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Category: Conflicts/Malaya

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Selarang Barracks, Changi, Singapore

The badge of 28 ANZUK Brigade "Skippy" The badge of the Royal Australian Regiment
In 1969 Selarang Barracks became the home for most of the Australian Army units that would go to help make up ANZUK. This force replaced the old 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade that had been based in Terendak Barracks, Malacca, Malaya ( later Malaysia) for a long period following the Malayan Emergency and through the time of Confrontation with Indonesia. It was made up of Australian, New Zealand and United Kingdom troops, hence ANZUK First Battalion The Royal Australian Regiment (1 RAR) was stationed at Selarang 1969/70. At that time ANZUK Force had not officially started but 28 ANZUK Brigade was in existence. This page is to present the photos taken at the time.

Click on the BUILDING of interest to see an enlargement.

Selarang Barracks, Changi, Singapore, 1968. Set on 400 acres it was the HQ for 1RAR and it's supporting units.

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Headquarters Building. In the main picture this is seen, from the rear, in the centre foreground. In 1969/70 this was HQ for the entire Australian Component (a reinforced Battalion) made up of First Battalion The Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR), 108 Field Battery Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery (RAA). 2 Field Troop Royal Australian Engineers (RAE), 182 Independent Recce Flight, 32 Australian Dental Unit, the Australian Army Force Band and other light aid detachments had offices, hangars and workshops adjacent.

The lower photo is the same building in 2002. It is now HQ for 9th Division of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF)

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge Nee Soon Barracks. Other Australian Units were based at Nee Soon barracks as was Brigade HQ.  Australians were in the minority there as the Brits and Kiwis were based there as well. Aussie Units included 11 Field Ambulance, 1 Division Supply and Transport Workshops and 28 Brigade Provost Unit. Note the similarity of architecture between Nee Soon and Selarang. Note also that Nee Soon had two Regimental Parade Grounds (Punjab Square and Meerut Square).
Click to enlarge Barracks 1, 2 & 3 at Selarang. Looking from the HQ Building they were on the left. The nearest was 108 Fd Bty RAA and then Admin Coy and A Coy barracks. On the main photo above they are on the left. The smaller building  on the right hand side ( centre rear of the main photo) is the Other Ranks Mess Hall (kitchen and dining room)
Click to enlarge Selarang Barracks ORs quarters. This shows the amount of space allocated to each man in the Australian lines. Australians were lodged 6 men to a room. The Brits were 12 to a room. Approx 800 men were at Selarang in 1969. There were 15,000 there in 1942 during the "Selarang Incident"
Click to enlarge Barracks 4, 5, & 6 at Selarang. These barracks were home to B Coy (left of photo) C, and D Companies. Support Company (Building 7 is out of shot to the right). On the main photo they are on the right.
Click to enlarge HQ building for 108 Field Battery RAA. This building was the operational office for the artillery unit that supported 1RAR.
Click to enlarge Regimental Aid Post (RAP). The medical centre for persons on base. staffed by an RAAMC Doctor, a Sergeant from the Royal Australian Army Medial Corps (RAAMC) and several Stretcher Bearers (now called Combat Medics) who were trained riflemen with a sideline in matters medical
Click to enlarge The NAAFI Store. NAAFI (Navy, Army Air Force Institute) was/is an organisation that provides shops and canteens for the British Armed Forces. The Australian equivalent was ASCO (the Australian Services Canteens Organisation). As NAAFI was so well established in Malaysia/Singapore ASCO decided to leave it to them. This building was a self service grocery and convenience store inside the barracks perimeter.
Click to enlarge Married Quarters. Most married soldiers and their families lived off base due to a shortage of married quarters. Those that lived on base had quarters like these.
Click to enlarge The Main Gate. Selarang Barracks is on the main road from Singapore City to Changi Village. It is 7 miles to the City and 2 miles to Changi Village. Changi is on the eastern end of Singapore and is both a township and a locality name. It is also the site of the International Airport.

Major buildings not photographed. Officers Mess, Sergeants Mess, ORs Canteen.

 History of Selarang Barracks

Pre-World War II

When British surveyor, General Gillman, first inspected Changi district in 1927, the vicinity consisted of little more than mangrove swamp and virgin forest, with the exception of a police station at the mouth of Changi River and a small Malay village nearby. However, the Changi Peninsula's strategic importance in controlling the eastern approaches to the Johor Straits soon became apparent to the Colonial Government. Therefore, within the next 15 years, extensive development was done to transform Changi into a formidable military base.

Work on Selarang Barracks began in 1936 and the whole complex was completed in 1938. A battalion of Gordon Highlanders immediately occupied Selarang Barracks.

World War II

During the Japanese occupation from February 1942 to August 1945, Selarang Barracks became a prisoner-of-war camp. Initially housing Australian POWs, Selarang Barracks came into prominence as a result of a remarkable chain of events in September 1942, known as the "Selarang Barracks Square Incident''. Four young soldiers (Cpl. Rodney Breavington, Pte. Victor Gale, Pte. Harold Waters and Pte. Eric Fletcher) who tried to escape from prison were recaptured.

As a result, the Japanese wanted the POWs to sign a document promising not to escape under any circumstances. This was against the Geneva Convention on POWs which permitted opportunities of escape. When the POWs refused, the Japanese crammed 15,400 men, including those brought over from Changi, into the barracks which was meant for only 1,200 men. The square was crowded with makeshift tents as men spilled out from the buildings.

There were no toilet facilities although each barracks building had about four to six toilets, which were flushed from small cisterns on the roofs. The Japanese, however, cut the water off and these toilets could not be used. The Japanese only allowed one tap to be used and prisoners had to line up in the early hours of the morning and that queue would go on all day. Each man was allowed one quart of water for drinking, washing and everything else.

To force the POWs to sign, the Japanese had the four soldiers shot on Changi beach on 2 September 1942 with senior POW officers watching. With the desperate food and sanitary conditions getting worse daily, and the threat of an epidemic breaking out in the overcrowded camp, the men were persuaded by their officers to sign the document to prevent any more unnecessary deaths. The signing took place on 5 September and after that the prisoners returned to their original barracks.

Post-World War II

At the end of WWII and the return of colonial rule to Singapore in 1945, Selarang Barracks once again became the home of the colonial peace-keeping forces. This arrangement continued until 1 October 1971, when the 6th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (6 RAR) officially handed over the camp to the SAF. 42 SAR became the camp's tenants until March 1984 when the 9th Division took over Selarang.

Changing Commitments 1971-77

In 1967, the United Kingdom had announced that half of its forces in Malaysia and Singapore would be withdrawn by 1971 and the remainder within five years. In 1971 a new defence agreement, the Five Power Defence Arrangement (FDPA), was negotiated to provide for consultation regarding a response to any threats or external attacks on Malaysia and Singapore. This involved the formation of an ANZUK force, the ANZUK Brigade Group which was based in Singapore. This force included an RAR battalion with a supporting field battery (originally, in 1955, components of the BCFESR 28 Commonwealth Brigade) and other elements. The ANZUK force was disbanded in 1975 when first the Australian and then the British Governments decided to withdraw their ground forces.

With the election in December 1972 of a new Labor government under Gough Whitlam, the completion of the withdrawal from Vietnam and the ending of the National Service scheme were immediately effected . The new Australian defence and military policy was based on a withdrawal from the previous policy of 'forward defence' and the lack of a credible short-term threat to Australia's security. A further significant change in defence commitments occurred in 1976 when the last SEATO exercise was held and the organisation formally disbanded in June 1977.

In 1972, following a major review, the Government agreed to a complete reorganisation of the Army on functional lines. This involved disbanding the geographical commands and creating Field Force, Logistic and Training Commands, leaving smaller geographically-based military districts with primarily supporting administrative roles.

In anticipation of Papua New Guinea independence, the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) was established in 1973, based largely on the battalions of the Pacific Islands Regiment. With independence, an Australian Defence Advisory Group (ADAG), primarily manned by the Australian Army, was located at Port Moresby to assist in the development of the PNGDF.

In 1974, the report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Citizen Military Forces (The Millar Report) was published. In the years following the re-formation of the Citizen Military Forces (CMF) in 1948, it had suffered a number of setbacks through the impact on volunteers of the two National Service schemes and the Pentropic Reorganisation. The Millar Committee had been commissioned in 1973 as a result of perceptions of lack of role, poor morale and organisational problems. A change in title to 'Army Reserve', major reorganisation affecting the status of the two infantry divisions, amalgamation of understrength units, improved conditions of service and adoption of the 'One Army' concept were among many changes recommended and implemented.

Because of a history of confusion and duplication of effort in the provision of defence force aid to the civil community in time of major disasters, in 1974 the Whitlam Government created the Natural Disasters Organisation (NDO) within the Department of Defence. The NDO was to coordinate defence efforts in supporting the civil defence organisations of the states and territories. The first major Army commitment under the new organisation was to the relief of Darwin following the devastation of Cyclone 'Tracy' in December 1974. Other major commitments have included the 'Ash Wednesday' bushfires of 1983 and the Newcastle earthquake in 1989. Less spectacular assistance is usually provided for ‘normal’ disasters such as flood relief, locust plagues, and bushfires, together with the provision of emergency shelter, evacuation of medical emergency cases and making dangerous ordnance safe.

In 1975 the Defence Force Reorganisation Act was passed. It abolished the three service boards, designating the three service chiefs of staff as the professional heads of their services with full powers of command under higher defence direction. The position of Chief of the Defence Force Staff (CDFS) became the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) in 1986 and was created to command the Defence Force and act as the principal military adviser to the Government. Meanwhile the reorganisation of the Defence group of departments (Defence, Navy, Army, Air Force and Supply), combining all five within an enlarged Department of Defence, was completed.


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