Saturday, September 19, 2009

Karu remembers the old British Army Camps

Recently I received an email from a Singaporean who is exactly the same age as I. Like me, Karu sat for his Senior Cambridge Exams (that’s today’s O levels) in 1968 but his career took a very different path. He joined the British army at the tender age of 17.

So thanks to Karu, you will be able to learn a bit about Singapore’s history that not many of us know about; the British army camps. I certainly don’t. The only two British army camps that I know about are Gillman Barracks and Selarang Barracks. Sadly, most of the places that Karu mentions are no longer around.


Dear Mr. Lam,
Good Morning! My name is Karu. I read some of your articles about Singapore's past. I am especially very interested in the articles about the British Army in the 1960s.
After my Senior Cambridge examinations in the 1968, I joined the Army Depot Police, which was one of the 3 locally enlisted auxiliary police units of the British Army. My unit was based at the 3 Base Ordnance Depot off the Alexandra Road. We were guarding the British Land Installations at BOD, Ayer Rajah, Singapore District Areas, the Phoenix Park and the C IN C (Commander-in-Chief) Residence. This is where my love for the British Army grew.

Army Depot Police passing parade

I am particularly very interested in the other Auxiliary Police Units of the British Army, mainly the Naval Police Force and the RAF Police Auxiliaries. Another unit which I am interested in is the SINGAPORE GUARD REGIMENT, of which the locally enlisted personnel were MORs (Malay Other Ranks) and their Officers were British Army Officers. Although I have seen this unit personnel in my course of duty, I did not try to find out more about them. After many years, quite recently, I came to know that their HQs was at Colombo Camp. I believe it is somewhere in the Ulu Pandan Area. I am trying to locate this Colombo Camp. I still remember members of this Unit wearing the Scarlet Songkok and outstanding "Lion" cap badge.

Before the British pulled out in 1971, I started a hobby. I started collecting their cap badges. I manage to collect some of their cap badges. This interest in still growing and now I have about 300 cap badges of various army units.

I am also very interested in any photos of the British Army. Places like the 3 Base Ordnance Depot, The Gloucester Barracks, The Slim Barracks and any other photos.

I hope that I am not making you bored with my olden day stories. Nice reading your articles, and make the photos BIG, especially the 5 Gurkha Dog Units photos, because I am very interested,

Thanks and regards

Karunakaran N K P.

Next: Karu sheds some light on the Ammo dump in Depot Road


peter said...

3 BOD is now partially occupied by Hewlett-Packard factory

Icemoon said...

> I came to know that their HQs was at Colombo Camp. I believe it is somewhere in the Ulu Pandan Area. I am trying to locate this Colombo Camp.

See if you can figure out the location from Peter's article on Ulu Pandan.

Icemoon said...

The passing parade photo is interesting. Is that Hormat Senjatat? What weapon is that? I'm wondering where did all the SAF drills come from?

I think SAR-21 has no special Hormat drill, don't remember slapping the handguard, lol.

I wonder how American GIs do Hormat drill with their M16 ..

Tom said...

Tom said...
Icemoon , looking at the photo the Rifles the Platoon are using, look like the British army standard Rifle , at that time was the 7.62mm. selfe loading Rifle (SLR),the magazine held 20, 7.62mm rounds, and the rifle drill, I think they where doing at their passing out parade, was a Royal salute.

Lam Chun See said...

Tom. For your information, in the SAF, the drill commands are all in Malay. So the Royal salute is Hormat Senjata.

You are probably right that the rifle is an SLR. Although I have not handled one before, I was told during my recruit days that the army previously used the SLR. In teaching us about the AR-15, the instructors would like to make comparisons like how much heavier the SLR was, how strong the recoil was - to the extent that the wooden butt would cause bruises on their shoulders.

Unknown said...

Tom said...
Chun See, I was looking through web and found a write up about the AR-15 rifle, I notice It has a very short barrel, and I believe it is a very light weapon? Chun See the S.L.R. Rifle is heavy, it weighs eleven and a half pounds with a full magazine on,and the reason why soldiers, did get bruises to their face and shoulder its is because they did not keep the weapon tight in to their shoulder, if you keep it in tight you did not feel the recoil and you did not get bruised.

Name Badges said...

Your article is very nice. I saw your interest and your collection specially for photos and name badges.

Redstorm said...

Regarding icemoon query on the location of Colombo Camp, the road leading to the camp was known as Jalan Cooper and it is along the present day running track besides the canal (Clementi side). I was a regular from 1974 onwards serving in Mowbray Camp and we had to report sick at Colombo Camp. The son of our first president, Yusof Ishak, happened to the medical officer there when I saw him to remove a fish bone stuck in my throat.

Lam Chun See said...

Redstorm. I checked both my 1963 and 1981 street directories but there is no mention of Jalan Cooper.

Unknown said...

I'm joining in here rather late, Im sorry. The weapons in the picture are the 7.62SLR, and the recruits are performing the Present Arms,the correct way to show a sign of respect whilst carrying a weapon. Although much heavier than its successors, it was a very accurate weapon with a great stopping power.When you shot someone with this weapon it invariably killed them. This is often not the case with the lighter shorter barrelled weapons that succeeded the SLR.It was a sturdy rifle, not prone to stoppages and it was a sad day when it was replaced in the British Army with the inferior SA80

My father Lt. Colonel Don Fifield was a senior RAOC officer at 3 BOD until the British Army withdrawal from Singapore, and my father-in- law, Brigadier Freddie Goodwin, was the Commander. We all lived in Alexandra Park and we had previously lived in Medway Park.. I went to school at St Johns school in Dover Road.

Lam Chun See said...

I received this comment via email from Terry (Australie)

The SLR was about 10 lbs with a full magazine and if you held it correctly [tucked into your shoulder] there would be a recoil of about the same force as the old Lee Enfield 303 - that, perhaps, his grandfather was familiar with. The SLR was a great weapon - just a bit heavy, I think. Oh yes - and when presenting arms for a parade -we used to insert a coin in the stock so that we got a great wood smacking sound when we did the movements hahaha.

KARUNYAS said...

Thank-you very much for your comments and guessing the Rifle used in the Passing-out Parade of the recruits of the ARMY DEPOT POLICE at HQ, ARMY DEPOT POLICE, DEPOT ROAD (1969).
The rifle used is the FABRIQUE NATIONALE or FN for short. It is a belgian made rifle. It looks very much like the SLR, but has a shorter muzzle.
The command "Present Arms" was given in English by Coporal Salleh, who could not be seen in the photo posted then. I will try to post the photo in full and include the insignias of the ARMY DEPOT POLICE in the next posting.
Thanks and regards

Lye Khuen Way said...

Some notes on the SLR used by the British.
It was meant for single shot unlike t original FN which could go semi-auto like the M16 or AR15.
Had the honour of using them in my School Cadet Days as SJI Cadet Corps was "affiliated " with the 24th Squadron 32 Royal Corps of Transports if I remembered correctly.

Even had the chance to fire the Bren Gun using the 7.62 & the Sterling sub-machine gun & the 9mm Automatic pistol.
More interesting is that most instances, the British Warrant Officer was the one teaching us from scratch at the range just before we let go. (fire off )

Boy, oh boy! Compare that with the Technical Handling & test before you fire your first round using the M16.

Of course, for those who had in earlier Army Open Houses, found that they do let Ah Mahs & kids use the SA21 & M16 it may nit be that alarming.

Anonymous said...

If any one who is from the British Army unit or is a family member, you can join the MEBA (Malaysian Ex-British Army Association facebook group. Check this link:


Unknown said...

Good day to all,

I am a resident of Queenstown, Singapore for 50 years since I was born.

Appreciate it if anyone could kindly point out the exact location of Buller Camp
(it was removed before 1956 to make way for roads and SIT housing flats.

Thanks in advance


Lam Chun See said...

Hi Des Teo. According to my 1963 street directory, there is a Buller Terrace just next to the Alexandra Rd, between Forfar House and the present Dawson Place shopping centre. I guess Buller Camp shd be there.

Pete the Pom said...

I was a REME Armourer in Malaya at the time and the rifles used my the Army Depot Police were the older No4 and shorter No5 rifles that we regularly used to call-in and maintain.

They were all in good condition of course and the same rifles were also in use by the Royal Navy and RAF up until we left. The RAF also used Sten guns while the Navy had a heavy sub machine gun called the Lanchester