Beach Road Camp

Singapore Infopedia


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, and later doubled up as the headquarters of the Singapore Military Forces (SMF), which was set up in 1954.After Singapore became an independent nation, some of the country's first military units were based here.The camp was closed in 2000, and its three buildings (blocks 1, 9 and 14) were gazetted for conservation in 2002.3

The Beach Road camp was originally sited on reclaimed land next to the sea.Additional land reclamation has since extended the coastline much farther out.5 Completed in October 1932, the main building featured the art deco architectural style that was popular during the period.6 It housed the overall headquarters of the SVC, but was popularly referred to simply as the drill hall.Located on the first floor, the drill hall has a column-free barrel-vault design that is considered rare today.8 

From the outside, the building is easily distinguished from the other blocks by its long, vertical ornamental window.9 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.10 The volunteers were also involved in other significant events in Singapore’s history, such as the quelling of the Sepoy Mutiny in 1915, and the defence of Singapore during the Indonesian Confrontation of the 1960s.11 Hence the former Beach Road premise is considered to hold historical significance.12

In 1907, the Beach Road camp building constructed of wooden panels was completed to serve as the headquarters of the SVC’s Chinese unit.13 In 1930, Major-General H. L. Pritchard, the General Officer Commanding, Malaya, approved plans for the rebuilding of the SVC’s premises at Beach Road.14 The SVC headquarters, which was built in 1891 at Fort Fullerton (the site of Fullerton Building today), was to be shifted to Beach Road.15 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, and officially opened it on 4 March 1933.16 It became the new headquarters of the SVC as well as the headquarters of the Straits Settlement Volunteer Force (SSVF), under which the SVC had been subsumed since 1922.17 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.18

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.19 The new laws were known as the Federation Regiment Bill and the National Service Bill, respectively.20 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.21 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 policy and as a training camp for the national servicemen.22

The passing-out parade of the first batch of 400 national servicemen was held here on 15 December 1954.23 Singapore’s first infantry regiment made up of professional regulars was officially born at the SVC drill hall, where the first 22 privates of the 1st Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment were sworn in on 12 March 1957.24

After Singapore gained independence in 1965, the SVC was renamed the People’s Defence Force, while the infantry regiment, with its two battalions at the time, was placed under the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).25 The People’s Defence Force retained its headquarters at the Beach Road camp, which also housed several units of the SAF and was used for military training.26 The first SAF Provost Company (the predecessor of the SAF Military Police Command) was stationed here. The SAF Court-Martial Centre was set up here in 1967.27

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.28 On 18 February 2000, the camp was officially closed.29 Later that year, the land was handed over to the Singapore Land Authority.30

In 2002, 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 a conservation advisory panel for preservation.31 The panel was set up earlier in the year by Urban Redevelopment Authority to guide its efforts to preserve buildings with significant architectural and historical value.32 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 Club.33

Recent uses
On 15 June 2006, the government announced that the former Beach Road camp and the former Non-Commissioned Officers 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.34 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.35 The proposed development was called South Beach.36

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.37

South Beach was completed and opened in phases in 2015, and was then the largest mixed-use development in Singapore, comprising of two towers, four conserved heritage buildings, a hotel designed by famous French designer Phillippe Starck, offices and luxury residences.38 With environmental features such as a canopy holding photovoltaic cells converting solar energy into electricity, the building earned two Green Mark Platinum Awards from the Building Construction Authority.39


Valerie Chew

1. Marissa Chew, “Beach Rd Camp Shift Frees Up 3.3 Ha Site,” Business Times, 1 March 2000, 11 (From NewspaperSG); E. Teo, “Closing of Beach Road Camp,” This Month in History 11, no. 2 (February 2007) (Call no. RSING 355.0095957 TMH); Teo Cheng Wee, “10 Iconic Camps,” Straits Times, 1 July 2007, 111. (From NewspaperSG)

2. Teo, “Closing of Beach Road Camp”; Chew, “Beach Rd Camp Shift.” 
3. Teo, “Closing of Beach Road Camp”; Alicia Yeo, “NSmen's Memories to Be Preserved,” Straits Times, 5 September 2002, 6 (From NewspaperSG); Urban Redevelopment Authority, “URA Launches the Tender for the Commercial Site at Beach Road,” media release, 6 March 2007 (From NLB’s Web Archive); Ang Hwee Suan, “Beach Road's Drill Hall Has Been Conserved,” Straits Times, 19 September 2002, 20. (From NewspaperSG)
4. “New Drill Hall for the S.V.C.,” Straits Times, 9 March 1932, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
5. Ang, “Beach Road's Drill Hall.” 
6. T. M. Winsley, A History of the Singapore Volunteer Corps 1854–1937, Being Also an Historical Outline of Volunteering in Malaya (Singapore: Government Printing Office, 1938), 110 (Call no. RCLOS 355.23 WIN); Yeo, “NSmen's Memories to Be Preserved.”
7. “New Drill Hall for the S.V.C.”; Ang, “Beach Road's Drill Hall.” 
8. Ang, “Beach Road's Drill Hall.” 
9. “New Drill Hall for the S.V.C..”
10. “Blythe Unveils Memorial to S.V.C. Dead,” Straits Times, 22 December 1950, 7 (From NewspaperSG); Ang, “Beach Road's Drill Hall.” 
11. Ang, “Beach Road's Drill Hall”; Martin Choo et al., eds., The Singapore Armed Forces (Singapore: Public Affairs Department, Ministry of Defence, 1981), 35 (Call no. RSING 355.0095957 SIN); Winsley, History of the Singapore Volunteer Corps, 61–71; Choo et al., Singapore Armed Forces, 37.
12. Yeo, “NSmen's Memories to Be Preserved.” 
13. Teo, “Closing of Beach Road Camp”; Choo et al., Singapore Armed Forces, 35; Winsley, History of the Singapore Volunteer Corps, 54.
14. “New Drill Hall for the S.V.C..”
15. “New Drill Hall for the S.V.C.”; Winsley, History of the Singapore Volunteer Corps, 29, 54; Teo, “Closing of Beach Road Camp”.
16. “New Drill Hall for the S.V.C.”; Winsley, History of the Singapore Volunteer Corps, 110;  Winsley, History of the Singapore Volunteer Corps, 111.
17. Teo, “Closing of Beach Road Camp”; Chew, “Beach Rd Camp Shift”;  Choo et al., Singapore Armed Forces, 35; Winsley, History of the Singapore Volunteer Corps, 83.
18. “New Building for Volunteers,” Straits Times, 16 October 1938, 14 (From NewspaperSG); Choo et al., Singapore Armed Forces, 35.
19. “The Call-Up Bill Is Now Law,” Straits Times, 4 July 1952, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
20. “Call-Up Bill Is Now Law”; Choo et al., Singapore Armed Forces, 37.
21. “Our Own Army Now,” Straits Times, 20 November 1953, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
22. “Big Call-Up Begins April 5,” Straits Times, 26 March 1954, 4; “Call-Up Training Starts on July 1,” Straits Times, 3 May 1954, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
23. “After the Parade, a Big Kiss for Pte. Chia,” Straits Times, 16 December 1954, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
24. “Singapore Army Is Born,” Straits Times, 13 March 1957, 4; Chew, “Beach Rd Camp Shift.” 
25. Teo, “10 Iconic Camps”; Choo et al., Singapore Armed Forces, 38.
26. Teo, “Closing of Beach Road Camp.”
27. Ministry of Defence, 40th Anniversary: SAF Military Police Command (Singapore: Ministry of Defence, 2006); Mickey Chiang, SAF and 30 Years of National Service (Singapore: Armour Publishing, 1997), 89 (Call no. RSING 355.22 CHI); Chan Kay Min, “New Home for SAF Courts,” Straits Times, 22 October 2000, 41. (From NewspaperSG)
28. “Govt Unveils Its Plans for Downtown Area,” Straits Times, 13 October 1995, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
29. Teo, “Closing of Beach Road Camp.”
30. Teo, “10 Iconic Camps.”
31. Yeo, “NSmen's Memories to Be Preserved”; Urban Redevelopment Authority, “URA Launches the Tender for the Commercial Site at Beach Road.”
32. Urban Redevelopment Authority, Singapore, “Conserving the Past,” Skyline (2011) (Call no. RSING 354.5957091 S); Yeo, “NSmen’s Memories to Be Preserved.” 
33. Yeo, “NSmen’s Memories to Be Preserved”; Urban Redevelopment Authority, “Former Beach Road Camp.” (From NLB’s Web Archive)
34. Joyce Teo, “Six Hotel Sites Released to Meet Tourism Target,” Straits Times, 16 June 2006, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
35. Joyce Teo, “Eco-friendly Project for Iconic Site in Beach Road,” Straits Times, 11 September 2007, 1 (From NewspaperSG); Urban Redevelopment Authority, “URA Launches the Tender for the Commercial Site.”
36. Teo, “Eco-friendly Project.”
37. Deepika Shetty, “Survivor: Biennale,” Straits Times, 18 September 2008, 51. (From NewspaperSG)
38. Natasha Ann Zachariah, “South Beach Chic,” Straits Times, 21 November 2015, 4–5; Natasha Ann Zachariah, “Mixed Reactions to South Beach,” Straits Times, 28 November 2015, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
39. Natasha Ann Zachariah, “A Green Landmark,” Straits Times, 20 December 2015, 4–5. (From NewspaperSG)



Further resources

Francis Dorai, “Beach Road Camp and the Singapore Volunteer Corps,” BiblioAsia 12, no. 2 (July–September 2016).



The information in this article is valid as of August 2023 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.


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