15 inch gun
No.2 gun Buona Vista Battery

The Buona Vista Battery straddled Ulu Pandan Road near its junction with Reformatory Road, which was renamed Clementi Road after the war.

Maj. General Barron, in his report on the defences of Singapore and Penang in 1935 noted that a Mk.1 15 Inch Gun was approved for the first stage in the improvement of Singapore’s defences, and two Mark II 15 Inch Guns would be added in the Second Stage. He wrote:

“In my opinion a single 15” gun is of little or no value and there is therefore a grave weakness on the Western side until the second stage is implemented. It appears to me, moreover, that to accept immediate weakness for the sake of eventual great (and, possibly, unnecessarily great) strength is quite unsound, and I therefore recommend that the second stage should be abolished and that:-”

“.......... (2) A three gun 9·2” battery be installed near BUONA VISTA at a site on W.D. land which I have selected and which is shown on the Map at Appendix V.”

From the Minutes of a meeting at Fort Canning, headed by the G.O.C., Maj. General E.O. Lewin,on 11th March 1935:

“General Barron proposed that, in place of the one 15” at all BUONA VISTA, a 3 gun 9·2” battery should be installed, and the one 15” emplaced at BEE HOE in order to bring that battery of three guns. In support of this proposal he said that one 15” gun by itself was of little practical value and that the BUONA VISTA Battery, being a hybrid, would not be really efficient even when the somewhat mythical second stage had been undertaken ............... ”

Maj. General Lewin proposed a second 15 Inch Gun as part of the First Stage rather than Maj .General Barron’s proposal for three 9.2-Inch Guns. He went on to add that it was a question that could only be decided by the War Office.

It would seem that the War Office preferred Maj. General Lewin’s proposals. An extract from the Meeting of the Cabinet to he held at No.10, Downing Street, S.W.1., on WEDNESDAY, 24th JULY, 1935, at 11.0 a.m.:

“The cabinet has before them a report on Singapore Defences (C.P.-152 (35)) by the committee of Imperial Defence Sub-Committee on Defence Policy and Requirements The Conclusions and recommendations of the Sub-Committee were summarised at the end of their Report in the following terms:

(a) That without prejudice to the final scheme for the provision of Stage II of the Singapore Defences, the gift of the Sultan of Johore amounting to £500,000 should be distributed as follows:
(i) £400,000 to the War Office to be devoted t o the comp1etion of the 15-inch gun batteries at Bee Hoe (3 guns) and Buona Vista (2 guns).

The Cabinet approved the above recommendations. However, the original plans for Mark I Guns on the Mark I Singapore Mountings for the Buona Vista Battery were changed, and the Battery was constructed using the Mark II Mounting. This was termed the ‘Spanish Mounting’ as this type of Mounting was based on that used used for 15 Inch Guns built for the Spanish Government. Work commenced on the Battery and it was expected to complete during 1938. The guns became operational during 1939. The Mark I Singapore Mounting was only used on one 15 Inch Gun is Singapore. This was the No.1 Gun of the Johore Battery, a replica of which can be seen at Cosford Road.

Inside a 15 inch gun
LEFT: The breech of a 15 Inch Gun on a Mark II Mounting, the Breech door is open RIGHT: Inside RIGHT: the Handling Room, three storeys below the gun in the Magazine.

The Handling Room was where shells and propellant cartridges were brought from their respective parts of the Magazine, transferred to a rotating Ammunition Carrier which was then rotated into a vertical position, and then raised to the gun where it was automatically loaded into the Breech by a Chain Loading Rammer. In the right-hand photograph, the The Cartridge Tilting Tray is on the left of the photograph and is shown in a horizontal position. The Flash Doors are dropped open. When cartridges were inserted the doors would be closed to prevent any chance of anything igniting the cartridges. On the right of the photo is seen the the Ammunition Carrier in the Horizontal position.

The Battery was supplied by a Military Railway which branched from the KTM Railway some 200 metres south of the southern Holland Road bridge. The railway crossed Ulu Pandan Road by means of a Truss Bridge. The Bridge was just west of the bus stops at the Pandan Valley road junction.

Extract From War Diary Faber Fire Command Concerning the Buona Vista Battery

Commander: Major P.S.F. Jackson RA.
G.P.O.:  Lt. Simpson RA
British Personnel, 31 Coast Bty RA.

1250 Verb BONE. BONE (Buona Vista B.O.P.) requests B1 to be put out of action from dusk of 27th to replace a washer on the hydraulic system loading tray. Duration approx 3 hours. Repairs imperative and should be carried out in the near future.

1400 0 14 ART (H.Q. Fixed Defences). Permission is given to put B.1 gun at VIS (Buona Vista Battery) out of action from dusk 27th for approx. 3 hours.

Wireless broadcast on the morning of Feb 9th reported that the enemy had landed on Singapore Island, and were in contact with our Forces West of the JOHORE CAUSEWAY.

At about 0900 hrs on Feb 9th a message was received from C.F.D. for BUONA VISTA Bty to PREPARE FOR DEMOLITION. This order was passed to the B.O.P. on Hill 270, and Acknowledged by the B.C. No situation report on the progress of the fighting on Singapore Island was received by F.C. Faber that day.......

No further events of importance occurred in as far as BUONA VISTA Bty was concerned on Feb 9th, and no calls for Landward or seaward fire received. In this connection it should be remembered that the 15 inch Equipments at BUONA VISTA could not bear further NORTH than 310° (SUNGAI PENDAS on the Southern Johore Coast west of P. LABA). The enemy landing was well north of this bearing as measured from the Battery.........

At about 0430 on Feb 11th the F.C. gave full authority to B.C. Buona Vista Bty to deny the Guns to the enemy as he the “man on the spot” considered it essential to do so. As soon a demolitions were completed the Battery personnel were to withdraw to Mt Faber for reorganisation.

At about 0530 hrs on Feb 11th, the B.C. states the position around Buona Vista was becoming critical - There was indiscriminate fire from all directions and both Gun Turret Commanders and the Section Commander of the xxx (undecipherable word) Battery of the Fort xxx (undecipherable word)  Bofors Gun in B.2 Area all reported that they were being fired upon from all directions........

At about 0600 hrs the B.C. Buona Vista gave the orders to carry out demolitions as ordered, and shortly afterwards B.1 Gun was blown followed by B.2. 250lbs of gelignite was used on each Gun. The Bofors Gun, Engine Rooms and Fire Control Instruments were all destroyed. The Magazines were not destroyed.

The destruction of the guns were all reported as effective and the detachments withdrew on completion to Faber.

The O.C. Bty with his B.P.R.  C.P. and spare personnel remained at the Fort until  1300 hrs on Feb 11th when Australian Troops were holding the high ground West and NE, and in the immediate vicinity of the Fort itself...........

Note: The B.O.P. was on a road called the ‘Hog’s Back’. Today this is called Kent Ridge Road. The B.O.P. was on the north side of the road some 85 metres north of Temasek Life Sciences A water tank now occupies the site. Also serving the Battery was a Fortress Observation Post (F.O.P.). This was just north of Haw Par Villa.

Despite the demolition works carried out at the Battery, the No.2 Gun was not destroyed. The Japanese managed to repair it.

Lt. Col. Masataka Numaguchi of' the Army Technical Headquarters and Maj. Katsuji Akiyama of the Army Heavy Artillery School went to Singapore where they inspected and reported on the weapons and fortifications captured by the Japanese. Their report states:

“One 15 inch gun (Buena (sic) Vista Battery). A careful test will be conducted to determine whether the shell at present in the tube will slide back by its own dead weight by elevating the barrel gradually. Should this method of extraction be unsuccessful, an attempt will be made to fire the shell with a decreased base charge (¾ of that employed by the British) after carefully checking the breech block. Before doing this, the condition of all parts of the gun, especially the recoil buffer and the counter recoil, will be thoroughly inspected. If the damage to the motive power mechanism is slight, the piece will be cleared, inspected, and repaired by specialists and tested without delay.”

A later British intelligence report stated:

“The rescued Australian P.W. state that one of the 15” guns of the Buona Vista battery is still in use, but manually loaded and operated, as the loading mechanism has been destroyed.”

Despite the attention given to the gun by the the Japanese, it never saw action.

1948 photoLEFT: A 1948 RAF photo of the No.2 Gun. Still in situ three years after the war. The gun was removed the following year.

1950 aerial photo

ABOVE RIGHT: A 1950 aerial view of the site of the battery. At the top, shown in an approximate location, as that is what the map reference in archive material says, is the Battery Plotting Room. The empty gun wells for each gun are visible.

The Plotting Room’s purpose was to plot the positions and courses of naval targets for the guns. The information would come from the Faber Fire Command and the Battery Observation Post.

Plotting Rooms, of which there were seven in Singapore, were always underground for protection from enemy fire. Other Plotting Rooms were for Fort Connaught, Changi Fire Command, Johore Battery, Tekong Besar Battery, and at Malaya Command Combined HQ, today called the Battlebox. Visitors to the Battlebox can still see the Gun Plotting Room, but the display in there is actually laid out to represent air defence.

What Remains Today?

Batteries & Defences