Archive for the ‘Beach Road’ Category

SSVF HQ 1931

March 26, 2009

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.

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

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^ 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.

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

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^ 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.

Former NAAFI & SAF NCO Club

March 11, 2009

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^ 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.