Former NAAFI & SAF NCO Club

naafi01
^ Beach Road…a road along the coastal beach of southern Singapore In the early days of Singapore’s history after she was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819, George Drumgoole Coleman, an Irish architect, was tasked to develop the civil infrastructure of Singapore. One such development was paving of a coastal road fronting the sea coast which is now known as Beach Road. Today, Beach Road is no longer a stone’s throw from the shoreline given extensive land reclamation. Nevertheless, this stretch of road still has a few old buildings with a history.

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^ NAAFI (The Navy, Army and Air Force Institute) Britannia Club. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, circa 1971). Sited at the junction of Beach Road and Bras Basah Road, one such building still remains today. Much has been written about NAAFI during the colonial days in Singapore’s history. Later, it was known as the SAF NCO Club. Here is a post written by Lam Chun See in his blog Good Morning Yesterday titled “Our History Goes Back Further Than That!”. Another blogger Lau Kok Kok also reminisced about the days of NAAFI Club in his blogsite Times Of My Life in his post titled “Beach Road Pt. 1 – NCO Club”. Many SAF personnel may remember the days where you are entitled to purchase a carton or two of beer at discounted prices by producing your SAF-11B, the identity card of SAF personnel.

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^ A bit of history of NAAFI Britannia Club. Here’s the text from the National Heritage Board signboard.

Standing on 63,067 square feet of land in the centre of the city, this prominent corner building was originally used by the British Armed Forces and was named the Britannia Club. The Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes, NAAFI, ran this brick and Spanish-tiled-roof building with copper roofing. This three-storey clubhouse housed a cafeteria, dance floor, a drinking tavern, billiard room, music room, library and table-tennis room. It even had a beer cellar and an engine room.

Built in 1949, this clubhouse served as a recreational club for its members. Allied troops often utilised its facilities, and the Club soon became a popular social gathering venue for both its members and and their allied counterparts. It provided opportunities for soldiers from diverse backgrounds and nationalities to interact and share their experiences, and thereby strengthening brotherly bonds.

When the British pulled out in 1969, the Singapore Government negotiated with NAAFI in 1972 and purchased the property. It was originally allocated to the national Sports Promotion Board to be used as a public facility. When the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) Club was formed in 1974, it occupied the building from then onwards. It was also during this period that the Club acquired a stronger family orientation and its activities often centered on its members and their families. The Club also housed the SAF Enterprise (SAFE) Superstore that offered affordable merchandise and payment schemes for the NCOs.

In 1994, the SAF NCO Club was renamed the Warrant Officers and Specialists (WOSE) Club. The objectives of the Club which has remained unchanged, is to strengthen the bond of warrant officers and specialist corps as members of SAF, to encourage interaction and involvement among the members and their families, and provide recreational as well as personal development programmes and activities.

With the expansion of the membership base and the allocation of land for redevelopment, the Club moved to Jurong East. Located within Jurong Regional Centre, THE CHEVRONS, as it is now known, was officially opened in February 2002.

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^ Present-day photo. Morphing into “South Beach” – Singapore’s New Lifestyle Quarter, as the sign suggests.

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^ The entrance to the building which many have passed through its doors. A sense of quietness prevail.

This old building had fostered many friendships among military personnel and their families since its inception in 1949. It also brought back many happy memories for Allied soldiers and their families who comes visiting to Singapore at this place, once known as NAAFI, even for SAF personnel who knew it as the SAF NCO Club. Let’s see what this building will become next.

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33 Responses to “Former NAAFI & SAF NCO Club”

  1. yg Says:

    i remember the days when it was britannia club. we could see the swimming pool partially from bras basah road. i don’t remember seeing any asian or local going into that exlusive place. sometimes the squealling from the pool could be heard from our classroom.

  2. James Says:

    Located along Beach Road, South Beach Development comprises the Former Beach Road Camp, the NCO Club Building and the Former Beach Road Police Station building. The site is synonymous with the history of the Singapore Volunteers Corps (SVC) and was where the first NS enlistment was held in 1967. It is a cluster of three Art Deco Style blocks built in the 1930s and a NCO Club building built in 1953-53 which is a hybrid of Art Deco and the Modern Style.

    For the better part of 20th century, the site (previously known as Beach Road Camp) had been used as the headquarters of Singapore’s volunteer defence forces. In February 2000, Beach Road Camp closed its doors and was given conservation status on 9 October 2002.

    Scheduled to reopen by 2012, the area is envisaged to become the ‘revolutionary New Eco-Quarter in Singapore’. It will feature two striking towers of up to 45 storeys, including the four revitalised historic buildings and will house premium office space, two luxury hotels, exquisite retail space and exclusive city residences. City Developments Limited and its partners Istithmar (part of the Dubai World Group) and US-based Elad Group are currently working on this project known as South Beach.

  3. Eve Says:

    I remember going to the Britannia Club with my parents and we just thought it was normal to be there, didn’t think it was exclusive or anything. My dad was in the Royal Signals and we were in Singapore in the mid 60’s and lived in army housing in Joo chiat Place and Holland Grove Drive. For years i wanted to go back but i’ve heard from others that it’s not the Singapore we knew anymore, and i want to remember those days as they were. Can anyone tell me if the army housing is still there on the streets i’ve named above and also i can’t find any reference anywhere to my old school Selarang Primary. Any help would be appreciated.I have some wonderful memories of living there and i don’t think i’d know anywhere if i ever went back.

    • paul lloyd Says:

      the married quarters are still standing and occupied over looking what we then called snake valley. I also went to selarang primary 1966 to 1969 and believe it now forms part of the Singapore drugs rehabilatation center. I also remember selarang swimming pool .they were happy days and Singapore will always be in my heart.

  4. ordinary guy Says:

    Dear Eve,

    Thanks for sharing the moments of the past while you were in Singapore. I do not know if the old army apartments still exist today. As for Selarang Primary School, I’m not sure if the building still stands. Will do some research and add on whatever information I can gather.

  5. Eve Says:

    Ordinary Guy, Thank You!! I really appreciate whatever info you can gather. Like i said i can’t find much online and the Memories of Singapore site lists every school except Selarang. In fact it doesn’t say much about Katong at all and is mostly RAF. Maybe i spelled it wrong. Thanks again.

    • Dan Says:

      Hi!

      I chanced upon a website for ex-pupils and teachers of the British Forces Schools in Singapore : http://www.alexandragrammar.org/

      On the home page, upon clicking ‘other schools’, I located Selarang Primary School. Maybe these ex-pupils’ names, listed as members, might ‘ring a bell’ for you. Susan Lucas (Mrs Susan Barr) years 1964-1966. Neraman Preece (Mrs Neriman Zerzavatci) years 1969-1970. Janet West 1969-1970. David White years 1965-1966. To contact them by email, you need to be a member.

      You have to register to be a member (free) but to have full access, the fee was stated as 5 pounds for 3 years.

      Maybe, you can check up this site and see whether it could be of some help to you.

  6. Miss60s Says:

    REF: NCO CLUB

    Oh my goodness! Never thought I’ll see these pictures :’)

    I used to swim for NCO club..we call ourselves “Splashers”, if i remember correctly. Our coaches Lawrence and assistant coach..chinese guy..can’t remember his name at this point..

    I still remember the food stalls..first one was chicken rice stall, then rojak, then there’s wan tan mee stall, and dessert stall with ice-kacang, cheng teng, chendol,etc… gosh..

    the little baby pool…

    I wonder if there are anymore of those pictures…oh, and the pub on the left hand corner upstairs and on the right with billiard tables etc.

    Jackpot or slot machines downstairs and an electronic shop selling tvs, etc where i always hang out after swimming lessons on Sundays..

    Anyone from the swimming club? Photos?? 🙂

  7. ordinary guy Says:

    Hi Miss60s,

    What wonderful memories you have experienced at the former NAAFI. A new establishment is taking shape soon as I understand. Hope you will be able to catch up with your former Splashers.

  8. David Lloyd Says:

    Another memory jogger! The Britannia Club was usually my starting point for a night on the town – primarily because the beer was cheap!
    One memory is a bunch of Royal Marines swimming up and down the pool – hotly pursued by the Military Police – the Marines escaped!

    My first visit was in 1960 and the last time I used the club was 1973.

    What a contrast when I saw the Chevrons Club in 2003! As a member of the RAF Seletar Association we were invited in to have a look around – pure luxury compared to the Britannia, but our club served its purpose.

  9. ordinary guy Says:

    Hi David,

    I’m sure those wonderful memories you have of Britannia Club will be richly treasured.

  10. neriman zerzavatci Says:

    hi Eve, i was in selarang between 1968-1971 and went to the school there. in fact i remember my first yr teacher Miss Birch very well. Janet West also sounds familiar ( are you the daughter of major West)? it sound silly and did you have an older sister? If so i think i know you Janet… Oh and yes some wonderful memories i have ,lots on video tape too.

  11. neriman preece Says:

    BTW this was my maiden name

  12. Philip Chew Says:

    NAAFi Britainnia Club before moving to the present site was known as NAAF Shackle Club. It was located along the same side of Beach Road opposite Raffles Institution. For more information click here

    • ordinary guy Says:

      Hi Philip,

      Wow!! The newspaper article appeared in July 2, 1947..way back. Thanks for sharing your link with all readers.

  13. paul lloyd Says:

    hi I went to selarang primary school 1968 .the headmaster was mr alliot I was best friends with his son john happy days

    • GRAHAM LOWRIE Says:

      HI

      Just found this, i think the headmaster was Mr Elliot,music teacher Mr Bland?.Did,nt John like red ants!!

      • paul lloyd Says:

        john lived in the big house just outside the school we use to play in snake valley I was in mr jones class.Do you remember racing up the hill after sports to get to the cold water machine

  14. Patricia Alexander Says:

    I served in the WRAC in Singapore and was married July 1961…my wedding reception was in the Brit Club in the afternoon…then on to the Orchard Hotel. There used to be tea dances in the Brit Club every sunday afternoon. My friends and I went often. The swimmingpool was very good. The`stamford restuarant was nearby and there I tasted my first wonderfull Nasi Goreng. We were stationed at Tanglin, my maiden name was Pat Hay…..anybody remember?

  15. Roger White Says:

    My father worked for NAAFI and for a few brief months in 1959 we lived in a flat on the top floor of the then Britannia Club, the day filled not unpleasantly with the sounds of swimming and kids playing echoing up to the flat. Biggest shock of the stay – coming back unexpectedly one day to find the amah stark naked cleaning the kitchen floor. I suspect the poor woman (it was a long time ago) was taking the opportunity for an all-over splash and clean she couldn’t have got in a kampong without running water. I don’t know who backed off more quickly, her or me!

  16. Dave Whittle Says:

    Hi all. I was based in Singapore from 1969 to 1972. First at HQ FEAF (Changi) and then HMS Terror later to become Woodlands Garrison. I also have many happy memories of the Brit Club. I am spending 3 days in Singas next weekend so will look up some of the old places (probably not too many exist). Like everyone part of me will always be in Singapore. I was in the RAF.

  17. Dave Whittle Says:

    Further to my previous post I have just returned from Singas and unfortunately the former Brit club is now encased in white plastic and demolition is proceding inside that plastic. Very sad but within weeks the Brit club will be gone forever and part of my youth with it.

  18. Jeanette Bourke Says:

    Hi there – just chanced upon this blog searching for Selarang Primary – May I suggest anyone interested in old pics of Singapore (1960’s and 70’s especially) – particularly ex services – should visit the ‘ANZ Military Brats of Singapore’ page on Facebook. Many of the children of ex service members who lived there have posted some wonderful pics. You will see pics there posted by members of lots of old haunts during the old days.

  19. Mary Granger Says:

    Are you David Whittle ex RAF Shawbury? I also revisited singers in 2010. Whatever happened to Orchard Road, Union Jack club. At least the old air traffic control tower is still standing at Changing. It is just visible from the airport. It is behind the fire station.

    Mary Smith as was!

    • Dave Whittle Says:

      Hi Mary. I was at RAF Shawbury in the sixties before going to Singapore for two and a half years. Great place. I have just spent 3 days in Singas on my way to China. The only thing I recognised was the street names. Very sad. The Mary Smith I remember was Scottish and left for Singas a few months before me. Same one??? Cheers. Dave.

      • Mary Granger Says:

        Hi

        Yea I am that very person. Retired now and living in Herts. Am off to Oz next month and will be passing through singers. How are you and yours? Great to hear from you. Hope all is well. Mary

      • Dave Whittle Says:

        Ahhhh! nice memories come flooding (or should I say ebbing) back. I have just turned 65 but have pretty good health. Are you staging in Singers or just passing through. If staging try and get to the Brit Club site, I’m sure you will find an empty block as I was there in September last year and the demolishing was in full swing. I see you are on your way to Oz. Do you have family there? I can retire any day but have decided to work on for a while as I still want to travel. Terrific catching up with you Mary, its been a long time since we had a beer together. Good old days. I look forward to more news from you.
        Take care. Dave

  20. Dave Whittle Says:

    Anyone interested in the history of Singapore I can recommend visiting Fort Canning and having a look at the underground bunkers used by the British forces prior to the surrender in 1942. They were not :”rediscovered” when I was there but has been cleaned out and is now well worth a visit. It is set up exactly as it was in 1942. Very sombre.:

    • Mary Granger Says:

      Hi Dave

      Your reply has only just hit my in box. My oldest daughter was working in Perth Australia but she was sent to Singapore in April and has just returned to Perth. How spooky that she should sort of follow in my footsteps all these years later. So little of the old singers left. Such a shame. She did visit Changi but didn’t find the magic we found while posted there. I hope to go again this Christmas. Have you heard that there is a reunion at RAF Shawbury each year? I haven’t been yet. Details are on friends reunited. Try me on skype. Could do with a beer.

      All the best

      Mary

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