My youngest sister, in her retirement, has set off on a round-the-world tour on which one of the stops is Singapore. She has been asking me and our other sister for our memories of the place in the mid-1960s when our father was stationed there for three years with the RAF. While my other sister and I only spent the school summer holidays there, my youngest sister and brother lived and went to school there. However she will not find our old bungalow at RAF Seletar, the yacht club there or the places in Singapore City that we used to visit. Nor will the evening village street market be the same if it exists at all. That old transit hotel, the Pasir Ris, may be still there but much altered, in pretty grounds which are now a park. Will my sister recognise it when she visits?
There are some websites with photos from others who were stationed there in the decades 1950-1970 and browsing them has stirred long forgotten recollections of post-war colonial leisure with an amah to clean, wash and iron, and nothing to do except swim, sail, play golf and socialise. It was a tropical paradise to us. It is a pity we have almost no family photographs of this time – apart from one on our custom-built little motor boat in which we used to explore a small section of the Straits of Malacca between Seletar and Malaya. My father had to have a boat with an engine – sails were just unacceptable. Singapore will be unrecognisable today due to phenomenal economic growth after independence in 1965.
It has been fascinating for us to compare notes on who remembers what about our three years there. Certain basic facts are common to each of us but we have our own memories of what was important. Where we differ most is in understanding our parents though whether our perspectives are complementary or contradictory is difficult to judge. If I ever write a family history memoir of my own life four different accounts – mine and those of my two sisters and my brother – might come closer to a whole rounded picture of our family.