Former Ford Factory


The former Ford Factory, located at Upper Bukit Timah Road, was the first motorcar assembly plant in Southeast Asia. It gained fame as the location where British forces officially surrendered Singapore to the Japanese on 15 February 1942. Part of the building was demolished in the 1990s to make way for a condominium development, while the remaining portion was handed over to the government and eventually gazetted as a national monument on 15 February 2006.

Ford Motor Works, established in Singapore in 1926, moved its Anson Road factory to the new Ford Factory at Upper Bukit Timah Road in October 1941. It was the first motorcar assembly plant in Southeast Asia. Its architect was Emile Brizay, a French structural engineer who was also involved in the construction of St Teresa's Church at Kampong Bahru Road. He was also recruited to help in the revamp of the Ford Factory in the 1980s.

Significance during World War II
When the Japanese army invaded Singapore, Lieutenant-General Tomoyuki Yamashita, Commander-in-Chief of the 25th Army, moved his headquarters from the Sultan's Palace in Bukit Serene, Johore Bahru, to the Ford Factory. It was in the boardroom of this factory that Lieutenant-General A. E. Percival, General Officer Commanding Malaya, surrendered unconditionally to Yamashita on 15 February 1942. The boardroom remains intact but the table at which both the British and Japanese delegations sat is now in the Australian War Museum in Canberra, Australia. The seven teak chairs have been moved to the Surrender Chambers in Sentosa where a replica of the event is displayed. The Singapore Heritage Society also held an exhibition called Singapore Surrenders! at the factory in February 1992.

During the Japanese Occupation, the plant continued to manufacture motor vehicles, namely Nissan trucks for the Japanese army. Part of the factory was used as a servicing depot for army vehicles. After the war, the factory was used as a repair depot for the British Military Administration vehicles for two years. Thereafter, the factory resumed its car assembly operations.

World War II musuem
The car assembly plant remained in operation until Ford Motor Works closed it in June 1980 and the factory was turned into a warehouse. In 1983, Hong Leong Group acquired the site, and the quasi-art deco building was revamped and renamed Hong Leong Industries Building.

In 1992, Hong Leong Corporation (which owned the site) held back its plans to develop the site into condominiums in response to the government’s intention to preserve the factory because of its historical significance. Following talks between the company and two government agencies, the Ministry of Information and The Arts (MITA, now the Ministry of Information, Communications and The Arts) and the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the government announced in 1996 that the front portion of the factory would be preserved as a national monument. At that time, the factory was home to Hong Leong and Bridgestone offices.

In 1997, despite pleas from history buffs to leave the building intact, the rear portion of the building was demolished to make way for a condominium project called The Hillside. The remaining portion was handed over to MITA and the National Heritage Board, which later announced that what remained of the building would be turned into a World War II museum. Plans to convert the factory into a museum did not materialise until 2005, with the announcement of a S$10-million project by the National Archives dedicated to the purpose. On 16 February 2006, the building was finally re-opened as Memories at Old Ford Factory, a permanent exhibition gallery based on oral history accounts of the war years.

Wong Heng

Boey, D. (1997, July 11). Coming up - war museum next to Hong Leong's Hillside condos. The Business Times.

Chua, K. H. (2005, February 21). WWII surrender site to open in mid-2006. The Straits Times.

Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places (p. 21). Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW)

Ford Motor Factory gazetted a national monument. (2006, February 8). The Business Times.

Former Ford Factory (now Memories at Old Ford Factory). (2010). Retrieved October 25, 2010, from Preservation of Monuments Board website:

Kirby, S. W. (1957). The war against Japan (pp. 414-415). London: H.M. Stationery Office.
(Call no.: RSING 940.542 KIR)

Leong, P. (2000, March 30). Forlorn monument of British surrender. The Straits Times.

Lui, J. (1992, February 23). Site of British surrender may be preserved. The Sunday Times.

Ong, C. L. (2000, March 28). British surrender site a sorry sight. The Straits Times.

Samuel, D. S. (1991). Singapore's heritage: Through places of historical interest. Singapore: Elixir Consultancy Service.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 SAM)

Tan, B.-l. (1996). The Japanese Occupation 1942-1945: A pictorial record of Singapore during the war (p. 49). Singapore: Times Editions.
(Call no.: RSING 940.5425 TAN)

Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1996). Former Ford Factory preservation guidelines, Vol. I (pp. 4-5, 11a). Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board.
(Call no.: RSING 363.69095957 FOR)

Yeo, S. (1996, February 12). Ford Factory here to be marked for preservation. The Straits Times.

The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Monuments
Historic buildings--Singapore
National monuments
Historic buildings
Arts>>Architecture>>Architectural structure
History>>Asia>>Southeast Asia>>Singapore
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Historic Buildings
Singapore--History--Japanese occupation, 1942-1945

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