The 1st Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment (1 SIR) was formed in March 12, 1957 against the backdrop of self-government for Singapore. Recruitment began on March 4, 1957 with only Singapore citizens and persons born and bred in Singapore were recruited. Out of a total of 1,420 applicants, 237 were initially accepted for training. It was intended that 1 SIR together with another battalion would form part of a regiment within a brigade group in the Singapore Military Forces.
Self-government for Singapore in 1959 gave the Ulu Pandan Camp based 1 SIR the opportunity to mount the Istana Guards in place of the Gurkhas, while the battalion was presented with Queen’s and Regimental Colours in 1961. In 1962, the second Singapore Infantry Regiment battalion was raised.
Following the inclusion of Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah, Sarawak into the newly created Malaysian Federation on September 16, 1963, the respective armed forces were amalgamated and integrated into the Malaysian Armed Forces’ structures. North Borneo Constabulary and Sarawak Ranger were combined and became the nucleus of Malaysian Ranger Regiment (now Royal Ranger Regiment). The Singapore Infantry Regiment was renamed the Malaysian Infantry Regiment.
The founding of Malaysian Federation was not without problems. Both of its closest neighbour, the Philippines under President Diasdado Macapagal (the father of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) as well as President Sukarno of Indonesia have strongly object the creation of this new nation. President Sukarno even went too far by labeling Malaysia as a form of neo-colonialism and called for the destruction of Malaysia which he referred to as Ganyang Malaysia.
Just like any other unit in the MAF, both Singaporean battalions were mobilised in the defend of the Federation against the Indonesian forces now mobilised by Sukarno to implement Operasi Dwikora or better known as the Konfrontasi (Confrontation), an undeclared four years conflict between Malaysia, its British Commonwealth allies and the Indonesian regime.
It was not just about the problem caused by the Indonesian that needs to be tackled by this new nation, the resurgence of communist element despite four years respite seems to be another challenge that also need to be quickly addressed. Hence 1SIR (the whole battalion) was moved to Taiping to undergo anti-communist insurgency operations training.
Following the initiation of hostilities by the Indonesian, 1 SIR was posted to Pulau Sebatik in Sabah. Being an island which lies in the middle of the border of Malaysia and Indonesia, this is one of the few place during the conflict where fierce firefights and artillery fire had occurred.
Throughout its deployment to Pulau Sebatik, 1SIR has not suffered any casualties but 2SIR did during the deadly airborne landing conducted by the Indonesian Pasukan Gerak Tjepat (Rapid Deployment Force) in Labis on September 1 and September 2, 1964.
Three Angkatan Udara Republik Indonesia (AURI) Lockheed C-130B Hercules from Jakarta set off towards Peninsular Malaysia along with the cracked team of Indonesian ‘commandos’. While en route over the Straits of Melaka, one of the Hercules had crashed (s/n T-1307 or 1303) presumably being shot down by RAF’s No 64 Sqn’s Javelin FAW Mk 9 fighter flown from RAF Tengah (now Tengah AB). (here)
The rest of the Hercs pressed on and had successfully disembark their respective paratroopers over Labis. The Kota Tinggi police were alerted over the landing and 2 SIR from its Temasek Camp garrison was rushed from Singapore to check and response on the Indonesian intrusion.
A platoon from 2 SIR was sent inside the jungles of Kota Tinggi to look for the 98 strong intruder, now in hiding after they were scattered by tropical storms on the day of their landing. Some of them have landed near to the camp where the 1st Battalion, 10th Gurkha Regiment (1/10 Gurkha) is being based. Along with the the 1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (1 RNZIR) from Fort George (now Terendak Garrison) in Melaka, the 4th Malaysian Infantry Brigade (now 4 Div Inf) conducted mopping up operation to weed out the Indonesian intruders.
Unfortunately though, disaster strike when the intruders had tailed one of the section of the 2SIR’s platoon deployed. They were ambushed in Kota Tinggi, killing 8 of the men. The remains of the fallen were recovered and were brought back to Temasek Camp in Holland Road Camp for the full-military burial.
The one month long mop out operation saw 32 Indonesian paratroopers killed and 62 others captured and surrendered. Beside the heavy casualties suffered by 2SIR, an officer from 1RNZIR was also killed during one of the contacts made with the Indonesians.
Throughout the Konfrontasi, Singapore had suffered 37 bomb attacks mounted by Indonesian saboteurs. One of the raids was the MacDonald House bombing on 10 March 1965 by two intruders from the Korps Komando Angkatan Laut (KKO and later Korps Marinir) which had killed two people and injuring thirty three others. The bombers, Sersan Dua Anumerta (2SG posthumous) KKO Usman Janatin and Kopral Dua Anumerta (2CPL posthumous) KKO Harun Thohir were caught and were subsequently tried and executed.
In 1964, following a racial riot, 1SIR was mobilised to patrol the streets. Following Singapore’s separation from the Malaysian Federation in 1965, the regiment regained its former name. 1SIR was made up of 75% Singaporean and 25% Malaysians while 2SIR was made up of a balance 50-50 ration of Malaysians and Singaporeans during the separation.
The brief period under the MAF control (1963-1965) had produced several notable officers trained in Malaysia which had later rose the rank to become the helms of what is to become today as the Singapore Armed forces (SAF).
LTG Winston Choo was the first Chief of Defence Force of the SAF from 1974 to 1992. He was also an alumni of the prestigious Federation Military College (FMC now Royal Military College-RMC) from 1959 until 1961. Upon completion of his FMC training in Port Dickson, he was a Second Lieutenant in 1SIR where he served as 11th platoon commander of ‘C’ (Charlie) Company. 2LT Choo later saw action in Pulau Sebatik during the Konfrontasi.