The formal inauguration of Singapore’s navy took place during a ceremony at Telok Ayer Basin in the Southeast Asian nation. At 5:55 p.m., the men, and women of the new Singapore Naval Volunteer Force (SNVF) stood at attention while the Singapore naval force white ensign – featuring a crescent moon with five stars as well as an eight-pointed mariner’s star – was raised for the first time.
The origins of the SNVF took shape less than two years earlier when Singapore seceded from Malaysia to become an independent state. At the onset of its existence, Singapore’s navy consisted of only 367 personnel and just two wooden ships – RSS Panglima, a motorized fishing vessel that had been built in 1944; and RSS Singapura, a one-time Japanese minelayer used during World War II.
Over the past half-century, however, Singapore’s navy has experienced significant growth in personnel, facilities, and equipment. Its present-day fleet includes frigates, patrol vessels, gunboats, and submarines. The military service has also undergone a few name changes. About four months after the ensign was first raised, SNVF was renamed the People’s Defence Force (Sea). The following year, this name was changed to the Maritime Command. The service has been called the Republic of Singapore Navy since 1975.
Along with providing for Singapore’s seaborne military defense, the navy performs a wide range of other maritime duties. These include anti-piracy initiatives in cooperation with other Southeast Asian nations as well as a number of humanitarian missions.
The navy’s first commander was Colonel James Aeria. Until stepping down from this role in 1975, he spearheaded the initial efforts to improve and expand naval capabilities and resources. Aeria, who received Singapore’s Public Administration Award for his leadership during those crucial early years, died in 1994 at the age of 63.