Completed in 1936, Gillman Barracks was one of the three military barracks in Singapore which housed an infantry battalion prior to World War II. Named after General Sir Webb Gillman, a well-known officer of the British army, the barracks were built on a 118-acre swampy jungle to house 692 soldiers from the 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment and later, the 2nd Battalion Royal Regiment.
Gillman Barracks was situated within the Australian parameter, established in the late 1930s as a ‘defence line’ against possible attacks on important civil and military installations in the city centre from enemy troops. It included barrack buildings, married quarters, messes, regimental institutes and sports facilities.
On 14 February 1942, the 55th and 56th Infantry Regiment from the 18th Division, led by Lieutenant General Renya Mutaguchi, attacked the Allied forces comprising the 1st and 2nd Malay Regiment, 2nd Battalion Loyal Regiment and 5th Battalion Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment from the 18th British Division at Pasir Panjang. After emerging victorious from the Battle of Pasir Panjang, the Japanese troops rallied down Buona Vista Road and Pasir Panjang Road towards Keppel Harbour, where a lockdown of the harbour could paralyse the Allied troops’ ammunition and food supplies.
However, at the junction of Pasir Panjang Road and Alexandra Road near Alexandra Brickworks Company, the Japanese troops were ambushed by the 1st Malay Regiment armed heavily with automatic weapons, anti-tank rifles and mortars. This ambush killed 94 Japanese soldiers, stopped them from advancing to Keppel Harbour by Pasir Panjang Road and forced the Japanese to switch their activities onto the 2nd Battalion Loyal Regiment housed in Gillman Barracks.
After being ambushed by the 1st Malay Regiment at Alexandra Brickworks Company, the Japanese 18th Division penetrated into Gillman and Alexandra Barracks by infiltrating through the woods overnight and attacking from Tiger Brewery and a nearby quarry. By 1700 hours on 15 February 1942, the 2nd Battalion Loyal Regiment had fallen back to their final positions just west of Mount Faber.
After the British withdrew from Singapore in 1971, Gillman Barracks was handed over to the Singapore government for a token sum of $1. The Singapore Armed Forces moved into the camp and conducted a passing-out parade two months later. The camp's swimming pool, tennis court, three sports fields and two badminton courts were transferred to the National Sports Promotion Board, which opened the facilities to the public. After SAF vacated the camp in the 1990s, the government allowed the buildings to be used for commercial purposes and the name was changed to Gillman Village in 1996.