Labrador Park/Fort Pasir Panjang
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Labrador Park/Fort Pasir Panjang, former defence battery, nature park and designated reserve area, in the Bukit Merah area, located in the Central Region. Known as Fort Pasir Panjang during colonial times, it was one of 11 coastal artillery forts built by the British in the 19th century to defend Singapore's waters. Fort Pasir Panjang and the Labrador Battery was constructed to defend the western entrance to Keppel Harbour. Once a rocky coastline, land reclamation and development of a seawall has changed its original rugged look. Today Labrador Park, also known as Tanjong Berlayer Beach Park is a historic, leisure and nature park, and 4 of the original gun platforms of the Labrador battery still exist as historic relics.
In 1864, a fort complex with concrete bunkers, underground tunnels, and gun batteries were built and embedded on this coastal cliffside, for defence purposes. Completed in 1878 and called Fort Pasir Panjang, the location overlooked the harbour and was part of an extensive network of coastal defences built by the British colonial rulers of Singapore. With the possible outbreak of war in the region in 1938, the Labrador Battery was upgraded. Thus on the eve of World War II, Fort Pasir Panjang had the addition of 2 six-inch 37-ton guns that could fire 102 lb shells to a distance of almost 10 miles. Added were also searchlights which could beam at enemy ships and track them. This defence position was part of a strategy based on the popular belief that an invasion of Singapore would probably come via a coastal attack, and so the placements of these guns fixed facing the sea. However they could be turned around. In fact this was the case in February 1942, during World War II, when the guns were reversed almost 180 degrees to fire the advancing Japanese Imperial Forces in the Pasir Panjang/Alexandra Road area, but they proved ineffective against invading land forces because of their very flat trajectory.
Labrador Villa, sitting atop the hill, was once an attap-roofed bungalow and the home of businessman, George John Mansfield. (Ray Tyer's Singapore: Then & Now has a 1881 photo of Labrador Villa bungalow).
Harbour Limit Marker
The original, Western Harbour limit is marked by a white obelisk, nearby the site where once stood a rock called "Lot's Wife" which looked like dragon's teeth, and was a navigational marker to ancient seafarers. This obelisk still stands at Tanjong Berlayer Point (in Malay, Tanjong literally means "land's end"), and beside it a gun turret for quick-firing guns as part of Fort Pasir Panjang's defences.
Today the old bunkers with underground tunnels, gun turrets and look-out posts are still there, and although the complex entrances and peep-holes are now sealed, these structures are being preserved as a significant "war battle site" in Singapore for its historic and tourist value. In November 1992, the beach by Labrador Park was cleared of collected rubbish with the help of 100 volunteers as part of Singapore's "clean environment campaign", and, the Port of Singapore's development plans in 1993, included the protection of the rich marine life of Singapore's last remaining rocky seashore at Labrador Park. Tanjong Berlayer Beach Park is a 10.9 ha area with its beach reclaimed and a seawall built. Labrador Park, now a nature park which sits atop a hillock by the sea, with a rich collection of flora, is one of 3 designated reserve areas in Singapore, and an occasional venue for cultural concerts.
Vernon Cornelius-Takahama © National Library Board, 2000
Tyers, R. K. (1976). Singapore, then & now. (Vol. 2, p. 353). Singapore: University Education Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE)
Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore). (1993). Bukit Merah planning report. Singapore: The Authority.
(Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 SIN)
Dominic, N. (1993, October 14). PSA plans "will not harm Labrador Park'. The Straits Times, Home, p. 22.
Ho Y. Y. (1996, May 8). Labrador Park works will preserve war relics. The Straits Times, Forum, p. 28.
Labrador Park beach gets a big clean-up [Microfilm: NL 17800]. (1992, November 11). The Straits Times, Home, p. 25.
Richardson, M. (1989, September 2). Singapore's war. International Herald Tribune, p. 18.
Wan, M. H. (2009). Heritage places of Singapore (pp. 158-159). Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 WAN)
The information in this article is valid as at 2001 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
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