In 1932, Penang Road was home to a church and British Quarters. It was here that Mr Ahmad was born and spent his childhood. He attended a private primary school in Middle Road, consisting of mainly Eurasians, where he learnt English. Then, he was already recognized by his peers as a leader and was elected to be the monitor of his class.
Not only was he the monitor of his class, but he also joined the sea scouts of his school. Being in the sea scouts cultivated his interest in the Navy and sea activities. Furthermore, his adventurous spirit and participation led to him being elected to be the group leader of his sea scouts. Evidently, he had a strong talent for guiding others, as he became a Malay teacher at a Malay School after he graduated from school. There, he was also actively involved in scouting activities.
However, soon the Japanese Occupation put a halt to his career. Never giving up, Mr Ahmad endeavoured to learn Japanese. Till today, it is a language which he can still speak quite fluently. With this knowledge, Mr Ahmad took up several jobs over the Japanese Occupation – a teacher teaching Japanese to locals and a Japanese-to-Malay translator at the KK Hospital (Old Kandang Kerbau Hospital).
With the end of the Japanese Occupation came the insurgence of the communists. Armed with an adventurous spirit and prior experience as a sea scout, Mr Ahmad decided to join the Malaysian Navy (Singapore being part of Malaysia then). He recalls his role in the Navy vividly, describing how he was stationed at Lumut (Malaysia) with a troop of about 200 people to guard and ensure the safety of locals there. He also described his Navy
outfits, a blue set of uniform to fight sea pirates and a green set to fight the communists in the jungle, and his weapons – a variety of guns. Mr Ahmad explained that he and his troops would attack the communists from about 2 to 3 a.m.
Some time later, Mr Ahmad returned to Singapore. For 5 years, he served as an instructor with the Army, teaching parade drills and marching to cadets. His teaching allowed the cadets to perform marching ceremonies to welcome VIPs who came to Singapore.
When Mr Ahmad retired from the Army, he joined an oil company, AKZONobel. Mr Ahmad worked as a clerk there and despite not having any major qualifications, rose in the ranks to become a chief clerk. He was proud of his job, where he managed accounts and had a team repoLrting to him. His job also gave him the opportunity to make a lot of friends, whom he went travelling on company trips with.
Mr Ahmad has been to many countries around the world, and he enjoys travelling. (He keeps photos of all the different places he has been to and showed them to us.) Some of the myriad of places he has been to include Pearl Harbour, where he got to see the interior of submarines, and Australia and Wakiki Beach in Hawaii, which he liked because of the good weather.
Now, Mr Ahmad is retired. He is fiercely independent, doing all the house work even though he is living with his eldest son (He has 5 children, 3 girls and 2 boys.) He remarks that he dislikes asking others to do things for him and it is important that he takes care of his own needs. His hobbies include reading the newspapers in Jawi, Malay and English. Despite his age and life experiences, Mr Ahmad has not lost his adventurous spirit
and particularly enjoys watching war movies.
Ahmad bin Selamat’s story first appeared here on the Singapore Memory Project portal.
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