By Raphael Niu (23A01A) and Victoria Lim (23S06B)
As RI celebrates its 200th anniversary, we often forget that some of our CCAs have histories that date back just as long. Let’s take a look at the early beginnings of some of these CCAs, and learn more about how they were started and how their activities have changed over time. Besides that, read on to learn about a very unique CCA that was formed in 1965.
RI’s Cadet Corps in 1901
Established in 1901, the Cadet Corps was the first uniformed group to be formed in RI, and more importantly, it was also the first Cadet Corps unit to be initiated in Singapore. However, interest in the CCA was fleeting and waned after a few years, leading to their disbandment in 1916. Fortunately, in 1917, the Education Authorities decided to revive the Cadet Corps in six schools, including Raffles Institution. They renewed the CCA’s aims – to improve the physicality and strength of the boys and instil in them the ideals of patriotism.
NCC training was not for the faint-hearted, as members were introduced to Jungle Warfare training at the tender age of 16, pushing them to their limits. They trained with the regulars in the jungle, firing 7.65mm self-loading rifles and hurling hand grenades. Sometimes, they even ended up trudging through a deluge that was chest-high during their trek after overnight thunderstorms.
RI’s cadets training with snipers
During WWII, some of the cadets’ most touching moments and courageous stories were documented. The RI Cadet Corps’ experienced members responded quickly and eagerly to the call to arms when war broke out. One platoon of cadets from schools, including RI and St. Joseph’s Institution, was transferred to the volunteer forces to partake in mortar work and build up defences.
However, NCC was not just all training and no fun. The members bonded through times of laughter and blitheness, forming unique pranks and traditions such as the ‘Stripping Commandos’ where they would take the pyjamas off the cadets and ‘polish’ their victims with jet-black boot polish. These were the memories that solidified the bond between cadets.
Over time, the nature of cadet training has changed, but they still continue to participate enthusiastically in outdoor camps and hikes, alongside shooting simulation games. In order to maintain its position as one of Singapore’s top units, RI NCC works to create leaders that are resourceful, dependable, and loyal in addition to building strong teams.
RI’s rugby Team, with C. M. Philips, future Principal of RI, as part of the team.
Rugby traces its history back to 1886, but its popularity only seemed to take off in the 1930s. Two teams comprising both staff and students were formed in 1930, before an all-student team was established in 1934 with that year’s Queen’s Scholarship winner Bernard Meggs at the helm. By 1940, RI and St Andrew’s School had established themselves as the top two rugby schools, and the fierce rivalry that soon developed would continue to today.
After the Japanese Occupation, the sport was revived under Gordon P. Darke, an RI teacher who had himself been an amateur rugby player. After a shaky start (and a loss to St Andrew’s) in 1948, RI’s rugby teams were beating their old rivals and drawing with strong teams like the Singapore Cricket Club by 1950. In the 1970s, RI regularly trounced its opponents with eye-watering win margins: the 1970 season saw RI amass 447 points against their rivals’ 12 points, including a 102-0 thrashing of National Junior College. Between 1975 and 1991, RI achieved the “grand slam”— winning the A, B, and C division titles in the same year — five times.
RI playing at the Padang, 1990s
However, the 1990s saw the birth of a new powerhouse in rugby: Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) emerged as the dominant team for the next two decades. As RI’s former rugby eminence declined, members of the ORA began to draft an action plan to restore RI to its former glory, and a group of alumni “ruggers” founded the Raffles Rugby Union in 2010.
There are, however, signs of a renaissance: after a decade-long streak of defeats in the annual Kiwi Cup against St Andrew’s, RI secured a historic win in 2017, before reclaiming the trophy in 2019, 2022 and 2023. While we haven’t yet returned to our zenith of the 1970s, it is certain that RI’s rugby team will bring us many more triumphs in the years to come.
RI’s Cheer Team in 1965
RI’s first (and only) cheer team was formed by Roney Tan in 1965. After spending a few months in the US as an exchange student, he had been inspired by the exuberant performances put up by the high school cheerleaders there. Wanting to bring a similar spirit back to Singapore, he encouraged some of his friends to start a cheer team for the rugby team since their big match against SAJC, presently known as the Kiwi Cup, was coming up.
After roping in P. K. Hernon as the teacher-in-charge to obtain official sanction, Roney brought in his good friend Quek Li Lian to help choreograph the moves for their cheer team as she was an experienced dancer at the time. Additionally, the team made their own uniforms, acquiring sweatshirts and sewing their logo on. With green tops for the team’s members and black and white tops for the two leaders respectively, they hoped that this prominent display of school spirit would inspire the “ruggers” to victory.
As no other school had a similar CCA, and RI had quite a small number of female students back then, the concept of a cheer team was considered rather adventurous during that time. Naturally, the team attracted much (male) attention during their practices at the school field under the hot sun! During these sessions, the team came up with novel cheers including “V-I-C-T-O-R-Y, this is Raffles’ battle cry” and “Push them back, push them back; harder, harder”. Eventually, their efforts paid off – RI won the rugby match with a score of 11-8!
Unfortunately, the team didn’t last: after Roney and some of the cheer members graduated, they were unable to find new members to succeed them.
Cheer team returning to RI earlier this year for a reunion
Regardless, during their short time as a CCA, the cheer team managed to display their school spirit and contribute to a win for the rugby team.
Since their inception over a hundred years ago, CCAs have become an integral part of student life. Some CCAs come and go while others stay the same, but one commonality has persisted through the ages: in a school with so many CCAs each replete with so many possibilities, every Rafflesian has the capacity to make their RI journey their own.