Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Circuit Breaker Day 15 pix: Republic of Singapore Navy Tank Landing Ships LSTs at Bedok Jetty

Announcements of Bedok Jetty exercises drew me to the place like a clarion call during my teen years in the 1980s. I loved seeing the LSTs beach themselves with their enormous bow doors wide open. RSS Excellence L202 (above) and Resolution L204 (below) seen at the landing site a few hundred metres east of the jetty on separate beaching exercises. Sorry for the poor picture quality. The print pictures, which were taken when I was a teen, have faded with age and I'm not a good photographer to begin with.  

One activity I enjoyed during my teenage years in the 1980s was tracking Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) exercises at Bedok Jetty, which was about 3km from my home. I'd watched the Sunday evening television news for the weekly announcement of SAF exercises to see if there was anything scheduled to take place at Bedok Jetty. I'd get quite excited whenever the public was advised that car parks F1 and F2 near the Bedok Jetty would be closed as that would mean the SAF would be there.

If it was a school holiday and if I'd cleared my homework during a school week, I would walk or cycle to the jetty to see what was happening. I saw Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs) beached there on several occasions. Sentries usually set up cordons east and west of the jetty at bridges that led over canals to prevent passersby from getting too close. But if you were patient, sometimes you'd luck out when the sentries removed the white tape while the LST was STILL ashore. This usually took place in the late afternoon. One suspects the sentries opened the cycling track and foot path as they wanted to return to camp.

Over the years, I saw all five active LSTs beached there or offshore. A sixth LST was mothballed off the Serapong golf course on Sentosa, opposite Pulau Brani which was then the RSN's main naval base.

Every tank landing ship was different. I liked RSS Endurance L201 the most because she was the only LST with three gun tubs on the bow (only one gun tub had a Bofors 40mm L/70, the rest were vacant). Excellence L202 was unique as she had a helideck at her stern while Intrepid L203 had an enlarged blockhouse superstructure that gave the LST a distinctive silhouette. Resolution L204 was little changed from her 1970s appearance while Persistence L205 also had a renovated bridge and was said to be a command ship. I remember making a trip to the old National Library to photocopy the Singapore entry for Jane's Fighting Ships for information on the RSN. Singapore's navy was (and still is) small compared to other naval forces and it did not take long to get yourself familiar with the Missile Gunboats (MGBs), Patrol Craft "A" and "B" class, Coastal Patrol Craft (CPCs), the LSTs and Ramp Powered Lighters (RPLs) because that was all Singapore had back then. 

Here we see Excellence L202 beached at Bedok Jetty one lazy weekday afternoon. Sadly I didn't date the pictures at the time but this must've been in the late 1980s. Note the white tape draped over comms cord in the picture below to form a token cordon, which yours truly happily breached once the ramp was up, the sentries had disappeared and it was clear the LST was about to sail away.

The LSTs were then the RSN's largest warships. It was quite a sight seeing 100 metres of LST going astern with the help of a LCVP and a stern anchor (the ship reeled in the stern anchor chain to pull the bow off the beach). The ship's PA would cackle with some order, which could not be heard clearly from shore. Door hinges would creak as the ramp was raised and clam shell doors shut slowly. A puff of smoke from the diesel exhaust vents on the side of the hull showed the engine room was ready to move slow astern. Muddy eddies would swirl round the bow as the LST pulled off the sandy bottom, gaining speed once her flat bottom moved into deeper water as the hardworking LCVP acted like a tugboat to guide the mothership astern safely.

In the fading evening night, Excellence would point her bow to the sea lanes in the Singapore Strait and cruise away silently, her job done at the Bedok Jetty.
Some crew from RSS Excellence crew (in civvie) appear to be booking in from shore. I crossed the cordon (white tape in foreground) once the ramp was up and the LST was about to pull itself off the beach.

This particular beaching exercise seemed to be supported by a Coastal Patrol Craft. All I had was an autofocus camera with minimal zoom so the name of that CPC is lost to history. Note the LCVP (above the right dinghy) returning to the LST.


IAF said...

A simpler time indeed

Doobee said...

Interesting read.Thank you

Unknown said...

Lovely and thank you for the memories. I was a crew on Resolution L204 and Intrepid L203 and may have seen you taking snapshots of our lady. Drop me a line and I'll send you some nice old pics of my own :)

David Boey said...

Could you email me at projectrocky@gmail.com pse?

Many thanks,


colsschopra said...

Thank you for sharing as it has brought back fond memories when I was XO of RSS Endurance. At that time I was in my early 20's.

Singapore Old Guard said...

Great pictures! Here is the Singapore Navy first crossing the equator ceremony :-) http://bit.ly/RSN-1st_X_The_Line

Foo Mun said...

The sea facing Bedok and Marine Parade was designated for man-of-war anchorage. Before Changi Naval Base was built, we can see US Aircraft Carriers anchored there and the crew came on shore at Clifford Pier for R & R. So, Bedok Jetty is an interesting place to view naval vessels then.

Richard Cheong said...

I was in RSS Resolution. With Captain Simon and Elangcovan. Both excellent Captains and also in RSS 201 till I was posted to base. The Island in Brani is an iconic place for us to be called home for those technical trainees. We have a school called NTTS. There we learned the ropes of being technical personnel. We will have to stand still when "colours" are in session. My youth was totally given to serve and learn on the open seas. Goodbye RSS Resolution, my teacher, friend and mentor. Thank you for being reliable on the high seas and cradling us to safety in the night. You have not just braved storms but you have achieved the impossible not event the mordern did that is to survive two wars. Rest in peace and I saluate you......All hands on Deck.