Former Ford Factory



The Former Ford Factory, located at 351 Upper Bukit Timah Road, was the site where British forces officially surrendered Singapore to the Japanese on 15 February 1942 during World War II.1 In 2004, the site was handed over to the National Archives of Singapore (NAS). Conservation and restoration works began thereafter.2 The Former Ford Factory was gazetted as a national monument on 15 February 2006. On 16 February the next day, Memories at Old Ford Factory (MOFF), with the permanent exhibition Syonan Years: Singapore Under Japanese Rule (1942–1945), was officially opened.3 Following a year-long revamp of MOFF in 2016, a new exhibition on the Japanese Occupation of Singapore was officially opened on 15 February 2017. Originally known as Syonan Gallery: War and its Legacies, the exhibition was renamed Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies on 17 February 2017.4

Background
The Ford Motor Company of Malaya (also known as Ford Malaya) was established in Singapore in 1926. Its factory was relocated from Anson Road to a site on Upper Bukit Timah Road in 1941,5 and the new Ford Factory became the first motorcar assembly plant in Southeast Asia. The building was designed by Emile Brizay, a French structural engineer who was also involved in the construction of the Church of St Teresa on Kampong Bahru Road.6


World War II
When the Japanese army invaded Singapore, Lieutenant-General Tomoyuki Yamashita, Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese 25th Army, moved his headquarters from the Sultan’s Palace in Bukit Serene, Johor Bahru, to the Ford Factory. It was in the boardroom of this factory where Lieutenant-General Arthur E. Percival, General Officer Commanding Malaya, surrendered unconditionally7 to Yamashita on 15 February 1942. The boardroom (known as the Surrender Room) remains intact to portray the historic surrender of Singapore by the British to the Japanese.8 The table at which both the British and Japanese delegations sat is now at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Australia. Ford Motor Company had donated the table to the Australian War Memorial in 1964.9


During the Occupation, the factory 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 for two years as a repair depot for the British Military Administration vehicles.10 Thereafter, the factory resumed its car assembly operations.11

Closure and later developments
The car assembly plant remained in operation until Ford Malaya closed it in June 1980 and the factory was turned into a warehouse.12 In 1983, Hong Leong Group acquired the site, and the art deco building was revamped and renamed Hong Leong Industries Building.13


In February 1992, the Singapore Heritage Society held the exhibition, Singapore Surrenders!, at the factory. The boardroom where the surrender of Singapore had taken place was opened to the public for the first time.14 That same year, the owner of the site, Hong Leong Corporation, held back its plans to develop the land into condominiums in response to the government’s intention to preserve the factory because of its historical significance.15 Following talks between the company and two government agencies – the Ministry of Information and the Arts (MITA; now the Ministry of Communications and Information) and the Urban Redevelopment Authority – the government announced in 1996 that the front portion of the factory would be preserved as a national monument.16 At the time, the factory was home to Hong Leong and Bridgestone offices.17

Memories at Old Ford Factory
In 1997, despite pleas from history enthusiasts to leave the building intact,18 the rear portion of the building was demolished to make way for a condominium known as The Hillside.19 The rest of the premises was handed over to MITA and the National Heritage Board, which later announced that the remaining part of the building would be turned into a World War II museum.20 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 Heritage Board dedicated to the purpose.21 On 16 February 2006, MOFF was officially opened with a permanent exhibition, Syonan Years: Singapore Under Japanese Rule (1942–1945). The exhibition centred on the events and lives of people surrounding the Japanese Occupation.22


Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies
MOFF was closed in February 2016 and the site underwent a year-long revamp to prepare for a new exhibition on the Japanese Occupation.23 During the closure, NAS conducted a public collection drive for records such as maps, diaries and letters and artefacts dating from 1937 to 1954.24 Materials collected at the public drive were then selected for display in the new exhibition.25


On 15 February 2017, which was also Total Defence Day, the exhibition Syonan Gallery: War and its Legacies was officially opened at the Former Ford Factory. Operated by NAS, now under the National Library Board, the exhibition showcases events leading up to the surrender, the diverse experiences of people living during the Occupation, the legacies of war and its lasting impact on the people of Singapore.26

Public sentiments and negative reactions to the name of the new exhibition were subsequently received regarding the use of the word “Syonan”. On 17 February 2017, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim announced that the exhibition would be renamed Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies. This was done out of respect for those who had suffered and lost family members during war.27




Authors

Wong Heng & Barbara Quek




References
1. Tan, B. L., & Quah, I. (1996). The Japanese Occupation 1942–1945: A pictorial record of Singapore during the war. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 49. (Call no.: RSING 940.5425 TAN)
2. Ong, Y. V. (2008). Memories unfolded: A guide to memories at Old Ford Factory. Singapore: National Archives of Singapore, p. 64. (Call no.: RSING 940.530745957 ONG)
3. Ong, Y. V. (2008). Memories unfolded: A guide to memories at Old Ford Factory. Singapore: National Archives of Singapore, pp. 20, 52–53. (Call no.: RSING 940.530745957 ONG). Pitt, K. W., et al. (2009). Syonan years, 1942–1945: Living beneath the rising sun. National Archives of Singapore, p. 8. (Call no.: 940.530745957 TAN)
4. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2017, February 17). Statement from Minister for Communications and Information on ‘Syonan Gallery: War and its Legacies’ [Press release]. Retrieved from Ministry of Communications and Information website: https://www.mci.gov.sg/pressroom/news-and-stories/pressroom/2017/2/statement-on-syonan-gallery-war-and-its-legacies
5. Ford shows faith in Malaya. (1975, September 27). Singapore Standard, p. 6; C.-in-C. visits Ford’s new assembly plant. (1941, July 12). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 21. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-TRA])
7. Kirby, S. W. (1957). The war against Japan: The surrender of Singapore (Vol. 1). London: H.M. Stationery Office, p. 414. (Call no.: RCLOS 940.542 KIR)
8. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1996). Former Ford Factory preservation guidelines (Vol. I). Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, [Foreword], pp. 1, 5, 19. (Call no.: RSING 363.69095957 FOR)
9. Ong, Y. V. (2008). Memories unfolded: A guide to memories at Old Ford Factory. Singapore: National Archives of Singapore, p. 65. (Call no.: RSING 940.530745957 ONG)
10. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1996). Former Ford Factory preservation guidelines (Vol. I). Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, [Foreword], p. 5. (Call no.: RSING 363.69095957 FOR)
11. Chan, R. (2012, August 10). Memories of old Ford Factory. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. National Archives of Singapore. (n.d.). About this historic site. Retrieved 2017, March 2 from the National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
13. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 21. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
14. Lui, J. (1992, February 16). We still remember. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Pearce, S. (1993, May 17). Historical Ford motor plant may be preserved. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Boey, D. (1997, July 11). Coming up – war museum next to Hong Leong’s Hillside condos. The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Yeo, S. (1996, February 12). Ford factory here to be marked for preservation. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Boey, D. (1997, July 11). Coming up: War museum next to Hong Leong's Hillside condos. The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Leong, P. (2000, March 30). Forlorn monument of British surrender. The Straits Times, p. 38. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Boey, D. (1997, July 11). Coming up – war museum next to Hong Leong’s Hillside condos. The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Lee, L. (2003, September 26). WWII surrender site to house war exhibition. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Chan, C. (2006, February 11). Relive WWII surrender where it really took place. The New Paper, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Zaccheus, M. (2016, October 6). Ford Factory: Painful memories of surrender to the Japanese. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
24. Zaccheus, M. (2016, February 7). Year-long revamp for WWII museum; Memories at Old Ford Factory to close this month amid plans to collect artefacts from the public. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

25. Chew, H. M. (2017, February 15). Syonan Gallery exhibition at the Former Ford Factory is a reminder of a traumatic period in Singapore history: PM Lee. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

26. Zaccheus, M. (2017, February 16). New gallery reminder of traumatic past. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

27. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2017, February 17). Statement from Minister for Communications and Information on ‘Syonan Gallery: War and Its Legacies’ [Press release]. Retrieved from Ministry of Communications and Information website: https://www.mci.gov.sg/pressroom/news-and-stories/pressroom/2017/2/statement-on-syonan-gallery-war-and-its-legacies



The information in this article is valid as at 3 March 2017 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
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
Monuments--Singapore