1st Singapore Company, 1933
Aberdeen in Scotland was one of the earliest cities to adopt The Boys’ Brigade. James Milner Fraser, founder of BB in Singapore, was a member of the 23rd Aberdeen Company and an officer in the 23rd London Company. Fraser came to Singapore as a young architect, and was a town planner by profession. He contributed not only to the physical infrastructure of Singapore but also the moral development of the many Boys in his time.
The 1st Swatow Company was established in the Chinese city of Swatow. It was a mammoth company - 300 strong and most efficient. It survived for many years till the communist regime forced many of its members to flee to Nanyang to escape persecution. There was a link between the two cities of Swatow and Aberdeen. A Swatow Old Boy, Sgt Quek Eng Moh, recognised James Fraser from his Boys’ Brigade buttonhole badge and told him that the ex-Swatow stalwarts wanted to start a Boys’ Brigade Company in Singapore.
Together, they founded the 1st Singapore Company at Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church on 12th January 1930, fulfilling Fraser’s pledge to his ex-captain to pioneer a BB Company. When the Company was officially enrolled in August 1930 by Brigade Headquarters in London, membership was 40. Singapore was represented at the Jubilee Celebrations in Glasgow in 1933 by Choy Ah Soo and Tan Keng Kang, final year students in school. By 1936, the Singapore Battalion was 200 strong; Fraser served as Battalion President from 1936 to 1956. In 1940, he handed over captaincy of the 1st Singapore to one of his Boys, the redoubtable S P Chua.
BB activities had to be suspended in the Second World War during the occupation of Singapore by the Japanese Armed Forces (Feb 1942 - Sep 1945). Some of the Officers and Boys remained fervently loyal to The Boys’ Brigade; and Company records were preserved at great personal risks. The proud Singapore colours were burned and the drums brought back by the Jubilee Boys were stashed away in the store of Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church to await liberation. Fraser himself was a prisoner of war and worked on construction of the infamous Burma Railway.
After the war in 1945, S P Chua revived the 1st Singapore Company. He was joined immediately by James Milner Fraser and by 1950, the Battalion had regained its old glory.
There are more than 7000 Officers and Boys in 114 BB Companies in Singapore, each of which is attached to a school and co-sponsored by a church. Such schools include Singapore Polytechnic, Raffles Institution, Pioneer Secondary School, Victoria School, Anglo-Chinese School, Henry Park Primary School, Tao Nan School, and St Hilda's Primary School. In Singapore, The Boys’ Brigade has the distinguished patronage of His Excellency, the President of the Republic. The BB is endorsed by the Ministry of Education as one of the Uniformed Youth Organisations in schools. We are a member of the National Council of Social Service. The Boys' Brigade is also gazetted as an institution of public character and is registered as a charity under the Charity Act 1982 (Registration No. 0067).
On 12 January 2000, 77 Prinsep Street, where Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church stands, was marked as the 41st Historic Site of Singapore by the National Heritage Board to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore. The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore has its very own flower. “Dendrobium Boys’ Brigade” was named on 18th September 1999 in celebration of our 70th Anniversary in Singapore. The flower symbolises the aspiration of BB youth, and reflects a new generation with the best hybrid of courage from our heritage and boldness to face the future. This flower is a striking free-flowering hybrid between the Dendrobium (Kiyoshi Izumi X Blue Shadow) and the Dendrobium Eunice. The sepals are slightly twisted and are a bright violet-purple, gradually becoming white towards the base.
BB Day is celebrated annually on the 12 January to commemorate the founding of The Boys' Brigade in Singapore. All Boys and Officers will wear their full uniforms in school for the day. The BB Day message will be read out in schools. Additionally, the BB Companies celebrate this occasion in their own special way in schools.