Constructed as far back as 1941, the Old Ford Factory has been a permanent fixture in Singapore’s historic landscape for decades. Having served as Ford’s first Southeast Asian vehicle assembly factory, this iconic structure is no ordinary defunct manufacturing giant. Ranked as a national monument in the Lion City, this sprawling space has now been converted in to a World War II exhibit and repository in recent years dubbed “Memories at Old Ford Factory”. As a fully functional manufacturing arm of Ford Motor Works, the Old Ford Factory located near the Malay railway line produced vehicles that were exported around the world during a tumultuous time in world history.
Japanese forces took hold of Singapore soon after and the factory grounds and its state-of-the-art assembling gear was put to use by Britain’s Royal Air Force. Used to assemble the Royal Air Force’s elite fighter planes, the assembly floors of the factory constructed fighter jets from parts that were transported to the island nation by sea. It served as a strategic point of battle due to its proximity to the Tanjong Pagar docks and Bukit Timah Road, which connected mainland Singapore with Malaya and other nations in Southeast Asia. As a result, many significant battles between the Japanese Imperial Army and British forces took place around the factory in areas such as Choa Chu Kang, Bukit Panjang and Bukit Batok.
Facing certain defeat, the documents of surrender were signed by British Lieutenant-General Arthur Ernest Percival and opposing army chief General Tomoyuki Yamashita at this very venue, marking the beginning of Japanese occupation of Singapore. The permanent exhibition gallery at the museum delves into life in Singapore during the occupation. Divided into six distinct regions, some of the more intriguing corners of the museum include the Talking Map, which explores the Southeast Asian region and Singapore in a mosaic map with buttons and LED displays that recounts what took place during those difficult years. The Ford Cortina MKII windshield is a significant feature of the map while the venue’s theatre screens documentaries regarding Syonan-To for audiences of up to 76 visitors daily.
The Syonan Garden, however, delves into the plants that were cultivated en masse to account for the massive food shortages the country experienced under occupation. Banana, pineapple, tapioca, sweet potato, and rice plants are found in this unique garden while the Syonan Race is a larger-than-life World War II-inspired Snakes & Ladders game that depicts a race to the end of the occupation era after overcoming various obstacles that ordinary citizens would have faced during the period.
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