Pasir Panjang Pillbox – II

Following on from my previous post.

So I got a little lost going down the “rabbit hole that is google” after I found a random photo on Pinterest that showed a pillbox in the middle of downtown Singapore. The Pillbox of course does not exist today, but it was a photo I had not seen, and it helped me get lost in the AGSL digital photo archives of the UW, Milwaukee. Of big interest to me were the photos here which I suspect is the Pasir Panjang Pillbox, since it is a (maybe the only) Pillbox in Singapore with the unique curtain wall with loopholes at the side and rear, and, geographically it matches: it’s placement near the road and creek, and west coast palms that dot the area.

So what stands out, and made me reflect on my progress thus far:

1. There is no build up of earth around the pillbox as there is in modern times, but given the land reclamation that has occured in the area this could simply be a result of modern road works. So my idea to create this feature to Pillbox as it stands is largely moot, and if I wasn’t nearly finished I would abandon it. (post coming soon)

2. The pillbox sits very “tall” in the landscape. Unlike the squat and almost “brutish” examples that exist in Europe, this seems to be a very obvious strong point with little attempt to blend or conceal it into the environment. Also it does not sit on level ground rather there is a clear foundation visible in the left hand photo.

3. The reinforced metal plates that protected the lower edges of the ports are either missing, or more likely screed over with concrete to blend them into the surface. (Note: similar plates are visible in the photos below, or are at least hinted at.) And they are very visible on the Pillbox as it stands today and surviving Naval Pattern Pillboxes in Malaysia.

4. The obvious two tone colour on the pillbox suggests a painted camouflage was applied to the exterior walls. Further searches online have found no contemporary coloured photos, though I did turn up two photos of another pillbox (located on the East Coast of Singapore alongside the Singapore Swimming Club) that shows a wildly different camouflage effect with at least 3 colours painted on its surface. Sadly this Pillbox is no longer standing and was probably removed during land reclamation efforts during the seventies.

The restored upper elements of Fort Silos on Palau Blakang Mati (today: Sentosa) have been painted two tone, being an almost Light Stone or Earth Yellow and a Light or Brunswick Green, and I suspect that similar colours were probably used on the pillboxes, but I have not been able to verify this.

If anyone has better information or advice, it would be appreciated.

PS: In other random news, the “real job” started again after a Summer off, so the coming posts are where I’ll be sharing some stuff I completed in the last few months while I come to terms with not being free to sleep in.

Pasir Panjang Pillbox

Pasir Panjang (Malay: Sand Long, thus “long sand”)

This is probably the best example of the British Naval Design Type 1 pillbox that still stands in Singapore, there are others in Malaysia* along what was the Kota Tinggi Defence line and I believe a rather good example still stands in Penang, also in Malaysia. Located, today, at the corner of Pasir Panjang Rd and Science Park Rd, the pillbox once covered the west coast beaches and the coastal approach towards the battery and storage depot located at Labrador Park, further East. Land reclamation in the west has seen the “beach” move a few 100m south, and now the pillbox is a landlocked landmark.

It is unknown whether the forces here took part in the Battle for Pasir Panjang since most of the battle took place on the long line of hills and ridges of Bukit Panjang (Malay: Hill Long, thus “long hill”) to the North but it was under the command of the 1st Malay Regiment, who were positioned to oppose any Japanese advance along this route. Although it is well within sight of Bukit Chandu, (Malay: Hill Opium, thus “opium hill”) where C Company made it’s heroic last stand against the Japanese troops, and having visited the site a few times in the past, there appears to be no “battle damage” nor is there any visible repair work that would suggest that it was involved actively in the events on 12-15 February 1942.

I always wondered at the merits of having the door into the pillbox at the side, and can only imagine that there once was some form of sandbag curtain wall to protect the entry, since it would make more sense being placed in the rear. However similar Type 1 pillbox’s built in Malaysia show the door also at the side. (eg: Southbay(1), Southbay(2), Mt Erskine Cemetery, and, Relau Pillbox which are all in Penang) and there are Type 1 examples at Pengerang Coastal Battery location in Johor, Malaysia, not to be confused with the Johore Battery that was in Singapore. And while I have found photos, my search skills have not found any that reveal the doors, but I am willing to guess that they follow the examples that still stand. Though interestingly only the Type 1 at Pasir Panjang has the addition of the rear curtain wall and extra firing ports.

A bit “fresher” and less weathered than it stands today(though I think I need to add a little tropical mould) this is my take on the pillbox. I have to decide whether the level of the earth at the right is a result of modern roadworks, or represents the original dunes above the beach. Maybe a foam insert that I can add if I want, but remove as well?

* I know Singapore and Malaysia were one country and known collectively during WWII as Malaya, but for the sake of convenience when taking about war sites I am going to refer to them in reference to the country they now exist in.