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Nov 28, 2016

New Landmark at Beach Road Singapore

The former Straits Settlement Volunteers Force HQ at Beach Road, Singapore

How many Singapore heritage friends overlooked this century-old building at Beach Road?

In fact, the "Civic District Art Trail: Days of Yore" overlooked this heritage building and mentioned only the following places of the colonial era to learn about some of Singapore's significant monuments and memorials.  A peek into Singapore's heritage through art.

1.    National Museum of Singapore at Stamford Road
2.    ASEAN Sculpture Garden at Fort Canning Park
3.   The Arts House (old Parliament House)
4.   Old Supreme Court, part of the National Gallery Singapore along St. Andrews Road.
5.   Asian Civilisations Museum at Empress Place
6.   Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall at Empress Place
7.   Civilian War Memorial at Beach Road
8.   Lim Bo Seng Memorial at Esplanade Park
9.   The Cenotaph at Esplanade Park
10. The Fullerton Hotel (for General Post Office, Fullerton Building)

Roughly the area north of the Singapore River and between City Hall and the Dhoby Ghaut MRT stations, the Civic District is where many colonial-era buildings stand.  In his original town plan, Sir Stamford Raffles assigned the area north of the river to the British, ordering the building of offices, banks, hotels, churches and clubs there.  He also built his house on the top of Fort Canning Hill.  The city is today still governed from the colonial nucleus Raffles established, although many of the historical buildings have been restored and adapted for functions that are completely different from those in the past.

SAF's 84-year-old Beach Road Camp, the birthplace of the modern Singapore Armed Forces Camp was where Singapore's first infantry regiment was formed.

In 1957, the first 22 recruits - 11 Chinese, 7 Malays, 3 Eurasian and 1 Sikh - were sworn into the Singapore Infantry Regiment in the camp's Drill Hall, which was then known as the Singapore Military Forces Headquarters.

The camp, built in 1931, first served as the headquarters of the Straits Settlements Volunteer Force.

Built in 1933, the Drill Hall (Block 9) was designed by the Frank Dorrington Ward, an architect in the Public Works Department who was also the chief architect of the former Supreme Court building.

The building was originally used as the drill hall of the Straits Settlements Volunteer Force (SSVF), where soldiers performed military drills (marches).  The predecessor to the SSVF had previously used a wood and corrugated iron drill hall in Fort Fullerton that had been built in 1891.  This entire building was dismantled and rebuilt at the Beach Road Camp in 1907, which was then the headquarters of the Chinese Company.

The wooden building stood for two decades before it was replaced by the current one.  The Drill Hall is an example of art deco modernism adapted for Singapore's tropical climate.  The crisp profile and geometric details are mixed with shaded verandahs, ventilation screens and louvred openings.

The drill hall itself is 140 feet long and features a 40-foot-high barrel-vaulted ceiling, which is shaped by reinforced-concrete parabolic arches that spring from the floor.

After conscription was introduced in Singapore in 1954, the building served as a registration centre for recruits and a training camp for national servicemen.  The first passing out parade of 400 servicemen was held here on 15 December 1954.  Subsequently, the First Singapore Infantry Regiment was sworn in here on 13 March 1957.

Yang Di-Pertuan Negara Yusof Ishak being escorted by Brigadier T Haddon, Commandant Singapore Military Forces (SMF), on his arrival at Beach Road headquarters for the passing-out parade of volunteer recruits on 20 October, 1960.

Yang Di-Pertuan Negara Yusof Ishak taking the salute at passing-out parade of Officer Cadets at Singapore Military Forces' Headquarters at Beach Road on 12 December, 1962.

[Photo Credit:  National Archives of Singapore]

The outside of the building bears a memorial plaque that was installed in 1950 to commemorate the members of the Singapore Volunteer Corps who died during the invasion of Singapore and the subsequent occupation period.  Each year on 15 February, the anniversary of the fall of Singapore, a memorial wreath is placed in remembrance of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.




The building was gazetted for conservation on 9 October 2002 in recognition of its value as a good example of 1930s military architecture and its role as a social and historical landmark in Singapore's military history.

About the Straits Settlement Volunteer Force

The Straits Settlement Volunteer Force (SSVF) traces its history back to 1854 with the formation of the Singapore Volunteer Rifle Corps.  Over the years, the unit was reorganized and renamed several times.  Following the formation of the pan-Malayan SSVF, the Singapore Volunteer Corps eventually made up the first and second battalion of the force.

During the Japanese invasion of Singapore, corps members were either killed or became prisoners of war.  Among those who became POWs, some were sent to Myanmar (then known as Burma) to work on the infamous Death Railway.

The SSVF was officially disbanded following Singapore's separation from the Straits Settlements in 1946.  However, in 1949, the Singapore Volunteer Corps was revived to help deal with the communist insurgency known as the Emergency.  The SVC continued until independence in 1965 when it was renamed the People's Defence Force.

The building is located at 34, Beach Road, Singapore.

NAAFI Brittania Club

Then (above) and Now (below)

South Beach - the new landmark at Beach Road, Singapore

The construction of South Beach of the South Beach Consortium in 2007.  (Photo Credit: Foster and Partners Co.)

The current photo of the South Beach in 2016.  The following photos with courtesy of Foster and Partners Co. to share on this blog with Singapore heritage fans.

The South Beach Opens for Business here.  The South Beach, one of Asia's most anticipated hotels, opened its doors for business on 3 September, 2015 as part of a preview before fully opening later this year.


Nov 18, 2016

Visit of Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip to Queenstown Singapore in 1965

His Royal Highness Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip waving to the residents from the roof-top of a block of HDB flat in Queenstown during his visit to Singapore in 1965.

This photo journal blog is posted with archived photos as the "memory aids" with the courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore.

Prince Philip visited the See family in their HDB flat at Queenstown during his state visit to Singapore on 19 February, 1965.

A group photograph of Duke of Edinburge Prince Philip and Yang Di-Pertuan Yusof Ishak with the See family on 19 February, 1965 - with nostalgic memories from the family album to reminisce.

The See family bid a fond farewell to Prince Philip, the Yang Di-Pertuan Negara Yusof Ishak and the distinguished guests after the visit to their home.

Please join the guided tour of "My Queenstown Heritage Trail" to recount the story of Queenstown and visit the iconic landmarks which define the Queenstown skyline for the past 60 years.  More information available here.

Briefing for Prince Philip by the Housing & Development Board (HDB)

Before the visit to the See family in Queenstown, Prince Philip was briefed by Minister for National Development Lim Kim San at the HDB Headquarters at Princess House in Alexandra Road.  Also present was Yang Di-Pertuan Yusof Ishak and the invited distinguished guests.

Background of Public Housing in Singapore

Public housing in Singapore generally comprises high-density, highrise developments, mostly located in the suburban area.  The majority of public housing estates are self-contained communities with not only the essential facilities to meet the residents' basic needs but also various community amenities such as schools and recreational facilities.  The larger estates are called new towns.


Singapore's first new town, Queenstown, was initiated by SIT in the 1950s but has been developed mostly by HDB.  The second new town, Toa Payoh, was the first to be developed entirely by HDB.
In 1918, the colonial government set up a housing commission to review the living conditions in the central area of Singapore.

The SIT was formed following the recommendations of the commission and started function in 1920 with the recruitment of Captain Edwin Percy Richards as deputy chairman.  However, SIT was not constituted as a legal entity until the Singapore Improvement Ordinance was passed in 1927.

Although Singapore was facing an acute housing shortage at the time, SIT was not given the authority to build housing for the people except for those left homeless by its improvement schemes. It was only in 1932 that SIT was given more powers to undertake building projects.

One of ts earliest projects was the Tiong Bahru housing estate which is regarded as the first public housing estate of Singapore.  However, SIT's building efforts were far from adequate to meet the needs of the fast-growing population and the housing situation worsened, especially after the Pacific War of the 1940s.

By the time Singapore attained self-government in 1959, the housing shortage and its related problems such as overcrowding and squatter colonies had reached alarming proportions.

Public housing for the lower-income groups was thus given top priority and HDB was set up by February 1960 to replace SIT.  This marked the beginning of large-scale public housing development in Singapore.  Compared to the cramped and unhygienic living conditions in shophouses and squatter areas, flats built by HDB seemed luxurious - they were spacious and equipped with basic services such as electricity, flush toilets and piped water.  By 31 March 1976, more than 50 percent of the population was living in HDB flats, a significant improvement from the 8.8 percent living in SIT flats in 1959.   (Source:  Excerpt from Singapore Infopedia, National Library Board).

The chronological story (then and now) of the Housing ; Development Board is told here .