DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam at Placing of Heritage Marker for the First NS Camp in Singapore and the Taman Jurong National Day Observance Ceremony

DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam | 6 August 2017

Speech by DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam at Placing of Heritage Marker for the First NS Camp in Singapore and the Taman Jurong National Day Observance Ceremony on 6 August 2017.

In three days’ time, we will be celebrating our nation’s 52nd birthday.
This time it has added meaning, because we also commemorate 50 years of National Service. I am happy to see that many of our pioneer NSmen have joined us today. Here in this neighbourhood park, at the very site of the old Taman Jurong Camp, where NS began in Singapore. 
The Beginnings of the NS Journey
The Taman Jurong Camp played a special role in the NS Journey. The story began with the People’s Defence Force, that was formed here at Taman Jurong in 1966.  Volunteers in the Force were trained here on weekends.
It was a challenge to attract volunteers for the military. To spread the message that the defence of our fledgling nation was everyone’s responsibility, many community leaders and MPs led by example and volunteered in the People’ Defence Force. They included our first Minister for the Interior and Defence, Dr Goh Keng Swee.   
What started here as a voluntary force became National Service a year later.  Taman Jurong Camp was where, on 17th August 1967, the first 900 Singaporeans were conscripted into NS in the Army, and joined the 3rd and 4th Singapore Infantry Regiments here.
Young men, different races, different social backgrounds, thrown together. And emerging two years later, melded together, and ready to defend their country. 
The first intake of Artillery NSmen were also conscripted here in Taman Jurong Camp, in February 1968. Singapore’s First Artillery Battalion was formed in Taman Jurong Camp.
But Taman Jurong Camp was also part of what people remember of the old Taman Jurong neighbourhood itself. Our more senior residents remember many things about the Camp. 
The way several five-storey blocks of 1-room flats built by JTC were converted in great hurry into military barracks, to be ready for the start of National Service. 
And they remember most of all the NSmen themselves 
- taking the path down to the old hawker centres in Taman Jurong whenever they could. 
- Or waiting at the bus-stops, tired but proud to be in uniform. Waiting for the buses that take them on the long journey home when they were not on duty. Like Bus Nos 10, 30 and 42 to the East, or No 157 to Toa Payoh, or No 154 which in those days went to Macpherson and which still runs faithfully through Taman Jurong today.
But the deepest memories are with the pioneering NSmen themselves. Many are with us today, and we just heard some of your stories. We will record all your memories, for the benefit of Singaporeans today and tomorrow. 
Several of the pioneer NSmen in fact live in Taman Jurong.  Thank you all, for honouring us with your presence. Thanks also to Maurice Alphonso and others who called up their NS mates in the pioneer batch in Taman Jurong to tell them about today’s commemoration.  
Honouring our Pioneer NSmen
Singapore has become a strong and respected nation because each new generation has stood on the shoulders of previous generations.
Today, we have peace, prosperity and a well-respected defence force because of the dedication of generations of NSmen. And we have melded together as a people, in no small part too because of NS -  the boys toughing it out together, and their families too going through the sacrifice of NS together as citizens. 
We owe it most to the brave, pioneer batch of NSmen and their officers, and their families who supported them as they began a new journey for Singapore. As Mr Lim Kim San, who became Minister for the Interior and Defence after Dr Goh, said to our pioneer NSmen during their Passing Out Parade at Taman Jurong on 2nd March 1968: “You are the pioneers in a new field and pioneers in a most honourable way of serving the country”.
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.
Thank you for the journey you began for the rest of us. A journey that progresses, from each generation to the next, building strength upon strength, moving ahead as Singaporeans. 
Once again, a Happy National Day to everyone!