SSVF HQ 1931

Just a few steps along Beach Road from the former NAAFI / SAF NCO Club, another old building comes into view. The front of the building still have the words “SSVF HQ 1931” with an emblem further below. Many will know that this was formerly known as Beach Road Camp. A bit of history in the following photos.

ssvf01
^ The SSVF HQ which later became Beach Road Camp. “SSVF” is an acronym for “Straits Settlements Volunteer Force”.

ssvf02
^ To avoid straining your eyes to read what’s on the panel, here’s the full text printed on the National Heritage Board signboard.

The origins of the People’s Defence Force (PDF) can be traced to the formation of the Singapore Volunteer Rifles Corps (SVRC) on 8th July 1854 to assist the local constabulary during colonial rule. It was formed by European residents living in Singapore. However, the SVRC was a private military force. In 1857, the Indian Government passed the Volunteer Ordinace, which placed the SVRC under government control. In 1888, the Singapore Volunteer Artillery Corps (SVA) replaced the SVRC. In 1901, the SVA was expanded and a new force known as the Singapore Volunteer Corps (SVC) was formed. It comprised the artillery, infantry, engineers and the rifle sections. Over the years, the SVC became more of an island defence force, with its own guns and artillery. In 1915, the SVC played a major role in suppressing the Sepoy Mutiny. In 1921, the SVC and other Straits Settlements corps merged to form the Straits Settlements Volunteer Force (SSVF).

In 1930, the ground next to the original building in Beach Road was designated as the SSVF Head Quarters (HQ) and construction works commenced in 1931 based on the design by F. Dorrington Ward. However, laying of the foundation stone for the new building only took place in 1932, officiated by His Excellency Sir Cecil Clementi, then British Governor of the Straits Settlements. After a new drill hall was constructed, the new HQ was officially opened by Sir Clementi on 4 March 1933.

During World War II, more than 2000 volunteers perished, who were later commemorated by memorials erected at the PDF Camp (also known as Beach Road Camp), Kranji War Memorial and Kanchanaburi War Cemetery in Thailand. The SSVF was disbanded in 1946. However, former volunteers gathered at Beach Road Camp in 1949 and they received the SVC in the Colony of Singapore. It assisted in defence during the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960), and the armed Confrontation with Indonesia – protecting installations in Southern Johore and Singapore (including Pulau Bukom).

With Singapore’s independence in 1965, the volunteer unit became the PDF. Many volunteer officers were mobilised into the regular army to help in the establishment of the new Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). Women volunteers also featured among the volunteers as part of the PDF (Women). They performed clerical and technical duties and also assisted in the nation-wide registration exercise of national Service (NS).

After 1971, the PDF was reorganized and trained as NS operational battalions. By March 1984, due to full-time NS and dwindling volunteer enlistment, 101 Battalion PDF (the volunteer section of the PDF) was disbanded. In 1985, the rapidly growing PDF was reorganized into 1 PDF and 2 PDF Commands for effective command and control.

The State flag was lowered for the last time at Beach Road Camp on 18 February 2000 at the handing-over ceremony and official closure of the camp. The SVC memorial remains at the Drill Hall at Beach Road Camp where it serves as a reminder of our people’s valiant spirits to defend Singapore. The SAF Veterans’ League periodically holds commemorative services there. With the Camp’s closure, 2 PDF Command moved to Clementi Camp where a replica of the memorial can be seen.

ssvf03
^ An old file photo showing RI (Raffles Institution) NCC Drill Competition Squad training for the Haddon Cup. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, circa 1964).

ssvf04
^ A recent photograph of the building with some noticeable patterns of the walls that still remains today.

For those who have served in the SVRF, SSVF, PDF, gone were the days where you heard the RSM’s voice boomed across the parade square, undergone your reservist training at Beach Road Camp, or served in the SAF at that building. The people from different backgrounds who bonded together and shared a common goal – the protection of our nation.

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3 Responses to “SSVF HQ 1931”

  1. Lam Chun See Says:

    I have been to this camp quite a few times. In my active NS days, I went to the dental centre here in 1977 to remove an impacted molar.

    During my reservist days, I was in PDF2 and came here a few times for the low-key in-camp trg as well as medical check-ups.

  2. yg Says:

    i used to walk past this camp on my bus to the former tay koh yet bus terminal at beach road, the location of the original satay club. never stepped into the camp premises before.

  3. NCC Boy Says:

    Did my medical check up during sec 1 for NCC (land) enrolment. Test for urine and so on. Then went to the canteen to play arcade game. That was in 1990. 🙂

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