Beach Road Camp



The former Beach Road military camp is located opposite Raffles Hotel, along Beach Road. It began as the headquarters of the Singapore Volunteer Corps (SVC) in the 1930s,1 and later doubled up as the headquarters of the Singapore Military Forces (SMF), which was set up in 1954.2 After Singapore became an independent nation, some of the country's first military units were based here.3 The camp was closed in 2000,4 and its three buildings (blocks 1, 9 and 14) were gazetted for conservation in 2002.5

Description
The Beach Road camp was originally sited on reclaimed land next to the sea.6 Additional land reclamation has since extended the coastline much farther out.7 The main building was completed in October 1932,8 and featured the art deco architectural style that was popular during the period.9 It housed the overall headquarters of the SVC, but was popularly referred to simply as the drill hall.10 Located on the first floor, the drill hall has a column-free barrel-vault design that is considered rare today.11 From the outside, the building is easily distinguished from the other blocks by its long, vertical ornamental window.12 At the base of the window is a memorial plaque that was officially unveiled on 21 December 1950 to commemorate the volunteers who died during World War II.13 The volunteers were also involved in other significant events in Singapore’s history,14 such as the quelling of the Sepoy Mutiny in 1915,15 and the defence of Singapore during the Indonesian Confrontation of the 1960s.16 This is one reason why the former Beach Road premise was considered by many to hold historical significance.17

History
The first headquarters of the SVC was built in 1891 at Fort Fullerton, which is today the site of the Fullerton Building.18 In 1907, a new building constructed of wooden panels was completed at Beach Road to serve as the headquarters of the Chinese unit of the SVC.19 Later, the overall headquarters of the SVC relocated here as well.20

In 1930, Major-General H. L. Pritchard, the General Officer Commanding, Malaya, approved the final plans for the rebuilding of the SVC’s premises at Beach Road.21 Sir Cecil Clementi, the Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Straits Settlements, laid the foundation stone for the new building on 8 March 1932,22 and officially opened it on 4 March 1933.23 It became the new headquarters of the SVC as well as the headquarters of the Straits Settlement Volunteer Force (SSVF),24 under which the SVC had been subsumed since 1922.25 Additional structures were constructed in subsequent years, including an adjacent building completed in 1939 to house the new headquarters of the SVC’s Malay companies.26

On  4 July 1952 , the Federal Legislative Council passed two bills that allowed for the formation of the Federation’s own military forces and the introduction of conscription.27 The new laws were known as the Federation Regiment Bill and the National Service Bill, respectively.28 The Singapore Military Forces (SMF) Bill was introduced by the Singapore Legislative Council in 1953 for the formation of Singapore’s own army and navy. Volunteers in the SVC were automatically placed under the SMF, which also included regulars and national servicemen.29 In 1954, the SVC premises at Beach Road became the headquarters of the SMF as well. It also served as the main registration centre for national service recruits called up under the new conscription policy30 and as a training camp for the national servicemen.31

The passing-out parade of the first batch of 400 national servicemen was held here on 15 December 1954.32 Singapore’s first infantry regiment made up of professional regulars was officially born at the SVC drill hall, for this was where the first 22 privates of the 1st Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment were sworn in on 12 March 1957.33

After Singapore gained independence in 1965, the SVC was renamed the People’s Defence Force (PDF) while the infantry regiment – which consisted of only two battalions at the time, was placed under the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).34 The PDF retained its headquarters at the Beach Road camp, which also housed several units of the SAF and was used for military training.35 The first SAF Provost Company36 (the predecessor of the SAF Military Police Command) was stationed here. The SAF Court-Martial Centre was set up here in 1967.37

In 1995, the government announced that the camp would be moved to allow the land to be put to better use as it commanded a prime location within the city.38 On 18 February 2000, the camp was officially closed.39 Later that year, the land was handed over to the Singapore Land Authority.40

Conservation
The Urban Redevelopment Authority set up a conservation advisory panel in June 2002 to help guide its efforts to preserve buildings that have significant architectural and historical value.41 Blocks 1, 9 and 14 of the former Beach Road camp − all built in the 1930s in the art deco style were evaluated and recommended by the panel for preservation.42 The Ministry of National Development accepted the panel’s recommendation and the buildings were officially gazetted for conservation on 9 October 2002, along with an adjacent building that was previously the SAF Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) club.43

Recent uses
On 15 June 2006, the government announced that the former Beach Road camp and the former NCO club would be sold as part of a 3.5 ha site for private commercial development. The four conservation buildings were to be preserved and restored for adaptive reuse.44 The site was launched for sale by public tender on 6 March 2007 and sold on 10 September 2007 to a consortium led by local developer, City Developments Limited.45 The consortium has until 2016 to complete its proposed development, called South Beach, which will consist of two hotels, office and retail space, and residential accommodation.46


Between September and November 2008, South Beach was one of the venues of the Singapore Biennale, a major visual arts exhibition held in Singapore every two years, thus giving members of the public the rare opportunity to take a look inside the former camp.47



Author

Valerie Chew



References
1. Chew, M. (2000, March 1). Beach Rd camp shift frees up 3.3 ha siteThe Business Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Teo, E. (2007, February). Closing of Beach Road camp. In This month in history, 11(2). (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 TMH); Teo, C. W. (2007, July 1). 10 iconic camps.  The Straits Times, p. 111. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Teo, E. (2007, February). Closing of Beach Road camp. In This month in history, 11(2). (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 TMH); Chew, M. (2000, March 1). Beach Rd camp shift frees up 3.3 ha siteThe Business Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Teo, E. (2007, February). Closing of Beach Road camp. In This month in history, 11(2). (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 TMH)
5. Yeo, A. (2002, September 5). NSmen's memories to be preservedThe Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2007, March 6). URA launches the tender for the commercial site at Beach Road. Retrieved  2016, June 10 from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/media-room/news/2007/mar/pr07-20.aspx; Ang H. S. (2002, September 19). Beach Road's drill hall has been conserved. The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. New drill hall for the S.V.C. (1932, March 9). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Ang H. S. (2002, September 19). Beach Road's drill hall has been conserved. The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Winsley, T. M. (1938). A history of the Singapore Volunteer Corps 1854–1937, being also an historical outline of volunteering in Malaya. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 110. (Call no.: RCLOS 355.23 WIN)
9. Yeo, A. (2002, September 5). NSmen's memories to be preserved. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. New drill hall for the S.V.C. (1932, March 9). The Straits Times, p. 12; Ang H. S. (2002, September 19). Beach Road's drill hall has been conserved. The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Ang H. S. (2002, September 19). Beach Road's drill hall has been conserved. The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. New drill hall for the S.V.C. (1932, March 9). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Blythe unveils memorial to S.V.C. dead. (1950, December 22). The Straits Times, p. 7; Ang, H. S. (2002, September 19). Beach Road's drill hall has been conserved. The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Ang H. S. (2002, September 19). Beach Road's drill hall has been conserved. The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Choo, M., et al. (Eds.). (1981). The Singapore Armed Forces. Singapore: Public Affairs Department, Ministry of Defence, p. 35. (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 SIN); Winsley, T. M. (1938). A history of the Singapore Volunteer Corps 1854–1937, being also an historical outline of volunteering in Malaya. Singapore: Government Printing Office, pp. 61–71 (Call no.: RCLOS 355.23 WIN)
16. Choo, M., et al. (Eds.). (1981). The Singapore Armed Forces. Singapore: Public Affairs Department, Ministry of Defence, p. 37. (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 SIN)
17. Yeo, A. (2002, September 5). NSmen's memories to be preservedThe Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. New drill hall for the S.V.C. (1932, March 9). The Straits Times, p.12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Winsley, T. M. (1938). A history of the Singapore Volunteer Corps 1854–1937, being also an historical outline of volunteering in Malaya. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 29. (Call no.: RCLOS 355.23 WIN)
19. Teo, E. (2007, February). Closing of Beach Road camp. In This month in history, 11(2). (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 TMH); Choo, M., et al. (Eds.). (1981). The Singapore Armed Forces. Singapore: Public Affairs Department, Ministry of Defence, p. 35. (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 SIN); Winsley, T. M. (1938). A history of the Singapore Volunteer Corps 1854–1937, being also an historical outline of volunteering in Malaya. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 54. (Call no.: RCLOS 355.23 WIN)
20. Teo, E. (2007, February). Closing of Beach Road camp.In This month in history, 11(2). (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 TMH); Winsley, T. M. (1938). A history of the Singapore Volunteer Corps 1854–1937, being also an historical outline of volunteering in Malaya. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 54. (Call no.: RCLOS 355.23 WIN)
21. New drill hall for the S.V.C. (1932, March 9). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. New drill hall for the S.V.C. (1932, March 9). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Winsley, T. M. (1938). A history of the Singapore Volunteer Corps 1854–1937, being also an historical outline of volunteering in Malaya. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 110. (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: Government Printing Office, p. 111. (Call no.: RCLOS 355.23 WIN)
24. Teo, E. (2007, February). Closing of Beach Road camp. In This month in history, 11(2). (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 TMH); Chew, M. (2000, March 1). Beach Rd camp shift frees up 3.3 ha siteThe Business Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Choo, M., et al. (Eds.). (1981). The Singapore Armed Forces. Singapore: Public Affairs Department, Ministry of Defence, p. 35. (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 SIN); Winsley, T. M. (1938). A history of the Singapore Volunteer Corps 1854-1937, being also an historical outline of volunteering in Malaya. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 83. (Call no.: RCLOS 355.23 WIN)
26. New building for volunteers. (1938, October 16). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Choo, M., et al. (Eds.). (1981). The Singapore Armed Forces. Singapore: Public Affairs Department, Ministry of Defence, p. 35. (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 SIN)
27. The call-up bill is now law. (1952, July 4). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. The call-up bill is now law. (1952, July 4). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Choo, M., et al. (Eds.). (1981). The Singapore Armed Forces. Singapore: Public Affairs Department, Ministry of Defence, p. 37. (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 SIN)
29. Our own army now. (1953, November 20). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Big call-up begins April 5. (1954, March 26). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Call-up training starts on July 1. (1954, May 3). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. After the parade, a big kiss for Pte. Chia. (1954, December 16). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Singapore army is born. (1957, March 13). The Straits Times, p. 4; Chew, M. (2000, March 1). Beach Rd camp shift frees up 3.3 ha siteThe Business Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. Teo, C. W. (2007, July 1). 10 iconic camps. The Straits Times, p. 111. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Choo, M., et al. (Eds.). (1981). The Singapore Armed Forces. Singapore: Public Affairs Department, Ministry of Defence, p. 38. (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 SIN)
35. Teo, E. (2007, February). Closing of Beach Road camp. In This month in history, 11(2). (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 TMH)
36. Ministry of Defence. (2006). 40th anniversary: SAF Military Police Command. Retrieved 2016, June 10, from Ministry of Defence website: http://www.mindef.gov.sg/dam/publications/eBooks/Featured/40thAnniversary_safMilitaryPoliceCommand.pdf; Chiang, M. (1997). SAF and 30 years of National Service. Singapore: Armour Publishing, p. 89. (Call no.: RSING 355.22 CHI)
37. Chan, K. M. (2000, October 22). New home for SAF courtsThe Straits Times, p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. Govt unveils its plans for downtown area. (1995, October 13). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. Teo, E. (2007, February). Closing of Beach Road camp. In This month in history, 11(2). (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 TMH)
40. Teo, C. W. (2007, July 1). 10 iconic camps. The Straits Times, p. 111. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2011). Conserving the past. Retrieved 2016, June 10 from the Urban Redevelopment Authority website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/skyline/skyline11/skyline11-02/special/skyline%20marapr%20conservation%20supplement%20FA.pdf; Yeo, A. (2002, September 5). NSmen's memories to be preservedThe Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
42. Yeo, A. (2002, September 5). NSmen's memories to be preservedThe Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2007, March 6). URA launches the tender for the commercial site at Beach Road. Retrieved 2016, June 10 from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/media-room/news/2007/mar/pr07-20.aspx
43. Yeo, A. (2002, September 5). NSmen's memories to be preservedThe Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
44. Teo, J. (2006, June 16). Six hotel sites released to meet tourism target. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
45. Teo, J. (2007, September 11). Eco-friendly project for iconic site in Beach RoadThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2007, March 6). URA launches the tender for the commercial site at Beach Road. Retrieved 2016, June 10 from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/media-room/news/2007/mar/pr07-20.aspx
46. Teo, J. (2007, September 11). Eco-friendly project for iconic site in Beach RoadThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
47. Shetty, D. (2008, September 18). Survivor: BiennaleThe Straits Times, p. 51. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2009 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
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Military Sites
Law and government>>Security>>Civil defence
Military camps--Singapore
Law and government>>Security>>Army
Historic buildings
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Historic Buildings
Historic sites--Singapore
Military facilities