Former Singapore Armed Forces Non-Commissioned Officers Club



The Singapore Armed Forces Non-Commissioned Officers (SAF NCO) Club was set up in 1974 to strengthen the bonds among members of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).1 It was located in a two-storey clubhouse along Beach Road.2 This building, constructed between 1951 and 1952, had housed several recreational clubs for military personnel over the years, including the Britannia Club and the SAF Warrant Officers and Specialists (WOSE) Club.3 The building was marked as a conservation site on 9 October 2002.4

Britannia Club
The former SAF NCO Club building was originally constructed to house the Britannia Club for British servicemen.5 The building was erected on a vacant site next to the Shackle Club – the club for British servicemen then.6 The Shackle Club was closed when the new two-storey Britannia Club building was operational.7


The Britannia Club was located at Beach Road, opposite Raffles Hotel and close to the junction with Bras Basah Road.8 Its foundation stone was laid by Major-General Dermott Dunlop, the General Officer Commanding of Malaya, on 3 May 1951.9 Construction work began later that year on 22 September and took 14 months to complete. The work was initially slow because the ground was soft and required extensive piling.10 The club building was funded entirely by the British Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes (NAAFI), and cost almost $1.3 million.11

The new club was officially opened on 17 December 1952 by Commissioner-General for Southeast Asia, Malcolm MacDonald.12 Made of brick and featuring a green roof, the clubhouse featured facilities such as a restaurant, dance floor, drinking tavern, billiard room, music room and table tennis room.13 A terrace overlooked the adjacent Nuffield swimming pool, which had opened a year earlier.14

Run by NAAFI, the Britannia Club was frequented not only by the British navy but also the American navy.15 However, brawls and fights frequently erupted in the club, reportedly leading a manager of the nearby Raffles Hotel to remark that the club was “a nuisance”.16 Other scandals involving the club included the arrest of a British soldier on the charge of murdering a Britannia Club hostess.17 By the late 1950s, it was reported that the drinking habits of servicemen had changed, with the Britannia Club, the Union Jack Club and NAAFI canteens doing a roaring trade in soft drinks.18

The Britannia Club closed on 30 April 1971 during the period when the withdrawal of British forces was being accelerated. NAAFI deemed the clubhouse too large for ANZUK forces which continued to be under its charge, and a single guard was assigned to look after the building.19 The Singapore government subsequently bought the property from NAAFI.20

Club for the SAF
Slated originally for conversion into a public sports facility, the former Britannia Club building was allocated in 1973 to the SAF, which established the SAF NCO Club there the following year.21 The aim of the club was to strengthen the bonds between warrant officers and specialist corps as members of SAF. The club was also family oriented, as it encouraged interaction among members and their families and provided recreational as well as educational programmes and activities.22


The SAF NCO Club also provided regular courses pertaining to education, culture and sports.23 Its choir, for instance, had participated in public performances during the 1980 Festival of Choirs, performing Franz Lehar’s operetta “The Merry Widow” at one of the events.24 Besides organising events such as Family Carnival and looking after the daily needs of Singapore servicemen,25 the club also housed the SAF Enterprise Superstore which offered affordable merchandise for members of SAF.26

In 1994, the SAF NCO Club was renamed SAF Warrant Officers and Specialists (WOSE) Club.27 Its functions and aims remained largely unchanged.28

In the mid-1990s, the Singapore government began making plans to redevelop areas such as Beach Road. The once-busy thoroughfare of Beach Road had become shabby in contrast to its glory days in the 1950s. Businesses in the area had seen a large drop in revenue and profits. Some redevelopment suggestions included putting the land occupied by the SAF WOSE Club t other uses.29

In 2000, following a formal announcement to redevelop the area, the club was scheduled to move to a new premise in Jurong East.30 It moved to a new clubhouse at Boon Lay Way in October 2001.31 Officially opened in 2002, the new clubhouse was named The Chevrons, a reference to the V-shaped stripes worn by warrant officers and specialists.32

Redevelopment of clubhouse
In 2007, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) extended a 99-year lease on the land between Raffles Hotel and Suntec City to a consortium of three firms – City Developments Ltd, El-Ad Group and Dubai World.33 The land had encompassed the former SAF NCO Club. The consortium planned to use the land for a project called South Beach, which involved the construction of hotels, offices, and retail and residential spaces. These would feature environment-friendly designs employing green technology. Old buildings like the former SAF NCO clubhouse would be restored.34 The project was scheduled for completion in 2012 but encountered delays due to the global financial crisis during that period.35 After a revamp, the former SAF NCO clubhouse, renamed the South Beach Club, was opened to the public in 2015.36


URA marked the former SAF NCO Club building as a conservation site on 9 October 2002.37

Timeline
1951:
Construction of the Britannia Club began.38

1952: The Britannia Club was officially opened by Governor-General Malcolm MacDonald.39
1968: The British announced plans to accelerate the withdrawal of its forces in the Far East.40
1971: The Britannia Club was closed down.41
1972: The government bought over the property.
1974: The newly formed SAF NCO Club, housed in the two-storey building, was officially opened.42
1994: SAF NCO Club was renamed SAF Warrant Officers and Specialists Club (WOSE).43
2001: SAF WOSE Club moved to new premises.44
2002: SAF WOSE Club was officially opened in Boon Lay Way and renamed The Chevrons.45
2015: The former SAF NCO clubhouse was opened to the public as South Beach Club after a revamp under the South Beach development project.46



Authors

Faizah bte Zakaria & Joanna HS Tan



References
1. SAF NCO Club. (1976). SAF NCO Club annual report 1975/1976. Singapore: SAF NCO Club. (Call no.: RCLOS 367.95957 SAFNCO-[AR])
2. Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). (2002). Conservation Plan. Retrieved 2016, June 21 from URA website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/conservation/conservation-xml.aspx?id=FOBE
3. Fourteen months to make this Christmas gift. (1952, December 17). The Singapore Free Press, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; The SAF Warrant Officers and Specialists Club. (2002). The Chevrons: Forging closer ties. Singapore: Author, p. 7. (Call no.: RSING 355.346095957 CHE)
4. Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). Conservation: Former Beach Road Camp (includes former SAF NCO Club building and former Beach Road police station). Retrieved 2016, June 19 from URA website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/conservation/conservation-xml.aspx?id=FOBE
5. Fourteen months to make this Christmas gift. (1952, December 17). The Singapore Free Press, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Yue, R. (1952, December 17). It’s one of the nicest clubs in the East. The Singapore Free Press, p. 2; Future of closed down Britannia Club being discussed. (1971, October 29). The Straits Times, p. 10; N.A.A.F.I. builds a new club. (1951, April 24). The Singapore Free Press, p. 1; Govt. offices to face the sea. (1952, December 22). The Singapore Free Press, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Govt. offices to face the sea. (1952, December 22). The Singapore Free Press, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). (2002). Conservation Plan. Retrieved 2016, June 21 from URA website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/conservation/conservation-xml.aspx?id=FOBE
9. Gen. Dunlop to lay foundation stone of new NAAFI club. (1951, April 25). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Fourteen months to make this Christmas gift. (1952, December 17). The Singapore Free Press, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Greetings from the C.-in-Cs. (1952, December 17). The Singapore Free Press, p. 1; Christmas gift to the forces. (1952, December 17). The Singapore Free Press, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Yue, R. (1952, December 17). Million dollar club house to open today. The Singapore Free Press, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Yue, R. (1952, December 17). It’s one of the nicest clubs in the East. The Singapore Free Press, p. 2; Christmas gift to the forces. (1952, December 17). The Singapore Free Press, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Christmas gift to the forces. (1952, December 17). The Singapore Free Press, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Future of closed down Britannia Club being discussed. (1971, October 29). The Straits Times, p. 10; U.S. navy ship on visit to S’pore. (1962, July 3). The Straits Times, p. 4; Britannia club wrecked by fights? Rubbish. (1956, March 14). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Britannia club wrecked by fights? Rubbish. (1956, March 14). The Straits Times, p. 8; The servicemen at Raffles Hotel. (1954, April 10). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Gillon said: ‘I Did It’ – Officer. (1953, September 30). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Servicemen in S’pore prefers soft drinks to beer. (1958, July 5). The Singapore Free Press, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Future of closed down Britannia Club being discussed. (1971, October 29). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Chin, U. W., & Yeo, J. (Eds.). (2015). The Chevrons celebrates: Our journey, our vision. Singapore: The SAF Warrant Officers and Specialists Club, p. 9. Retrieved 2016, June 21 from The Chevrons website: https://www.chevrons.org.sg/Portals/0/Documents/TheChevronsCommemorativeBook-WEBVERSION.pdf
21. Britannia Club for public use. (1973, April 28). New Nation, p. 6; HDB to give reservists preference. (1974, March 18). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. SAF NCO Club. (1976). SAF NCO Club annual report 1975/1976. Singapore: SAF NCO Club. (Call no.: RCLOS 367.95957 SAFNCO-[AR])
23. SAF NCO Club. (1976). SAF NCO Club annual report 1975/1976. Singapore: SAF NCO Club. (Call no.: RCLOS 367.95957 SAFNCO-[AR])
24. Songs from many lands. (1980, May 14). The Straits Times, p. 33. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. SAF NCO Club. (1976). SAF NCO Club annual report 1975/1976. Singapore: SAF NCO Club. (Call no.: RCLOS 367.95957 SAFNCO-[AR])
26. SAFE super mart opens its doors. (1973, December 20). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Chin, U. W., & Yeo, J. (Eds.). (2015). The Chevrons celebrates: Our journey, our vision. Singapore: The SAF Warrant Officers and Specialists Club, p. 15. Retrieved 2016, June 21 from The Chevrons website: https://www.chevrons.org.sg/Portals/0/Documents/TheChevronsCommemorativeBook-WEBVERSION.pdf
28. The SAF Warrant Officers and Specialists Club. (2002). The Chevrons: Forging closer ties. Singapore: Author, p. 7. (Call no.: RSING 355.346095957 CHE)
29. Yap, E., (1996, April 14). Not quite the Golden Mile but there’s hope. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Chew, M. (2000, March 1). Beach Rd camp shift frees up 3.3. ha site. The Business Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Chin, U. W., & Yeo, J. (Eds.). (2015). The Chevrons celebrates: Our journey, our vision. Singapore: The SAF Warrant Officers and Specialists Club, p. 18. Retrieved 2016, June 21 from The Chevrons website: https://www.chevrons.org.sg/Portals/0/Documents/TheChevronsCommemorativeBook-WEBVERSION.pdf
32. DPM Tan stresses need to maintain harmony. (2002, February 9). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Singapore gets 1.12 billion ‘South Beach’. (2007, September 2007). Agence France Press. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; 龚慧婷 [Gong, H. T.]. (2007, September 11). 城市发展财团近17亿标获美芝路巨幅地段 [City Developments Ltd successfully bidded the land along Beach Road for nearly 1.7 billion]. 《联合早报》 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. Warden, G. (2007, September 17). CDL takes on mega project, analysts say asset sales could follow. The Edge Singapore. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
35. Rashiwala, K. (2011, February 10). Changes for South Beach group? The Business Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. Zachariah, N. A. (2015, November 21). South Beach chic for former NCO club. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/ 
37. Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). Conservation: Former Beach Road camp (includes former SAF NCO Club building and former Beach Road police station). Retrieved 2016, June 19 from URA website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/conservation/conservation-xml.aspx?id=FOBE
38. Fourteen months to make this Christmas gift. (1952, December 17). The Singapore Free Press, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. Yue, R. (1952, December 17). Million dollar club house to open today. The Singapore Free Press, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. All out by 1971. (1968, January 17). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41. Future of closed down Britannia Club being discussed. (1971, October 29). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
42. HDB to give reservists preference. (1974, March 18). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
43. Chin, U. W., & Yeo, J. (Eds.). (2015). The Chevrons celebrates: Our journey, our vision. Singapore: The SAF Warrant Officers and Specialists Club, p. 15. Retrieved 2016, June 21 from The Chevrons website: https://www.chevrons.org.sg/Portals/0/Documents/TheChevronsCommemorativeBook-WEBVERSION.pdf
44. Chin, U. W., & Yeo, J. (Eds.). (2015). The Chevrons celebrates: Our journey, our vision. Singapore: The SAF Warrant Officers and Specialists Club, p. 18. Retrieved 2016, June 21 from The Chevrons website: https://www.chevrons.org.sg/Portals/0/Documents/TheChevronsCommemorativeBook-WEBVERSION.pdf
45. DPM Tan stresses need to maintain harmony. (2002, February 9). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
46. Zachariah, N. A. (2015, November 21). South Beach chic for former NCO club. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/


The information in this article is valid as at 21 June 2016 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
Recreation
Historic buildings
Organisations
Law and government>>Security>>Army
Organisations>>Associations>>Societies
Sports, recreation and travel
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Historic Buildings
Singapore Armed Forces--Officers' clubs
Sports and Recreation