S'pore artist creates nostalgic miniature soldier models out of cardboard

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11 Jan 2021 | PEOPLE

S'pore artist creates nostalgic miniature soldier models out of cardboard


// Story & Video Koh Eng Beng

// Cameraman Ajay Prashad

// Photos Chai Sian Liang & courtesy of 2WO (Ret) Cheah

Field pack, combat rations, entrenching tool and other equipment used by NSmen from the past.

If you didn't pay close attention, you might have mistaken these models for the real thing!

These miniature models are made from recycled material like cardboard and junk mail.

They are the brainchild of "cardboard" artist 2nd Warrant Officer (2WO) (Ret) Wilfred Cheah. The 55-year-old was a former commando Regular.

2WO (Ret) Cheah with a miniature soldier model of himself.

After leaving the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) in 1993, he worked as an interior designer for close to 28 years before becoming a full-time miniature artist last year.

In the 1970s, soldiers were issued with the Temasek green uniform (left half). This changed with the introduction of the camouflage uniform in 1983.

His latest army-related work is The Transition which showcases the change of uniform and equipment in the SAF from the late 1970s to early 1990s. It was commissioned by his client Mr Khairil Abdullah, who experienced the transition when he was serving his National Service (NS).

Said 2WO (Ret) Cheah: "I try to bring back memories for the older generations, and to allow the younger generations to see what were the equipment that we used and the training that we went through during NS."

This is how an old-school SBO (Skeleton Battle Order) looks like – more minimalist-looking compared to the Load-Bearing Vest used by soldiers today.

Before starting a new project, 2WO (Ret) Cheah will conduct research and interview his client to ensure the historical accuracy of his work.

"From there, I'd know roughly what were the objects and equipment that they used during their NS, like the combat rations, PT (Physical Training) shorts and shoes," he said.

2WO (Ret) Cheah usually takes about 10 to 14 days to complete a miniature project, depending on its complexity.

Preserving his NS memories

2WO (Ret) Cheah's first miniature soldier model was actually of himself. He created it to remember the fond memories of his siong (hokkien for tough) commando days.

He also wanted to share with soldiers today how the older generations overcame the odds with their "can do" spirit.

Notice the Ranger tab above the 3rd Sergeant rank? 2WO (Ret) Cheah was a graduate of the Rangers Course, one of the toughest courses in the Singapore Armed Forces.

For example, do you know that lao jiao (hokkien for old bird) soldiers from his time had to make do with a bamboo pole as a simulated weapon during training?

Could you guess what weapon it was?

Find out in this video as 2WO (Ret) Cheah shares his NS memories through his miniature art:

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