Heritage marker at Singapore's first NS camp
More than 500 residents, army personnel and pioneer National Servicemen (NSmen) gathered at Taman Jurong Greens yesterday to commemorate the unveiling of a heritage marker there.
It was the same site where the first batch of NSmen enlisted 50 years ago.
Now a neighbourhood park, it used to be the former Taman Jurong Camp, which consisted of several five-storey one-room flats originally owned by the Jurong Town Corporation. They were then converted into a military barracks.
On Aug 17, 1967, the pioneer batch of 900 NSmen were conscripted into the army there and joined the 3rd and 4th Singapore Infantry Regiment. A few months later in February 1968, Singapore's first intake of artillery NSmen were conscripted there too.
Speaking at the Taman Jurong National Day Observance Ceremony, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said: "We are placing a heritage marker here today as a way to honour our pioneer NSmen and to remember their stories of duty and sacrifice, of hardship and friendship, on this field."
Also present were the Singapore Armed Forces' Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Perry Lim and Chief of Army Major-General Melvyn Ong.
Several NSmen from the pioneer batch, such as Mr Zanal Saleh, 68, remembered receiving the call to enlist just two-months into his job as a teacher.
Mr Zainal, who is still a teacher, said: "We had no idea what to expect but many memories were made here and it was because everyone went through everything together, we got through it."
Another pioneer NSman, Mr Albel Singh, 68, signed on after completing NS and retired as a Lieutenant-Colonel.
He said the humble beginnings of NS helped Singapore achieve today's sophisticated defence force.
"Back then, we did not have much. It was limited and we had very little equipment. But we knew we had to keep on getting better," he said.
"I'm proud to have been one of the first to serve NS."