Sunday, 30 December 2007

Your In The Army Now

The heat has returned.

The past two days have been hot and humid without the respite of the rains. In truth we have not had anywhere near the amount of rains as we did last rainy season, which is between November and January.

This means that the body embraces a totally lethargic state for much of the day and we keep our condo vertical blinds closed from about 8 am to 4 pm. One of our best decisions was to install these wide vertical blinds in preference to the usual curtains that most condos have. We can filter the light as and whenever we wish.

Yesterday saw us on the MRT to the end of the line at Boon Lay. We had decided to visit the recently opened Singapore Army Museum. Not that an Army museum is my first cultural preference but I was interested to see the quality of the exhibits and the narrative they had adopted.

Mindful of our previous experience at the Jurong Bird Park which is in the same locale, we packed some bottles of water in anticipation of the heat. That part of Singapore does not appear to benefit from any moderating coastal breezes.

When you get to the Boon Lay MRT there are two choices of bus to get to the Museum - the 182 which is non airconditioned and the 193 which is. Well that was the theory anyway. The airconditioning of the 193 we caught was not working and the interior was very uncomfortable.

The instruction on the museum's web site said " located at the SAFTI Military Institute, near to Singapore Discovery Centre" so when the bus arived at the SAFTI Institute we duly got off.

Wrong decision! The Museum's entrance is actually located right beside the Science Centre's. Not that you would know it, as the road front signage for the Museum is nowhere to be seen - just the Science Centre's that visually dominates everything.

The upshot was that we had to trudge in the noon day heat from SAFTI to the next bus stop which was by the entrance we were seeking.

We finally found sanctuary in the airconditioned foyer of the Museum where we stayed for a while to compose ourselves.

The museum was officially opened four months ago so everything is pristine in appearance. One starts at the top level of the building and winds one way down to the bottom through a variety of exhibits and audio-visual montages. There were very few other patrons when we were there.

A highlight for many is the opportunity to test 'fire' army rifles at a simulated rifle range. My wife could not even see the rifle sights let alone line them up against the 'enemy'.

For my part, the last time I had handled a military rifle was during my army cadet days some forty years ago. We were taught to fire both bren and sten guns on the range (with live ammunition) as well as 303 rifles, which had the kick of a mule on young shoulders.

My aim at the museum was nowhere near as true as it once had been. I dispatched only two of the 'enemy'.

So how did it compare to other such military museums? There was no reference to the brutal actuality of combat which one finds in other institutions. Not that the Singaporean museum glorified war either - the exhibits and storyline just seemed a safe and rather sanitised rendition of real life.

However it is early days for the museum and the displays themselves were elegantly mounted. I should also record in fairness that we did not see either of their feature shows.

As a history of the modern Singaporean Army, which is what is, it suceeded admirably.


Anonymous said...

Sir, the Lee Enfield's recoil will brutalize the shoulder blade. Luckily, the M16 was a lot more kinder.

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) decides on how its history should be.

Not by external historians. And that, they have their history.

Jolly Roger said...

Yes the M16 was a lot kinder on my aging shoulder.

Certainly the SAF should interpret its own history - my point was one of context.
Most museums rely on internal curation / interpretation which is a good thing.
The other thing of course is that the Army Museum is very new