The Longhurst Collection of Maps at the ISEAS Library

The Longhurst Collection was donated to the ISEAS Library in February 2004 by Captain H.M. Longhurst, a former Gurkha Officer of the British Army in Singapore. The collection comprises mainly maps and charts published from the 1940s to the 1990s. Earlier materials in the collection include British maps and topographical details of Malaya and Singapore, while later materials include maps of petroleum, oil and gas, and other natural resources in locations around Southeast Asia.

Of note in the collection are the B.R.877 J (restricted) maps from November 1943, issued by the General Staff, Geographical Section of Great Britain’s War Office (“GSGS”) Inter-Service Topographical Department. It consists of two volumes, titled Volume I: Text and Volume II: Plans. The volumes contain key topographical and other information relevant to military operations and the war, and were probably important references for a potential British retaking of Malaya from the Japanese.

The first volume is made up of three parts: Part I: history, geography, and medical; Part II: Resources; and Part V: coast, ports, and inland towns. Parts III and IV are unfortunately not part of the collection. The volume contains accompanying plans and charts of potentially strategically important areas in Malaya, an example of which can be seen in the chart below.

Chart I35, “Kuantan Port and Town”, April 1944. Wharves, jetties and a power station are among the infrastructure marked on the map.

The second volume includes 44 well-preserved topographical maps of Singapore and Malaya, as well as a series of aerial photographs of Singapore. In the second image below, we see a detailed map of the southern part of Singapore, dated February 1944.

Map 79, “South Singapore”. Restricted map of the southern part of Singapore, dated February 1944.

The aerial photograph mosaic below shows part of the southern coast of Singapore almost 90 years ago, corresponding to part of the area in the map above. One can just make out the area where the premises of the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute currently stand.

Extract of Mosaic I, “Pasir Panjang to Tanjong Berlayar”, showing the area around the site of the present ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

Reproductions of selected maps can be seen at the maps section of the Library, while digitised surrogates of the rest of both volumes, including the aerial photographs and other maps, plans and charts, are available upon request.

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