How Discipline Shapes Success
By Nina Syahira
April 15, 2015
CPT (Ret) Shamsudin bin Shadan at the SAF50 media launch in February
“When I was 8 years old, I was not in Singapore. I was in Johor. My mother passed away and then later, my father was taken by the Communists. I had no siblings or any other relatives living close by, so I lived alone till I reached the age of 16 and a half. That’s when my father was released and told me to move to Singapore and live at the quarters at Mandai Road with my late mother’s relatives.”
In the early days of Singapore’s road to post-war recovery, this was how the story of the legendary ‘King of the Parade Square’, CPT (Ret) Shamsudin bin Shadan, now an 83-year-old grandfather, began. The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew may have been the visionary but he was certainly not alone in laying the groundwork for a better Singapore. Mr Lee, along with Singapore’s pioneer generation, like Mr Shamsudin, worked hard towards Singapore’s independence, building many of the nation’s firsts, including the formation of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).
We were fortunate to have met with Mr Shamsudin at the SAF50 media launch last February to talk about his days in the army. Mr Shamsudin started his military career as a peon at the British Army Camp at the tender age of 17. Not long after, he was promoted to a clerk position. When he read in the newspapers that Singapore was looking to form the SAF, he made another life-altering decision to join the Singapore Volunteer Corps (SVC). Mr Shamsudin moved up through the ranks in the SVC and then the SAF with consistent hard work and zero complaints.
He was also responsible for the recruiting and training of the Istana guards following Singapore’s separation from Malaysia. They trained and rehearsed tirelessly, which caught the attention of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
“He wrote us a letter to thank us for our performance and said how he wanted to bring all visitors of Singapore to come and see us. I told my Commanding Officer (CO) to keep the letter. But now, I don’t know what happened to it,” he chuckled, beaming with pride.
"Mr Smart": In his younger days
Photo sourced from cyberpioneer Facebook page
On August 9, 1966, he led the 1000-strong People’s Defence Force contingent at the first ever National Day Parade (NDP) as the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM). By this time, he was already gaining reputation as a disciplinarian among the soldiers. But he believed that this was necessary for training, not just for the NDP.
“As a RSM, you need to be very strict. To me, from 6 to 6, I’m the RSM and they’re the soldiers. I’m not the kind to play around. Discipline must jaga (maintain).”
He also once reprimanded a company from the SAF Training Institute (SAFTI) for not taking better care of how they’re dressed in their uniforms at their master parade. He was in attendance as an invited guest but he took the trouble to show them the right way. It was clear he took real pride in even the smallest of details, earning him the nickname of “Mr Smart”.
Even now, he sticks to this philosophy as a senior member of the Mujahidin Mosque where he helps with the maintenance and cleanliness.
“For me, everything that we do is an achievement to be proud of. I hope that Singapore will continue to succeed in the years to come.”
In 1961, when the idea to merge the Federation of Malaya, Sarawak and North Borneo (Sabah) as one Malaysia was first announced, politics in the region started to grow tense. As soon as the Brunei Revolt broke out, Indonesia began their hostile and militant response against the merger of the Federation of Malaysia. This became known as Konfrontasi, or Confrontation. During this period, Mr Shamsudin was posted to Sabah to take care of the locals there. At first they were fearful of him and the other Singaporean soldiers.
"They thought we were gangsters. The kampong (village) people were taught like that," he explained.
But after a while, they started to grow close. Mr Shamsudin even got a car as a gift from one of them.
“I went around the different kampong’s every night to check on my soldiers, making sure they behave. Then after that, I would always buy satay from this one lady. One day, she and her husband invited me out to eat and visit their home. This happened every week until he said to me, 'Here’s the key. The red car below is yours to drive to camp. Use it till you leave for Singapore. You want to fill petrol? Go to this station. Don’t have to pay. You just fill it.'"
Needless to say, he was filled with deep gratitude at the amazing hospitality showed by the locals. On their last day there, many of the locals went to see them off at the airport. It was indeed an emotional farewell and one he will never forget. Despite his disciplinarian persona, Mr Shamsudin has a gentle soul.
“As I boarded the plane, tears streamed down my face because we were close with everyone in Sabah,” he added in Malay.
Find out what else we can do for Singapore to keep progressing forward with 5 Life Lessons we can learn from the inspirational life of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
Then check out SAF50 highlights of what’s to come or visit the SAF50 website for more details!
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