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
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
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
Faizah bte Zakaria & Joanna HS Tan
1. Armed Forces. NCO Club, Singapore, Annual Report 1975/1976 (Singapore: Armed Forces, NCO Club, 1976). (Call no. RCLOS 367.95957 SAFNCO-[AR])
2. Conservation: Former Beach Road Camp (includes Former SAF NCO Club Building and Former Beach Road Police Station), Urban Redevelopment Authority, accessed 21 June 2016.
3. “Fourteen Months to Make This Christmas Gift,” Singapore Free Press, 17 December 1952, 6 (From NewspaperSG); SAF Warrant Officers and Specialists Club, The Chevrons: Forging Closer Ties (Singapore: SAF Warrant Officers and Specialists Club, 2002), 7. (Call no. RSING 355.346095957 CHE)
4. Urban Redevelopment Authority, “Former Beach Road Camp.”
5. “Fourteen Months to Make This Christmas Gift.”
6. Roger Yue, “It’s One of the Nicest Clubs in the East,” Singapore Free Press, 17 December 1952, 2; “Future of Closed Down Britannia Club Being Discussed,” Straits Times, 29 October 1971, 10; “N.A.A.F.I. Builds a New Club,” Singapore Free Press, 24 April 1951, 1; “Govt. Offices to Face the Sea,” Singapore Free Press, 22 December 1952, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
7. “Govt. Offices to Face the Sea.”
8. Urban Redevelopment Authority, “Former Beach Road Camp.”
9. “Gen. Dunlop to Lay Foundation Stone of New NAAFI Club,” Straits Times, 25 April 1951, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
10. “Fourteen Months to Make This Christmas Gift.”
11. “Greetings from the C.-in-Cs,” Singapore Free Press, 17 December 1952, 1; “Christmas Gift to the Forces,” Singapore Free Press, 17 December 1952, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
12. Roger Yue, “Million Dollar Club House to Open Today,” Singapore Free Press, 17 December 1952, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
13. Yue, “It’s One of the Nicest Clubs”; “Christmas Gift to the Forces.”
14. “Christmas Gift to the Forces.”
15. “Future of Closed Down Britannia Club”; “U.S. Navy Ship on Visit to S’pore,” Straits Times, 3 July 1962, 4; “Britannia Club Wrecked By Fights? Rubbish,” Straits Times, 14 March 1956, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
16. “Britannia Club Wrecked By Fights?”; Elizabeth Scott-Moncrieff, “The Servicemen at Raffles Hotel,” Straits Times, 10 April 1954, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
17. “Gillon Said: ‘I Did It’ – Officer,” Straits Times, 30 September 1953, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
18. “Servicemen in S’pore Prefers Soft Drinks to Beer,” Singapore Free Press, 5 July 1958, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
19. “Future of Closed Down Britannia Club.”
20. Chin Uein Wan and Joey Yeo, eds., The Chevrons Celebrates: Our Journey, Our Vision (Singapore: The SAF Warrant Officers and Specialists Club, 2015), 9.
21. “Britannia Club for Public Use,” New Nation, 28 April 1973, 6; “HDB to Give Reservists Preference,” Straits Times, 18 March 1974, 17. (From NewspaperSG)
22. Armed Forces. NCO Club, Singapore, Annual Report 1975/1976.
23. Armed Forces. NCO Club, Singapore, Annual Report 1975/1976.
24. “Songs from Many Lands,” Straits Times, 14 May 1980, 33. (From NewspaperSG)
25. Armed Forces. NCO Club, Singapore, Annual Report 1975/1976.
26. “SAFE Super Mart Opens Its Doors,” Straits Times, 20 December 1973, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
27. Chin and Yeo, Chevrons Celebrates, 15.
28. SAF Warrant Officers and Specialists Club, Forging Closer Ties, 7.
29. Evelyn Yap, “Not Quite the Golden Mile But There’s Hope,” Straits Times, 14 April 1996, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
30. Marissa Chew, “Beach Rd Camp Shift Frees Up 3.3. Ha Site,” Business Times, 1 March 2000, 11. (From NewspaperSG)
31. Chin and Yeo, Chevrons Celebrates, 18.
32. “DPM Tan Stresses Need to Maintain Harmony,” Straits Times, 9 February 2002, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
33. “Singapore Gets 1.12 Billion ‘South Beach’,” Agence France Press, 11 September 2007 (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website); Gong Huiting é¾æ §å©·, “Chengshi fazhan caituan jin 17 yi biao huo mei zhi lu ju fu diduan” åå¸åå±è´¢å¢è¿17äº¿æ è·ç¾èè·¯å·¨å¹ å°æ®µ [City Developments Ltd successfully bidded the land along Beach Road for nearly 1.7 billion], Lianhe Zaobao èåæ©æ¥, 11 September 2007, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
34. G. Warden, “CDL Takes on Mega Project, Analysts Say Asset Sales Could Follow,” Edge Singapore, 17 September 2007. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
35. Kalpana Rashiwala, “Changes for South Beach Group?” Business Times, 10 February 2011, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
36. Natasha Ann Zachariah, “South Beach Chic for Former NCO Club,” Straits Times, 21 November 2015, 4–5. (From NewspaperSG)
37. Urban Redevelopment Authority, “Former Beach Road Camp.”
38. “Fourteen Months to Make This Christmas Gift.”
39. Yue, “Million Dollar Club House to Open Today.”
40. “All Out By 1971,” Straits Times, 17 January 1968, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
41. “Future of Closed Down Britannia Club.”
42. “HDB to Give Reservists Preference,” Straits Times, 18 March 1974, 17. (From NewspaperSG)
43. Chin and Yeo, Chevrons Celebrates, 15.
44. Chin and Yeo, Chevrons Celebrates, 18.
45. “DPM Tan Stresses Need to Maintain Harmony.”
46. Zachariah, “South Beach Chic for Former NCO Club.”
The information in this article is valid as of 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.
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