Archive for November, 2017

Society President Dato’ Paul Supramaniam together with President of the SAF veterans league addressing students about the importance of defence at the Sarimbun battle site.

Remembrance Sunday – 12th November 2017

by Oxford and Cambridge Society President and former SAF Lt Col ( NS) Dato’ Paul Supramaniam

It was the first time in recent memory that the Oxbridge Society had been privileged officially to be included in the annual Remembrance Service at Kranji.

It arose quite by chance as I was part of the SAF Veterans contingent which formed an Honour Guard for the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall during their official visit here last week and whilst chatting, Camilla and I discovered that her great uncle George, and my great uncle Richard were killed in action within a week of each other 100 years ago in Nov/ December 1917 at the first Battle of Cambrai in France.

That led to my remarking to the FCO ( and thankfully they agreed) that it was entirely appropriate that the sacrifices made by our alumni in years gone by also be remembered .. ..many were young servicemen in WW2 and then posted to Singapore as colonial officers. And poignantly there were Singaporean Oxbridge WW 2 Veterans, including our former President, Eddie Barker who was a POW and on the dreaded Burma Railway.

Laying a wreath on behalf of the Society in the company of official representatives of the UK, Australia, New Zealand, India, Canada Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the EU , Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Romania and Peru as well as our SAF Veterans, reminded me just how privileged we all are to live in this beautiful country of peace.

But it was not always thus. I lost an uncle (my father’s elder brother) during the horrific Japanese Occupation ( a promising surgeon he died serving in 1944) and my father’s leg was pierced by Japanese shrapnel whilst serving in the British Medical Auxillary on 14th February 1942, but thankfully he survived his injuries.

And so Defence is a National mantra.

Within our membership now are some of the toughest men of the SAF – Commandos, SEALS, Guardsmen as well as many senior commanders.

National Service means that each of us ought with true conviction to be able to say :
” that for our children’ s tomorrows, we will gladly give our todays “.

And so of the many names etched on the memorial tablets at Kranji as well as the unmarked graves, I too was able, with utmost humility, to say

“At the going done of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them”

By Oxford and Cambridge Society Member Maj Lien Choong Luen

Across the Kranji war memorial this morning, thousands of young children, adults and veterans came to commemorate those that had fallen in battle in World War 1 and 2. Some were fighting to defend their homeland where they were born and grew up, for others their country, or just an abstract notion of KING and Commonwealth. Many perished. Amidst the tranquil grounds, the early morning sun beat down, while the angelic voices of the choir sang the redemptive words of “Amazing Grace”. Also in the audience were Boy Scouts, girl guides and other children too young to know what it meant.

I met a veteran who had conducted jungle operations in Borneo oh so many years ago. Looking at the schoolchildren, I thought of the officer cadets I had once taken through their paces in Temburong, Brunei. They were probably no older than this veteran was when he was flushing out the enemy then.

Pericles’ poem was read out; first written more than 2500 years ago, in the time of the Peloponessian war. The ringing words still have resonance today. Accompanying was the haunting wail of the bag pipes and the last call by the bugle, as poppy wreaths were laid. On the field of Flanders, in 1915, blood red poppies bloomed and are now a mark of remembrance and tribute to those that “would not get old, as we get old”.

We gathered to remember; but there were few left who remembered it from their own living memory.

We gathered to inspire; perhaps the young present whom I hoped would similarly defend their country if they knew what that truly meant.

We gathered to give thanks; though the phrase “fighting to save humanity” sounded a discordant note to me, as Pericles words reminded us – war was a constant in our history.

As the guard of honour was dismissed and storm clouds gathered overhead, we the living remembered.

And gave thanks for another year of peace.

Fireside Chat with Minister Ong Ye Kung, 7 November 2017

On 7 November 2017, the Society was honoured to have Minister Ong Ye Kung, Minister of Education (Higher Education and Skills) and Second Minister (Defence) for a special Keynote Fireside chat at the residence of our President, Dato Paul Supramaniam.

Minister Ong is widely seen as one of the core members of Singapore’s Cabinet and the PAP’s fourth generation (or “4G”) leaders. We commenced with a sit down dinner, where members ( there were 45 attendees) had the opportunity to interact with Minister Ong over nostalgic Oxbridge college fare of roast beef wine and mushy peas.

This was followed by an elucidating “State of the Nation” analysis, with Minister Ong examining Singapore’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Minister then fielded a wide array of questions from enthusiastic members, ranging from education, Sino-US relations, transport, Singapore politics, the recent changes to the selection of our Head of State, ASEAN and his own upbringing (as the son of a Barisan Socialis politician).

We concluded the evening with a vote of thanks to Minister Ong’s for his direct responses and openness and left with a sense of optimism for Singapore’s future.