The National Service (Amendment) Bill was passed in parliament on 14 March 1967, making National Service (NS) compulsory for all 18-year-old male Singapore citizens and permanent residents. Some 9,000 male youths born between 1 January and 30 June 1949 became the first batch of young men to be called up for NS.
NS was not a new concept when it was implemented. It had been introduced by the British colonial government in 1954 at the height of the Communist Emergency in Malaya. At the time, many Chinese Middle School students strongly opposed NS, resulting in the outbreak of deadly riots in 1954 and 1955.
There was also some resistance towards the introduction of NS in 1967, with the most serious anti-NS protest occurring on 27 March 1967, when 300 protestors held street demonstrations at New Bridge Road, Rochor Canal Road and Kim Keat Road. These anti-NS demonstrations in 1967 were, however, fewer and smaller in scale compared with the anti-NS riots in the 1950s.
The first batch of Singaporean men to be called up for NS received their registration reminders – in the form of pink cards – on 17 March 1967. These men were required to register for NS at any of the four registration centres located at Kallang Camp, and the district offices in Katong, Serangoon and Bukit Panjang. Full-time students in government and government-aided schools were not required to register at these centres as they would be registered by their schools.
Registration for NS was conducted over a period of 16 days from 28 March to 18 April 1967. At the end of the registration exercise, around 96 percent of the 9,428 men expected to register had done so. The names of those who failed to register were submitted to the police for arrest. These NS “registration evaders” were liable to be convicted and sentenced to a jail term of six months or a S$2,000 fine, or both.
For the registered men, their NS journey continued in May 1967 when they had to undergo medical examinations. They were then selected to serve in one of the four branches of NS. About 10 percent of the better-educated men were shortlisted to serve two years full-time NS in the army. Those not selected for full-time service were deployed for part-time service either in the People’s Defence Force, Vigilante Corps or the Special Constabulary.
On 17 August 1967, the pioneer batch of 900 full-time national servicemen was enlisted in the army’s 3rd and 4th Singapore Infantry Regiment (SIR). Between 30 August and 2 September, 2,000 men were enlisted in the Special Constabulary, with an equal number enlisted from 4 to 8 September in the Vigilante Corps. In December, the army’s 1st and 2nd SIR received their first batch of full-time national servicemen.
1. All set for call-up of first batch. (1967, March 14). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Chiang, M. (1997). SAF and 30 years of National Service (p. 28). Singapore: Armour Publishing for MINDEF Public Affairs. Call no.: RSING 355.22 CHI.
2. The Straits Times, 14 Mar 1967, p. 20.
3. Chiang, 1997, pp. 18–19.
4. Chiang, 1997, pp. 18–19; 40 years & 40 stories of National Service (p. 29). (2007) Singapore: Landmark Books. Call no.: RSING 355.223095957 FOR.
5. 40 years & 40 stories, 2007, p. 29; 13 are held after anti-call-up demonstrations in S’pore. (1967, March 28). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Chiang, 1997, p. 30.
7. The Straits Times, 14 Mar 1967, p. 20.
8. Registration dates for National Service. (1967, March 15). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. The Straits Times, 15 Mar 1967, p. 8.
10. Chiang, 1997, p. 30.
11. A round-up of call-up dodgers. (1967, April 19). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. The Straits Times, 19 Apr 1967, p. 5.
13. The Straits Times, 19 Apr 1967, p. 5.
14. The Straits Times, 14 Mar 1967, p. 20.
15. Chiang, 1997, p. 28.
16. The Straits Times, 14 Mar 1967, p. 20; Chiang, 1997, p. 28; Peer M. Akbur. (2002). Policing Singapore in the 19th & 20th centuries (p. 86). Singapore: Singapore Police Force. Call no.: RSING 363.2095957 PEE.
17. 40 years & 40 stories, 2007, p. 32.
The information in this article is valid as at 2015 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.