Labrador Battery 1938
From : Imperial Defence Policy. Annual Review for 1932 by the Chiefs of Staff Sub-Committee:-
12. The above events prompt inquiry as to our own readiness to face sudden aggression by Japan. The position is about as bad as it could be.......
......The defences of Keppel Harbour are out of date and not sited to defend the naval base. A p a r t from one or two old 9-2-inch guns, which are unsuitably sited, and two 6-inch guns, a single squadron of 12 torpedo-bombers and a squadron of four flying-boats constitute the sole defence for the floating dock and large oil reserves. There are not enough anti-aircraft guns and no boom defences, anti-submarine defences, or mines. The garrison consists only of two battalions (one of which is a battalion of Burma rifles located at Taiping) and volunteer units. It is by no means certain that India could supply the force of one Division required as a war garrison, but even were it made available it seems certain that we could not bring it to Singapore in time. At Trincomali also the naval oil supplies required for the movement of the Main Fleet to the Far East are totally unprotected; there is not even a garrison.
In the British Government’s Defence Review of 1935, it was agreed that a new 6-Inch Battery would be constructed on the site of the disused fort Pasir Panjang. This new Battery which became known as the Labrador Battery, would complement the nearby 6-Inch QF battery at Fort Siloso, which was to be upgraded to a BL Battery. The Batteries, working together would provide an effective close defence of the western entrance to Keppel Harbour.
The question of where exactly the new battery would be constructed arose. Fort Pasir Panjang already had two disused 6-Inch QF Gun emplacements, abandoned since 1911, and it was suggested that these be modified for the new battery. In the event, this did not happen. The site of the disused No.1 9.2-Inch Emplacement above the Fort Pasir Panjang Casemates, which was abandoned in 1912, was to be used. The Magazine below would be modified to service the new guns.
A brief for meeting about 6-Inch batteries in Singapore contained:-
“2. The provision of a 6-inch battery at Labrador is important for the following reasons:-
(a) Siloso Battery provides only an end-on shoot against ships entering Keppel Harbour, until very close.
(b) Labrador battery provides some measure of depth to the defence and being the opposite side of the channel, it would be impossible to screen both batteries by smoke at the same time.......”;
On 26 May 1936, Major General J.G. Dill (later Field Marshal) said:-
Labrador Battery was considered necessary by the J.D.C. (Joint Defence Committee) in order to secure the western entrance to Keppel Harbour. To abolish it would be to definitely accept under-insurance in this area, and I do not think that we are justified in doing so. A successful attack on Keppel Harbour might well penetrate to Fortress H.Q. and dislocate the whole defence system of Singapore.
There was an opposing view quoting the GOC Malaya who said that, “quite definitely, the western entrance to Keppel Harbour is adequately defended without the Labrador Battery”. Major General Dill disagreed with this and wrote on 9 June 1936, “It would, I am convinced, be unsound to slow down work on Labrador”. More correspondence followed, and on the 22 July 1936, the Deputy Under Secretary of State wrote, “I agree to Labrador proceeding”. Argument ended and Labrador would go ahead.
So, construction began. The No.1 9.2-Inch Emplacement was demolished and modifications were made to the Magazine. In the Casemates behind the Magazine, one room was converted into an oil store and another had generating equipment installed. Two Mark VII 6-Inch BL Guns on Mark II CPMs (centre Pivot Mounting) were installed in the new emplacements. The guns had all-round traverse. Two CASLs and a PF Cell were built near the Battery.
LEFT: The No.1 Gun of Labrador Battery in 1941.
ABOVE: A plan of the Magazine.
Sometime around 1941, the two gun emplacements were modified by having overhead concrete splinter cover installed. The cover had the effect of greatly reducing the arc of fire of the guns. Archives give an arc of 225° to 270°. This would seem to be a mistake in the records. The arc would have been greater in order for the guns to fully sweep the western entrance to Keppel Harbour. The above photograph of the gun with splinter cover indicates a wider arc.
From Faber Fire Command War Diary
9 Sep 39
PASIR LABA BATTERY
will be occupied by one watch under a British or Indian Officer, and will not be manned day and night .WORKS outstanding at the forts will be completed.
1700 hrs 7.12.41 1700hrs 8.12.41
0200.0 5. ART (Code name for HQ Fixed Defences). Japanese are now attempting to land at KOTA BAHRU and are being engaged by our forces.
1158. I 20. ART
Clearing fields of fire on beaches will commence 9th Dec. Mines will be laid in PENERANG (sic) and KEPPEL less LABRADOR and LABA sectors only.
1542.0 30 ART
Six Inch Shrapnel Projectiles for use against low flying aircraft will be fuzed ready for action.
Air Bombing and Shelling in the vicinity of LABRADOR and Northern Slopes of MT FABER fairly constant throughout day. At 1200 hrs SILOSO and LABRADOR Forts engaged enemy concentrations at the west end of the WEST COAST ROAD (MR 7312) and JURONG RIVER position. (Approx 60 rounds HE expended) at the request of I.M.I.B.
Note: The map square reference 7312 indicates an arc of fire reaching 312°, which well exceeds the 270° given in records. There is some evidence that the splinter cover over the guns had to be cut away to enable the guns to fire on the Japanese. However this was said to be to enable the guns to bring fire on the Japanese forces battling the Malay Regiment on Opium Hill on 13 February. This is an angle of some 325°
At 2000 hrs LABRADOR FORT ordered to engage a two masted junk lying abandoned to the NE of NINE ISLANDS. This task was ordered by A.F.C and 84 rounds were expended.
During the morning 16 Australian stragglers arrived at Labrador from seawards and were rearmed and taken on strength of Fort. 1 NCO, Bdr Scott killed.
Note: Bdr. Walter Scott is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial.
SILOSO and LABRADOR FORTS engaged further land targets along the WEST COAST ROAD.
On instructions from HQFD, the oil tanks and drums which had not been destroyed in the original denial of oil storage on P. Bukom
At 2100 hrs SILOSO and LABRADOR FORTS engaged an unidentified CRAFT drifting slowly from WEST to EAST between . SEBAROK and ST. JOHNS WEST inside No.3 minefield on orders of the AFC. This target quickly caught fire and sank................
At 1100 hrs SILOSO and LABRADOR Forts engaged further land targets on West Coast Road (approx 50 rounds expended).
At 1400 hrs LABRADOR FORT was shelled by a 5·9” Gun Battery sited in the vicinity of the JURONG RIVER using observations from Air, and possibly ground from High ground rear of P. PANJANG
The War Accommodation was hit and set on fire. There was a direct hit on the Steps of the S.L.D.S. (Search Light Director Station) damaging the O.P. and SLDS, and another on the Magazine and overhead cover to the No.2 Gun. Another hit was registered at the Magazine Entrance which penetrated the gallery. Killing 3 and wounding 6 IORs (Indian Other Ranks).
The Fort was called upon to engage a Land Target in P. PANJANG area, and later was again shelled by way of reprisal. At this point the IORs of this fort much fatigued and demoralised from Bomb and Shell fire, left the Fort and took cover in the old Magazine in old Labrador Fort (Fort Pasir Panjang).
At 1830 hrs owing to the close proximity of the enemy on the Alexandra Road, orders were given by FC to complete demolitions of the Fort. The two Guns, Magazine CASLs and Engine Room were destroyed successfully and the Personnel accompanied by the 16 Australians withdrew to Faber at 2000 hrs. At 1600 hrs 31 Bty were ordered out to AYER RAJAH Cross Roads where they came under orders of OC 2nd Loyal Regiment for the remainder of the operations.
Note: Despite the guns being spiked, the Japanese were later able to repair one of them.
LEFT: The No.2 Gun in 1946. Note the hole in the overhead splinter cover, probably caused by the Japanese shell of 13 February 1942.
ABOVE: The Casemates in the 1950s. The B.O.P. still stands above them. Shell splinter damage is visible on the walls.