The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore



The Boys’ Brigade (BB) is the first youth uniformed group in the world.1 Founded in Scotland in 1883, it is a Christian organisation that seeks to nurture boys into responsible Christian men instilled with values such as obedience, reverence and discipline.2 The BB was established in Singapore in 1930 as part of the brigade’s global movement.3 The battalion in Singapore then took on its current name, The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore (BBS), in 1968.4 By expanding beyond churches and mission schools to secular schools, the BBS has grown from about 2,000 members in 1980 to some 7,000 members currently.5

Background
The BB was founded in Glasgow, Scotland, by William Alexander Smith, a businessman cum volunteer soldier.6 Also a Sunday-school teacher for The Free College Church, Smith was faced with the problem of managing a group of unruly boys in his class.7 He then decided to use drill to teach the boys discipline.8 On 4 October 1883, he started recruitment for the BB’s First Glasgow Company, and 59 boys between the ages of 12 and 16 responded to the call.9

Following its initial success, the BB expanded to other parts of the United Kingdom (UK) and thereafter to countries worldwide.10 The establishment of the First Swatow Company in China during the mid-1910s marked the beginning of BB in Asia.11

In July 1909, Smith was knighted by King Edward VII for his contributions to the BB.12

Establishment in Singapore
The first BB company in Singapore was founded by James Milner Fraser, who arrived from the UK in 1927 to work as an architect for the Singapore Improvement Trust (predecessor of present-day Housing and Development Board).13 Fraser, who was a BB member before arriving in Singapore, promised a former captain that he would start a BB company in Singapore as soon as possible.14

On 12 January 1930, Singapore’s very first BB company was formed at the Straits Chinese Presbyterian Church (renamed Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church in 1955) with 12 members and Fraser as captain.15 In August 1930, the first BB company in Singapore was officially registered by the brigade’s headquarters in London; by then, its membership had grown to 40.16

Key developments
As education was not compulsory in Singapore during the 1930s, the BB’s recruitment efforts were initially focused on the sons of church members, as well as friends and schoolmates of those who had joined.17 By 1936, the BB had expanded to three other churches and two mission schools. With a total of six companies comprising 200 boys, there were enough companies to form a battalion. Fraser was appointed the first president of the BB’s Singapore battalion in that year, a position  that he served until 1956.18

By late 1930s, many boys below 12 years old had expressed interest to join the Singapore battalion, even though the qualifying age then was between 12 and 16 years. Responding to the demand, a Life Boys group for junior boys was formed at the second BB company at the Straits Chinese Methodist Church (present-day Kampong Kapor Methodist Church).19

The BB’s activities in Singapore came to a halt during World War II and the Japanese Occupation period, but was revived soon thereafter by Fraser and Chua Siak Phuang, who had succeeded Fraser as captain of the first BB company in 1940.20

In 1968, the BB’s Singapore battalion was renamed The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Three years later in 1971, Benjamin Henry Sheares, then president of the Republic of Singapore, became the first Singapore president to be its patron.21
 
When the BBS celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1980, it had about 2,000 members in 22 companies, and schools with BB companies were mission schools such as Anglo-Chinese School and St Andrew’s School.22 The BBS then decided to expand beyond churches and mission schools, and began promoting the movement to non-mission schools.23 In 1981, Victoria School became the first secular school in Singapore to establish a BB company and to make BB one of its official extra-curricular activities (present-day co-curricular activities). Other non-mission schools then followed suit, including Bowen Secondary School, Changkat Changi Secondary School and Raffles Institution. As a result of its expansion to non-mission schools, the BBS saw rapid growth during the 1980s and 1990s.24

Currently, the BBS has about 7,000 members in over 110 BB companies, each of which is based in a school and supported by a church. The president of the Republic of Singapore is the brigade’s patron, and it is endorsed by the Ministry of Education as a youth uniformed organisation in schools.25

Membership structure and programmes
The BBS membership currently comprises three age groups, with each group placed under a separate programme. The Juniors Programme is for boys aged 8 to 12, while those who are 12 years and above join the Seniors Programme.26 The Primers Programme is open to youths who are 16 to 18 years of age, and the first Primer company was established at the Singapore Polytechnic in 1992.27

Uniforms
Each BBS programme has a different set of uniform. For the Juniors Programme, the uniform comprises a dark blue short-sleeve shirt, a pair of dark blue shorts and a white nylon belt.28 The Seniors Programme uniform, on the other hand, comprises a dark blue long-sleeve shirt, a pair of dark blue trousers, a leather belt and a white haversack.29 Instead of a dark blue top, the Primers uniform consists of a white short-sleeve shirt paired with a pair of dark blue pants.30 The uniform of all three programmes also include a field service cap with badge.31

Activities and achievement recognition
Activities under the Juniors Programme are simplified and scaled-down versions of those in the Seniors Programme. Both include outdoor activities such as camps and hikes, as well as community service and drills.32 For the Seniors Programme, the training is structured to put each member on a path of self-development, and thus includes imparting general skills such as teamwork and leadership.33 In addition, competitions such as adventure quests are organised for members of both programmes to build physical tenacity and promote teamwork.34

The Primers, on the other hand, assist the brigade’s trainers and officers in company activities. They also help to execute large-scale events such as the annual Share-a-Gift project.35

A series of awards have been introduced by the BBS to recognise members’ contributions and achievements. These include the JP Gold Award and Founder’s Award for active participation in the Juniors and Seniors Programmes respectively, as well as the President’s Award for the Primers Programme – all of which are the highest awards one can attain in each of the programmes.36

Community service
A member of the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), the BBS has been actively engaged in community-service activities as part of its youth-development efforts.37 Two of its large-scale annual community-service programmes are the Share-a-Gift project held during Christmas, as well as BB CARES, a President’s Challenge event since 2002.38

Share-a-Gift project
The Share-a-Gift project was launched on 8 December 1988 as the Sharity Gift Box. Sharity, the pink elephant mascot of the NCSS, lent his name to the project until 2010.39

When the project was first introduced, it accepted only presents. Over time, however, it has been fine-tuned to better serve the beneficiaries. For example, the project started accepting monetary donations in 1992, which were used to buy requested items. Donors can also purchase items at NTUC Fairprice during the Christmas period and the supermarket will deliver the gifts to the brigade’s collection centre.40

Held annually for more than a quarter of a century, the Share-a-Gift project has become a part of Singapore’s annual Christmas celebrations.41

BB CARES
BB CARES, short for Boys’ Brigade Community Activities Rallying Everyone to Serve, is a company-level programme introduced in 2002. Under the programme, all BB companies have to spend a week each year on community-service projects such as engaging in activities with the elderly. Each BB company is encouraged to work with the same voluntary welfare organisation (VWO) each year to establish a long-term relationship with the VWO. Two of the BB companies, for example, have been pairing up with the All Saints Home in Tampines for seven years and the BB members have developed close bonds with the old folks there. Besides members and officers, invitations to participate in BB CARES are extended to parents, former members, churches, friends and schools.42
 
Band
In 1950, the first youth brass band in Singapore was formed by the BB’s Singapore Battalion. There are 14 bands among the Singapore BB companies as of 2013, in the form of pipes-and-drums bands. The companies are encouraged to form such bands, because playing musical instruments is regarded as a wholesome pursuit. Having these bands also help preserve the link to the brigade’s Scottish roots.43

BB Day
The BB Day is celebrated annually on 12 January to commemorate the founding of the BBS. All members wear their full uniforms in school on that day, and celebrations are typically held by the BB companies in their respective schools.44

Headquarters
The BBS headquarters is currently located within the BB Campus at Ganges Avenue. The facilities at the BB Campus include dormitories, activity halls, barbeque pits, a soccer field and a basketball court.45

The Stedfast Association
The Stedfast Association is the alumni organisation of the BBS. It was first set up in 1935 as the Sure and Stedfast Club to cater to old boys who had to leave their BB companies after reaching the age limit. On 7 July 1969, it was officially registered as a society in Singapore and renamed Stedfast Club. It was renamed once again in 1983 to The Stedfast Association, so as to bear the common identity of all BB alumni organisations worldwide.46

Timeline
12 Jan 1930: Formation of Singapore’s first BB company by James Milner Fraser.47
1935: Establishment of the Sure and Stedfast Club (currently known as The Stedfast Association), the brigade’s alumni organisation.48
1936: Fraser appointed first president of the BB’s Singapore battalion.49
1950: Formation of Singapore’s first youth brass band by the Singapore battalion.50
1968: The Singapore battalion was renamed BBS.51
1971: Then president of the Republic of Singapore, Benjamin Henry Sheares, became the first Singapore president to be patron of BBS.52
1981: Formation of first BB company in a secular school (Victoria School).53
8 Dec 1988: Launch of Sharity Gift Box (currently known as Share-a-Gift project).54
18 Sep 1999: The orchid “Dendrobium Boys’ Brigade” was named after BBS.55
2002: Introduction of BB CARES (Boys’ Brigade Community Activities Rallying Everyone to Serve).56
2010: The BBS celebrated their 80th anniversary.57



Author
Cheryl Sim



References
1. The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. (2014). Our story. Retrieved from The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.bb.org.sg/cos/o.x?c=/wbn/pagetree&func=view&rid=5463
2. Toh, S. F. (1983, March 11). 100 years old tomorrow. Singapore Monitor, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. (2014). Mission and vision. Retrieved from The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.bb.org.sg/cos/o.x?c=/wbn/pagetree&func=view&rid=31818; The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. (2014). Our story. Retrieved from The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.bb.org.sg/cos/o.x?c=/wbn/pagetree&func=view&rid=5463
3. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 16, 30. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
4. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 61. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
5. Spreading an ideal to non-mission schools. (1983, March 11). Singapore Monitor, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 88. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND); The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. (2014). Singapore story. Retrieved from The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.bb.org.sg/cos/o.x?c=/wbn/pagetree&func=view&rid=7350
6. Toh, S. F. (1983, March 11). 100 years old tomorrow. Singapore Monitor, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 16. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
7. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 16. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
8. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 18. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
9. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 20, 22. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
10. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 22. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND); The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. (2014). Our story. Retrieved from The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.bb.org.sg/cos/o.x?c=/wbn/pagetree&func=view&rid=5463
11. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 26. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
12. The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. (2014). Our story. Retrieved from The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.bb.org.sg/cos/o.x?c=/wbn/pagetree&func=view&rid=5463
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14. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 29. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
15. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 30–31. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND); The Boys’ Brigade. (1930, September 16). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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18. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 33, 36. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND); The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. (2014). Singapore story. Retrieved from The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.bb.org.sg/cos/o.x?c=/wbn/pagetree&func=view&rid=7350
19. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 20, 23, 31, 41. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
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21. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 61–62. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
22. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 88. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
23. Spreading an ideal to non-mission schools. (1983, March 11). Singapore Monitor, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 88. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
24. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 32, 89, 90, 91. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
25. The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. (2014). Singapore story. Retrieved from The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.bb.org.sg/cos/o.x?c=/wbn/pagetree&func=view&rid=7350
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27. The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. (2014). Primers Programme. Retrieved from The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.bb.org.sg/cos/o.x?c=/wbn/pagetree&func=view&rid=5498; Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 96. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
28. The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. (2014). Juniors uniform. Retrieved from The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.bb.org.sg/cos/o.x?c=/wbn/pagetree&func=view&rid=11924; Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 21. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
29. The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. (2014). Seniors Programme uniform. Retrieved from The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.bb.org.sg/cos/o.x?c=/wbn/pagetree&func=view&rid=11940
30. The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. (2014). Primers uniform. Retrieved from The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.bb.org.sg/cos/o.x?c=/wbn/pagetree&func=view&rid=11984
31. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 21. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND); The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. (2014). Juniors uniform. Retrieved from The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.bb.org.sg/cos/o.x?c=/wbn/pagetree&func=view&rid=11924; The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. (2014). Seniors Programme uniform. Retrieved from The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.bb.org.sg/cos/o.x?c=/wbn/pagetree&func=view&rid=11940; The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. (2014). Primers uniform. Retrieved from The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.bb.org.sg/cos/o.x?c=/wbn/pagetree&func=view&rid=11984
32. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 92. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
33. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 94. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
34. The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. (2014). Juniors Programme events. Retrieved from The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.bb.org.sg/cos/o.x?c=/wbn/pagetree&func=view&rid=5505; The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. (2014). Seniors Programme events. Retrieved from The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.bb.org.sg/cos/o.x?c=/wbn/pagetree&func=view&rid=5507
35. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 96. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
36. The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. (2014). Gold Award. Retrieved from The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.bb.org.sg/cos/o.x?c=/wbn/pagetree&func=view&rid=1126271; The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. (2014). Founder’s Award. Retrieved from The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.bb.org.sg/cos/o.x?c=/wbn/pagetree&func=view&rid=22443; Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 153. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
37. The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. (2014). Singapore story. Retrieved from The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.bb.org.sg/cos/o.x?c=/wbn/pagetree&func=view&rid=7350; The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. (2014). Teaching our Boys to serve the community in Singapore. Retrieved from The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.bb.org.sg/cos/o.x?c=/wbn/pagetree&func=view&rid=17727
38. The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. (2014). Teaching our Boys to serve the community in Singapore. Retrieved from The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.bb.org.sg/cos/o.x?c=/wbn/pagetree&func=view&rid=17727; Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 122, 124. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
39. Spare a gift for the needy. (1988, December 8). The Business Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 118. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
40. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 119–120. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
41. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 118, 122. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
42. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 123, 125. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
43. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 107, 110. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
44. The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. (2014). Singapore story. Retrieved from The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.bb.org.sg/cos/o.x?c=/wbn/pagetree&func=view&rid=7350
45. The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. (2014). Facilities. Retrieved from The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.bb.org.sg/cos/o.x?c=/wbn/pagetree&func=view&rid=5556
46. The Stedfast Association, Singapore. (n.d.). History of Stedfast Association. Retrieved from The Stedfast Association of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.stedfast.org.sg/aboutus-history.php
47. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 29–31. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
48. The Stedfast Association, Singapore. (n.d.). History of Stedfast Association. Retrieved from The Stedfast Association of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.stedfast.org.sg/aboutus-history.php
49. The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. (2014). Singapore story. Retrieved from The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.bb.org.sg/cos/o.x?c=/wbn/pagetree&func=view&rid=7350
50. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 107. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
51. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 61. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
52. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 62. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
53. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 89. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
54. Spare a gift for the needy. (1988, December 8). The Business Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 118. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
55. The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. (2014). Singapore story. Retrieved from The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore website: http://www.bb.org.sg/cos/o.x?c=/wbn/pagetree&func=view&rid=7350
56. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 123. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)
57. Cheong, C. (2013). Underneath the banner: The history of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 16. (Call no.: RSING 267.7095957 UND)




The information in this article is valid as at 16 October 2014 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. 

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