British veterans relive WWII memories

British veterans relive WWII memories
RAF Seletar and Tengah Association members (from left) Chris Puxley, 64, David Pack, 94, Dave Taylor, 79, and Charles White, 72. This is the 10th and final visit the association is organising to Singapore.

For seven years, war veteran David Pack was plagued by nightmares of his comrades dying at the hands of Japanese forces.

The Briton, who was charged with looking after the guns and bombs in Tengah airbase, recalled how the site had been heavily shelled by the invading army in the battle for Singapore in 1942.

"It took me years to get over the nightmares. I was young and naive... I thought, surely, I wouldn't die," said the 94-year-old, who returned to England on Feb 13, 1942, before the island fell to the Japanese two days later. Mr Pack was speaking to The Straits Times on his first trip back to Singapore in 73 years.

He is part of a group of 35 members from the Royal Air Force Seletar and Tengah Association who are in town for a 15-day visit to pay respects to their fallen comrades and relive memories of their youth. They will leave Singapore on Friday.

This is the 10th and final visit the association is organising to the Republic as many of its members are now too old to travel.

The RAF Seletar and Tengah Association, which has produced a book chronicling Seletar airbase's evolution, hopes to capture more such personal stories of their members and showcase them in a community museum based in Seletar.

The idea of a museum was first suggested by the Seletar Hills Estate Residents' Association (Shera).

Shera chairman Percival Jeyapal, 73, speaking to The Straits Times last Wednesday, said the museum could house artefacts and photos from former British servicemen who worked at Seletar and Tengah airbases, as well as former and current Seletar and Jalan Kayu residents.

Shera has since informed both the National Heritage Board (NHB) and the National Archives of Singapore about its plans. NHB said discussions about the possibility of such a centre are ongoing.

Said Mr Jeyapal: "We hope it can be managed by the NHB to educate young children on the sequence of events that took place in the establishment of the Seletar and Tengah airbases and the surrounding communities.

"It is timely to embark on a research project to obtain more materials on these areas, which are currently lacking."

Mr Jeyapal cited the example of how Seletar residents struggled to find information on the area when they started work on a book called Down The Seletar River: Discovering A Hidden Treasure Of Singapore several years ago. The team had to rely on overseas archives for 19th century paintings and old photos of the place, he said.

The RAF association's vice-president, Mr Dave Taylor, 79, agreed with Mr Jeyapal.

Mr Taylor said he has fond memories of his time in Singapore and that it is important to leave behind a legacy for future generations. He recalled how servicemen would wear shorts and often went without their shirts in humid Singapore, which was in stark contrast to the heavy woollen clothing they wore back home.

He said: "It was a joy to be here despite the mosquitoes and the smelly rivers downtown - which the late former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew eventually cleaned up."

melodyz@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on April 6, 2015.
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