In September 1924, Lt. Col. Brancker C.R.A. (Commander Royal Artillery) made a coast defence reconnaissance in the area of Tanjong Karang on the west coast of Singapore (where the present Tuas link to Malaysia is). He noted:
“Position “K”. on point N. of TANJONG KARANG promontory”, that, “The ridge, at this point, is razor backed, but affords room for emplacements. Ground appears firm. Height very fair ...... If foundation suitable, quite a good position for two 6” guns.” In November that year, the G.O.C. Malaya, Maj. Gen. Fraser wrote to the War Office in London saying, “.... a reasonably good site exists at 900 yards N.N.E. of KARANG.”
As can be seen from the map, Point “K” is Pasir Laba which is the location indicated by the G.O.C.
In his report to the Committee of Imperial Defence in 1927, General Sir Webb Gillman made a recommendation for strong defences at Pasir Laba. These had a rider, “If decided on”. He recommended a two gun 9·2-Inch BL Gun Battery and a two gun 6 Inch BL Gun Battery to be emplaced. Only the 6Inch Gun Battery was proceeded with.
During his visit to Singapore in 1936 by General Barron, it was agreed, “That No.2 gun which had been sited low down on the col just east of No.1 gun should be moved Westwards up the ridge towards the B.Cs. Post ...... thus increasing its arc of fire. Since the height of the gun had already been cabled to the War Office, to enable the Auto Sight cams to be cut, it was agreed that the change of height should be cabled forthwith.”
The battery was armed with two Mark VII 6 Inch BL Guns on a Mark II CPM and had a Mark I Shield. As with many of the other 6 Inch Batteries in Singapore, Pasir Laba received concrete overhead splinter cover for the guns sometime after 1939. However, it did not receive Mark IV Gun Shields, or even the locally manufactured ones fitted to guns at batteries such as Labrador. It went to War with the old low Mark 1 Shields.
LEFT: Arc of fire for the Battery showing how the splinter cover restricted the arc of fire.
The Pasir Laba Battery was not the first gun battery in Singapore to engage the Japanese during the Malayan Campaign, but it was the first to engage on the night of 8/9 February 1942 when Japanese forces landed on Singapore.
“On the night of Feb 8th/9th. P. Laba Bty had calls from 44 IND Inf Bde and the AIF (Australian Imperial Force) for night harassing fire, on to all likely embarkation places between SUNGEI PENDAS and T. TUAN on the southern JOHORE COAST....... The O.C. P. Laba immediately answered these calls with the only gun (No 1) which could bear up the JOHORE Straits to the North, the overhead covers being cut away to pursuit of this”.
The No.1 Gun fired 40 Rounds up to 0430hrs. At 0630 hrs, The Battery Commander informed Fire Command (Faber) that the area was being dive-bombed and that the Japanese were shelling the area north of the battery.
“At about 0715 hrs the enemy battery increased Range, and began shelling the Fort, heavily. Between 0715 hrs and 0815 hrs the O.P. was hit twice, both Gun emplacements were hit several times and the overhead cover of the No 2 Gun was in a very demolished state and according to Capt Asher No 1 Gun could not be fired except in the greatest emergency.”
“At about 0745hrs, permission was requested to prepare the Battery for demolition, as 44th Infantry Brigade were withdrawing. This was granted. Capt. Asher and Lt. Senior were involved in laying charges and laid theirs in the No.1 Magazine. A demolition party commanded by Lt, Finch, from Siloso was sent to Pasir Laba to help out, arriving at 1230hrs. Further help was requested and a party from Labrador was sent arriving at 1830hrs with fresh demolition charges. With the arrival of this party, Lt. Finch was, “able to complete the demolition of the Guns, Magazines, Lights and Stores. The R.E. Destroying the lights (Searchlights) and stores. According to Lt. Finch and Bdr Cherington this Fort was fully denied to the enemy by 1830hrs on Feb 9th.”
Pasir Laba on Google Earth.
The Pasir Laba Battery is on restricted MINDEF land, and has been demolished. However, It's possible that the magazines remain.