The Humble Beginning (1908-1937)


June 17 1885

SJAA in Singapore

St. John Ambulance Association (SJAA) in this region first started in Singapore in 1885. Singapore, together with several states in Malaya, were then loosely described as the British Malaya.

June 3 1886

Six passed exams

Six out of fifty-six male pupils, who entered for the examination in “First Aid to the Injured” passed the examination satisfactorily.

July 3 1886

$100 for SJAA lectures

The Government allowed the amount of one hundred dollars to be expended in fees for lectures to the European Police in the course of the St. John Ambulance Association.

September 30 1886

Home Nursing classes

“Home Nursing and Hygiene” classes were held for lady members of SJAA.

November 13 1886

21 Singapore Police passed

Singapore Police Force took lectures in “First Aid to the Injured” by Dr. Simon and Dr. Mugliston. Dr. Parker and Dr. Tripp held two examinations where 21 pupils passed.

December 6 1886

5 First Aid classes delivered

Singapore centre of SJAA reported 5 “First Aid” classes were delivered to 107 members and 18 members attended Nursing Class for women.[1] A list of committee members of the Association was published.[2]

December 6 1886

Insp. Luke helped with First Aid

Fresh from his First Aid lecture, Inspector Luke of the Police Force applied splints to a Chinaman who broke his leg

May 18 1887

SJAA suggested in Sandakan

Lady Brassey, on her visit to Sandakan suggested establishing a branch of the SJAA. Dr Walker, Principal Medical Officer in Borneo supported. Lord and Lady Brassey handed a cheque to the Governor constituting them life members and presented Dr. Walker with numerous anatomical drawings, books and papers.

October 6 1897

SJAA Malacca suggested

A suggestion to establish SJAA in Malacca. “…some of the police in Singapore went through the first course of the St. John’s Ambulance Society, and it is even more important that they should be able to render first aid in Malacca, where medical assistance is not readily available.”

August 22 1906

SJAA flourished again

First Aid lectures and demonstrations given in the rooms of the YMCA by Dr. David A. Young[1][2] and at Tanjong Pagar by Dr. A. F. Forster[3]. Lectures on “Home Nursing” and “Home Hygiene” were also planned.[4]

January 11 1907

First Aid classes in Penang and Malacca

Rev. P. N. Hunter, the Honorary Secretary of Singapore SJAA said, classes commenced in Penang and Malacca.

April 26 1907

First Aid lectures in Penang

Dr. J. Stuart Ross conducted lectures in First Aid at the Penang Branch of the SJAA, examined by Dr. G. W. Park.

October 3 1907

Malacca Police passed First Aid

Twenty one from the Police Training Depot, Malacca won certificates in First Aid examinations conducted by Dr. Croucher[1], a further 28 passed in October 1907[2].

February 12 1908

First Aid certificates for 13 from Penang and Malacca

Major General Perrott, President of SJAA Singapore presented First Aid certificates to 7 from Penang and 6 from Malacca.

November 20 1908

Brigade proposed in Singapore

Ambulance Brigade was proposed in Singapore.[1] Rev. P. N. Hunter took further steps to form a brigade to help in cases of emergency, especially in war time.[2]

December 12 1908

Rev. P. N. Hunter left Singapore

Rev. P. N. Hunter was presented with a parting gift in the form of a travelling clock. He was credited for the revival of SJAA and great work done for the movement.

March 7 1916

First Aid classes in Taiping, Perak

Mrs. Oliver Marks successfully organized a St. John Ambulance class in Taiping. The first lecture delivered by Dr. Pasley, Medical Officer, Larut to a large number of ladies.

September 11 1916

Funds for Medical Assistance during World War

Mr. J. H. Waring, Honorary Secretary of SJAA Singapore requested the publishing of a letter from St. John’s Gate, London, appealing for war fund.[1] Lists of donors were published every few days[2][3][4][5][6] to update the amount collected. SJAA in Singapore raised a total of $10,000.[7]

December 14 1928

Suggestions to re-establish St. John

Between 1926-1927, there were suggestions to establish St. John Ambulance[1][2][3], citing successful example in Hong Kong[4]. First Aid lecture and examination were held on February 1927 at the YMCA.[5] [6] [7] St. John Ambulance awards were presented in 1928 to ten people.[8]

June 11 1930

SJAB in Malaya suggested

His Excellency the Governor Sir Cecil Clementi, earlier invested with the insignia of a Knight of Grace of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem[1], expressed hope of forming St. John Ambulance Brigade in Malaya, similar to those in Hong Kong and Ceylon.[2] [3]

December 2 1930

A Centre of the SJAA formed in Singapore

A Centre of the SJAA was formed in Singapore, announcing membership applications to be addressed to Honorary Secretary, Mr. D. A. Bishop and membership fees and donations be directed to Mr. See Tiong Wah, J.P.[1] [2] [3] First Aid classes commenced in February 1931.[4]

February 18 1933

80 First Aid Certificates presented

Governor Sir Cecil Clementi, when presenting certificates, credited Dr. Chen Su Lan, President of Singapore SJAA. 104 out of 280 passed examinations. Sir Cecil commended YMCA for First Aid classes between 1925-1927 under directions of Dr. Thompson and Dr. Heron, examined by Sir. Dr. David James Galloway.

December 30 1938

Municipal Staff Ambulance Brigade Inspection

The first annual inspection of the Municipal unit of SJAB, which was inaugurated in April 1938, was held at Jalan Besar Stadium today afternoon. Dr. J. S. Webster took the salute. 

As part of the larger initiatives to establish St. John in the colonies, the St. John Ambulance Association was first formed in Singapore in 1885. In Malaya, First Aid training classes were organised for local police groups in Malacca and Penang in around 1897 following the initiatives in Hong Kong to get the police constables first aid trained. The St. John movement in the region suffered from manpower shortage due to movement of civil servants. It was not until 1906, the movement enjoyed steady growth of membership under the initiative of Rev P. N. Hunter, the Association Secretary based in Singapore.

In 1908, the St. John Ambulance Brigade was first proposed to be established in Straits Settlements. The early activities were confined among civil servants in the health service and Malayan Railways. The organisation continued to grow in Singapore and major town across Malaya. It was not until the Second Sino-Japanese War in the Far East, the colonial government sense the urgency to prepare for war. From 1935, the government of the Malaya worked on establishing a civilian defence organisation, the Passive Defence Services, in major cities of Malaya.