Memories @ Old Ford Factory

The lush green surroundings evokes a sense of tranquility. The sound of rustling bamboo swaying with the wind. The occasional tunes of chirping birds can be heard from the trees. A sense of calm prevails. But 66 years ago at this same place, the feelings felt by those who trudged up this same path to the building were vey much different. The building was the Ford Motor Factory located at Upper Bukit Timah Road. The feelings of those present were that of the victors and the vanquished. The historical event was the signing of the surrender papers which took place on 15th Feb 1942 during World War II. The British surrendered to to the Japanese invading forces which led to a three and a half years of Japanese occupation of Singapore, once known to be the “Gibraltar of the East”, an impregnable fortress.


^ No.351 Upper Bukit Timah Road.


^ The pathway leading up to the former Old Ford Motor Factory.


^ The building was gazetted as a national monument on 15th Feb 2006 by the Preservation of Monuments Board.


^ Defence of the impregnable fortress by Allied troops comprising of military forces from Britain, Australia, New Zealand, as well as from the local community.


^ The battle of Bukit Timah begins…(click on photo to enlarge and read)


^ A bit of history of the old Ford Motor factory.


^ Led by Lieutenant-General Tomoyuki Yamashita (also known as the Tiger of Malaya), commander of the 25th Japanese Imperial Army, the invasion of Malaya (Malayan Campaign) began on 8th Dec 1941 with the amphibious landing of the Japanese army at the northern coast of Malaya at Kota Bahru. Simultaneous landings were also made at Pattani and Songkhla (Thailand). The Japanese army advanced southward along the eastern and western coastal routes of the Malay Peninsular. Within two months, they were at the gates of the impregnable fortress – Singapore. Here’s a link providing a more detailed account of the Battle of Malaya.

Why did Japan adopted an expansion policy? Read more from the following two photographs below. v




^ Replicas of grenades used during the Malayan campaign.


^ Replica of a pistol used by the Japanese army.


^ A cloth cap and a bayonet which can be attach to the rifle used by Japanese soldiers.


^ The surrender party and the Union Jack. Lieutenant-General Arthur Ernest Percival, GOC of Malaya, second from right in the photo led the surrender party.


^ Entering the Old Ford Motor Factory.


^ At the “Surrender Table”. Lieutenant-General Yamashita (seated at the centre) thumped his fist on the table demanding the unconditional surrender of Singapore.


^ Transcript of the dialogue at the surrender table.


^ Tables and chairs of the “Surrender Chamber”.


^ The “Surrender Chamber”.


^ Lieutenant-General A.E. Percival (GOC of Malaya) signing the surrender.


^ At 6.20pm on the 15th Feb 1942 (Chinese New Year), Singapore the last bastion of British stronghold, fell to the Japanese.


^ The Inside Story. The Japanese army supply lines were actually thinly stretched along the Malayan Peninsular. Lt-Gen Yamashita knew that if there were to be any further delay in the capture of Singapore, not only will he be unable to sustain the ongoing battle, but worst still, could be push back by the Allied forces. The Japanese army were already outnumbered which some say is 2:1. His only gamble, to give Lt-Gen Percival the ultimatum. Surrender Singapore or face continual artilllery bombardment on the island regardless of civilian casulties/deaths. His demand, the unconditional surrender of Singapore.


^ When Lt-Gen A.E.Percival signed the surrender of Singapore to the Japanese on 15th Feb 1942, a new order begun. The Japanese flag was hoisted over Cathay Building (the tallest building at that time) as a visual symbol of the presence of the new rulers. Singapore was renamed Syonan-to, meaning “Light of the South Islands”. For three-and-a-half years after this day, the lives of many were changed as the Japanese occupation of Singapore began. Fear was skillfully used by the Japanese military forces as well as the Japanese Kempetai to weed out anti-Japanese elements and to maintain order among the allied prisoners and the civilian population. Beheading was one of the means to instill fear and secure compliance. The head of beheaded persons would be propped up on a stake and put up at public places for all to see. Such will be the punishment for anyone who oppose Japanese rule.


^ The purge known as “Sook Ching”.


^ A Japanese soldier plunging his rifle bayonet into the body of the person to ensure nobody is alive.


^ The Japanese Kempeitai. The building in the photo is Cathay Building, the Kempeitai HQ during the Japanese Occupation.


^ Do you recognise this building which was one of the many buildings used as a Kempeitai gaol during the Occupation? Here’s a link to fellow blogger who wrote in his blog “2nd Shot” about the building at the “Junction of Smith Street and New Bridge Road”


^ Allied POWs interned at Changi and other locations during the Japanese Occupation. Scarcity of food coupled with the lack of medical supplies led to many who suffered from malaria, dysentery and other diseases.


^ A birth certificate issued during the Japanese Occuption shown on the left. On the right is the reissued birth certificate under the Colony of Singapore in 1949.


^ Food ration coupons which entitled the holder to collect a stipulated quantity of essential foodtsuffs like rice and sugar etc. Civilians were encouraged to grow their own crops such as tapioca which was the common diet diet during Japanese rule.


^ Cinema ticket. Presumably attended by the wealthy and influential during the Occupation.


^ Banana money, lottery tickets, cheque book, from Ban Hin Lee Bank.


^ The Empire Strikes Back. Plans to retake the occupied territories under Japanese rule were underway.


^ Mr Tan Kah Kee (b:1874 d:1961) and Mr Lee Kong Chian (b:1893 d:1967). Two prominent merchants who contributed immensely to fund raising efforts for the China Relief Fund.


^ Force 136. Who were they?


^ Force 136 carried out undercover operations that disrupted Japanese military operatons and provided intelligence that greatly assisted the Allied forces to retake Malaya.


^ Members of Force 136.


^ Elizabeth Choy (b:1910, d:2006), war heroine of Singapore.


^ Lim Bo Seng’s diary on display.


^ A Japanese sword given to Force 136 member, Mr Thiam Sien Yen, by the British in recognition of his contributions to anti-Japanese resistance efforts during the Japanese Occupation.

On 6th Aug 1945, the first of two atomic bombs was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. Carried by a B29 Superfortress bomber aircraft piloted by Colonel Paul Tibbets of the 393 Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), the atomic bomb codenamed “Little Boy” devastated Hiroshima. Three days later on 9th Aug 1945, the second atomic bomb codenamed “Fat Man” was dropped on Nagasaki from the Superfortress piloted by Major Charles Sweeny from the same squadron. This brought a quick end to the Second World War.


^ The Japanese surrender party led by General Itagaki Seishiro walking up the steps of City Hall.


^ An excerpt of what happened during the signing of the Instrument of Surrender by the Japanese forces.


^ Lord Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander (South East Asia Theatre) signing the document accepting the surrender of the Japanese forces.


^ General Itagaki signing the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of Field Marshal Count Terauchi Hisaichi.


^ The Instrument of Surrender signed by General Itagaki and Lord Louis Mountbatten on 12th Sep 1945 formally ended Japanese rule in South East Asia.


^ The surrender of Japan saw many Japanese soldiers rounded up to carry out public repairs and reinstatement works.


^ Fences that once surrounded Old Parliament House are now used as…


^ …an installation art in the gallery for its symbolic meaning.


^ The “Talking Map”. Discover more when you are in this section of the gallery.


^ The old Ford Motor Factory. A building of historical significance.


^ Books about the Syonan years available on sale at the reception desk.


^ A film presentation in the AV theatre on the Japanese Occupation and the struggles faced by those who survived. A must-see.


^ Take a quiet stroll along the Syonan Garden Footpath.


^ The Syonan Garden Footpath is lined with decommissioned weathered railway sleepers. The rough surface of the footpath symbolises the ardous journey of the Bahau (Fuji Village) and Endau (New Syonan) settlers had undertaken to establish the two farming settlements outside Syonan during the Japanese Occupation.


^ Directions and distance to historical landmarks.


^ Beautiful floral that lined the pathway to Old Ford Factory.


^ A mirror of ourselves.


^ What we can learn from history.


^ A sculpture bearing the Chinese characters “He Ping” (hanyu pinyin) which means “PEACE”.

Links for further browsing: Memories at Old Ford Factory and the Japanese Cemetery Park in Singapore.

It was a memorable visit to Memories at Old Ford Factory. A worthy trip to learn about the past, at the present, for the future…lest we forget.


20 Responses to “Memories @ Old Ford Factory”

  1. The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Daily SG: 19 Dec 2008 Says:

    […] Life, the universe and everything – Yesterday.Today.Tomorrow: Memories @ Old Ford Factory […]

  2. military aircraft replicas | Digg hot tags Says:

    […] Vote Memories @ Old Ford Factory […]

  3. yg Says:

    you really spent a lot of time at the old ford factory. although i walk past this place quite often, i have not stepped into it. maybe, one of these mondays – when seniors do not need to pay admission charges -, i shall drop in.
    the old building used by the kempeitai is this one which i used for a quiz.

  4. ordinary guy Says:

    Hello YG,

    I first thought that the building, formerly used as a Kempeitai gaol, was located in Tiong Bahru. But later did some cross-checking and found that the building was actually one from Chinatown.

    Indeed it was a worthwhile trip into our past history. I understand from the curator that Memories at Old Ford Factory will be open to the public, free of charge, on Christmas Day. Perhaps a good opportunity to make a trip there. But do call beforehand to confirm about the free admission on Christmas Day.

    Merry Christmas.

  5. yg Says:

    hi ordinary guy, so i was mistaken about the building. i thought it was the white house hotel located at the junction of jalan besar and mayo street.

    merry christmas.

  6. Icemoon Says:

    OG, You mean three and a half years of occupation? 😛

  7. ordinary guy Says:

    Hi Icemoon,

    I have been very poor for Maths. Thanks for spotting it. I have correct it to three-and-a-half-years of Japanese Occupation.

    Also wishing you and YG a Merry Christmas.

  8. Icemoon Says:

    No worries, we do read the text in addition to looking at the pictures.

    Hey, I realize it’s snowing on your blog! Merry Christmas to you too.

  9. ordinary guy Says:


    WordPress provides the user to turn on the button to enable a snowy Christmas on the blogsite. Perhaps for Chinese New Year, thopefully that can enable the user to give “ang pows” to readers.

  10. Yang Yang Says:

    “For two-and-a-half years after this day, the lives of many were changed as the Japanese occupation of Singapore began.”

    The occupation of Singapore lasted THREE & a half years instead of TWO & a half years.

  11. ordinary guy Says:

    Hi Yang yang,

    Thanks for informing which Icemoon have raised in an earlier comment above.

    Merry Christmas.

  12. yg Says:

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

  13. py Says:

    I had visited this museum about two years ago, and it was a short visit so I did not get to look at a number of the exhibits. It looks like I ought to visit it again soon.

    Which building in Chinatown was that building you have mentioned? I had thought it was located in Tiong Bahru too.

  14. icemoon Says:

    py, that one is the infamous SIT at Smith Street. Will post a second shot I’ve taken one of these days.

  15. ordinary guy Says:


    That would be great and let me know. I can set up a link to your article of the Kempeitai gaol.

  16. icemoon Says:

    thanks for offering to link to me. I’ve put up the article –

  17. WP Themes Says:

    I think your blog need a new wordpress template. Downalod it from . The site has nice and unique wordpress templates.

  18. ordinary guy Says:

    Hi WP Themes,

    Thanks for introducing the link. Cheerio.

  19. John Wright Says:

    I have just returned from Singapore on the 27 th February 2009. I visited the old Forf factory & yes sir please allow me to thank the people & tax payers of Singapore for just a great display. The history of that fateful day on the 15 th February 1942 , when the British surrended to the forces of evil namely The Imperial Empire of Japan. The next 3 years 7 months and ten days were shear hell. How any Japanese can show their faces now in 2009 beats me.
    They treated the chinese as the Germans treated the jews.

  20. Elizabeth van Kampen Says:

    This is a very instrucktive website. Thanks a million!

    I was a teenager (15 yrs) when the former Dutch East Indies was occupied by the Japanese. My father was slowly killed by the Kempeitai in Malang, East Java. My uncle, father’s brother, was slowly killed by the Kempeitai in Jakarta.
    My mother, two younger sisters and I were interned in a declared unfit prison in Banyu Biru, Central Java.
    Please read my website.

    Thanks to the attitude from the Netherlands, there is very little known about the situation of the Dutch people in captured (then) Dutch East Indies between 1942 and 1945.
    Business with Japan is far more important than a handful old to very old people from the former Dutch East Indies.

    Thank you for reading me,

    Elizabeth van Kampen

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