Sepoy Lines

A symbol to reflect the concern of early Singaporeans for additional modern medical services for their fellowmen.

In September 1904 a petition was addressed by leading Chinese and non European Committee to the Governor of the Straits Settlements, Sir John Anderson, requesting that a Medical School be established in Singapore. It suggested that graduates of this School could be recruited into government service of the Straits Settlement, the Federated and non Federated Malay States as Assistant Surgeon or as General Practitioners.

The idea was mooted by Tan Jiak Kim, other Chinese leaders and the Principal Civil Medical Officer, Dr Maximilian F. Simon.

The Governor accepted the proposal and the Straits Settlements Legislative Council approved the project in June 1905. The government raised $71,000 for the Medical School which was established the same year. It held its classes in the converted buildings of the old Female Lunatic Asylum at Sepoy Lines.

In 1911 a new building was added to the Medical School. It still known as Tan Teck Guan building, the cost of which was borne by Tan Chay Yan, a Chinese benefactor, in memory of his father.

Two years later the name of the School was change to King Edward VII Memorial Fund. In 1921 the School was renamed King Edward VII College of Medicine. It was officially opened in 1926.

The architect of King Edward VII College of Medicine was Major P.H. Keys who also designed Fullerton Building which housed the General Post Office as well as other government departments. The foundation stone of the College building was laid on 6 September 1923 and the new building was officially opened by the Governor, Sir Laurence Nunns Guillemard on 15 February 1926.

The building is reminiscent of classical Greek monuments like the Acropolis; behind the columns are sculptured timber doors; over the central doorway is a bas relief of a Roman eagle and on either side are bas reliefs depicting the teaching and practice of medicine.

In the College is a plaque which pays tribute to 12 medical students who died as a result of Japanese artillery fire on 14 February 1942, one day before British forces surrendered to the invading Japanese Imperial Army. Eleven students went to bury the student who had died from shrapnel wounds. They managed to find a trench which some British soldiers had evacuated. While they were deepening the trench a shell exploded in their midst. A grave that was to house one dead housed eleven more. It was through the obligations of friendship that they met with the accident that caused their death. The plaque commemorates those glorious eleven who risked their lives among others to provide medical attention to the hundreds wounded in the final days before the fall of Singapore to the Japanese. Fate had decided that they were not to be rewarded. A bond of friendship which brought a multi-racial group of Singaporeans and Malayans together; 5 Chinese, 4 Indians, 1 Malay and 1 Eurasian, ended in a bond of death. It speaks of the heroism and fortitude of most Singaporeans who survived the days of heavy artillery and air bombardment from the Japanese forces. During the month of February 1942 about 2000 refuges took shelter in the hall of the College.

In 1949 the College of Medicine and Raffles College in Bukit Timah became formally the University of Malaya. The Faculty of Medicine now functions in Kent Ridge as part of the National University of Singapore.

Renovated between November 1985 and June 1987 at a cost of $10 million, the College of Medicine houses today the Ministry of Health Headquarters, the Academy of Medicine, the Council of General Practitioners, a Library and an Exhibition Hall.

Governor Guillemard said when he opened the College in 1926:

'This building will be a source of pride not only to the architect and the College but to Singapore.'

Today this holds true.