SAF pioneer, 79, dies of heart attack

SAF pioneer, 79, dies of heart attack

AS A colonel, Mr John Morrice had 300,000 men under his command. But there was one person whom he reported to, and that was his wife, Stella.

This was how Mr Andrew Morrice, 47, a wholesaler of motorcycle parts, described his parents' marriage. The elder Mr Morrice, 79, died of a heart attack on Thursday night.

"If we needed something, we would go to our mother. Then, she would go tell him to do it and he would," said his son.

Mr John Morrice was one of the pioneers of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), joining in 1957 as a regular and retiring 26 years later in 1983 as a colonel.

He was the first Officer Commanding of the first Officer Cadet Company, and headed the 2nd Singapore Infantry Brigade and the SAF Training Institute, among other appointments.

He was also on the front lines during Konfrontasi, conducting patrols during the troubled period from 1963 to 1966, when Indonesia opposed the newly formed Malaysia, which Singapore was then a part of.

Lieutenant-Colonel Swee Boon Chai, who was in Mr John Morrice's first batch of officer cadets in 1966, said his former officer was an "efficient and consistent" man. "He would write his reports daily and filed them conscientiously at the end of training sessions," said the 68-year-old retiree. 

Mr John Morrice also served as president of the SAF Veterans League for more than 10 years, organising overseas tours and golf competitions.

He stepped down last year. His dedication and commitment to the army drew praise from Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen: "He is a shining example of a devoted soldier who served his country to the best of his abilities and for as long as he could."

After retirement, he worked for 14 years at Singapore Technologies, covering the Middle East, where he spent seven years when he was in the army.

Growing up, Mr Andrew Morrice remembers his dad as a man who was always ready with a joke or advice.

The family would spend Saturdays at a relative's house before going to church on Sundays, followed by a barbecue at the beach.

"He is a lot closer to my children than he was to me, growing up, though we became closer later. Sometimes, he would act like a kid with them, fighting over the remote," said Mr Andrew Morrice.

Mr John Morrice's wake is at St Teresa's church, and he will be cremated at Mandai Hall 2 at 11.15am on Monday.

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