Memories At Old Ford Factory

351 Upper Bukit Timah Rd, Singapore 588192

The Old Ford Factory, located at Upper Bukit Timah Road, was the historic site where the British, represented by Lieutenant-General A. E. Percival, General Officer Commanding Malaya, officially surrendered Singapore to the Japanese, led by Lieutenant-General Tomoyuki Yamashita, Commander-in-Chief of the 25th Army, on 15 February 1942 in the boardroom of the factory. The memoirs feature a permanent exhibition gallery ‘Syonan Years: Singapore Under Japanese Rule 1942-1945’ captured befittingly on the hardships and dark times faced by survivors during the Japanese Occupation.

The exhibition ranges from first hand oral history accounts, archival records to other primary documentings of events revolving British surrender, life under Japanese rule and the return of British administration in 1945. Today, it has been restored and converted into an artefact repository of Singapore’s haunting past as Syonan-to, which means “Light of the South” in Japanese by the National Archives of Singapore.

Part of the building was demolished in the 1990s, while the remainder was handed over to the authority and gazetted as a national monument on 15 February 2006, the 64th anniversary of Fall of Singapore. The World War 2 museum, Memories at Old Ford Factory (MOFF) was officially opened the following day.

Built in October 1941, the Former Ford Factory was one of Singapore’s industrial showpieces that witness the booming times of Singapore manufacturing industries and was equipped with the most modern industrial technology of that time. Ford Motor Factory in Singapore was recognised to be the site of the first Ford plant in Southeast Asia, having been used to assemble vehicles and fighter jets for British troops and was used by the Japanese for Nissan vehicular assembly during World War 2.

The factory resumed operations in 1947 after being used as a repair depot for British Military Administration vehicles for two years, however, the operation eventually ceased in June 1980 and converted into warehouse until 1983. Hong Leong Group purchased the site, and revamped the quasi-art deco building, originally designed by French engineer-architect Emile Brizay, and renamed it Hong Leong Industries Building. Despite pleas from the Ministry of Information and The Arts (MITA, now the Ministry of Information, Communications and The Arts) and the Urban Redevelopment Authority for site preservation, the rear of the site made way for condominium development.

The museum also gives a taste of the life of the dark years in its backyard Syonan Garden (also known as War-time Garden), with an assortment of medical and food crops such as tapioca, sweet potato and yam, that were widely grown during the Occupation.

The museum’s Talking Map exhibition has a mosaic map of the Malay Peninsula, Thailand, Burma and Sumatra, and a 3-D model of Singapore reconstructed from topographic maps from 1945. Visitors can listen to the audio recordings of the interviewees narrating Malayan Campaign in December 1941, while following the events lead up to Singapore Fall. The protective shield of the map was converted from a windscreen of a Ford Cortina MKII, a model used to be manufactured in the building.

Several documentaries, each lasting between 7 min to 30 min, are screened at the audiovisual theatre. They are titled as follows, When Singapore was Syonan-to (25 minutes), Invasion of Malaya (21 minutes), Memories of Prince of Wales and Repulse (30 minutes), The Living Seas (120 minutes), Battle for Singapore (24 minutes), Malay Regiment (20 minutes), Life in the Shadow of the Rising Sun (27 minutes), Resisting the Rising Sun (18 minutes), Trials of War (25 minutes) and Singapore: Journey to Nationhood (62 minutes).

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