Soon after Stamford Raffles established Singapore as a trading post for the East India Company, one of his first concerns was the defence against Dutch attacks. Fort Pasir Panjang (today’s Labrador Park) twinned with Fort Siloso on Sentosa Island to defend the western passageway into the New Harbour (renamed Keppel Harbour). During the 1942 Battle of Pasir Panjang, the guns at Labrador and Siloso that played a supporting role to defend the Malay Regiment were reversed almost 180 degrees.
Today’s Labrador Park (also known as Tanjong Berlayer Beach Park) derived its name from “Labrador Villa”, the name of the residence of prominent ship chandler, George John Mansfield, built-in 1881. Labrador Park was once a rocky coastline, the land reclamation and development has changed its original rugged look. Now it is a park that offers toddler-friendly playgrounds, seaside views, nature reserve, the garden trail and historical landmarks.
I parked my car at Labrador Park Carpark C, a short walk away to the slip road with what’s remain of the 6-foot high stone-faced sea wall of brick cutting dating back to 1886. The structure served as the entrance to Fort Pasir Panjang (also known as Labrador Battery) where ammunition and garrison supplies were transported from a nearby landing pier.
I walked up the hill in my quest for what’s remain of the old artillery fort, right after the turn, stood a teenage girl having her photo shoot by two young photographers. Looking like an aspiring teenage model, getting her pictures taken for her Instagram account. Not wanting to interrupt the photo shoot, I turned back and look for another path to go up the old fort.
Walking along the front of the park facing the sea, I walked past the playground. A Japanese family was playing on the seesaw and at the back stood the old machine gun post. This gun post was sited to protect the 12-pounder guns on Berlayer Point on the hill right above. I took a peek inside the gun post, it looks tight to fit a soldier, machine gun and magazine.
Right then, a very old Japanese song, Sukiyaki, played on my phone. It used to be a very popular song in the 1960s. It reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts in the United States in 1963. The actual name of the song is “I Look Up As I Walk”, performed by Japanese crooner Kyu Sakamoto, written by Rokusuke Ei and composed by Hachidai Nakamura. Ei wrote this song while walking home, feeling dejected about the failure of the student protest movement against US Army presence. The lyrics tell the story of a man who looked up and whistled while walking so that his tears will not fall. The effects of war…
Are you wondering how old I am? I first heard this song when I was a kid and fell in love with it. It was already an oldie then. Last July, when I read the news of Ei’s passing, I searched the iTune store and downloaded the song. If you do not know this song, search on YouTube, listen to it, you may like it.
I continued my walk till I saw flights of stairs that will lead me up the hill. I hesitated initially as I could hardly see anyone around. Decided to move ahead and glad to see a few people along the way. The walk to the gun emplacements was first up the hill, then down the hill.
I followed the steps with a picture of a cannon and reached the gun emplacements and the 6-inch gun barrel.
I continued my walk down the hill and past the entrance to a storeroom. This storeroom was built specifically to store the ammunition of the 6-pounder Quick Fire gun in 1892. Unfortunately, it is not accessible to the public.
A short walk down the hill, I reached the sea wall of the brick cutting, the aspiring model and her photographers have left. I did not have enough time to explore the Nature Reserve, the Alexandra Garden Trail and Bukit Chermin Boardwalk during this visit, will do that on my next visit to the Labrador Park.
Despite having 11 coastal artillery forts and a naval base, the lack of the latest fighter planes, tanks and arsenal then, the fall of Singapore was inevitable. The three and half years after the fall were the darkest days of Singapore. For Singaporeans living in those times, my dad included, the scars of occupation still run deep.
May there be peace, no more fighting, no more war.
There are many other historical landmarks in Singapore. I plan to visit them and share my experiences on my blog after each visit. Glad to explore Singapore, visiting places I did not get to visit in the past.
The Lowdown – Labrador Park
Address: Along Labrador Villa Road Singapore 119187
Getting there: Alight at Labrador Park MRT station, walk along the Berlayer Creek boardwalk.
Park lighting hours: 7:00 pm to 7:00 am daily. Berlayer Creek lights are turned off from 12:00 am to 5:00 am daily.
Accessibility: Wheelchair accessible
Time Required: 2 to 3 hours to cover the park
For more information, go to www.nparks.gov.sg.
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