With distinctively detailed red bricks styled to the taste of Neo-Georgian architecture, the MacDonald House stands tall along Orchard Road today despite having been the site of a bombing that occurred on 10 March 1965.
Built in 1949 by Reginald Eyre of Palmer and Turner, the MacDonald house was the first large scale office building built in the post-war era, with its main tenant being the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC). It was named after Malcolm MacDonald, the British Commissioner-General for Southeast Asia from 1948 to 1955, who was popular among locals.
Before it became the site of the infamous bombing, the MacDonald House was the first large-scale office building built in the post-war era, with its main tenant being the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC). (c.1950. Image from National Museum of Singapore)
MacDonald House Bombing: 10 March Bombing & Konfrontasi
On 10 March 1965 at 3:07pm, just seven minutes after some 150 employees were closing their accounts for the day, two rogue marine commandos, Usman bin Haji Mohamed Ali and Harun bin Said, detonated a nitroglycerin explosive near the lift on the mezzanine floor of the building.
The bomb ripped through the lift and caused an inner wall to collapse, resulting in a mass of rubble collapsing into the bank of the ground floor. Every window within a hundred yards was shattered and extensive damage was done to nearby vehicles.
Interior damage of the MacDonald House as a result of the use of nitroglycerin explosives. (c.1965. Image from National Archives of Singapore.)
A scene after the bombing of the MacDonald House that killed 3 people and injured 33 others. (c.1965. Image from National Archives of Singapore)
Police began immediate investigations to the bombing of the MacDonald House (c.1965. Image from National Archives of Singapore.)
The explosion killed 3 people and left another 33 injured .The act of terrorism was condemned by then Deputy Prime Minister Toh Chin Chye as a “senseless act of cruelty” and the two marine saboteurs were subsequently arrested and hanged on 17 October 1968, an incident that resulted in an attack on the Singapore embassy in Jakarta on the same day.
Deputy Prime Minister Dr Toh Chin Chye, who labelled the attacks as a “senseless act of cruelty”, is seen visiting victims of the MaDonald House bomb explosion on 10 March 1965. (c.1965. Image from National Archives of Singapore)
The MacDonald House bombing was the worse of the 42 bombings that occurred in Singapore during the period of Indonesian Confrontation or Konfrontasi(1963-1966), an era that arose as a result of Indonesia’s opposition to Singapore’s merger with Malaya.
MacDonald House today
Today, the MacDonald House stands as the last remaining brick structure in the Orchard Road area and was gazetted as a National Monument in 2003. It is now home to its main tenant CitiBank and McCann Worldgroup.
On 10 March 2015, 50 years after the day of the bombing, a memorial was unveiled across the road at Dhoby Ghaut Green. Among guests were families of victims and the injured, as well as veteran soldiers and volunteers who had defended Singapore through the Konfrontasi era.
Today the MacDonald House remains as the last remaining brick structure in the Orchard Road area. It was gazetted as a National Monument in 2003 and is now home to its main tenant CitiBank and McCann Worldgroup. (c.2013. Image from lionraw.com)
Members of the Singapore Armed Forces Veterans League (SAFVL) at the Confrontation Memorial Ceremony at MacDonald House on March 2014 (c.2014. Image from National Archives of Singapore)