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People's Defense Force (PDF)

The purpose of the People's Defense Force (PDF) is to function as an operationally ready and capable force for defending Singapore and inter-operating with other elements of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and Homefront Agencies to counter all security challenges. As of 2005, only one PDF headquarters, 2nd People's Defense Force was operational, also acting as the Island Defense Headquarters (IDHQ) to command, control, and coordinate the defense of Singapore against conventional military attacks, the full spectrum of threats to SAF, various threats to SAF key installation and assigned civilian. The IDHQ would also provide assistance to the Ministry of Home Affairs against transnational terrorist threats and counter-low intensity conflicts.

The People's Defense Force traces its history to 1854, when the Singapore Volunteer Rifle Corps (SVRC) was established by the European civilian community in Singapore to suppress the racial riots among the ethnic Chinese community there. The Singapore Volunteer Rifle Corps was disbanded in 1887, but the Singapore Volunteer Artillery Corps (SVAC) reestablished a volunteer military presence on the island in 1888. In 1901, the SVAC was renamed the Singapore Volunteer Corps (SVC), also known as the 4th Corps. In order to effect centralized control of the SVC, the organization was placed under the control of the Straits Settlement Volunteer Corps in 1921. As a part of this organization, the SVC participated in the suppression of the Indian Mutiny and Teochew-Hokkien riots.

During World War II, the Straits Settlement Volunteer Corps fought the Japanese invasion. After the British surrender of the city the force was ordered to disperse and many were taken prisoner by the Japanese occupation forces. In 1945, the Japanese surrendered and paved the way for the return of British colonial authorities. In 1949, a new ordinance was passed, stating that any male British subject, every federal citizen, and every person born in Sarawak, Brunei and North Borneo was eligible for enrolment Straits Settlement Volunteer Corps. In 1950, the first female volunteer unit was established, being mainly concerned with radar and administration assignments.

In 1954, the SVC merged with local and part-time National Service Forces to form the Singapore Military Forces (SMF), at the time consisting of 74 officers and 1,000 personnel of other ranks. In 1963, the SMF was mobilized as a result of the Indonesian Confrontation, and by the end of that year Singapore had detached itself from Malaysia.

In 1965, as part of the the expansion and reorganization of Singapore's now independent military, the People's Defense Force (PDF) Act was passed. The Act stipulated that all existing "volunteer" units be renamed as PDF units. In October 1965, the People's Defense Force Headquarters was established as part of the Ministry of Interior and Defense (MID) and tasked with raising 3,200 volunteers to enhance Singapore's defense capabilities. In 1967, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew announced the implementation of National Service for all youths of Singapore. This new obligation consisted of full-time service in the Army followed by part-time service in PDF, Special Constabulary, or Vigilante Corps.

In January 1968, the PDF was reorganized to take on guards and internal security duties within Singapore. On 15 August 1968, the PDF merged with the Singapore Infantry Brigade Headquarters to form Headquarters, 1st Singapore Infantry Brigade, which then relocated from Pearls Hill to Beach Road Camp. The force's insignia changed from a white dragon on a green background to a golden lion on a blue background.

On 1 May 1974, Headquarters, 1st Singapore Infantry Brigade was renamed Headquarters, PDF. This reorganization occurred for 2 reasons, the first being that PDF forces trained on a part-time basis would take longer to reach operational efficiency. Secondly, the National Service system was in full swing and generated a large surplus of soldiers trained for supporting functions who could not otherwise be accommodated in the combat reserve units.

By 1980, fewer than 200 volunteers remained in the volunteer force, and most of its personnel were national servicemen who had completed their 24-30 months of active duty. These personnel were assigned to units of the People's Defense Force to complete their reserve obligation. Headquarters, PDF was split into Headquarters, 1 PDF and Headquarters, 2 PDF on 1 April 1985. The unveiling of new insignia was one of several initiatives implemented to reestablish the identity of the force. By the late 1980s, the People's Defense Force, with 30,000 members organized under its 2 commands, was one of 2 paramilitary organizations in Singapore, the other being the National Cadet Corps. The Army General Staff had operational responsibility for the People's Defense Force. Guarding coastal areas and local administrative jurisdictions against possible sabotage and other military actions during wartime or a national emergency were the most likely assignments for battalions. Unit training was said to have been limited to physical fitness, weapons familiarization, and infrequent mobilization exercises.

Following a prescient review of the functions of the PDF in 2000, Headquarters, 2 PDF was reorganized in 2001 to take on a new role as the Island Defense Headquarters (IDHQ), intended to take on the immense task of defending Singapore against the threat of terrorism. This mission gained greater importance after the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001. In 2005, 1 PDF stood down after transfering command of its subordinate units to 3rd Singapore Division, leaving 2 PDF as the sole PDF organization.




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