Seeking Stories of the British Bases and Military Withdrawal

Dear fellow Singaporeans

I am a Singaporean historian looking to speak to people who remember the British bases and their withdrawal in the early 1970s. The withdrawal was the first major crisis independent Singapore faced. The 56 bases, contributing a fifth of the country’s GDP, were its largest industry, and the pullout threatened the livelihood of one-sixth of the labour force, including an estimated 8,000 amahs.

The pullout also transformed the economy, society and landscape of Singapore in the 1970s. Most of the bases were converted to commercial use, while many base workers underwent a 3-month retraining crash course. Technical and vocational education also expanded, as new laws sought to increase labour productivity and attract foreign capital investment.

These developments resonate with us today: the retraining programmes, the mobilisation of the young, the philosophy that ‘no one owes Singapore a living’. There is also a forgotten social history to unearth: how retrenched base employees coped with the crisis and how workers adjusted to new work routines.

If you remember the British bases and rundown, or have a family member, relative or friend who does, kindly contact me to lend your voice to an important episode of our national story.

Please pass this message along to those who might be interested.

Thank you.

Loh Kah Seng (Dr)

Visiting Research Fellow

Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore


Mobile: +65 81981172



Filed under British withdrawal, memory, singapore

4 responses to “Seeking Stories of the British Bases and Military Withdrawal

  1. Pingback: The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Daily SG: 16 Nov 2009

  2. V Paul Steve

    As a Singaporean, I was employed as a soldier in the Royal Signals (18th Signals Regiment & 19 Signals Regiment) in Singapore from June 1967 to Nov 1971. I was one of the last few to stay back till they cleared, and I had the opportunity to follow them but I declined on family grounds and the opportunity to continue my service with the Singapore Armed Forces. I was enlisted again on 06 Dec 71 till I retired in 01 May 1993.

  3. pathslks

    Hi Mr Paul Steve, can you email me?

  4. hiya Loh.I was in Singapore in the 1960,s upto 1971based in the naval base (sembawang) and as a teenager did most of my education in Sigapore.If you have a look at the web site it may give you some insight into that aspect of Brits in Singapore.I have just returned this March from Singapore after being away for forty years and I think singapore has turned into a fantastic city and I can,t wait to go back .I do hope this is of some help to you in your research.Regards Paul

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