Pasir Panjang Fort/Labrador Battery

In the early 19th century, the British government built as many as 11 artillery forts for southern and western coastal defence of Singapore. Beside Pasir Panjang Fort (or Labrador Battery), there were Fort Siloso (Sentosa), Mount Imbiah Battery (Sentosa), Fort Serapong (Sentosa), Fort Connaught (Sentosa), Fort Canning, Fort Fullerton, Fort Palmer (formerly Mount Palmer), Faber Fire Command (Mount Faber), Fort Silingsing (Pulau Brani) and Fort Teragah (Pulau Brani).

By 1938, in an anticipation of an ambitious Japanese empire, the British further strengthened Pasir Panjang Fort with two 6-inch guns, more defensive posts and ammunition storage bunkers. However, all these proved to be ineffective against the Japanese forces, who unexpectedly invaded from the north, during the Battle of Pasir Panjang in 1942.

The British also built numerous concrete machine gun pillboxes along the coastline, about 550m apart, in order to resist invasion from the southern sea. Most of the pillboxes were gone except three; two are situated at Labrador Park (one of them was to protect the 12-pound gun on top of Berlayer Point), whereas the other lies along Pasir Panjang Road.

Before 1848, two huge granite structures stood at present Labrador Park and Tanjong Rimau of Sentosa. They looked like a pair of pegs in a typical Chinese ship’s bow (called Dragon’s Teeth by Chinese sailors) from afar, and therefore the water entrance was named Long Ya Men (龙牙门) or Dragon’s Teeth Gate by ancient Chinese maritime explorers, notably Wang Dayuan (1311-1350) and Zheng He (1371-1433).

The local Malays named the rocks as Batu Berlayar (“Sailing Rock”) while the British sailors called them Lot’s Wife, referring to the wife of Abraham’s nephew in the bible, who was turned into a statue of salt when she looked back at the destruction of sinful city Sodom.

After the founding of Singapore in 1819, the British surveyed the area and found the deep water there suitable for the development of a new harbour. To widen the channel to the new harbour, the two rocks were blown up by Straits Settlement Surveyor John Thomson in 1848.

The red Berlayar Beacon, installed in around 1930 and about 7m tall, was used as a navigation point for ships. Prior to 2005, it was almost demolished by the authorities. Fortunately the Singapore Heritage Society appealed successfully, and the replica of the Dragon Tooth, supposed to replace the beacon as a commemoration for the 600th anniversary of Zheng He’s first marine voyage, was put up in another nearby location instead.

Keppel Harbour was built in 1886 and named in 1900 after British admiral Sir Henry Keppel (1809-1904), who effectively reduced the threat of pirates in the region and did the on-site surveying of the new harbour.

Used to mark the southernmost end of Asian continent, a white obelisk stands at Tanjong Berlayar Point.

There are several tunnels at Pasir Panjang Fort, mostly constructed in 1886 to be used as storage for ammunition, supplies and probably also served as hiding places for the British soldiers. One of the tunnels was rumoured to be underwater in a link to a fort at Sentosa. The entrance, however, has already collapsed. Some of the tunnels were rediscovered in 2001 and opened to the public.

In the same year of 2001, an old 6-inch gun was discovered at the basement of the former Beach Road Camp. This Quick-Firing (QF) gun was similar to the two 6-inch Rifled Bridge Loading (RBL) guns deployed at Labrador during the Second World War. Used during the Battle of Singapore in February 1942, the 6.5-tonne guns with their 45kg shells were formidable anti-ship weapons with a range of almost 1km!

The British destroyed part of Pasir Panjang Fort in 1942 after they surrendered to the Japanese. It was closed and abandoned after the war. The fate of Labrador Park remained uncertain for decades before the authorities determined it as a nature reserve in 2001.

Published: 08 July 2011

Updated: 03 October 2012

34 Responses to Pasir Panjang Fort/Labrador Battery

  1. Peter Stubbs says:

    The photo above the paragraph about ‘tunnels’ at Pasir Panjang Fort shows an Embrasure for a 6-Pounder Quick Firing Gun. The gun was emplaced there at the end of the 1800s, probably around 1892, and removed in or before 1900. Another 6-Pounder was at Berlayar Point, but I’m unsure of its location. I believe that it may have been atop the rock. The inside of the rock was hollowed out to created room for the gun and ammunition storage. A staircase led to the surface. The whole area was filled with rubble at some time. Recently a couple of people went from the embrasure to the surface by scrambling over the rubble. It would seem that they did not know what they were actually crawling through.

  2. Peter Stubbs says:

    I’ve never believed in the existence of the rumoured tunnel. If it did exist, it would probably have been dug in Victorian times, perhaps from Batu Berlayar. I’ve often read of it coming up on the beach at the foot of Fort Siloso. No chance. If you were digging a tunnel from one military establishment to another, you would not bring it to the surface on the beach with the military establishment a few metres further on. It would be taken into the establishment itself. In the case of Siloso, the underground complex at Siloso Point. There is no evidence of the tunnel anywhere in Fort Siloso or in Pasir Panjang. As to the underground area filled with rubble at Batu Berlayar, who knows?

    As I understand it, most of the magazines etc. of Fort Pasir Panjang and the Labrador Battery were not sealed until the 1970s. Had there been a tunnel entrance, it would almost certainly have been found and written about. I’ve read through a lot of archival material dating from 1860 to 1971 concerning the British Military presence in Singapore. Nowhere have I found a single reference to a tunnel being constructed.

    Many historians and amateurs like myself would love to see real evidence of a tunnel, but I don’t hold out much hope.

  3. john brick says:

    you can visit again there… now still under maintanance, before opened for public…
    however some people already have tour to the tunnel

  4. Erika Jayne Cleveley says:

    Does anybody have photos of Pasir Panjang before the WW11 as I am trying to see what it was like as my mother liveD there for 15 years before the JAP INVASION

  5. bibik bongsu says:

    A couple of yrs ago I signed up for a tour of Lab Pk, the tunnels were opened to us and were said to be opened to the public in a few years’ time. You may want to contact Jeya of The Original Singapore walks. He introduced himself to us and said that he was in the history unit of SAF. He’s a mine of info about Labrador Battery.

  6. Bailey Lambert says:

    My 11 year old daughter goes to the Singapore American School, her 5th grade class were assigned to choose a location in Singapore research and prepare an oral presentation to the class on the information they found. Does anyone know a historian that would love to share information on Labrador Park or where one can go to learn more about the park? Thank You.

  7. androol says:

    tried climbing up the hill? a great find awaits you!

    • alternatve says:

      Isn’t the hill out of bounds? Or is there a way up? I’ve noticed a watchtower and several other buildings on the hill, including a radio antenna. The road up is blocked by a gate, possibly as security for the antenna.

      • The Radar Tower belongs to PSA.
        Thus it’s sort of Out-of-bounce.
        It’s actually fenced-up.

        The Watch-Tower could also function as a Gun Directiion Tower..

        There is a Emplacement on top.
        Quite similar to the one at Siloso Point..
        Huge Gun..

        Few years back..
        I went-up by scaling the Hill below the Watch-Tower… Challenging..

        There r Stairs on e Exterior of the Watch-Tower..

        Don’t Use dat..
        Due to Weathering.. Lots of the Structure on the Outside r Eroded..
        You could fall if you stepped onto it n it give-way…
        It’s a Long-Way Down..

        There is a Tunnel-Opening near the beach… Behind e Red-Beacon.. It Might be e Access to The Top of The Fort.. I didn’t went in cos it’s sort of Collapsed..

        There used to b another Watch-Tower / Gun-direction Tower with Gun-emplacement at e End of the Road that leads to the Top of e Hill… That’s where The Fort is…

        The Tower & Gun is similar to the one at Belayer-point..


        It’s somewhere below Cable-car Station at Mt.Faber..

        There is an Entrance that Leads to it somewhere near to Henderson Wave..

        It came-out in the news some years back… Straits-Times

        I know where the Entrance is… But never venture in…. There is also a Hut near the Entrance… But was sealed-up by Cement…

  8. androol says:

    yes there’s another way.. gotta climb up the hill.. pwetty well trodden path actually.. mind the erosion tho!

  9. Peter Dunlop author "Street names of Singapore" says:

    Actually the obelisk marks the western limit of Keppel Harbor. Tanjung Piai near Kukup in Johor is generally taken as the southernmost point of Asia. There is not much in it and I have not had time to check it up on my nautical charts but, and it is a big but, Singapore is an island and not part of the Asian mainland

  10. Peter Dunlop author "Street names of Singapore" says:

    In the 50s we used to go down to the point and picnic on the small sandy beach which has now been reclaimed and also to fish near the beacon. It was a favourite place to go to wave to friends leaving by passenger ship. It was quite a jungly trek with a scramble over the hill

  11. Sarjit Singh says:

    I remember there used to be one at Trafalgar Street near Trafalgar Primary School beside the Tanjong.
    Has anyone got any old memories or photos of these places? Especially of Trafalgar Street, or surrounding areas, please.

  12. Devil says:

    I know of another way into the tunnel, except its padlocked

  13. Sarjit Singh says:

    I remember there used to be one at Trafalgar Street near Trafalgar Primary School beside the Tanjong.
    Has anyone got any old memories or photos of these places? Especially of Trafalgar Street, or surrounding areas, please.
    Any old photos of Palmer Road?

    • Razak says:

      i used to stay there too. sarjit. i believe your family are the 2 0r 3 sikh families who used to stay along the road. i remember very well certain festival, the sikh would throw coins and children would hurriedly pick them up. i also used to swim at the drain in front of those houses. unfortunately i dont have any pictures but have very clear memories and i work around there now.

    • Chan Seck Chuen says:

      I studied in that school during the 50s and my younger brother. I still had one group photo with my classmates. By the way do you have a picture of the school badge or any of your friends? Thank you.

  14. Jaswant Khaira says:

    Does anyone have old photos of trafalgar street and trafalgar school? I used to live there and many fond memories come to my mind of my teenagers days.

  15. TCH says:

    I think it should be ‘BREECH’ loading gun

  16. Farihin says:

    On the way in to Labrador Park, on the left side, there’s a glorious power station building built by the British. I had the opportunity to enter site due to work. Its now a makeshift warehouse for SP Powergrid. I wish you can do a story on that building. Its simply stunning and charming.

  17. Su Sanda says:

    May I know what is the LABRADOR PARK BATTERY is used for? I will be designing a trail so I need to know more about the names but I seriously cannot find the name of the place above the secret tunnel

  18. Anthony Cheak `then`, now Fred says:

    There use to be a F&N factory, granite factory and jetty to Tanjong Pinang.
    Refer to F&N achives will be easier.

  19. James Mark says:

    There is a secret tunnel which lead to sentosa, by the way which side of the Labrador park area is it, any ideal??? anyone knows it??? thank you!

  20. Huiting says:

    Anyone have any idea why they reclaim the land in Labrador Park ? and why they reclaim Labrador but not the rocky beach? =D Please help if anyone hv any ideas to it =D

  21. Wong Hoong Hooi says:

    It is off-topic but in retrospect a direct assault on Singapore by landing on the East or West Coast could have succeeded although it was a higher risk proposition than attacking down the peninsula, securing airfields and a supply route along the way. Consider:

    a. Within the first 3 days, the combined Commonwealth and Dutch air forces lost much of their assets and air superiority over the battle area in northern Malaya/ southern Thailand. Consistent hammering of the airfields on Singapore (from bases in Indochina) would have produced the same results over Singapore.

    b. With the allied air power smashed or reduced, the coast defence guns and pillboxes along the East and West Coasts could have been pounded to rubble. All the guns were deployed in open-topped emplacements rather than Maginot Line armoured turrets or Atlantic Wall type casemates. The machine gun pillboxes and troop fieldworks could have been similarly plastered with naval gunfire and air bombardment.

    c. Force Z would still have been sunk by Japanese air assets and/ or subs after the allied air power was smashed or reduced.

    d. At Kota Bahru the Japanese assaulted a breach held by a whole Indian Brigade dug-in with capable artillery support Yes, they suffered heavy casualties but the landings succeeded nonetheless. There seems no reason why a landing in Singapore would not have seen the same result if allied air power and beach defences had been reduced accordingly. The landing forces committed would have been more than the regimental group at Kota Bahru.

    e. If the landings took place in 1941, the forces opposing would have been the Australian division and 1st Malaya Brigade with possibly one Indian Brigade. Heath’s III Corps would still have been deployed to defend northern Malaya as the British, contrary to all that talk about the guns “pointing the wrong way”, had in fact anticipated that the invasion would be through southern Thailand. A direct landing assault on Singapore would have been the unexpected option. The methodical destruction of allied airfields, increasingly obvious loss of air superiority, the sinking of Force Z possibly off the coast of Johor or even at its moorings in Singapore, the visible destruction of the coast defence guns and pillboxes by air bombardment – all would have contributed to a collapse in morale. (The local Straits Settlements Volunteer Corps historically never fired a shot in anger before the British surrendered. If the Japanese had landed directly on Singapore in 1941, the SSVF’s mettle would have been very quickly tested.)

    f. With Singapore lost, Heath;s III Corps would have lost its supply source and been sandwiched between probably one division advancing up the peninsula (assuming a 2-divsion landing in Singapore) and one division advancing down from southern Thailand (the Japanese had a total of 3 divisions for the invasion although Yamashita was offered at least one more.). The Malaya campaign would have ended earlier and the capture of the Dutch East Indies would also have happened earlier. Would this have had an impact on the (then) Burma campaign?

  22. Lynn says:

    Anyone heard or seem before about there’s a hut or house with a big pad lock on it and it was just located at the TOP of the hill also nearby there’s a toilet as well…

  23. chris lloyd says:

    I am interested in what became of the SSVC after the surrender of the British. They seemed to be mainly civilians who received some minimal training (see Singapore Newspaper archives). Is it possible they went back to their occupations or were they all interned? I found Wong Hoong Hooi comments above on the SSVC particularly interesting. Ciao

  24. Arman says:

    Do you guys know about the abandoned HawParVilla at Coney? If you guys know about it and wants to enter it do reply me.

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