55 years ago, the Singapore Army was established to equip Singapore with the ability to defend herself without the need to rely on other military forces. This year, as we celebrate our 55th anniversary, let us take a step back in time to the very beginning of Our Army - the formation and development of Singapore's first Infantry battalion, 1st Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment (1 SIR).
The unit was formed on 12 Mar 1957, against a backdrop of impending self-governance for the nation, with 237 Singapore citizens signing on as the first batch of men in-charge of the defence of Singapore. By Jul 1959, 1 SIR was housed at Ulu Pandan Camp with a total of 654 officers and men under the command of LTC R.W Stephenson.
1 SIR's premises at Ulu Pandan Camp.
As years went by, soldiers from 1 SIR played an important role as they were placed in charge of defending Singapore's key installations and internal security, as well as performing escort and crowd dispersal duties (such as during the Public Works Department strike in 1961). In recognition for their contribution and efforts, then Head of State, Inche Yusof Bin Ishak, presented the Queen's and Regimental Colours to 1 SIR on 27 July 1961.
Presentation of the Regimental Colours to 1 SIR in 1961.
Things changed, however, when on 16 Sep 1963, Singapore merged with Malaysia. After the merger, 1 SIR was placed under the command of the 4th Malaysian Infantry Brigade (4 MIB), and was renamed to 1st Battalion, Malaysian Infantry Regiment (MIR).
Despite this change in identity, it did not deter the men of 1 SIR from serving the nation to the best of their ability. Even when the unit was commanded by the Malaysian Armed Forces, many of our men continued to display the vigilance and dedication to serve in their duties. Their professionalism was displayed when they were deployed for their very first mission to patrol areas such as Sabah and Johor to prevent infiltration by the saboteurs during the Konfrontasi period from 1963-1964.
After Singapore's independence in 1965, 1 MIR was renamed back to 1 SIR and continued to play a crucial role in the development of Singapore's defence force. After the National Service Amendment Bill was passed in Mar 1967 and National Service was introduced to all Singaporean sons, personnel from 1 SIR took charge of training the new recruits, setting proper standards for the newly formed Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).
Besides setting standards for the training of new recruits, the men in 1 SIR were also applauded for their bravery when they came forth to participate in the rescue efforts during the collapse of Hotel New World in Singapore on 15 Mar 1986.
Singapore's first batch of recruits.
Soldiers from 1 SIR participated in the rescue operations in the Hotel New World tragedy.
Subsequently, 1 SIR transformed to become the first NS Battalion on 12 Aug 1968 and shifted to Guillemard Camp on 8 Jan 1969, where the unit spent the next 34 years at - raising, training and preparing soldiers to be operationally ready.
Since then, 1 SIR has played an integral role in transforming many newly recruited young men into professionally trained soldiers of the SAF. To recognise the unit's efforts throughout the years, 1 SIR's Regimental Colours were retired and the unit was presented with a new set at its 25th anniversary in 1982. Now situated at Mandai Hill Camp, 1 SIR will always be remembered as the battalion that shaped and transformed the SAF into what we have today!
Here's to many more successful years for 1 SIR!
First and Foremost!
Written by: LCP Toh Yew Siang (Army News), with photos contributed by 1 SIR