“My Father, My Hero” by Cheryl Fox

CPL Fox (third from right, standing) with fellow trainees from the 3rd Officer Cadet Course at SAFTI in 1968.

PL Fox (third from right, standing) with fellow trainees from the 3rd Officer Cadet Course at SAFTI in 1968.

CPL Fox (second from left) about to receive his commendation for bravery from then Member of Parliament Lim Kim San at the first SAF Parade in 1969.

CPL Fox (second from left) about to receive his commendation for bravery from then Member of Parliament Lim Kim San at the first SAF Parade in 1969.

It was 1968 – a group of Singapore soldiers were being put through the paces of the M113 Armoured Personal Carrier’s (APC’s) capabilities.

As the APC hit a water obstacle, something unexpected happened.

Water started gushing into the M113 and as the vehicle filled quickly, the soldiers inside reached for the hatch and started scrambling out. Every soldier wore a life vest, which was meant to be inflated only after making their way out through the hatch.

As the soldiers swam away from the APC, they realised that not everyone had made it out. Two of the men had inflated their vests before making their exit – they were still trapped inside.

One of the soldiers who had made it to dry land, went right back into the water. He dived in and started swimming towards the M113. He disappeared beneath the surface of the water, and when he surfaced again, he had one of his fellow soldiers in his arms. A man’s life was saved that day…and sadly, another was lost.

The soldier who went back into the water was my father – Corporal (CPL) Frederick William Fox.

My father received a commendation for his bravery at the first Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Day Parade in 1969. 

When I first heard this story, I was overwhelmed by it. But it wasn’t a story that my brother and I grew up listening to. It was at my father’s funeral that I first learnt about that day in 1968. 

An old friend of my dad from his army days sat me down and told me all about it. My father didn’t tell us about what he had done. I just sat there, trying to take it all in.

There are moments in life that you never forget, that click a switch in your heart.

Like seeing my brother in uniform for the first time – I felt so proud. I will always remember how excited all of us were when my brother “booked out” for the weekend from Nee Soon Camp during his Basic Military Training. The times we shared as a family during my brother’s National Service (NS) days, seeing the way the army transformed him, and the pride in my father’s eyes…

Then there was that day last September. The newsroom was just bustling, preparing for the swearing-in ceremony of President Tony Tan. As our cameras zoomed in, I looked up at the screens and watched with a smile – there was my cousin, Senior Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Fox, standing behind the Prime Minister and our new President, as an aide-de-camp.

These are memories I would never have had, if not for the army.

Discovering that story from 1968, on a day filled with so much grief, clicked that switch in my heart.

It dawned on me why my father didn’t speak much about saving another soldier’s life. 

Perhaps he felt that what he did…is what any soldier would have done. 
As the nation celebrates 45 years of NS, my heart is with each and every one of our soldiers who’ve served and are serving our nation.

I thank you for being a hero to all of us…just as my father has always been one to me.

Link : My father, my hero – Ministry of Defence. Singapore


Cheryl Fox presents the news on Channel NewsAsia and fronts Get Rea!, an award-winning investigative series and BlogTV, a live talk show.

Cheryl Fox presents the news on Channel NewsAsia and fronts Get Rea!, an award-winning investigative series and BlogTV, a live talk show.

“It dawned on me why my father didn’t speak much about saving another soldier’s life.
Perhaps he felt that what he did… is what any soldier would have done. As the nation celebrates 45 years of NS, my heart is with each and every one of our soldiers who’ve served and are serving our nation.”
 Cheryl Fox

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