Singapore Volunteer Corps



The Singapore Volunteer Corps began as the Singapore Volunteer Rifle Corps in 1854 with the support of then Governor Colonel W.J. Butterworth.1 Clashes between Chinese secret societies in 1854 led to the formation of a volunteer force to boost Singapore’s internal security.2 The group underwent several rounds of reorganisation and was known by various names throughout its history.3 In 1965, it was renamed the People’s Defence Force.4

History
The idea for a volunteer corps to supplement the local constabulary for heavier internal security was first raised in 1846.5 Formed in 8 July 1854,6 the group was one of the earliest official volunteer organisations in the British Empire.7

The first corps, the Singapore Volunteer Rifle Corps (SVRC), was formed after the outbreak of riots between Chinese secret societies in May 1854.8 The conflict caused widespread unrest and loss of lives on the island. The riots were so severe that the police required the support of the military, some marines, European residents who acted as Special Constables,9 sepoys and even convicts,10 to restore order. More than 400 people were killed and 300 houses burnt down.11

In view of the escalating violence caused by the Chinese secret societies and against the backdrop of the outbreak of the Crimean War (which lasted from 1853 to 1856 and fought on the Crimean Peninsula located at the south of Ukraine), it was decided that a volunteer corps would help to heighten security for Singapore.12 The European residents, led by British officers, formed the first corps – the SVRC, which was initially run on private funds.13

Contributions to Security
The Singapore Volunteer Corps played an important role in Singapore’s security. The force helped to quell the Sepoy Mutiny of 1915 in which a number of officers lost their lives.14 They were also involved in the defence of Singapore against the Japanese in World War II.15 In the mid-1960s, they were was enlisted to guard vital installations in Singapore against saboteurs and to squash racial riots during the Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation (or Konfrontasi).16


With the passing of the People’s Defence Force Act in 1965, the Singapore Volunteer Corp was renamed the People’s Defence Force.17 These volunteers continued to play a role in national security, which included the training of part-time National Servicemen when National Service was introduced in 1967.18 However, with the introduction of compulsory national service and the strengthening of the Singapore Armed Forces, their role diminished over time.19

Timeline
1854: Formation of Singapore Volunteer Rifle Corps.20

December 1887: Singapore Volunteer Rifle Corps is disbanded when the numbers dwindled to a small half company.21
February 1888: Reforms as Singapore Volunteer Artillery Corps.22
1901: Singapore Volunteer Corps is formed through the merger of the Singapore Volunteer Artillery with three new units: Singapore Volunteer Rifles, Singapore Volunteer Engineers and Singapore Volunteer Infantry.23
1922: Singapore Volunteer Corps is absorbed into the newly-formed Straits Settlements Volunteer Force, which included forces from Malacca and Penang.24
1954: Straits Settlements Volunteer Force is disbanded. Singapore Volunteer Corps is reformed and absorbed into the Singapore Military Forces.25
1965: Renamed as People’s Defence Force.26
1984: Fewer resources were allocated to the volunteer corps and 101 Battalion, the last volunteer battalion, is disbanded.27



Author

Marsita Omar



References
1. Winsley, T.M. (1938). A history of the Singapore Volunteer Corps, 1854-1937: Being also an historical outline of volunteering in Malaya. Singapore: G.P.O., p. 1. (Call no.: RCLOS 355.23 WIN)
2. Winsley, T.M. (1938). A history of the Singapore Volunteer Corps, 1854-1937: Being also an historical outline of volunteering in Malaya. Singapore: G.P.O., p. 2. (Call no.: RCLOS 355.23 WIN)
3 Liew, D. (2007, July). First in the East: The Singapore Volunteer Corps. This Month In.....History, 11(7). Retrieved 2016, June 26 from Ministry of Defence website: http://www.mindef.gov.sg/content/dam/imindef_media_library/imindef2012/about_us/history/the_early_years/v11n07_history/TMIHJul2007.pdf
4. Choo, M. (Ed.) (1981). The Singapore Armed Forces. Singapore: Public Affairs Dept., Ministry of Defence, p. 38. (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 SIN)
5. Winsley, T.M. (1938). A history of the Singapore Volunteer Corps, 1854-1937: Being also an historical outline of volunteering in Malaya. Singapore: G.P.O., p. 2. (Call no.: RCLOS 355.23 WIN)
6. Winsley, T.M. (1938). A history of the Singapore Volunteer Corps, 1854-1937: Being also an historical outline of volunteering in Malaya. Singapore: G.P.O., p. 3. (Call no.: RCLOS 355.23 WIN)
7. Winsley, T.M. (1938). A history of the Singapore Volunteer Corps, 1854-1937: Being also an historical outline of volunteering in Malaya. Singapore: G.P.O., p. 2. (Call no.: RCLOS 355.23 WIN)
8. Liew, D. (2007, July). First in the East: The Singapore Volunteer Corps. This Month In.....History, 11(7). Retrieved 2016, June 26 from Ministry of Defence website: http://www.mindef.gov.sg/content/dam/imindef_media_library/imindef2012/about_us/history/the_early_years/v11n07_history/TMIHJul2007.pdf
9. Winsley, T.M. (1938). A history of the Singapore Volunteer Corps, 1854-1937: Being also an historical outline of volunteering in Malaya. Singapore: G.P.O., p. 2. (Call no.: RCLOS 355.23 WIN)
10. Akbur, P.M. (2002). Policing Singapore in the 19th & 20th centuries. Singapore: Singapore Police Force, p. 21. (Call no.: RSING 363.2095957 PEE)
11. Akbur, P.M. (2002). Policing Singapore in the 19th & 20th centuries. Singapore: Singapore Police Force, p. 20. (Call no.: RSING 363.2095957 PEE)
12. Winsley, T.M. (1938). A history of the Singapore Volunteer Corps, 1854-1937: Being also an historical outline of volunteering in Malaya. Singapore: G.P.O., p. 3. (Call no.: RCLOS 355.23 WIN)
13. Choo, M. (ed.) (1981). The Singapore Armed Forces. Singapore: Public Affairs Dept., Ministry of Defence, p. 34. (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 SIN)
14. Winsley, T.M. (1938). A history of the Singapore Volunteer Corps, 1854-1937: Being also an historical outline of volunteering in Malaya. Singapore: G.P.O., pp. 61-72. (Call no.: RCLOS 355.23 WIN)
15. Choo, M. (ed.) (1981). The Singapore Armed Forces. Singapore: Public Affairs Dept., Ministry of Defence, p. 36. (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 SIN)
16. Liew, D. (2007, July). First in the East: The Singapore Volunteer Corps. This Month In.....History, 11(7). Retrieved 2016, June 26 from Ministry of Defence from: http://www.mindef.gov.sg/content/dam/imindef_media_library/imindef2012/about_us/history/the_early_years/v11n07_history/TMIHJul2007.pdf
17. S’pore to have volunteer fighting force. (1965, December 31). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Liew, D. (2007, July). First in the East: The Singapore Volunteer Corps. This Month In.....History, 11(7). Retrieved 2016, June 26 from Ministry of Defence website: http://www.mindef.gov.sg/content/dam/imindef_media_library/imindef2012/about_us/history/the_early_years/v11n07_history/TMIHJul2007.pdf
19. Choo, M. (ed.) (1981). The Singapore Armed Forces. Singapore: Public Affairs Dept., Ministry of Defence, p. 38. (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 SIN)
20. Liew, D. (2007, July). First in the East: The Singapore Volunteer Corps. This Month In.....History, 11(7). Retrieved 2016, August 19 from Ministry of Defence website: http://www.mindef.gov.sg/content/dam/imindef_media_library/imindef2012/about_us/history/the_early_years/v11n07_history/TMIHJul2007.pdf
21. Winsley, T.M. (1938). A history of the Singapore Volunteer Corps, 1854-1937: being also an historical outline of volunteering in Malaya. Singapore: G.P.O., pp. 19-20. (Call no.: RCLOS 355.23 WIN)
22. Winsley, T.M. (1938). A history of the Singapore Volunteer Corps, 1854-1937: being also an historical outline of volunteering in Malaya. Singapore: G.P.O., p. 1. (Call no.: RCLOS 355.23 WIN)
23. Winsley, T.M. (1938). A history of the Singapore Volunteer Corps, 1854-1937: Being also an historical outline of volunteering in Malaya. Singapore: G.P.O., pp. 1, 43-44. (Call no.: RCLOS 355.23 WIN)
24. Winsley, T.M. (1938). A history of the Singapore Volunteer Corps, 1854-1937: Being also an historical outline of volunteering in Malaya. Singapore: G.P.O., p. 83. (Call no.: RCLOS 355.23 WIN)
25. Loggin wil be call-up man. (1954, March 8). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Liew, D. (2007, July). First in the East: The Singapore Volunteer Corps. This Month In.....History, 11(7). Retrieved 2016, June 26 from Ministry of Defence website: http://www.mindef.gov.sg/content/dam/imindef_media_library/imindef2012/about_us/history/the_early_years/v11n07_history/TMIHJul2007.pdf
27. Liew, D. (2007, July). First in the East: The Singapore Volunteer Corps. This Month In.....History, 11(7). Retrieved 2016, June 26 from Ministry of Defence website: http://www.mindef.gov.sg/content/dam/imindef_media_library/imindef2012/about_us/history/the_early_years/v11n07_history/TMIHJul2007.pdf



The information in this article is valid as at 2008 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.

Subject
Government agencies
Law and government>>Security>>Civil defence
Military service, Voluntary--Singapore--History
Organisations>>Government Agencies