Berhala Reping was a small island on the north-eastern tip of Blakang Mati. It was a military site from the late 1800s to 1956.
LEFT: A plan of the No.1 6 Pounder Emplacement.
It is recorded that in 1894, there were two 6 Pounder Hotchkiss QF Guns mounted at Berhala Point, as it was then called. These guns were sited to guard the entrance to the Sinki Strait. I do not know the date of arming the site, but may have been 1892.
In 1904, one gun had been dismounted temporarily for an unknown reason. It was replaced by the following year, and two medium machine guns had been added to the armament.
By 1910, the 6 Pounders had been removed and only the machine guns were left at Berhala Point. I do not know how long the machine guns remained there, but at some time, they were replaced by two 12 Pounder QF Guns.
In 1936, the Committee of Imperial Defence estimated that, “four 6-pdr equipments and six lights (searchlights)” would be required, together with a Boom, to defend the Eastern entrance to Keppel Harbour. Plans were made to carry this out.
LEFT: A 1936 map showing the D.E.L plans for Berhala Reping &Tanjong Tereh. RIGHT: Berhala Reping A.M.T.B. Battery1941
On 5th March 1941, the G.O.C. Malaya, Lieutenant-General Sir Lionel Vivian Bond, sent a secret signal to the War Office proposing four A.M.TB. Batteries be armed with Twin 6 Pounders. One at Changi Outer, one at Calder Harbour, and two at Berhala Reping, where they would replace the 12 Pounders. The Berhala Reping guns were operational by October 1941, although I believe that the emplacements themselves had been constructed by 1940. The Committee for Imperial Defence estimates had been changed, and in February 1942, there were two Twin 6 Pounders at Berhala Reping with four searchlights, and one empty single gun emplacement at Tanjong Tereh on Pulau Brani.
The Berhala Reping guns stood ready when the war with Japan broke out, However, apart from some strafing by Japanese aircraft, they saw no action during the defence of Singapore. At 1600hrs on 14th February, demolitions were carried out at Berhala Reping on the orders of a senior officer (unnamed), as a result of a false report of Japanese forces landing close by. Both guns were rendered unusable and the No.2 Magazine was completely destroyed by the demolitions.
Joe Cusselle was a Gunner at Berhala Reping in February 1942. The day following the British surrender, Joe and some colleagues attempted an escape in two boats, but the one he hoped to escape in unfortunately got stuck in the mud. Many desperate attempts to re-float it failed, and Joe and his remaining comrades had to wait to become a P.O.W. of the Japanese. It was to be many days before this happened, as during the confusion following the surrender, their defensive position had forgotten.
On the 20th February 1942, whilst still waiting for the Japanese to arrive, Joe and his comrades were witnesses to one of the Japanese massacres of Chinese civilians in Singapore. A massacre known as ‘Sook Ching’, during which an unknown amount of Chinese were murdered in cold blood by the occupying Japanese forces. Figures of over 25,000 people murdered have been given by some sources.
I was told by Joe, how he and his comrades saw Japanese troops in small boats a few hundred metres from them, throwing large bundles into the water and then machine-gunning them. This continued for eight days. At first, they did not know what the Japanese were throwing in the water and machine-gunning, but the answer came on the early morning of the 22nd, when several groups of bodies tied together in twos, threes and fours were found washed ashore close to the bridge leading to Blakang Mati. Each group showed the wounds made by the machine gun fire they had heard. From then, every tide washed sad little groups of tied together bodies ashore on both sides of the gun emplacement. Many more would have been washed out to sea. Joe and his comrades were organised into burial parties by a Sergeant and they buried the bodies on the beaches where they found them. Joe thinks that he personally buried up to 60 bodies. This indicates just how many civilians were murdered in the harbour between Blakang Mati and Tanjong Pagar, let alone at other sites such as Changi Beach, Punggol Point and Tanah Merah Beach.
LEFT: The No.2 Gun Emplacement in 1946. Damage from the demolition in 1942 is evident.
After the war Berhala Reping was repaired and rearmed with one Twin 6 Pounder. This gun, along with others brought to Singapore were modified so that they could take on an anti-aircraft role if required.
RIGHT: A ruined building in 1991. This has been demolished.
At a meeting on 3rd January 1955 held at ‘D’ C.A. Battery (exact location not known), a Board assembled to, “consider the action required to bring the 6 pr twin equipments at Batu Berlayar and Berhala Reping up to a fully operational state”. The Board decided to make Berhala Reping operational first.
Following W.O. Letter 57/Coast Artillery/332(Ord.9) dated 25th May 1956, British coast artillery was declared redundant. At Berhala Reping, “All major equipments were disposed of under this authority”. Berhala Reping was abandoned fell in to disrepair. Land reclamation later integrated it into the Serapong Golf Course. Some of the site has seen demolition of a few buildings, but most of the emplacement survives, although accessibility is difficult.
Inscribed in four languages on top of the Memorial are the words:-
For eight days from 20 February,1942, hundreds of Chinese civilians,
bound hand and foot, back to back, in groups of four, were transported by
boats from nearby Tanjong Pagar Docks to the waters across from here. There,
Japanese soldiers hurled the bound civilians into the water and opened fire on
them. Many bodies drifted ashore along the outer coastlines of the then Blakang
Mati now Sentosa) Island. Some 300 bodies were by British prisoners
of war around the Berhala Reping artillery post (about 300 metres ahead).
The dead were among tens of thousands who lost there lives during the
Japanese ‘Sook Ching’ operation to purge suspected anti-Japanese civilians
within Singapore's Chinese population between 18 February to 4 March, 1942
Berhala Reping A.M.T.B. Battery on Google Earth.