Singapore in 1941 from the Harrison Forman Collection

17 04 2020

Singapore in 1941 seems a year that was well documented by the international media. We have seen an extensive set of photographs taken by Carl Mydans’ for LIFE magazine, which show both scenes in Singapore and Malaya, as it was being readied for war. Another extensive collection is that of Mydans’ compatriot, Harrison Forman, whose extensive collection of photographs also include rare photographs taken on colour film. Forman, a photo-journalist with a degree in Oriental Philosophy, wrote for the New York Times and National Geographic. His extensive collection of 50,000 photographs are in the His collection of diaries and fifty thousand photographs are found in the American Geographical Society Library of the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.

A selection from the Harrison Forman Collection of Singapore in 1941  

Corner of North Bridge Road and Middle Road.

St Joseph’s Institution (now SAM) with brick blast walls put up.

A view up Cross Street with a trolley bus in view.

A view up Collyer Quay. Buildings from left to right are the Union Building (later Maritime Building), Hongkong and Shanghai Bank Chambers and the GPO (now Fullerton Hotel).

North Bridge Road.

North Bridge Road.

Middle Road – there were quite a number of shoe factories and shoe stores.

The then former Supreme Court (now Old Parliament House / The Arts House).

John Littles at Raffles Place with a pillbox seen in front of it.

Raffles Place towards the Mercantile Bank (Malacca Street end).

North Bridge Road – where the Raffles Hotel extension is today. Note the number of Japanese owned businesses. The pre-war Japanese community, which was centred on Middle Road and several of the streets around numbered several thousand at its peak.

Middle Road, where the Mercure Bugis now stands.

Bencoolen Street.

Bencoolen Street, where Sunshine Plaza now stands.


A drinks vendor on Collyer Quay.

A bullock cart on Collyer Quay.

The Battery Road corner of Raffles Place looking towards Chartered Bank Chambers (Six Battery Road).

Raffles Place / Battery Road.

Connaught Drive.

Connaught Drive.

Cathay / Dhoby Ghaut.

A chandu (opium) shop.

A chandu (opium) shop.

A chandu (opium) shop.


China Street.

The meeting of Pickering, Church and Synagogue Streets.

Electra House – Cable and Wireless (and previously the Eastern Extension Telegraph Co’s HQ – now SO Sofitel).

Rex Hotel on Bras Basah Road (were Carlton is today).

Orchard Road Market (Orchard Point today).

Cross Street and Robinson Road.

North Bridge Road.

South Bridge Road.

Whiteaways at Fullerton Square (later Malayan Banking Chambers – where Maybank Tower now stands).

Gian Singh at Bank of China Building.

Battery Road.

Raffles Place.

Corner of Cecil and D’Almeida Street.

Meyer Chambers at Raffles Place.

Japan Street (now Boon Tat Street).

Robinson Road.

Singapore River.

Trade on the river.

Coleman Street and the Adelphi Hotel.

Dhoby Ghaut (Cathay towards Prinsep Street).

The Medical Hall at Battery Road.

Packing Opium.

Rare pre-war colour photo of Amber Mansions on Orchard Road (where Dhoby Ghaut MRT Station is today).

Rare colour photo of the corner of South Bridge and Circular Roads.

Rare colour photo of Battery Road – notice the row of rickshaws, which were withdrawn after the war.

Haw Par Villa – in full colour.


Reclamation off the Esplanade (what would provide land for Queen Elizabeth Walk).


Dhoby Ghaut with Cathay.

Construction of an air raid shelter on the Raffles Reclamation at Beach Road.




12 responses

20 04 2020
Jerry mohinani

Thanks so much for sharing..those were the days my friend!

19 01 2021

Such priceless photos and memories of Singapore scenes so well captured. Very grateful. Thanks! Have safe year.

11 02 2021
Damien Mendez

I remember some of these places but did not visit them independently, until my teen years. Very nostalgic and appreciated. Keep them coming!

22 02 2021
Shaik Mohamed

Wow …. what memories bring back. Many of these places were still there till mid-70’s or so.

11 02 2021
John Evans

Many of these buildings were unchanged when I first arrived in 1952. Wonderful nostalgia!

12 02 2021
Peter Hoar

Fantastic pictures. I remember Singapore in the early 60s and this is how I will always remember it. Thank you

12 02 2021

Thank you so much for sharing such a wonderful moment in pictures well preserved. Beautifully taken and it sure makes me glancing over those nostalgic memoirs in tears.

16 02 2021
SY Shing

Thanks for all these wonderfully captured priceless photos !!

21 01 2022
Azeezah Beebi

Thank you so much for sharing these beautiful memories . It’s so beautiful. Well done ! Keep this noble work going ! Cheers ! ❤️
From : Azeezah Gauthama

26 01 2022
SW Kwie

At age 77, my memory failed to capture the many scenes of old Singapore. Thanks for the memories.

21 03 2022

Thanks for sharing the historical past, Jerome! Enjoyed the coverage on Bain Street, Carver St, Cashin At and Empress Hotel.

10 05 2022
Mr Joshua Lim

I recognise most if not all the photos shown here. I arrive in Singapore on 1 January 1947 and the bullock carts and trishaws and trolley bus were the main forms of public transport.
Time flies! 75 years have slipped into eternity
How many more years are left for me in my pilgrim journey? Joshua Lim aged 92

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