St John Ambulance Brigade



The St John Ambulance Brigade (SJAB) is a voluntary organisation founded in England in 1887 to provide first-aid support for public events and emergencies.1 Established in Singapore in September 1938, the local SJAB has been rendering voluntary first-aid services during national events such as the annual National Day Parade and emergency situations like the Hotel New World collapse in 1986.2 The SJAB membership comprises adults as well as secondary school students who join the uniformed group as a co-curricular activity.3 The governors of the Straits Settlements were patrons of SJAB when Singapore was under British rule, and thereafter the presidents of the Republic of Singapore took up the patronage.4

Background
The origin of the SJAB dates back more than 900 years to Jerusalem, when the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem (Order of St John) was founded to care for the sick and poor in a hospice.5

The order subsequently spread to other parts of the world. During the late 19th century, the Order of St John in England was actively engaged in the development of ambulance, first aid and nursing work.6 In 1877, the St John Ambulance Association (SJAA) was formed in the country to train people in first aid. Its uniformed companion body, the SJAB, was subsequently established in 1887 to band together qualified volunteers to render services during public events and emergencies.7

The SJAB expanded beyond England in 1892 with the formation of its first overseas division in Dunedin, New Zealand. During the 20th century, the movement saw significant expansion and was established in every part of the Commonwealth.8

The first SJAA centre was established in Singapore in 1885 with Jose d'Almeida as its first honorary secretary. The centre conducted first-aid training for interested participants.9 The centre closed after some years, but was revived later in 1906.10 The second centre, however, also shut after World War I following the demise of the then honorary secretary.11

Establishment in Singapore
In 1930, then governor of the Straits Settlements Cecil Clementi expressed keen interest to form a local SJAB division.12 The first step to establishing the brigade was to set up an SJAA centre, which was subsequently established by Chen Su Lan, one of Singapore’s first local medical graduates. The centre held its lessons at the premises of Toh Lam School in Armenian Street and awarded 80 certificates to its first batch of trainees in 1933.13 However, a brigade did not materialise at the time.14

Efforts to establish the SJAB locally was subsequently taken on by J. S. Webster, a radiology professor at the King Edward VII College of Medicine and a radiologist at the General Hospital (present-day Singapore General Hospital). In 1935, he began organising first-aid lectures in Singapore with several doctors and friends to recruit members to form a brigade. Thanks to Webster’s enthusiasm, he was able to rally a sufficient number of first-aiders to form the inaugural division of the uniformed body by September 1938 – and the SJAB was officially established in Singapore.15

Key developments
Six months after the SJAB’s formation, Webster retired and left Singapore for England.16 Due to his departure and a lack of funds, enthusiasm towards the movement waned. As support from a senior government medical official was deemed necessary for its survival, then director of Medical Services at the Malayan Medical Department R. D. Fitzgerald was persuaded to take on the role of director of the SJAA.17 As a teaching organisation, the SJAA was responsible for training interested individuals before they could serve as volunteers under SJAB.18 The SJAA expanded thereafter, with the SJAB growing in tandem and more uniformed divisions were formed.19

During World War II, SJAB members helped to man the first-aid posts established throughout the city, and many lost their lives while performing their duties.20 Disbanded during the Japanese Occupation period, the SJAB was revived in 1947 by members who had survived the war.21 In the meantime, the SJAA also resumed its training classes. Participants who completed first-aid courses at SJAA were then recruited by the brigade.22

In 1952, the St John Council was established to oversee the affairs of the SJAB and SJAA in Singapore.23 On 28 July 1970, the council was formally registered as the National St John Council of Singapore under the Societies Act.24

On 1 September 1978, the SJAB underwent a major reorganisation. Previously, the brigade had divided its Singapore operations into five geographical areas (West, West Central, East Central, East and Jurong); following the reorganisation, the five areas were reclassified into four districts and 10 areas. In 1996, another restructuring took place, following which the district level was removed and the 10 areas were renamed “zones”. In addition, divisions in each school were treated as a corps.25

In 1980, the SJAA and SJAB were known as a single organisation called St John Ambulance Singapore (SJAS), with the SJAA and SJAB serving as SJAS’s training and uniformed branches respectively.26 On 11 January 2014, the SJAS was conferred the status of Priory within the Order of St John, placing it on par with the most established St John organisations in the world, including those in the United States and England. With the elevated status, the SJAS has a say in charting the direction of the St John movement around the world.27

Membership
The SJAB’s membership includes men and women, as well as cadet divisions for teens.28

In April 1939, some seven months after the SJAB was established in Singapore, at least 10 divisions had been set up, including two cadet divisions in schools.29 The adult divisions were made up of members from different walks of life, including teachers, rover scouts and members of the Malay community. The cadet divisions were established in Victoria School and Raffles Institution.30

When the threat of WWII became imminent, an intensive recruiting campaign was launched, and brigade’s pre-war membership surged to over 3,000 men and women.31 After the war, efforts were made to restore the SJAB’s membership to its pre-war levels. Besides seeking adult volunteers aged 17 to 65, it was also recruiting youths under 17 years old to form cadet divisions and has since become one of the mainstream uniform groups and a co-curricular activity in many schools.32

The SJAB currently has some 10,000 members, comprising both adults as well as secondary school students who join the movement as a co-curricular activity.33

Cadet training and achievement recognition
Youths who join the SJAB as a co-curricular activity receive training in first aid, home nursing as well as foot drill. A diverse range of optional activities are also available to the cadets, including outdoor activities such as hiking and map reading, as well as skills such as basic cardiac life support and martial arts.34 To motivate the cadets to widen their interests and develop their knowledge and skills, the Cadet Proficiency Badge Scheme was introduced in 1990, under which badges are awarded based on members’ participation in these activities.35

In addition, in line with other youth uniformed groups, the Corps Achievement Awards was introduced in 2000 to recognise cadet achievements.36

Headquarters
When the local SJAB was formed in 1938, its first headquarters was a desk at the radiology department of the General Hospital at what was known as Sepoy Lines (present-day Outram Road).37 It was then moved to the Fullerton Building and co-located with the SJAA’s headquarters after Fitzgerald was appointed director of the SJAA.38

After WWII, a temporary headquarters was provided for the SJAA and SJAB by the colonial government in the old St Peter’s Church along Stamford Road. The church served as the headquarters from 1949 to 1957 when it was demolished to make way for the National Library building and carpark. The headquarters then moved to Gilstead Road, remaining there until 1960 when its current premises at 420 Beach Road was completed.39

On 23 June 1960, the current St John headquarters at Beach Road was officially opened by Yusof bin Ishak, then Yang di-Pertuan Negara (Malay for “Head of State”) of Singapore. He was also president of the St John Council and patron of the SJAB at the time.40

St John Day
St John the Baptist Day falls on 24 June.41 In Singapore, St John Day is celebrated annually by SJAB cadets on the first week of the third school term (which commences after a four-week school holiday in June), typically through an observance parade held in their respective schools.42

Timeline
Sep 1938: Formation of SJAB in Singapore by J. S. Webster.43
25 Jun 1949: First Flag Day held jointly by SJAB and SJAA.44
1952: Establishment of St John Council.45
23 Jun 1960: Official opening of headquarters building at 420 Beach Road.46
28 Jul 1970: The National St John Council of Singapore formally registered under the Societies Act 1966.47
1980: Formation of SJA through merger of SJAB and SJAA.48
1990: Introduction of Cadet Proficiency Badge Scheme.49
2000: Launch of Corps Achievement Awards.50
11 Jan 2014: SJA in Singapore conferred status of Priory within the Order of St John.51



Author
Cheryl Sim



References
1. Order of St John. (n.d.). Our history. Retrieved from St John International website: http://orderofstjohn.ritdns.com/our-history; St John Ambulance Singapore. (2005). 70 years of service: For the service of mankind: 70th anniversary commemorative magazine. Singapore: St John Ambulance Singapore, p. 13. (Call no.: RSING 362.18095957 SAI)
2. St John Ambulance Singapore. (2005). 70 years of service: For the service of mankind: 70th anniversary commemorative magazine. Singapore: St John Ambulance Singapore, p. 13. (Call no.: RSING 362.18095957 SAI); St John Ambulance Brigade Zone Two. (2014). St John Ambulance Singapore. Retrieved from SJAB Zone Two website: http://www.sjabzone2.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=50&Itemid=63; Ministry of Information and the Arts. (1998, July 12). Speech by Mr Chan Soo Sen, Parliamentary Secretary (Prime Minister’s Office & Ministry of Community Development), at the St John Ambulance Brigade annual presentation cum banquet dinner on Sunday, 12 July 1998, 8.00 pm at Maple Garden Seafood Restaurant, Amara Hotel, level 2. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; Chronology of events. (1987, March 15). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Lim, Y. L. (2014, January 4). Boost for local chapter of St John Ambulance. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
4. St John Ambulance Singapore. (2005). 70 years of service: For the service of mankind: 70th anniversary commemorative magazine. Singapore: St John Ambulance Singapore, p. 15. (Call no.: RSING 362.18095957 SAI)
5. St John Ambulance Singapore. (2005). 70 years of service: For the service of mankind: 70th anniversary commemorative magazine. Singapore: St John Ambulance Singapore, p. 13. (Call no.: RSING 362.18095957 SAI); St John Ambulance Brigade Singapore. (n.d.). Teaching resources for officers & teachers: Knowledge of the Order of St John, pp. 3, 5. Retrieved from St John Ambulance Brigade website: https://sites.google.com/site/sjabcpbs/knowledge-of-the-order-of-st-john/teaching-learning-resources; Order of St John. (n.d.). Our history. Retrieved from St John International website: http://orderofstjohn.ritdns.com/our-history
6. St John Ambulance Brigade Singapore. (n.d.). Learning resources for cadets: Knowledge of the Order of St John, p. 5. Retrieved from St John Ambulance Brigade website: https://sites.google.com/site/sjabcpbs/knowledge-of-the-order-of-st-john/teaching-learning-resources
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 Order of St John. (n.d.). Our history. Retrieved from St John International website: http://orderofstjohn.ritdns.com/our-history; St John Ambulance Singapore. (2005). 70 years of service: For the service of mankind: 70th anniversary commemorative magazine. Singapore: St John Ambulance Singapore, p. 13. (Call no.: RSING 362.18095957 SAI)
8. St John Ambulance Brigade Singapore. (n.d.). Learning resources for cadets: Knowledge of the Order of St John, p. 5. Retrieved from St John Ambulance Brigade website: https://sites.google.com/site/sjabcpbs/knowledge-of-the-order-of-st-john/teaching-learning-resources
9. St John's Ambulance Association. (1885, June 12). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; St John Ambulance Association. (1886, April 2). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. St John first aid. (1914, February 10). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. St John Ambulance. (1933, February 28). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. 
The St John Ambulance Association. (1930, December 1). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Doyen at S’pore congress. (1958, May 29). The Singapore Free Press, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Instant success of St John Ambulance Centre. (1933, February 18). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; St John Ambulance Centre. (1933, February 18). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. More first aid men and nurses. (1934, April 7). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Singapore’s 200 women trained for emergency. (1938, October 30). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; St John Ambulance Singapore. (2005). 70 years of service: For the service of mankind: 70th anniversary commemorative magazine. Singapore: St John Ambulance Singapore, p. 13. (Call no.: RSING 362.18095957 SAI)
16. Malays want to be ambulance men. (1939, March 3). The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; St John Ambulance Singapore. (2005). 70 years of service: For the service of mankind: 70th anniversary commemorative magazine. Singapore: St John Ambulance Singapore, p. 13. (Call no.: RSING 362.18095957 SAI)
17. St John Ambulance Singapore. (2005). 70 years of service: For the service of mankind: 70th anniversary commemorative magazine. Singapore: St John Ambulance Singapore, p. 13. (Call no.: RSING 362.18095957 SAI); Dr R. D. Fitzgerald to retire. (1939, December 8). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Most ancient order of chivalry in world. (1937, March 11). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. St John Ambulance Singapore. (2005). 70 years of service: For the service of mankind: 70th anniversary commemorative magazine. Singapore: St John Ambulance Singapore, p. 13. (Call no.: RSING 362.18095957 SAI)
20. Siraj, M., et al. (Eds.). (1969). St John cadet magazine. Singapore: St John Ambulance Brigade, Cadet Divisions, p. 10. (Call no.: RCLOS 362.1 SJCM)
21. St John Ambulance Singapore. (1994). Annual report. Singapore: St John Ambulance Association, p. 15. (Call no.: RCLOS 362.1 SAI -[AR]); Siraj, M., et al. (Eds.). (1969). St John cadet magazine. Singapore: St John Ambulance Brigade, Cadet Divisions, p. 10. (Call no.: RCLOS 362.1 SJCM); St John Ambulance Singapore. (2005). 70 years of service: For the service of mankind: 70th anniversary commemorative magazine. Singapore: St John Ambulance Singapore, p. 14. (Call no.: RSING 362.18095957 SAI)
22. St John Ambulance Singapore. (2005). 70 years of service: For the service of mankind: 70th anniversary commemorative magazine. Singapore: St John Ambulance Singapore, p. 14. (Call no.: RSING 362.18095957 SAI)
23. St John Ambulance Brigade Singapore. (n.d.). Teaching resources for officers & teachers: Knowledge of the Order of St John, p. 23. Retrieved from St John Ambulance Brigade website: https://sites.google.com/site/sjabcpbs/knowledge-of-the-order-of-st-john/teaching-learning-resources
24. St John Ambulance Singapore. (1994). Annual report. Singapore: St John Ambulance Association, p. 15. (Call no.: RCLOS 362.1 SAI -[AR])
25. St John Ambulance Brigade Singapore. (n.d.). Learning resources for cadets: Knowledge of the Order of St John, p. 13. Retrieved from St John Ambulance Brigade website: https://sites.google.com/site/sjabcpbs/knowledge-of-the-order-of-st-john/teaching-learning-resources; St John Ambulance Singapore. (2005). 70 years of service: For the service of mankind: 70th anniversary commemorative magazine. Singapore: St John Ambulance Singapore, pp. 15, 27. (Call no.: RSING 362.18095957 SAI)
26. St John Ambulance Singapore. (2005). 70 years of service: For the service of mankind: 70th anniversary commemorative magazine. Singapore: St John Ambulance Singapore, p. 15. (Call no.: RSING 362.18095957 SAI)
27. Lim, Y. L. (2014, January 4). Boost for local chapter of St John Ambulance. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
28. St John Ambulance Brigade Singapore. (n.d.). Learning resources for cadets: Knowledge of the Order of St John, p. 9. Retrieved from St John Ambulance Brigade website: https://sites.google.com/site/sjabcpbs/knowledge-of-the-order-of-st-john/teaching-learning-resources; St John Ambulance Brigade Singapore. (n.d.). Teaching resources for officers & teachers: Knowledge of the Order of St John, p. 20. Retrieved from St John Ambulance Brigade website: https://sites.google.com/site/sjabcpbs/knowledge-of-the-order-of-st-john/teaching-learning-resources
29. Wartime bias to training of Ambulance Brigade. (1939, April 17). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Wartime bias to training of Ambulance Brigade. (1939, April 17). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Schools giving more help to services. (1940, October 24). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Malays want to be ambulance men. (1939, March 3). The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Siraj, M., et al. (Eds.). (1969). St John cadet magazine. Singapore: St John Ambulance Brigade, Cadet Divisions, p. 10. (Call no.: RCLOS 362.1 SJCM); St John’s Ambulance wants volunteers. (1948, August 21). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. St John’s Ambulance wants volunteers. (1948, August 21). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ministry of Information and the Arts. (1998, July 12). Speech by Mr Chan Soo Sen, Parliamentary Secretary (Prime Minister’s Office & Ministry of Community Development), at the St John Ambulance Brigade annual presentation cum banquet dinner on Sunday, 12 July 1998, 8.00 pm at Maple Garden Seafood Restaurant, Amara Hotel, level 2. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
33. Lim, Y. L. (2014, January 4). Boost for local chapter of St John Ambulance. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
34. St John Ambulance Brigade. (n.d.). About CPBS. Retrieved from St John Ambulance Brigade website: https://sites.google.com/site/sjabcpbs/about-cpbs
35. St John Ambulance Brigade Singapore. (n.d.). Teaching resources for officers & teachers: Knowledge of the Order of St John, p. 24. Retrieved from St John Ambulance Brigade website: https://sites.google.com/site/sjabcpbs/knowledge-of-the-order-of-st-john/teaching-learning-resources; St John Ambulance Brigade. (n.d.). About CPBS. Retrieved from St John Ambulance Brigade website: https://sites.google.com/site/sjabcpbs/about-cpbs
36. St John Ambulance Singapore. (2005). 70 years of service: For the service of mankind: 70th anniversary commemorative magazine. Singapore: St John Ambulance Singapore, p. 28. (Call no.: RSING 362.18095957 SAI)
37. St John Ambulance Brigade. (n.d.). Our history. Retrieved from St John Ambulance, Singapore website: http://www.sjas.org.sg/our-history.html; St John Ambulance Singapore. (2005). 70 years of service: For the service of mankind: 70th anniversary commemorative magazine. Singapore: St John Ambulance Singapore, p. 13. (Call no.: RSING 362.18095957 SAI)
38. St John Ambulance Singapore. (2005). 70 years of service: For the service of mankind: 70th anniversary commemorative magazine. Singapore: St John Ambulance Singapore, pp. 13–14. (Call no.: RSING 362.18095957 SAI)
39. St John Ambulance Singapore. (2005). 70 years of service: For the service of mankind: 70th anniversary commemorative magazine. Singapore: St John Ambulance Singapore, pp. 14–15. (Call no.: RSING 362.18095957 SAI)
40. St John Ambulance Singapore. (2005). 70 years of service: For the service of mankind: 70th anniversary commemorative magazine. Singapore: St John Ambulance Singapore, p. 27. (Call no.: RSING 362.18095957 SAI); Head of State to be St John patron. (1959, December 13). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Yusof made Knight of St John. (1961, June 29). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41. St John Ambulance Brigade Singapore. (n.d.). Learning resources for cadets: Knowledge of the Order of St John, p. 4. Retrieved from St John Ambulance Brigade website: https://sites.google.com/site/sjabcpbs/knowledge-of-the-order-of-st-john/teaching-learning-resources
42. St John Ambulance Brigade Singapore. (n.d.). Teaching resources for officers & teachers: Knowledge of the Order of St John, p. 11. Retrieved from St John Ambulance Brigade website: https://sites.google.com/site/sjabcpbs/knowledge-of-the-order-of-st-john/teaching-learning-resources; Ministry of Education. (2013, August 15). School terms and holidays for 2014: For primary and secondary schools. Retrieved from Ministry of Education website: http://www.moe.gov.sg/schools/terms-and-holidays/2014/#pri-sec-sch-term
43. St John Ambulance Singapore. (2005). 70 years of service: For the service of mankind: 70th anniversary commemorative magazine. Singapore: St John Ambulance Singapore, p. 13. (Call no.: RSING 362.18095957 SAI)
44. Flag Day. (1949, July 8). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
45. St John Ambulance Brigade Singapore. (n.d.). Teaching resources for officers & teachers: Knowledge of the Order of St John, p. 23. Retrieved from St John Ambulance Brigade website: https://sites.google.com/site/sjabcpbs/knowledge-of-the-order-of-st-john/teaching-learning-resources
46. St John Ambulance Singapore. (2005). 70 years of service: For the service of mankind: 70th anniversary commemorative magazine. Singapore: St John Ambulance Singapore, p. 27. (Call no.: RSING 362.18095957 SAI)
47. St John Ambulance Singapore. (1994). Annual report. Singapore: St John Ambulance Association, p. 15. (Call no.: RCLOS 362.1 SAI -[AR])
48. St John Ambulance Singapore. (2005). 70 years of service: For the service of mankind: 70th anniversary commemorative magazine. Singapore: St John Ambulance Singapore, p. 15. (Call no.: RSING 362.18095957 SAI)
49. St John Ambulance Brigade Singapore. (n.d.). Teaching resources for officers & teachers: Knowledge of the Order of St John, p. 24. Retrieved from St John Ambulance Brigade website: https://sites.google.com/site/sjabcpbs/knowledge-of-the-order-of-st-john/teaching-learning-resources
50. St John Ambulance Singapore. (2005). 70 years of service: For the service of mankind: 70th anniversary commemorative magazine. Singapore: St John Ambulance Singapore, p. 28. (Call no.: RSING 362.18095957 SAI)
51. Lim, Y. L. (2014, January 4). Boost for local chapter of St John Ambulance. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.




The information in this article is valid as at 28 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. 

Subject
Community and Social Services
Organisations

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