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Dr. Toh Chin Chye

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Terror bomb kills 2 girls at bank
March 11, 1965

Reporters: Jackie Sam, Philip Khoo, Cheong Yip Seng, Abul Fazil, Roderick Pestana and Gabriel Lee

A BOMB explosion killed two office girls in the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank building known as MacDonald House in Orchard Road here this afternoon. At least 33 other people were injured.

The extent of the damage on the mezzanine floor of the 10-storey building made it a simple matter to determine where the bomb was placed -- near the lift.

An inner wall at this level was blasted inwards and collapsed in a mass of rubble into the bank on the ground floor.

Windows shattered

Killed immediately were Mrs. Suzie Choo, 36, private secretary to the Bank Manager, and Miss Juliet Goh, 23, a filing clerk in the bank.

Many others -- in the bank and on the road -- fell like ninepins, many seriously injured.

Every window within a hundred yards was shattered, and almost every car immediately outside the building and across the road was damaged.

Passing cars jolled to a halt. A taxi-driver and his two passengers were injured.

But there was no panic. Swiftly the road was cleared. Ambulances and fire engines rolled in.

The full extent of the tragedy began to unfold only as the dead and the injured were carried out.

Arrow in the picture at left points to the exact spot on the stairway on the mezzanine floor of MacDonald House where the time-bomb exploded.

Two buried

The bomb exploded at 3.07 p.m. -- just eight minutes before the Wearne Brothers' motor mechanics were due to gather by the side of the building for their tea break.

The explosion ripped off a lift door -- but it was one of the inner walls on the mezzanine floor that took the full force of the blast.

On the other side of this wall was the correspondence office of the bank, in which Mrs Choo and Miss Goh were working. Both were buried by rubble.

Many office workers in the building, thought, like Mrs. Rosie Heng of the Malaya Borneo Building Society on the fourth floor, that it was a thunderclap -- because it was raining heavily at the time.

On the ground floor plaster and bricks were raining down on the bank employees.

The bank had closed for business only seven minutes earlier, and about 150 employees were busy closing accounts.

Behind the counter and just below the correspondence office, the compradore, Mr Lim Chin Hin, 45, wiped blood from his face and said a silent prayer.

He was giving thanks for a miraculous escape.

Alone in his room, he had seen a "sudden flash". Then came the bang.

Twisted steel

He looked up to find that the upper part of the wall behind him had caved in, leaving a skeleton of a twisted steel pillar exposed.

Still stunned, Mr Lim picked up his spectacles, which had fallen, and groped his way out of the room.

Further inside the bank, Mr I C Menzies, 27, head of current account department, was at his postronic machine when he heard the explosion and found himself in a cloud of dust.

His first thought was the roof was falling down on him. Through the cloud of dust, he could see vague figures moving out quickly.

Someone, he learned later, had instructed the employees, to clear out of the building within minutes of the explosion.

He collected the books and locked them up in the safe before leaving. He was later taken to the hospital to have a cut in the head attended to.

In the offices of the Australian High Commission, Mr H. Brokenshire, the Press Attache, went to the toilet -- and returned to find desks, chairs and typewriters thrown about by the force of the explosion.

The heavy wooden door of the main office had been wrenched from its hinges and tossed 9m up the passageway.

The toilet door too had been ripped off and the landing outside the High Commission had buckled.

A near victim of the explosion on this floor was Mr Barry J. O'Donnell, the Administrative Attache, who was waiting for the lift when the bomb went off.

The lift doors in front of him were blown out and he was flung several yards down the passsage.

Higher up in the building a second lift jammed just before the bomb went off.

Six people, including two children were inside and the liftman and one of the passengers were trying to prise open the door when the explosion shook the lift and sent it hurtling down several floors.

Mrs Jean Standish, 31, wife of a Naval Base technical college lecturer. Mrs Barrington and her two children had just paid a visit to their dentist on one of the upper floors.


Mrs Standish said later: "The jammed lift doors probably saved our lives." But Mrs Barrington's nine-year-old son sustained a cut on his chin. The others were not hurt.

Outside, nearly half the road in front of the building was blocked by the wrecked station wagon, the other half by another damaged car belonging to the Japanese Consulate.

The wrecked station wagon belonging to the Australian High Commission. It was parked outside the entrance

A taxi driven by Koh Siong Khiong had been lifted and bounced by the force of the explosion. Koh was injured by flying glass.

In the car park across the road, the screens of almost all the vehicles were shattered.

On the roadside, a sleek red Volvo coupe had its side smashed in and two tyres slashed.

Still worse was a maroon Simea with its right side studded with shattered glass.

Outside the Cycle and Carriage showroom across the road, two mechanics were standing side by side when glass splinters ripped into their bodies. They were badly injured. Cars in the showroom were also damaged.

The Wearne Brothers' group sustained still heavier damage. Every one of the cars in the Progress Motors showroom -- just beside MacDonald House -- was damaged.

Three workers in this showroom were also injured.

Many more would have been killed or injured if the bomb had gone off 10 minutes later.

These workers usually go into the lane between Progress Motors and MacDonald House to buy fruit from a stall there during their tea break.

When the bomb went off, the fruit stall was demolished. The two hawkers attending the stall were seriously injured.

Other shops suffered damage, too. Glass windows were blasted out of their frames to end up in little pieces on five-foot ways.

Neon signs crashed down or trailed disjointed in midair.

At 3.30 pm the Reserve Unit arrived to hold the crowd back. Traffic policemen were already diverting traffic in Penang Road and Tank Road.

The damaged station wagon was pushed to the roadside to allow clear passage for ambulances.

Top police officers, who had been in conference at Pearl's Hill, were soon on the scene. After them came the British Army's bomb disposal squad.

The General Hospital by now was crammed with people -- relatives and friends of the injured.

At 5pm when the rain stopped, a big Health Department team arrived to clear the thick carpet of shattered glass on the road.

macdonald house Four sweepers cleaning the road in front of MacDonald House after the explosion

Crowds gathered, then drifted away. Police took up positions on both sides of the road to prevent looting. The short stretch of Orchard Road was closed to traffic.


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