Fort Passeir Panjang was constructed during a period of great uncertainty when Russia was considered a threat to the British Empire.
An early recommendation for a Passeir Panjang Battery was by a Colonel Crossman in 1882. He recommended that the battery be armed with three 10 inch BL guns and three 64 pounder RML guns. The Colonel seemed to have a penchant for 10 inch BL guns. He recommended a total of twenty for the defence of Singapore. In the event, only two such guns were mounted, and they were on Mount Palmer.
In July 1886, a Report titled ‘China Station, Precis of Existing and Proposed Defences’, stated, “Singapore may be termed the key of the route to the extreme east and Australia”. Under the section ‘Proposed Defences for Singapore’ was:- “Passir Panjang Two 9·2 inch BL guns and two 7 inch RML guns of 6½ tons. Nearly finished. Magazine completed except for lifts. 7” guns on the spot”. There are conflicting reports for the dates of the completion of the mounting of the 7 inch guns. The spread of these dates is from 1886 to 1889. Dates for the 9·2 inch guns are more certain, and these give the mounting dates as 1890 to 1891.
Passeir Panjang was not a long-lived fort, being disarmed of its heavy armament by 1912, and its machine guns by April 1914. The Fort never saw active service.
in a Memorandum by the Governor, Sir F.A. Weld G.C. M.G., on the defences of Singapore in February 1887, he wrote about possible enemy attack:
Such a real land attack is, to my mind, unquestionably more likely to be delivered on Passir Panjang Battery. Ships engaging it and Siloso, at rather a long range, might, under cover of smoke or darkness, land men unobserved and unopposed, where no gun could bear upon them, and unless seen by such Malay contingent as I have recommended, or by lookout men, March unopposed and establish themselves on the crest of a small commanding Hill only separated by a moderate dip from the parapet and fence, which is just above the topmost gun emplacement which, especially if the attacking party had with them a light portable machine gun, would offer no very serious obstacle; this being once carried by a force much exceeding that of the gunners, and the guns being taken in reverse and enfiladed, the battery would, they probably fall, and if our guns could then be turned upon Siloso, giving a flank fire in support of the attacking ships. I think that the torpedo beds might be destroyed by overpowering the fire of the guns and defending them, and that the inner harbour and the whole defence might fall.
LEFT: The fort entrance as it is today. A portcullis would have shut of entry to the fort. The guardroom was beyond the left-hand wall. When constructed, the only way to get to the fort was by sea, landing at a small jetty. The garrison may have felt quite isolated.
A Casemate was constructed for stores and offices. The entrance to the Magazine for the No.1 9·2 Inch BL Gun, led from the casemates to underneath the gun.
The guns, as was the Royal Artillery custom, were numbered from right to left. The No.s 1 & 2 Guns were the 9·2 Inch BL Guns and the No.s 3 & 4 Guns, the 7 Inch RML.
On 30 September 1890, The Local Defence Committee recommended that, “a 6-pr. Quick firing gun to be mounted to assist in the defence of the western mine-field”. They also wrote, “In the event of a landing on the beach at Passir Panjang the Alexandra Position, garrisoned by a company of infantry, will be reinforced from the force at Mount Faber. If this force should be much pressed, a further reinforcement will be made by bringing the company from Blakang Mati Redoubt”. At that time, the garrison at Passeir Panjang was 38 Royal Artillery and 20 Singapore Volunteer Artillery (SVA). A year later, armament at the fort is given as being, “two 9·2 inch mark four BL guns, two 7 inch RML guns, one QF gun and one machine gun (Gardner machine gun)”. The Officer Commanding was Capt Lawson, and the total detachment numbered 73 men with 20 SVA 68 Infantry. The recommended 6 pounder QF gun, A Hotchkiss on a Cone Mount, was mounted as the No.5 gun, on an extension to the emplacement for the No.4 7 inch RML Gun. This was complete in 1892, but does not show on the plan below right.
The Revision of Defence Scheme in September 1891 reported that the The authorised ammunition was 100 rounds per gun for the 9·2 and 200 rounds per gun for the 7 inch. There was storage space for 165 rounds per 9·2 inch gun, and 150 rounds per 7 inch gun. The 100 shortfall of cartridges for the 7 inch guns was, as a temporary measure, to be stored at Fort Connaught. That begs the question, why store it so far away? I don’t know if this solution was carried forward.
Major General H.T. Jones-Vaughan, Commanding the troops wrote in Dec 1895 to the under Secretary of State for War (London):
”I have repeatedly reported, and so has the Officer Commanding the Royal Artillery upon the defects of the 7” RML gun which in view of modern ordnance has become an antiquated and obsolete gun”. ...... “The effective artillery defence of this Station may be said to consist of the following guns only -
Two 9”·2 inch guns at Passir Panjang
One 9”·2 gun at Siloso
Two 9”·2 guns at Connaught
Two 8” guns at Serapong
Two 10” guns at Palmer”
He disregarded the two 8 inch guns at Tanjong Katong, “as not coming within the range of the defence of the vital points to be protected”. It should be noted that the many 7 inch RML guns in Singapore were difficult to traverse in wet conditions and could take 4½ minutes to load and aim.
In 1896, plans were drawn up to replace the No.4 7 inch RML gun with another 6 Pounder QF gun. The emplacement was to be remodelled into what is seen today.
In January 1898 the armament at the fort consisted of two Mark IV 9·2 Inch BL guns, one 7 Inch RML Gun of 6½ tons, and one 6 pounder QF gun. The recommended second 6 pounder was yet to be mounted. I don't have a date for the mounting, but is is listed as having been in place by 1902.
By that time, two Mark II 6 Inch QF Guns were approved to be mounted at the fort, and the remaining 7 Inch would be removed to make way for them. By September 1900 the two 6 inch QF emplacements had been completed and the guns mounted.
In December 1904, one of the 6 Pounders was listed as being dismounted. No reason for this has been found. The gun was back in place the following year. The list of Approved Armaments for Singapore for 1906 shows two machine guns on carriages as being part of the armament. There was also the alternative option of tripod mounting for these. It is possible that these were Maxim guns. The location of these is not known, but being on carriages, they were mobile.
The writing was on the wall for Passeir Panjang in 1907. The Report of Committee on Armaments of Defended Posts Abroad recommended that all of the 9·2 inch, 6 inch and 6 pounder guns be removed from the fort. In the Approved Armaments for for 1907, the 6 pounder QF guns had disappeared from the list, and the 6 inch QF and 9.2 inch BL guns were listed for removal. No new armament was listed. The more modern Mark X 9·2 inch batttery to be constructed on Mount Imbiah, and the re-siting of the 6 inch guns of Siloso would seem to have been the reasons for the demise of Passeir Panjang.
Coast Defences State of Completion 15 Dec 1909 showed that the two 9·2 inch BL guns and the two 6 Inch QF guns were still mounted. By 1910 the 6 inch guns had been removed, but the 9·2 inch guns were still mounted. These had gone by 1912. The machine guns remained as he sole armament of the fort. They were removed by April 1914, and Fort Passeir Panjang was no more.
NOTE: Fort Passeir Panjang is sometimes confused with the much later Labrador Battery. In order to clear up confusion, the Labrador Battery was constructed circa 1939 above the Casemates. It occupied the site of the No.1 9·2 Inch Gun of the Passeir Panjang Battery. This 9·2 inch emplacement was destroyed in order to enable the construction of two 6 Inch BL Emplacements of the Labrador Battery. The Labrador Battery also made use of the Casemates and a modified No.1 Magazine.