zaelle: Kiwis are descended from T-Rex (Default)
Memories at the Ford Motor Factory is a museum in Singapore that is owned and maintained by the National Library Board. It is best known as the location where the British surrendered Singapore to the Japanese on February 15, 1942.

While the building was considered central during the war, in current day Singapore it's a bit of a pain to get to. Currently, Upper Bukit Timah is purely a residential area. There's a park, a condo, highway and suddenly, you see the tourist sign for the Motor Factory hidden behind an overgrown tree.

Anyway I lucked out today, because I think visitors to this particular museum are few and far between. I mean they're tucked away and not as famous if you're not into War history. I'm guessing that unless a school trip comes through, the guys in there mostly twiddle their thumbs and get to know each other. Because of this, I walked into an empty museum and the oldish man behind the desk just asked 'would you like a briefing?'

I say 'yes please' and it turns out that a 'briefing' is a personal tour. Yay for me!

A very brief introduction was given about the cars that were once assembled in the factory. Basically, Henry Ford built and opened he factory in 1941. It was the first Ford factory in Southeast Asia. Unfortunately for Mr. Ford's timing, the Japanese invaded in 1942. Actually I don't know if this factory ever spent time making commercial cars, seeing as how it was taken over by the Royal Air Force to make fighter planes before the Japanese even cycled through Malaya. Anyway, the Japanese took the factory because it was central to the conflict, and enabled the Imperial military to store weapons, assemble vehicles and have a pretty good base. So there I was, with Mr, Leung, as he gestured to the left which meant 'fighting to the left' and gesturing to the right for of course 'fighting to the right'. (FIGHTING EVERYWHERE!), after he pointed out that the building's front is pretty much the original building, down to the wooden teak bordering the doors. Ah, pre-war architecture. Good stuff.

Once inside, there are the typical weapons and equipment left behind by allied and Japanese troops that are showcased, but the main attraction of course is the meeting room in which Generals Percival and Yamashita met to discuss and agree on the terms of Britain's surrender.

Unfortunately, you cannot walk into the room. I think they've worked very hard to restore it and they don't want to chance some silly member of the public messing up their hard work. Everything in the room is from that day, with the exception of the table. The real surrender table is in the Australian War Museum in Canberra, so a replica sits in the room. The clock is adjusted to 6:21, the time that General Percival signed the surrender document and Singapore became Sy┼Źnan-to. There are displays in front of the room with the script of the negotiations, and a video of it as well. As a visitor you're asked to pay attention to General Yamashita's presence and forcefulness in negotiations, and General Percival's general air of being lost and confused. When you read the script, you read that General Yamashita had a few things going on in his head - The British had twice the amount of equipment and men than the Japanese. The main difference was that the Allied forces were made up of new recruits while Yamashita had veterans from the China campaign. So one...General Yamashita was bluffing. He was hoping that the British would surrender because he actually couldn't afford a drawn out conflict. The second thing was that he was extremely frustrated - the interpreters he had were all pretty bad. At the end he just demanded this 'yes or no!' answer, to which of course, he received a surrender.

The other items of interest to me were 2 original bicycles used by the Imperial Army to cycle down Malaya to invade Singapore. They are old clunky things, to which Mr Leung of course challenged us (because a tour came in about 30 minutes after me) to load a bunch of supplies, weapons and ammunition on them and ride them for 30 hours straight through the Malay peninsula. Obviously no one felt up to the challenge but his point was - you do have to respect the Japanese Army that invaded Singapore. They were...determined.

The rest of the museum is photographs, first hand accounts and information about the occupation, with a brief introduction on why Japanese embarked on an expansion strategy, as well as how they managed to get so far. The answer to number 1 was resources and Imperial ambitions (why does any country invade or seek hegemony over others? Man, we're greedy buggers). The answer to number 2 was that Japan moved to invade Korea and China when the rest of the world was occupied with World War One and otherwise couldn't do anything about it. Mind you, these countries wouldn't have stepped in out of human rights or any such ideals, but because they had interests in the Pacific and would have defended their own interests against Japan.

Sounds like a crappy place to be.

Anyway, after we finished the main exhibit (the tour group was a small one), Mr Leung let us watch a video about the occupation with a brief warning about grisly pictures (since the Imperial Army at the time was all about beheading and smiling while holding heads). It was informative, and I dunno, media etc these days is so gruesome. The difference is that these events are real and not special effects, but still, one gets numbed to seeing grotesque things.

Well before I left, Mr. Leung asked me to wait, while the tour group went off. He gave me this handout of all the major WW2 sites to visit in Singapore, which was rather nice of him, to note that I had an interest. There are quite a few, and he was rather adamant that I go pay my respects to the Allied war dead in Kranji (there's a war cemetery there). There are quite a few sites in Singapore, old bunkers, forts and memorials. I'm superstitious enough that I generally don't willingly make trips to cemeteries, though I do have respect for those who gave their lives essentially for the life I live today, and whatever future I will have. I will definitely go see more of the other sites, spread out of course.

For those who are curious, there is also a Japanese Cemetery Park maintained in Singapore for those who died on the opposite side. Buried there are the cremated ashes of those who died in Malaya and Singapore either during service or after. It started off initially as a burial ground for Japanese prostitutes, but evolved on its own. This cemetery is not on the list provided to me, but it is considered a memorial park in Singapore. I suppose it isn't considered a WW2 specific one because those remembered in this park span a timeline from before and after the war.

Anyway, if you ever find yourself in Singapore with some time on your hands, a visit to 'Memories at the Old Ford Motor Factory' is worth the time.


zaelle: Kiwis are descended from T-Rex (Default)

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