Incident in Late 1996
I was serving my NS with an Armour Maintenance Corp. We were headquartered in Ayer Raja Camp between 1996-97. In Late 1996, I was to be part of a group of NS-men doing their 2-weeks in-camp training. Part of the 2 weeks training involved a week long field exercise. We were required to strike camp in various locations in Singapore. My story is of an incident as we were pulling out of a position that was located at the edge of a jungle. In those days without the iPhone or GPS devices, I was not able to find out where my location was in Singapore.
I was in-charge of the rear guard for the camp as the rest of the battalion moved out. I had organised the firing line to face the jungle line with a machine-gun providing flanking cover facing the wooded area as we were expecting a simulated assault from the woods and have kept the rifles facing the tall grass. The defensive position was on a slight rise that provided a defensive advantage to us.
At about 7pm the rifles facing the tall grass reported movement in it. As we were only expecting a single simulated attack agreed to redeploy the machine gun to provide flanking fire covering the dirt track .
The movement in the tall grass continued for about 5 minutes and appeared to be moving towards our position. The firing line reported grass movement along the entire front behind the dirt-track. I had decided to check with the commanding officer if there was another battalion holding exercises in our area. The reply was, there was none scheduled that evening. It puzzled the officer as he observed what seem to be a whole platoon of men (about 30-40 guys) moving towards us through the grass. Simulated attacks are usually carried out with 2 guys designated as “The Enemy”. They will then carry loads of blanks and flash-bangs to make as much noise as possible with their rifles.
The “Enemy” had then broken out of the tall grass and the firing line was given the order to lay fire. I had then collected 2 guys from the group watching the wooded area for a flanking attack. And we moved behind the rubbish mound to launch the flanking attack. While there, we observed the group to be just standing around. Some were running and then squatting and then stood up and ran again only to squat a little distance off. They were all wearing helmets as far as I could tell in the growing darkness. We lobbed our flash bangs to signal the flanking attack to the firing line and then charged the group.
As we got close, we noticed they weren’t holding their rifles either, so I told the two to cover me as I head over to find out who they were.
I came up close to this guy who was just standing there and I challenged him. “Rank, Name, IC Number!” He stood silent facing me. I repeated the challenge a few more times and then I heard him gurgle something. All this time, the firing line watched the rest of the group move seemingly without direction save for the fella I was challenging.
At this point I had become annoyed and decided to flick on my torch to identify him. (It was one of those “L” Torches with a red filter.) When I shone the light in his face, the first thing I noticed was his eyes. They were all black. No whites were seen in his eyes. I thought perhaps he was wearing some sort of contacts and so I went “What sort of a joke is this?! Who are you and which unit are you from?!” He gurgled back in response. Then I started shining my torch to have a look at his uniform. He was wearing a helmet but on it, was a star. He was wearing leggings that looked like bandages. On his collar, were stars and a red strip ran over the back of the stars. It clicked…These guys were in the Imperial Japanese Army Uniform last seen worn during the Second World War.
I looked around and noticed the rest in the group were in the same dress. I went on to prod the guy and he moved. I changed the filter on my torch and confirmed the colour of his eyes and figured there was not much else I could do if all he was going to do was blubber in response.
I turned around to the two guys and told them simply “He won’t be able to tell me much.” To this they went “Wha—?” So we got back to the line and I told them all to “Fix Bayonets” Some looked back to the group in the grass in disbelief and quickly complied. I was not sure if those things out there would become aggressive hence the instruction. I was back in the HQ tent to report what was going on. The conversation went like this.
Major: So, who are they?
Me: The Imperial Japanese Army Sir.
Major: What did you say?
Me: I said the Imperial Japanese Army Sir. Their Uniform and Helmet is correct for that army. They are still out there, Should I bring one back for questioning sir?
Major: *Pokes his head out the tent and sees the group still milling about in the tall grass and replies* No need for that. Please return to the line and keep watch and do not report this please.
I got back to the line to questions to which I replied “just watch them”. I had felt no fear then or now. My only concern then was to hold the position until the order to “Move out” came. At the back of my mind I was wondering what were they doing there and if something or somebody was keeping them. I was also wondering what if they would become aggressive and charge the line like in a zombie apocalypse but figured we would probably give a very good account of ourselves as we all had our bayonets fixed and ready. At quarter to eight, the guys on the line report the group had left. We kept our bayonets and were pulled out of that area at about 8.15pm.
What they were I’d never know. All I have is the memory of this strange incident back in late 1996. If anyone can tell me what these guys are please do…