Changes of Dakota 3 – Guillemard Camp Walks into History

Guillemard Camp was built in 1969 by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), two years after the establishment of National Service (NS). It was therefore one of the oldest SAF camps, excluding those pre-war British barracks which SAF took over in the early seventies.

Guillemard Camp was named after Guillemard Road, which in turn was named after Sir Laurence Nunns Guillemard (1862-1951), the 18th Governor of the Straits Settlements between 1920 and 1927.

Guillemard Camp was home to the 1st Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment (1 SIR) for more than three decades from 1969 to 2003. 1 SIR was formed in 1957 as Singapore’s first infantry battalion. With the first batch of 237 enlistees, the unit was established as Singapore was vying for self governance from the British. 1 SIR was initially housed at Ulu Pandan Camp in 1959.

During the merger with Malaysia between 1963 and 1965, 1 SIR was renamed 1st Battalion, Malaysian Infantry Regiment (1 MIR) under the command of the 4th Malaysian Infantry Brigade. It was deployed in the midst of the 1964 racial riots and also during the Konfrontasi Period, where the men were sent to patrol and defend Johor and Sabah from the Indonesian saboteurs.

When Singapore gained independence in 1965, 1 MIR was reverted to 1 SIR, and came under the newly formed SAF in 1967. A year later, it was transformed into SAF’s first full-time NS battalion and shifted from Ulu Pandan Camp to Taman Jurong Camp. In 1969, it moved to the new Guillemard Camp where it stayed for 34 years until its eventual relocation to Mandai Hill Camp in 2003.

Some significant milestones of 1 SIR include its introduction of a new set of Regimental Colours (1982), unveiling of its new Leopard emblem (1986) and participating in the search and rescue effort for the Hotel New World disaster (1986).

The first event for the national servicemen of Guillemard Camp was their participation of the SAF Day parade on 1 July 1969. Along with units from other SAF camps and also the Singapore Police Force, more than 1,200 soldiers and policemen displayed the “fighting fitness” of the armed forces in front of a 7,000-strong crowd at the Jalan Besar Stadium. This was followed by an open house at Guillemard Camp on 2 July 1969.

In the following year, in 1970, Guillemard Camp was chosen as one of the venues for the SAF Day celebrations and parades. The SAF slogan that year was “Forces for Unity”, emphasising how SAF reflected the multi-racial character of Singapore.

Due to its close proximity to the flats and schools, camp tours were often organised at Guillemard Camp in the seventies and eighties for the public to understand more about army life. The nearby residents had also gotten used to the training noises and military trucks coming out from the camp.

Guillemard Camp also made contributions to the community by helping out in gotong royong (communal work) activities. For example, in 1969, its national servicemen, along with several companies of troops from other camps, were activated in the Operation Clean-Up to clear the large amount of debris left behind by floods or choked in the drains.

In the seventies, Guillemard Camp was regularly used for passing-out parades for the Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) and National Cadet Corps (NCC).

One of the most memorable events for the soldiers of Guillemard Camp occurred in 1975, when SAF was leading an operation to control the influx of Vietnamese refugees entering Singapore. Many refugees had to be placed at several temporary locations in Singapore before they were sent to other countries such as the United States and Australia. About 100 orphans were temporarily housed at Guillemard Camp. Before their departures, the officers and men of the camp threw a party filled with sweets and songs for the delighted children.

Another unforgettable incident was in 1984, when the scouts from 1 SIR were activated and dispatched from Guillemard Camp at midnight to find and rescue lost hikers at the Seletar Reservoir. As many as 37 hikers, some of them kids, were lost and stranded inside the thick forest. It took almost one-and-a-half hour for the Bravo company’s scouts to locate them.

By the nineties, there were plans to redevelop the site of Guillemard Camp for residential purposes. After 1 SIR moved out in 2003, the camp premises was left vacant for a period of time.

In 2010, it was leased to the Bengali Association of Singapore for their Durga Puja festival event, where former Singapore President S.R. Nathan was invited as the guest-of-honour. As recent as 2020, the camp was converted into a Community Recovery Facility for foreign workers recovering from Covid-19.

Finally, in 2021, an open tender was issued for the demolition of Guillemard Camp. The demolition project is expected to commence by the end of January 2022 and complete by August.

The Dakota Crescent area has seen tremendous changes in recent years. The buildings of two former neighbourhood schools Broadrick Secondary School and Maju Secondary School (built in 1968) were torn down in 2016. Then in 2020, the old Dakota Crescent Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) flats (built in 1958) made way for development of new public housing.

With Guillemard Camp expected to be gone soon, the Old Airport Road Food Centre (built in 1972) will be one of the remaining older buildings in the vicinity.

Also read:

Changes of Dakota – Demolition of Former Broadrick and Maju Secondary Schools (2016)

Changes of Dakota 2 – Bidding Farewell to Dakota Crescent Flats (2020)

Published: 28 January 2022

Updated: 30 January 2022

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8 Responses to Changes of Dakota 3 – Guillemard Camp Walks into History

  1. Thai Fook says:

    I don’t where is the place !

  2. ninein40 says:

    1 SIR was NOT the unit that took in the first batch of National Servicemen on 17 August 1967. That honour belonged to 3 SIR & 4SIR, which had its barracks in Taman Jurong using as the completed but yet unoccupied housing units there. 1 SIR only became a full-time NS battalion in 1969 after moving into the newly completed Guillemard Camp that was situated between Guillemard Road and Dunman Road in the east. Taman Jurong Camp incidentally also housed the artillery battalion of 20 SAB which took in its first batch of NS men in February 1968. 1 SIR had NEVER at any point of time moved into Taman Jurong Camp.

  3. ninein40 says:

    That means that 1SIR was in Taman Jurong Camp for less than 5 months.

  4. 1 SIR old boy says:

    I was from 1SIR 8th Mono Intake. Charlie Coy. Life was different when your BMT was on mainland Singapore. I only experienced the ferry ride to Tekong after being posted out to the Signal Brigade HQ2SIB (in Changi area then).

    Having to see the camp sometimes when we pass the place brings back memories; this was after all the place where we grow up. I remember the helicopter near Alpha block and the ammo dump which was also near the starting point of our dreaded SOC. I knew the camp throughly, having had the ‘privilege’ to do guard duties.

    It’s nice to be able to point to the building to my children and say “this is daddy’s NS camp”.

  5. ninein40 says:

    Guillemard Camp was the second purpose-built SAF military camp after Bedok Camp, which was the first to be built ad completed for occupation in August 1968 to house 2 battalions of the SIRs, 3 & 4 SIRs.

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