Some History – Dhoby Ghaut

Today in Singapore I took a walk with the National Heritage Board through buildings which were important during the period of occupation of Singapore by the Japanese

Our first stop was the Cathay building. In 1941, it was used by the Malaya Broadcasting company and the RAF. Due to it being the highest building at the time it also formed a good lookout point. It also served as a air raid shelter in the area. Once the Japanese took over they broadcast Radio Syonan from there as using it as the Propaganda Department. It is reported that outside the building heads of looters or those Japanese considered traitors were staked up as a warning to the rest of the populace.

The next stop was the former home of the St Joseph’s Institution. During WW2 the compound was used as a Red Cross hospital. The stained glass in the chapel was moved for safe keeping but was never recovered after the war. During the Japanese occupation the school was reopened as Bras Basah school and Japanese and technical subjects were taught.

The sister school to St Joseph’s Institution was established nearby at the CHIJMES.  It also held an orphanages as babies mostly female were abandoned there from the start if the convent.  During the war it served as a shelter though the presence of a large red cross flag didn’t stop bombs landing on it.  The school carried on as with SJI during the Japanese occupation. 

The current National Museum used to be the site of the Raffles Library and Museum. The library occupied the ground floor while the Museum was on the upper floors from 1887 to 1955. The library was then moved to a building nearby with the books being moved by hand. In 2004 the library was again moved and the building demolished with the gates being the only thing remaining.  During the occupation the library and museum were preserved by the Japanese and the collection of books actually increased during the time. 

All in all it was an interesting morning out.

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