Britain Announced The Withdraw Of Their Troops From Singapore
#OnThisDay in 1967, Britain announced the withdrawal of their troops from Singapore by the mid-1970s. Six months later, the deadline was brought forward to 1971, as Britain announced a total withdrawal “East of Suez”. At the time, there were 30,000 British troops stationed in Singapore — Britain’s second largest deployment after its NATO commitments. However, as it was becoming too expensive for Britain to continue spending £70 million a year to maintain military bases in Singapore, they decided to reduce defence spending and send troops home.
The withdrawal of British forces came as a shock, and presented grave problems to Singapore’s defence and security. We were, at the time, relying heavily on British security guarantees, and on British military bases for jobs. We were only beginning to build up our military capabilities, with the first batch of 900 national servicemen just starting training on 17 Aug 1967.
The same day the withdrawal was announced, then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew addressed the first batch of Officer Cadets commissioned from the SAF Training Institute (SAFTI) at the Istana. He reminded the cadets of the need to build a strong security force to allow Singapore to be self-reliant and effective. This will also allow us to become desirable and reliable partners in defence arrangements.
He added, “what we lack in numbers, we will make up for in quality: in the standards of discipline, training, dedication and leadership.” For Singapore, it was “discipline, grit and stamina” that were crucial to our survival.
Even at a time when we were starting out and finding our footing, we held on to our convictions. We believed that with enough grit, Singapore could be defended, even if it seemed unlikely. And that we could rely on ourselves to do so, together.
That has not, and will never, change. #WeAreTotalDefence