The factory is the site of the historic surrender of the British to the Japanese on 15 February 1942, at the end of the Battle of Singapore in World War II. It was here that the meeting between Lieutenant-General Arthur Ernest Percival and General Tomoyuki Yamashita was held and the surrender document signed. Then British Prime Minister Winston Churchill referred to that event as the "worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history"; it was also widely seen as a turning point for anti-colonialism in Southeast Asia.
The factory was built by Ford Motor Works in October, 1941, with an Art Deco façade typical of buildings of that era, and became Ford's first motor car assembly plant in Southeast Asia. However, Japanese forces invaded Singapore shortly thereafter. During the Malayan Campaign, the Factory’s modern assembly equipment was used by the Royal Air Force to assemble fighter planes. The planes came in parts that were shipped to Singapore in crates. However, most of these aircraft never fulfilled their destiny of defending Malaya. They were flown out of Singapore towards the end of January 1942, when prospects for Singapore looked bleak. Many battles were fought around the areas of the Ford Factory in Bukit Panjang, Choa Chu Kang, Bukit Batok and Bukit Timah. The factory was subsequently taken over by the Japanese Imperial Army and used as its military headquarters. Following British surrender, Japanese forces relocated its headquarters to Raffles College along Bukit Timah road.
During the Japanese Occupation, the Factory was designated as a butai or Japanese facility. Nissan, which was then a prominent zaibatsu or Japanese multinational company, took over the plant to assemble military trucks and other vehicles for the Japanese occupying forces.
The Ford Motor Factory resumed operations after the war in 1947 and was finally shut down in June 1980 and abandoned for some time since then. On 7 February 2006, the Preservation of Monuments Board announced that it would gazette the historic factory for preservation as a national monument on the 64th anniversary of the surrender on 15 February 2006.
The National Archives of Singapore (NAS), the new custodian of the historical site, has converted the building to house a World War II exhibition gallery and repository called Memories at Old Ford Factory. The preserved Old Ford Motor Factory underwent a two-year, S$10.3 million facelift and is now NAS' second repository for its growing archives of various media. The permanent exhibition gallery showcases life in Singapore under Japanese rule, and the exhibition is a continuation from the one on the last battles fought at Bukit Chandu.
The original factory building was very deep but much of it has been removed leaving the front facade and a building of moderate depth. Careful restoration work had been undertaken for the building to ensure that its façade was restored as close as possible to the building's original facade when it was first completed in 1941. The boardroom where the surrender took place remains intact and is preserved. It contains a replica of the original table (the original now with the Australian War Memorial), a clock set at the exact time of the surrender, and a map of Malaya. There is now a large modern structure at the street level south of the factory building where visitors can enter and have a walk either up the hill or through this building to the factory.
The journey through the exhibition begins at a reconstructed tunnel, which documents the final days of war leading up to the downfall of Singapore. Newspaper clips, maps and historical artefacts line the walls, ceiling and floor of the tunnel. At the same time, new facilities such as an audio-visual theatre, with a seating capacity for 76 people, are also integrated into the refurbishment. The theatre screens specially commissioned documentaries, highlighting different aspects of life in Syonan-To (the name for Singapore during the Japanese Occupation). The garden plot behind the gallery features wartime crops like tapioca, sugar cane and bananas with a wooden walkway similar to that found during the period as well as explanations of the plant life.
Behind the museum are tall condominium buildings and a transmission tower. The front of the museum features a Chinese calligraphy sculpture (和平 or Peace), storyboards that recounts the battles fought during the Malayan Campaign and history of Bukit Timah as well as a granite rock carved with a statement from a decree by Tang Taizong, urging visitors to 'Take History As A Lesson'.
Memories at Old Ford Factory (Chinese: 昭南福特车厂纪念馆, Malay: Kenangan di Kilang Ford Lama) was officially opened by Minister for Defence Teo Chee Hean on 16 February 2006. The museum had free admission during its first year of opening. The museum has a visitor-ship of 57,800 in 2010 alone, but as of May 2016 it is closed for renovations.
Opening Hours: (Please note that the Memories at Old Ford Factory is currently closed for renovations.)
Mondays to Saturdays: 9.00am – 5.30pm
Sundays: 12 noon to 5.30pm
Free admission for:
All Children under 6
Singaporeans and permanent residents
Singapore student pass holders
Museum Roundtable members
Free admission to all on Open House Day
How to get there:
Via nearest MRT Stations:
Bukit Batok MRT:
Board 173 at interchange and alight opposite Memories at bus stop B06
Choa Chu Kang MRT:
Board 67 at interchange and alight opposite Memories at bus stop B06
Board 184 at bus stop B16 and alight at bus stop B09
Bus Services to Upper Bukit Timah Road
(Alight at bus stop B06 or B09)
SMRT: 67, 75, 171, 173, 178, 184, 961 / SBS: 170