in 1980, involved a cypher officer with our Embassy in Moscow. The cypher officer, who had been posted to Moscow in May 1978, was contacted by a certain Luba Lubov Maluba, about a year into his posting, claiming to be a friend of a previous Singaporean occupant of the apartment in which the cypher officer, his wife and young daughter resided. Maluba turned out to be a “swallow”, a term used to describe female agents trained by the Soviets to seduce susceptible foreign men to obtain information from them, and the cypher officer fell prey. He was subsequently blackmailed and passed on transcripts of decoded messages and later settings for the cypher machine. The cypher officer was only found out when he was arrested for trying to smuggle religious icons out of the Soviet Union into Finland and recalled to Singapore, where he confessed to the CID. More of the tale can be found in the online Straits Times archives. The cypher officer was charged and jailed for a total of 10 years.


This was first posted on The Long and Winding Road as A Russian swallow and a Singaporean cypher officer on 29 April 2011.

The launch of RSS Independence

2015 July 4

I found myself back at a place from my past, not so much to take a look back as I often am inclined to do, but to look at what is to come - the beginnings of a new generation of naval patrol vessels, the first of which was being launched yesterday at Singapore Technologies Marine (ST Marine). Developments in the design of naval ships have in the last two decades given naval craft such as patrol vessels fanciful looks and names. In keeping with this fashion, the new class of vessels that will replace the Patrol Vessels (PV) of the generation past that I had a hand in designing at the start of my career as Naval Architect, will be known not simply as a PV, by a fancy sounding Littoral Mission Vessel or LMV- reflective perhaps also of how the role of a near shore maritime security vessel has evolved in the interim.

The uncompleted RSS Independence LMV at her launch and christening. The uncompleted RSS Independence LMV at her launch and christening.

The RSS Independence, the first of the new class of eight LMVs, is being built as a replacement to the eleven surviving PVs. The aptly named Independence, launched in the year Singapore celebrates 50 years of nationhood by Mrs Ivy Ng – the wife of Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen, is being constructed based on a Saab Kockums AB basic design. Featuring a steel hull and a carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) superstructure to reduce topside weight, she will be fitted out with a suite of state-of-the-art sensors and weapon systems intended to provide her with a superior response and surveillance capabilities than the PVs to better meet the navy’s needs in patrolling the littoral zone. In comparison to the PVs, the LMVs will also see a greater integration of her naval and platform operations, and in her maintenance and logistic support systems.

The unfinished Integrated Command Centre with the Engineering and Navigation consoles. The unfinished Integrated Command Centre with the Engineering and Navigation consoles.

LTC Chew Chun Chau, who heads the LMV Project team, giving a presentation of the LMV's Weapon fit out. LTC Chew Chun Chau, who heads the LMV Project team, giving a presentation of the LMV’s Weapon fit out.

A snapshot of the LMV's Surveillance capabilities. A snapshot of the LMV’s Surveillance capabilities.

One of the key features of the Independence class LMVs will be her Integrated Command Centre (ICC). The ICC sees, unusually for a naval vessel, the co-location of the Navigation, Command and Control, and Engineering centers. Housed on the upper level of the the superstructure, the co-location is a move-away from traditional thinking as the three centres, the Bridge, the Combat Information Centre or CIC, and the Machinery Control Room or MCR would be kept in separate compartments to reduce the vulnerabilities that come with co-location.

A full-scale mock-up of the ICC at the shipyard. A full-scale mock-up of the ICC at the shipyard.

The Independence’s ICC will offer a 360 degree panoramic view, again something that is unusual for the crew manning the CIC and MCR on conventional naval craft. Along with the housing of the various functions in one command centre, this will provide for better operational effectiveness and make the LMVs better suited to fulfill their roles in the provision of maritime security in the littoral zone.

ME 5 Tang Chee Meng explaining the concept of the ICC. ME 5 Tang Chee Meng explaining the concept of the ICC.

A peek inside the mock-up of the ICC. A peek inside the mock-up of the ICC.

Much thought has been put into the design of the ICC. The conceptualisation of this started as far back as 2011. Cognitive task analysis and scenario based experiments were carried out over a two-year period before implementation could be done, first in a specially set up simulation room. The room, which I had the opportunity to have a peek at prior to the launch, allows modelling and simulation of the LMVs command and control systems to be carried out, allowing the crew to be  trained prior installation and integration of the actual systems on the LMVs.

A simulation of the ICC. A simulation of the ICC.

Simulation of a successful hit on a hostile sampan sized craft. Simulation of a successful hit on a hostile sampan sized craft.

A simulation of a LMV escort operation was also carried out during that visit. This provided an appreciation of the difficulty faced by the crew in the identification of threats in the congested nearshore zone as well demonstrated how well the LMVs,  are equipped to deal with such threats.

Touch screen interfaces will be employed on the operating consoles of the ICC. Touch screen interfaces will be employed on the operating consoles of the ICC.

A key feature of the LMVs is the network-centric integrated communication and network system. This will facilitate  the communication and sharing of information on board and at the same time integrate it with the Singapore Armed Force’s larger IKC2 network, allowing real-time information sharing across the assets that are deployed. Communication with shore-side centres is also key to the logistics and engineering support concept that is being introduced to the LMVs. A remote health monitoring system will monitor the LMVs combat and platform systems’ from the shore and help in identifying pre-emptive maintenance needs.

A simulation of the view from the command cluster in the ICC. The view from the command cluster in the ICC’s simulation room.

Although much larger than the PVs, the LMVs will carry a baseline complement of 23, expandable to a maximum of 61. The reduction in manning is being achieved through the use of advanced sense-making and decision support systems, increased levels of automation, and improvement in operational methods through design and equipment selection. An Integrated Platform Management System will be used to better manage situations such as engineering defects and to help with fire-fighting and damage control management.

The navigation console in the ICC. The navigation console in the ICC.

One area in which manpower needs will see a significant improvement in the launch and recovery of the platform’s Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs). Used for interception and boarding operations, the LMVs RHIBs are deployed via a stern ramp. A specially designed system of rollers fitted at an inclined well at the stern and on the ramp will allow the boats to be launched and recovered with a minimum of manpower. The traditional method of launch and recovery involves davits or cranes, which would have required much more manpower.

A stern-launched RHIB. A stern-launched RHIB.

Outwardly, the LMVs will look very different from the PVs. A feature that will certainly stand out will the LMVs enclosed mast. The design of the enclosed and stacked mast provides a means not only to locate the LMVs sensors more optimally, it will also enable access to the sensors for maintenance, without the LMVs having to go into the shipyard.

A data sheet showing how the LMV, which will feature a stacked mast, will look like completed. A data sheet showing how the LMV, which will feature a stacked mast, will look like completed.

Another feature of the LMVs that will differentiate them from the PVs, is a helideck. Designed to land and secure a medium lift helicopter, the deck is also where two hatches can be seen, through which modular and containerised mission based systems can be loaded into a mission bay below. This allows flexibility in configuring the LMVs for different operational roles. For example, a medical mission modules can be loaded for a one-off operation when the LMVs are tasked to carry out missions involving humanitarian, disaster relief or search and rescue operations,

The mission bay below the helideck. The mission bay below the helideck.

The LMVs, assembled from 19 hull construction blocks, one of which is the CFRP superstructure, will be delivered to the RSN in early 2016 – approximately in six months time, after which the ICIT – the Installation, Checkout, Integration and Testing phase will take place before the Independence is expected to be commissioned in 2017. The class is scheduled to be fully operational in 2020. More information on the LMVs can be found at the Littoral Mission Vessel.

Dr. Ng Eng Hen, who recalled the previous RSN ship he and his wife launched in Karlskrona - when blankets were given out to the guests. The RSS Independence was launched by Mrs Ivy Ng.  Dr. Ng Eng Hen, who recalled the previous RSN ship he and his wife launched in Karlskrona – when blankets were given out to the guests. The RSS Independence was launched by Mrs Ivy Ng.

JeromeLim-6084


The author also blogs on The Long and Winding Road.

The naval powers collide at Changi

2015 June 30

Every two years in May, the international maritime defence exhibition, IMDEX Asia, comes to town and offers a chance not only to catch up with the going-ons in the region’s naval developments, but also a rare opportunity to take a look at some of the the naval assets of the powers in the Asia Pacific region. This year’s treat must have been the chance to get up-close to the very impressive looking and well-built Chinese stealth frigate, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s 4,000-tonne Type 054A Jiangkai II class CNS Yulin (FFG 569).

The People's Liberation Army Navy's Type 054-A Jiangkai II Class Stealth Frigate, CNS Yulin. The People’s Liberation Army Navy’s Type 054-A Jiangkai II Class Stealth Frigate, CNS Yulin.

The HQ-16 SAM vertical launcher cells on the fore deck. The 32 cell HQ-16 SAM vertical launcher system on the fore deck.

There were also the ships of some of the navies whose presence in the region helps maintain a balance, chief among them the United States Navy (USN), which was the foreign navy with the largest number of ships at Changi Naval Base with two surface ships and a submarine. These were the Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89), a Freedom Class Littoral Combat Ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3), and a Los Angeles Class submarine, the USS Pasadena (SSN 752). Some of the others at berth were a Republic of Korea Navy Incheon Class Frigate ROKS Incheon (FFX 811), a Royal Australian Navy Anzac Class Frigate HMAS Perth (FFH 157), and several ships of the regional and Indian sub-continent navies. More on IMDEX Asia 2015 can be found at the exhibition’s website. The next exhibition is schedule to take place from 16 to 18 May 2017.

The USS Fort Worth Littoral Combat Ship. The USS Fort Worth, a Freedom class Littoral Combat Ship.

USS Mustin, an Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer. USS Mustin, an Arleigh Burke class Destroyer.

USS Pasadena, a Los Angeles Class submarine. USS Pasadena, a Los Angeles Class submarine.

SLNS Sayura, a Sri Lanka Navy Sukanya Class Patrol Vessel. SLNS Sayura, a Sukanya class Offshore Patrol Vessel and the flagship of the Sri Lanka Navy.

The stern of the ROKS Incheon against the incoming storm. The stern of the ROKS Incheon against the incoming storm.

The KD Lekir, a TLDM (Royal Malaysian Navy) Kasturi Class Corvette. The KD Lekir, a TLDM (Royal Malaysian Navy) Kasturi Class Corvette.

The Indian Navy's INS Satpura, a Shivalik Class Frigate. The Indian Navy’s INS Satpura, a Shivalik Class Frigate.

The silhouettes of two of the Republic of Singapore Navy's Endurance class LSTs. The silhouettes of two of the Republic of Singapore Navy’s Endurance class LSTs.


Previous posts on other naval vessels:


The sports complex at Turnhouse Road

2015 June 26

Lying silently and somewhat forgotten is a set of structures that is seemingly out of place in an area dominated by buildings of the former Royal Air Force Changi station (RAF Changi). An award winning sports complex that was completed in October 1982, the set of structures was the Singapore Airlines (SIA) Group Sports Club and had been built on the site of a previous sports facility, the former RAF Changi’s Airmen’s Swimming Pool. The S$11 million modern looking complex at 24 Turnhouse Road, one of the early post RAF Changi era interventions in the previously restricted section of Changi Point, was built to replace to the club’s facilities at the former international airport at Paya Lebar.

The former SIA Groups Sports and Recreation Club complex at 24 Turnhouse Road. The former SIA Groups Sports Club complex at 24 Turnhouse Road.

The approach to the former club. The approach to the former club along Turnhouse Road.

Windows into a more recent past. Windows into a more recent past.

Erected at a time when several larger organisations were also investing in similar leisure facilities, the 2.68 ha. complex was thought of as second only to Shell’s impressive facilities at Pulau Bukom and Paya Lebar and catered for a variety of popular sports. It boasted of a seven lane Olympic size swimming pool, a children’s pool, basketball and netball courts, playing fields, three tennis courts, four squash courts, and a multi-purpose hall with three badminton courts.

The entrance to the club. The entrance to the club.

The main staircase. The main staircase.

The multi-purpose hall. The multi-purpose hall.

And the seven-lane Olympic size swimming pool. And the seven-lane Olympic size swimming pool.

The row of squash courts. The row of squash courts.

The club’s architectural design, for which it won an award, has been described in an article on page 6 of the 18 June 1981 edition of the Straits Times:

The architecture of the complex is imaginative in concept and bold in design, featuring a four level chalet style building with sloping roofs, wide eaves and cantilevered balconies … An important aspect of the design is the viewing terrace, which links all sports and recreational areas. A roof deck on the topmost level of one wing offers superb views of the general surroundings, while a viewing balcony overlooks the multi-purpose hall and four squash courts.

A view from the sea towards the area where the former club is. The structures of its buildings stand out in the distance. A view from the sea towards the area where the former club is. The structures of its buildings stand out in the distance.

The viewing balcony. The viewing balcony.

The upper floor corridor overlooking the swimming pool. The upper floor corridor overlooking the swimming pool.

What would have been a snack kiosk next to the swimming pool. What would have been a snack kiosk next to the swimming pool.

A view out to the swimming pool. A view out to the swimming pool.

Pipework in the club's boiler room. Pipework in the club’s boiler room.

Besides catering for sports, the club also provided for indoor activities, other hobbies and dining. Housed within its buildings were food and beverage outlets, a gym, a reading room, a conference room, a lounge, a jackpot machine room, an electronic games arcade, as well as rooms for billiards, darts and television. An innovation of the day that the club put to use was a solar powered water heating system.

What must have been a function or conference room. What must have been a function or conference room.

A restaurant space. A restaurant space.

A view across the pool to the viewing balconies. A view across the pool to the viewing balconies.

Despite the club’s enviable facilities, membership fell in its first years of operations at its new premises from a high of 5253 members in 1981 to a low of 1200, based on a 1983 report by in Suara Satu, the newsletter of Singapore Air Transport-Workers’s Union (SATU). Increased membership fees, distance and a lack of transportation to the club had been cited as a contributing factor. This saw the club open its doors to Division 1 civil servants, as well as staff of client airlines of its subsidiary Singapore Airport Terminal Services (SATS). There was also talk then of the club finding new premises or being opened to the public coming to the surface.

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The club did eventually move out – to its current facilities off Upper Changi Road East in 2006, leaving the clubhouse at Turnhouse Road abandoned. Today it remains unused – except for the occasional event being held there. The future of the club’s former buildings is uncertain, although an adaptive reuse may be found for the site in the interim during which time the structures will stand perhaps as a lesser known and temporary reminder of a period of Changi Point’s development that was influenced by the arrival of the new airport at Changi.

A terrace with a view to the sea. A terrace with a view to the sea.

A view across to 23B Turnhouse Road, now a seafood restaurant. A view across to 23 Turnhouse Road, now a seafood restaurant.

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The author also blogs on The Long and Winding Road.

Keeping the fire burning …

2015 June 23

One of the last two dragons of Singapore, the Thow Kwang dragon kiln, was brought to life over the weekend, its flames fed by a team of potters and volunteers working through the night. The use of such kilns, a tradition imported by the Teochew community, served a necessary purpose in the production of latex cups in the days when rubber plantations covered large parts of Singapore’s rural landscape. At its height, the would be kept running with little pause through a cycle of packing, firing, cooling and unpacking that would take place up to four times a month.

Keeping the fire burning at Thow Kwang. Keeping the fire burning at Thow Kwang.

With the end of rubber production on the island, many kilns lost their relevance. Some turned to making flower pots in the 1980s, a decade that saw many others forced to close. Today, only the former Guan Huat and Thow Kwang kilns, both of which are located off Jalan Bahar, have survived.

Wood for firing in the glow of the kiln. Wood for firing in the glow of the kiln.

The inferno inside the firing box. The inferno inside the firing box.

The first row of pots seen  through the flames. The first row of pots seen through the flames.

Fired by those with the passion to keep an age-old tradition alive, for now at least the dragons still breathe. The kilns operate on land that the Jurong Town Corporation (JTC) now owns, are on an extension to their respective leases that could see them used up to 2023/2024, beyond which, little is known of what will become of them.

Feeding the dragon. Feeding the dragon.

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To learn more about the kiln, how it is fired and also the art of wood-fired pottery, there is a wonderful app (only for iPad at the moment) that can be downloaded at Dragon Fire.

Ms Carolyn Lim giving a demo of the iPad app. Ms Carolyn Lim giving a demo of the iPad app.

More information on the Thow Kwang kiln and its previous firings and some of the preparatory work that goes on before a kiln is fired, do also visit some of my previous posts:

A look at the remains of what is thought to have been a Hokkien 3-chamber kiln that predates the dragon kiln. A look at the remains of what is thought to have been a Hokkien 3-chamber kiln that predates the dragon kiln.


The author also blogs on The Long and Winding Road.

The art and science of bringing an ogre to life

2015 June 15

Animation has allowed many a tale to be spun in which the unlikeliest of heroes take centre-stage. This is especially so in the last two decades with the availability of the computing power required to allow CGI animation to give scenes and characters a much greater degree of realism. We now have a chance in Singapore to see what how DreamWorks Animation, one of the studios at the forefront of animation, in bringing endearing characters such as a love struck ogre and a round kung-fu kicking panda to life, at Dreamworks Animation: The Exhibition. The exhibition, which opened at the ArtScience Museum over the weekend, will be a treat not just for animation fans, but also anyone and everyone who has watched any of DreamWorks’ wonderful creations.

Mr Chris Harris of ACMI, the ArtScience Museum's Ms Honor Harger and Mr Doug Cooper of DreamWorks Animation. Mr Chris Harris of ACMI, the ArtScience Museum’s Ms Honor Harger and Mr Doug Cooper of DreamWorks Animation.

Curated by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), the exhibition, which is divided into three main galleries, also offers the visitor lots of opportunities to have a feel for some of the processes involved in animation for themselves, through its interactive components. One that will certainly be a hit would be the Face Poser interactive station. Here, visitors can play around at manipulating facial features such as furrowing a brow or raising an eyebrow of a character to give different facial expressions and show different emotions.

The Face Poser. The Face Poser.

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There also is an opportunity to have a feel of the software used by DreamWorks’ animators at another interactive station in the Drawing Room. This will allow visitors to create a short 2D animation sequence with the aid of a tutorial.

Mr Doug Cooper at the Drawing Room. Mr Doug Cooper at the Drawing Room.

The exhibition proper, which is on its first stop of an intended five-year international tour, takes visitors through the process of how characters are developed and how they evolve from 2D sketches to what we see on the screen in the Character gallery, how the story is developed and sold in the Story gallery, and finally how the magical worlds – the wonderful scenes that give a flavour to the films are woven around the characters and the story, in the World gallery.

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A recreation of a DreamWorks Animation studio real-life workspace. A recreation of a DreamWorks Animation studio real-life workspace.

In the Character, we are also introduced to how the development of characters have evolved with the advances in computing, with the display of sketches, the marquettes that were used to develop 3D images prior to this being done completely on the computer screen, as well as in-depth interviews that are screened.

The Character Section with its display of marquettes and sketches that depict the evolution of some of the popular characters. The Character gallery with its display of marquettes and sketches that depict the evolution of some of the popular characters.

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A recreation of another DreamWorks Animation studio real-life workspace. A recreation of another DreamWorks Animation studio real-life workspace.

The Story gallery is where one finds what I thought was one of the more interesting exhibits – a digital storyboard at which visitors can catch a very animated Conrad Vernon, doing a pitch for the “Interrogating Gingy” scene in Shrek. The filmmaker was apparently so convincing that DreamWorks had him lend voice the gingerbread man his voice.

Catch Conrad Vernon doing his pitch for Interrogating Gingy. Catch Conrad Vernon doing his pitch for Interrogating Gingy.

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The World gallery, the largest section, is where the work of directors, designers and concept artists converge and where we have a look at some of the thoughts that go into the scenes. It is also where another of the exhibition’s must-dos, Dragon Flight: A Dragon’s-Eye view of Berk, a panoramic ride on the back of Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon over Berk across a 40-foot 180 degree projection, specially made for the exhibition, can be viewed.

Dragon Flight (photo: Marina Bay Sands / Mark Ashkanasy). Dragon Flight (photo: Marina Bay Sands / Mark Ashkanasy).

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There will be lots of other programmes and activities during the exhibition period, including screenings of some of our favourite DreamWorks’ films. More information on the exhibition, including a full list of programmes and on ticketing can be found at the exhibition page on the ArtScience Museum’s website.

For the kids - an activity that introduces the basics of animation. For the kids – an activity that introduces the basics of animation.


The author also blogs on The Long and Winding Road.

The fire station at the 8th mile

2015 June 12

One of those things almost every young boy dreams of becoming is a fireman. I had myself harboured ambitions of becoming one at different points during my childhood; the inspiration coming from picture books and what I must have caught on the television and perhaps from the constant reminder I had in the form of the rather eye-catching Alexandra Fire Station, which was close to where I lived in Queenstown.

The former Bukit Timah Fire Station, a landmark in my many road journeys. The fire station at the 8MS, Bukit Timah Fire Station, a landmark in my many road journeys and a fire station of old marked by a distinctive hose-drying tower.

Sadly, that station is long gone. The monster of a building that replaced it, besides housing a fire station, also has a police centre operating from it. Without the distinctive hose-drying tower and red doors, the new building, unlike the stations of old, is no longer one to fuel the aspirations of childhood, and certainly not one in which I am able to reconnect with days that I often wish to return to.

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That connection to my youthful days can fortunately be found in several other fire stations of old. Of these, the pretty red and white Central Fire Station, Singapore’s oldest and now a National Monument is still in operation. That, in the days of my childhood, loomed large at the far end of a street now lost, Hock Lam Street, along which I often found comfort in a bowl of its famous beef ball soup.

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Two others that I regularly set my eyes upon, while still around, are no longer operational. One is the red brick former Serangoon or Kolam Ayer Fire Station, along Upper Serangoon Road. Now reassembled, having been moved due to the construction of a road where it had stood, the station was one that was close to my second home in Toa Payoh.

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The other was Bukit Timah Fire Station. Sited at the 8th milestone Bukit Timah, it was close to the giant Green Spot bottle that stood tall at the Amoy Canning Factory (see: a photograph of the Green Spot bottle  on James Tann’s wonderful Princess Elizabeth Estate blog) and was at the foot of Singapore’s highest hill. The station stood out as a landmark in the many road journeys of my childhood. The pair (the station and the giant replica bottle) seemed then to mark the edge of the urban world and on the long drives to the desolate north and the wild west, the sight of them would represent the start of the adventure on the outward journey, and would signal the return to civilisation on the journey home.

The former station, just after its closure (online at http://m5.i.pbase.com/u41/lhlim/upload/22296575.DSCF0029_02.jpg).

The former Bukit Timah Fire Station has a mention in the National Heritage Board’s Bukit Timah Heritage Trail booklet. This tells us that it was in 1956, the fourth fire station to be built; a fact that I assume is in relation to the stations that were built for the Singapore Fire Brigade, coming after Central Fire Station and the sub-stations at Geylang and Alexandra. Kolam Ayer (Serangoon), built for the volunteer Auxiliary Fire Service in 1954 would have already been standing at the time. That only came under the Singapore Fire Bridage in 1961, following the disbandment of the volunteer force. Another station that would have existed, was the Naval Base Fire Brigade’s Sembawang Fire Station. Built in the 1930s, the station’s building is now conserved.

Signs of very different times. Signs of very different times.

Bukit Timah sub-station’s appearance, is perhaps one of the strongest clues to its vintage, its clean and understated elegance is typical of the 1950s Modernist style. One of the few adornments on its uncluttered façade, is a coat of arms. That of the Colony of Singapore, it is also is a telltale sign of when the station would have been commissioning – the coat of arms was in use during the days of the Crown Colony from 1948 to 1959.

The coat of arms of the Crown Colony. The coat of arms of the Crown Colony.

The station is designed in the 1950s Modernist style. The station is designed in the 1950s Modernist style.

The station’s grounds, also speak of the past. Besides a sign slowing us down to 20 miles per hour, there are many other signs of the times, the most noticeable of which would be the now recoloured low-rise apartment blocks. The blocks provide evidence of days when the various services provided for the accommodation needs of servicemen and their families as well as point to a period in our history when Singapore, even if administered by the colonial masters as a separate entity, was a part of the greater Malaya. It would have been common then to find men in service hailing not just from the Crown Colony but also from parts of the Federation. The seven three-storey blocks, each with six comfortably proportioned apartments, are in the company of a single storey house at the back, which would have been the residence of the station master.

The former firemen's quarters, seen in 2010. The former firemen’s quarters, seen in 2010.

Some of the apartment blocks today. Some of the apartment blocks today.

A view through a wall to the former station master's residence. A view through a wall to the former station master’s residence.

Having been in operation for close to half a century, the station was to close its red doors for good in 2005 when a larger and modern replacement at Bukit Batok Road was built. Missing from the new station was the hose-drying tower that once seemed to be the defining feature of a fire station. The introduction of machines to handle tasks such as the drying of hoses meant that stations built from 1987, starting with the one in Woodlands, would take on a new appearance.

The ladder up the hose-drying tower. The ladder up the hose-drying tower – something firemen are no longer required to climb.

The entrance to the hose-drying tower. The entrance to the hose-drying tower.

One of several former stations still standing, only the buildings belonging to Bukit Timah have found interim uses. These were initially leased out by the State for three years in April 2008 to serve as a venue for corporate events, adventure camps, arts, education and sports.

A world recoloured. A world recoloured.

Letter boxes where hoses were once hung. Letter boxes where hoses were once hung.

Since then, the premises has seen a second master tenant leasing the property on a 2+2 year term, with whom it was relaunched as a lifestyle and education hub in 2012. Besides the take-up of units in the former quarters by businesses running enrichment activities aimed at the young, there is also a food and beverage outlet that now operates out of the station’s former garage.

The former station's red doors, seen in 2010. The former station’s red doors, seen in 2010.

A F&B outlet now operates from the former garage. A F&B outlet now operates from the former garage.

As of today, the buildings do not have conservation status. There is hope however for their future retention, even if the current edition of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Master Plan seems to suggest otherwise. A Request for Proposal (RFP) for a Concept Master Plan for the Rail Corridor initiated by the URA identifies the former station as one of four activity hubs for which shortlisted teams are required to submit a concept design in which the buildings are retained and ”repurposed for uses that complement its function as a gateway into the Rail Corridor(see A new journey through Tanjong Pagar begins).

Now a enrichment hub, will it be a future gateway to the Rail Corridor? Now a enrichment hub, will it be a future gateway to the Rail Corridor?

It would certainly be a cause for celebration should this happen. The station, as one of the last to survive from an era during which the area developed as a industrial corridor and as a prominent landmark, serves not just as a link to the area’s development and history, but also as a reminder of a Singapore we might otherwise be quick to forget.

The hose-drying tower and one of the blocks of the former quarters. The hose-drying tower and one of the blocks of the former quarters.

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The author also blogs on The Long and Winding Road.



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