Monday, September 09, 2019

Images from the Past - North Bridge Road after a Japanese air raid

The two powerful picture from Australian War Memorial draws me in as it shows what likely to be A.R.P. (Air Raid Precautions) volunteers or Chinese Civil Defence Volunteers (wearing Brodie Steel helmet) with a bomb victim in the stretcher. On the far left, a civilian is looking right at the photographer who captured this picture aftermath of a Japanese air raid. The second picture shows a picture of a man in shorts carrying a baby (my thoughts was whether the baby survived the shockwave of the bomb blast).

Japanese air raid at North Bridge Road, Singapore on February 1942 (source: Australian War Memorial)

Japanese air raid at North Bridge Road, February 1942 (source: Australian War Memorial)

The intensity of the moment captured and immortalised through this photo includes many details such as the debris that can be seen all over the street floor, the smoldering car in the background and the house with sandbags that provide additional protection against shrapnel from air raids. The facade of the buildings further away took much damage with the shophouse signboard lying down on the floor. Fortunately from this picture, i can see details of the shophouse which reads the Union Dispensary, The Shanghai Book Company, the archway signage where you can make out Chung Hua Institution and a Church Steeple in the background. Finally, the metadata of this public domain picture states that this picture was taken on 3 February 1942 by Clifford, Bottomley which provides the date of when this happened.

My first question was to find out where this picture was taken and after checking various sources, i can gather that this picture is taken at North Bridge Road. From newspaper archives, The Union Dispensary is located in 347, North Bridge Road and The Shanghai Book Company was at 349, North Bridge Road.  The slim pointed steeple is very likely the steeple of the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus.

source: NewspaperSG , Malayan Tribune 1939
source: NewspaperSG Malayan Tribune 1940

source: NewspaperSG  Malayan Tribune 1935

Location of 351, 349 and 347 North Bridge Road

With the street name and location identified, i then wanted to know the location of this address. I am aware them sometimes addresses do change, but if i refer to old maps and references of location mention in the newspaper archives, it was able to pin point the location and in today's location, it is where KH Kea Building is (next to Bras Basah Complex and Odeon Tower).

1955 (Odeon Theatre was built in 1953)

Singapore Photomap (1950)

New Singapore Streetmap 1930s

Past and Present of 349, 347 North Bridge Road 



What happen to Union Dispensary, Shanghai Book Company and Chung Hua Public School 


Shanghai Book Company
In 1923, two young man, Chen Yoh Shoo and Wang Shu Yang arrived in Singapore from Shanghai and notice a gap in the market for new literature. They went to set up the Shanghai Book Company in 1925 and it was so successful that new branches opened in Kuala Lumpur (1926), Surabaya (1928), and Jakarta (1935). In its heydays, it published not only Chinese books (especially during the time communist literature was banned and locally produced literature took prominence), Malay books were also produced by the company. The closure of Chinese vernacular schools in Singapore leading it to lose the bulk of its publishing business and relegated it to a bookstore business which faces competition from other bigger bookshops coupled with changing consumer behavior and online shops. Its eventual demise in May 2009 (after 83 years in business) after a failed joint venture with China National Publication Import and Export Corporation (CNPIEC) led to growing debts and liquidation.


[research on-going, if you know what happen to Union Dispensary and Chung Hua Public School, do let me know]




References
SINGAPORE. FIRST AID HELPERS CARRYING WOUNDED CIVILIANS TO SAFETY AFTER BOMBING IN JAPANESE AIR ATTACK. Australian War Memorial.Access Online(last accessed 29/8/2019)
SINGAPORE. A.R.P. WORKERS AND CIVILIANS CO-OPERATING IN THE RESCUE OF WOUNDED FROM BUILDINGS DAMAGED BY BOMBING IN A JAPANESE AIR ATTACK. Australia War Memorial. Access Online (last accessed 29/8/2019)
Malayan Chinese Notes. (1935, December 6). Malayan Tribune, page 6
Advertisement. (1939, May 11). Malayan Tribune, page 4
Advertisement. (1940, August 28). Malayan Tribune, page 3
Electoral Division of Stamford. Archives Online, National Archives of Singapore. (last accessed 29/8/2019)
Singapore Photomap Singapore. Archives Online, National Archives of Singapore. (last accessed 29/8/2019)
New Singapore Steetmap. Archives Online, National Archives of Singapore. (last accessed 29/8/2019)


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