Photos from the attic

On the Singapore Heritage Yahoogroup today, my friend Ai Lin shared the announcement from the National Archives, UK --- which she received via the president of the Singapore Heritage Society, Dahlia Shamsuddin --- that it had made available hundreds of photographs of Asia from the Colonial Office's Photographic Collection. Singapore was mentioned among the list of places, so I went rooting about to see what was there.

It looks like a number of the Singapore images are scans from various photo albums from different decades.

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Source: The National Archives, UK (image no. CO 1069-558-1)

Every time I see the Cenotaph, I think about my mother telling a story about sitting on its steps as a child and dangling her feet in the water. It was hard to make sense of when I was a child, when the water had already been pushed back, not as far as it is today with the reclaimed Marina Bay area, but far enough to create a park that I could run around in.

Today's Singapore residents, it seems, are more likely to not realise it's a war memorial, despite the words "Our Glorious Dead" carved prominently into it and the individual years of World War I incised onto each step (if you have a Straits Times subscription, look up the article "Lack of respect at war memorial" by David Ee on 1 September 2012).

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Source: The National Archives, UK (image no. CO 1069-561-67)

This is identified as a pipeline crossing "Mount Zion" in "Johore, Malaya", but it reminds me of a certain other pipeline that's still visible in Singapore today, near our own Zion (Road).

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Source: The National Archives, UK (image no. CO 1069-564-9)

This one gave me the creeps: photographs of the former Japanese military police (kempeitai) wartime headquarters and prison cells, in the Raffles Girls' School buildings along Stamford Road. All the photos show building exteriors or bare prison cells, but it's still creepy to think about. One of the photos is labelled, "Exactly as left by the Japanese Kempei-tei (Gestapo)", which may or may not be true. But still --- the creeps.

As an old girl of the school who never knew that campus (I'm not sure when or why the buildings were torn down, but they were), I'm torn between curiosity about what the old school looked like, and horror at what stories those walls could tell. Maybe it's just as well they're not there anymore.

Okay, let's end on a happier note. When cinemas were properly grand --- Capitol looks just spectacular.

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Source: The National Archives, UK (image no. CO 1069-562-23)

I can't get over how this image of Empress Place and the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall looks like an animated effect, a cartoon show for kids.

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Source: The National Archives, UK (image no. CO 1069-562-17)

Finally: Orchard Road. Shhhhh.

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Source: The National Archives, UK (image no. CO 1069-562-19)



At 10/05/2012 3:40 am , Anonymous Singapom said...

These photos remind us of our shared past. Despite the bad aspects, this is a shared heritage and formed our modern world. Thanks for posting - what a great resource.

At 10/07/2012 3:40 am , Anonymous gemcastor said...

I strongly believe the Mount Zion pipe is the one near Zion Road. This area was also known as Mount Zion in the the late 1800s and early 1900s.

At 10/08/2012 1:45 am , Blogger Tym said...

Singapom > Thanks!

gemcastor > Cool, you should add that tidbit to the Flickr page (the photo belongs to the National Archives, UK). Perhaps the mention of Johore in the original source was a mistake.


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