Fort Pasir Panjang is a former defence battery located within the Labrador Park Nature Reserve, constructed to defend the western entrance to Keppel Harbour. It was one of the eleven coastal artillery forts built by the British in the 19th century to defend Singapore’s waters.
Construction of the fort complex at Labrador was first mooted in 1843 when the British recognised Labrador’s strategic location near the southernmost point in Singapore mainland, which commanded a spectacular view of the entire western anchorage and some of the southern islands.
Between 1864 and 1878, concrete bunkers, underground tunnels, gun batteries, two gun emplacements each mounted with a 7-inch muzzle loading gun, a landing site, a gateway with portcullis and a road connecting the two gun emplacements were built and embedded on the coastal cliff-side.
In 1892, the 7-inch muzzle loading gun at Fort Pasir Panjang was upgraded to a six-gun defence battery. Accommodation for artillerymen, underground storage and ammunition bunkers were also added
Prior to World War II, Labrador Battery, a secondary battery comprising two 6-inch guns of 1900-1918 manufacture were installed at Fort Pasir Panjang in response to a possible attack by the Japanese battleships. Operated by the 7th Coastal Artillery Regiment, these guns were supported with searchlights and ammunition storage facilities and they were directed southwards, in anticipation of an attack from the sea.
It was popularly believed that these guns were bulky and useless. Nonetheless, these guns were reversed almost 180 degrees to fire at the advancing Japanese troops along Pasir Panjang Road.
A Machine Gun Post
Machine Gun Posts were installed along the Labrador coast to defend Fort Pasir Panjang from commando-type units attacking from the sea. Within the gun posts, there were search lights and barbed wires to provide protection for the soldiers manning the gun posts. Nonetheless the conditions in which they operated were very difficult as the position was generally hot and cramped.
B The Wall of Brick Cutting
The Wall of Brick Cutting at Fort Pasir Panjang refers to the remains of the wall of the old fort. Constructed in 1886, the stone-faced sea wall served as the entrance to Fort Pasir Panjang where ammunition and garrison supplies were transported to the fort from a nearby landing pier at Berlayer Point. Prior to its construction, there was no overland road until a road was built from the landward side in 1892.
The Wall of Brick Cutting is over 6-foot high and had a portcullis or vertical iron gate spanned across the gateway to close off entry into the fort from the seaward side.
C The Fourth Gun Position
The Fourth Gun Position refers to the gun emplacement constructed in 1886 as a single position for 7-inch Rifle Muzzle Loading (RML) gun and subsequently modified in 1892 with the addition of a 6-pounder Quick Firing (QF) gun positioned adjacent to it. This was one of the two 6-pounder QF gun placed at Fort Pasir Panjang, with the other installed at Batu Berlayer. A storeroom was specifically constructed at the Fourth Gun Position in 1892 to store the ammunition for the 6-pounder QF gun.
Manned by the the Royal Artillery (RA), the Infantry and the Singapore Volunteer Artillery (SVA), the 6-pounders were installed to deal with the threat posed by fast motor torpedo boats. Unlike the 7-inch RML gun, the 6-pounder QF gun had a longer firing range and could be loaded rapidly. Hence, a second QF gun was held at the Fourth Gun position when the 7-inch gun was removed in 1899.
In 1905, the 6-pounder guns were replaced with 12-pounder QF guns. Although the 12-pounders had a slower loading rate (15 rounds/min versus 25 rounds/min), it could fire ammunition at a faster speed (2,257 feet/s versus 1,725 feet/s) and longer range (10,100 yards versus 5,500 yards). Installation of the new 12-pounders did not result in further modifications on the Fourth Gun Position as both guns were mounted on pedestals.
D Gun Emplacement IV
The Gun Emplacement IV refers to the gun emplacement constructed in 1886 to hold a 7-inch Rifle Muzzle Loading (RML) gun and a 9.2-inch Rifle Breech Loader (RBL) gun. Prior to its construction, two 7-inch Rifled Muzzle Loading (RML) guns were held in Gun Emplacement IV to provide temporary defence for the fort.
Built in 1886, the tunnel connects the underground ammunition storerooms to the Gun Emplacement III located directly above it.
The tunnel features an enlarged chamber allowing two-way human traffic before splitting into two. One leads to the cartridge store room and hoist area whereas the other leads to the shell store room and hoist area. A hoist is a mechanical pulley system used to lift the shells and cartridges from the underground rooms to the emplacement above it. The allocation of separate hoists for the shells and the cartridges allows for convenience and a more systematic operation of the gun just above it.
These underground storerooms played important roles in a fort. Firstly, they protect ammunition from being ignited by enemy fire. Secondly, the use of hoists facilitated easy movement and retrieval of ammunition. Thirdly, the tunnel provided protection for the gunners not involved in the actual manning of the guns. Last but not least, they help to protect the gun and gunners above from any accidental explosions in the underground rooms itself.
F Gun Emplacement III
The Gun Emplacement III refer to the gun emplacement constructed in 1890 to hold one of the to 9.2-inch Rifle Breech Loading (RBL) guns in Fort Pasir Panjang.
Mounted behind a concrete parapet, the 9.2-inch guns had armour-piercing capabilities and were brought in to allow for a longer range of fire. The parapet protected the gunners from enemy fire as only the barrel end of the gun would be visible from the sea.
On each side of the emplacement, there was a hoist recess connecting the emplacement with its artillery storerooms underground. Through the recesses, shells and cartridges were lifted up to the emplacement using hoists.
Observation posts could also be spotted on both sides of Gun Emplacement III. These observation posts were used for spotting and determining the range and position of enemy vessels as they approached the western entrance of Keppel Harbour.
The casemate at Fort Pasir Panjang was constructed in 1886 as an ammunition store for the naval guns and a shelter for gunners and infantry battalions stationed at the fort.
Situated at the highest point of the hill, the casemate served the 9.2-inch Rifle Breech Loading (RBL) guns located behind it.
The casemate comprised of four rooms. One of the rooms contains the entrance to a tunnel that led to underground storerooms beneath the first emplacement.