Location Scouting in British Newsreels made before the Japanese Occupation of Singapore (1938-42) – Part 4

[continued from last post….]

5.  Raffles Place & Chinatown

The Japanese began their siege of Singapore on 8th December 1941. During the early morning air raids, Japanese naval bombers and Zero fighter planes targeted the city centre as well as Seletar and Tengah aerodromes, asserting air superiority over the British planes. Raffles Place, the commercial hub of Singapore and the densely populated Chinatown were among the hardest hit. The aftermath of the air raids would be shown on newsreels, from which I extracted the following film-stills:

Air raid over Raffles Place.The two film-stills on the upper row showed that the bombs fell in front of Robinsons Department Store, housed in the Raffles Chambers’ Building

Air raid over Raffles place. Clockwise from upper left: The Chartered Bank building on the left and John Little building on the right; Naina Mohamed and Sons; H. B. Winter Merchant Tailor; Chartered Bank’s pedimented entrance.

Air raid over the vicinity of Raffles Place
. Coolies were activated to save or recover the casualties and clear the debris after the bombings. The lower row of film-stills could have been shot in Chinatown.

Air raid over Chinatown.

Air raid over Chinatown shophouses. Lower left: Proprietors boarded up the five-foot-ways in front of their shops, possibly as an air raid precaution measure. It might have served to keep out the looters immediately after the surrender of Singapore in Feb 1942. Lower right: “照常营业” – “Business as usual”.

Air raid over Chinatown. Upper left: Watching the spectacle. Upper right: Houses on fire.
Lower left and right: Firemen putting out the fires. Among the firefighters were the ARP (Air Raid Precaution) wardens, who had to man stations located all over the island and reported to the headquarters whenever there was an air raid. Headquarters would send out the Fire Brigade and ambulances, and the ARP warden would guide them to the places where the bombings were. They were the people who had the most knowledge of the locality concerned.

Peacetime Chinatown?, c.1941
Common modes of transportation – Electric tram, rickshaw & bicycle.

Peacetime Chinatown?, c.1941. Traffic warden with wings.

[to be continued…]