Old uniform brings back memories of inferno

An old green uniform and black safety helmet now on display at the Civil Defence Academy in Jalan Bahar brought back memories yesterday for Warrant Officer (WO) See Kwong Nam.

He wore a uniform just like that one on the day in 1988 that he and other firefighters fought an oil refinery inferno on Pulau Merlimau.

WO See, 49, an NS firefighter with the Singapore Fire Service, recalled: "When I look at this uniform, I can almost feel the heat from the burning oil tank. That was a long day for me."

The contributions of generations of NS officers like WO See have been crucial to Singapore's nation-building, said Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee, when he opened the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) NS Gallery yesterday.

The gallery traces the journey of national service in the SCDF from the mid-1970s to the present day.

He said: "The SCDF NS gallery is designed as The Home of the Rescuers. It is a walk down memory lane for our NSmen."

Among the guests of SCDF NSmen, regulars and those currently serving their national service were some who had been involved in firefighting and rescue operations like the 1988 oil refinery fire and the 1986 Hotel New World collapse.

A 1.8 tonne rescue trailer display reminded Colonel (NS) Edwan Nizar of his days as a cadet in the nine-month Basic Officer's Course. Inside the trailer is rescue equipment like ropes, a generator and smaller tools.

Col Edwan, 44, said: "Our instructors used to make us push the trailer from one spot to another. They said it was good for stamina."

Commissioner Eric Yap said the NS Gallery honours the sacrifice made by NSmen.

Zaihan Mohamed Yusof

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2017, with the headline 'Old uniform brings back memories of inferno'. Print Edition | Subscribe