During the battle for Singapore in February 1942, Bukit Timah was strategically important as reservoirs and vital British supply depots were located here, and the main road to the city ran through the area. The Former Ford Factory, located near the 8½ milestone of Upper Bukit Timah Road, was also the site where the British surrendered to the Japanese.
After seven days of fighting at various locations across Singapore, the British forces were running low on supplies such as petrol, food and ammunition, and made the decision to surrender on 15 February. Allied commander Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival and the surrender party arrived at the factory and signed the surrender document in the factory’s boardroom at around 6pm. The signing of the document signalled the start of the Japanese Occupation in Singapore.
During the Japanese Occupation, the factory continued operations as an assembly and servicing plant, producing military vehicles for the Japanese army. Two years after the end of World War II, Ford Motor Company restarted car assembly operations until its closure in June 1980. The historical front portion of the building was later transferred to the state in 1997. On 15 February 2006, the site was gazetted as a National Monument and housed a permanent exhibition on the battle for Singapore and the Japanese Occupation.
In remembrance of the 75th anniversary of the fall of Singapore, a new exhibition entitled Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies was launched on 15 February 2017 and showcases events and memories surrounding the Japanese Occupation, including archival materials that were contributed by members of the public.