The History Behind Labrador Nature Reserve

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The History Behind Labrador Nature Reserve

Once a coastal artillery fort, it is now a preserved nature reserve and one of the few remaining WWII historical site in Singapore

Located on the southern tip of mainland Singapore, Labrador Nature Reserve (also known as Labrador Park) was once a heavily fortified gun post meant to defend the western entrance of Keppel Harbour.

However, it did little to stop the invasion of the Japanese during WWII and had fallen into demise at the end of the war.

Defending Singapore

The British began fortifying the coast of Labrador in the late 1860s against possible attack from invaders. Several concrete bunkers, two six-inch batteries and a series of underground tunnels were built. Search lights, underwater mines and barbed wires were also set up along the coast to deter any coastal landing.

The coastal fort defending Labrador fort became known as Fort Pasir Panjang; it was then one of 11 coastal forts along the southern coast and undoubtedly the most fortified.

During the late 1930s, Singapore was one of the most fortified places amongst the British colonies, giving rise to its nickame “Gibraltar of the East”, or “impregnable fortress”, suggesting that the island is impossible to conquer.

With the onset of WWII, the two modern six-inch guns (capable of firing 102-pund shells 10 miles away) were added to to the fort; Fort Pasir Panjang was subsequently upgraded to Labrador Battery. 

The guns were manned by a multi-ethnic unit, consisting of the Malay soldiers operating the searchlights, the Indians manning the guns, and the British commanders handing out the directives.

Labrador Battery No.1 Gun with a overhead cover | Image credits: fortsiloso.com

Labrador Battery, along with the several forts at Sentosa, were expected to play an instrumental role in defending the southern coast of Singapore. 

However, the Imperial Japanese Army had opted to attack from the north. While most of the guns along the southern coast traversed 180 degrees to defend the north, they proved to be ineffective as they were equipped with armour-piercing rounds meant for ships, not high-explosive rounds that would have dealt heavy damage against the Japanese infantry.

Nonetheless, the guns at Labrador aided the Malaay Regiment during the Battle of Pasir Panjang.

With the subsequent fall of Singapore on, the guns were destroyed to prevent use by the Japanese.

Labrador Battery was abandoned after WWII, only to be restored in the late 1990s as part of conservation efforts by the Singapore government to preserve historical sites in the country.

Nature Park to Nature Reserve

The park was first designated as a nature reserve in 1951. In 1973, for unknown reasons, the site was downgraded to a nature park.

Labrador Park was gazetted once again as a nature reserve in 2002, citing the diverse landscape and habitat that had enabled many marine and wildlife to thrive.

You may be interested in: The History Behind Marsiling Tunnels

At 10 hectares, it is now the smallest of the four nature reserve in Singapore, the other being Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (131 hectares), Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (163 hectares), and Central Catchment Nature Reserve (3,043 hectares).

The latest addition to the reserve is Labrador Nature Coastal Walk, a 2km trail — which consist of Alexandra Garden Trail, Berlayer Creek mangrove trail and Bukit Chermin Broadwalk — that connects directly to Labrador Park MRT and allow visitors to get up close to one of two remaining mangroves located in southern Singapore.

Dragon’s Teeth Gate

A famous feature at Labrador Park is the Dragon’s Teeth Gate, or ‘Long Ya Men’ as known in the early days of Singapore.

As the name suggests, the rock formation is shaped like a dragon tooth while the passageway into Keppel Harbour symbolizes the mouth of the dragon. The rock was first discovered by traveler Wang Dayuan in 1330 and had served as an important navigational aid for mariners in the 14th and 15th century.

Dragon Teeth Gate at Labrador Park | Image credits: SNNPCC

The red Berlayar Beacon was nearly demolished to make way for the Dragon’s Teeth replica. The move was appealed by several conservation groups including the Singapore Heritage Society who felt that the iconic beacon ought to be preserved for its historical significance. Fortunately, Dragon Teeth replica was later installed next to the Berlayar Beacon.

The original rock however, was destroyed by the British in 1848 to widen the channel for larger vessels to enter Keppel Harbour. The current Dragon’s Teeth is a 6-metre symbolic replica installed in 2005 to celebrate the 600th Anniversary of Admiral Zheng He and highlight the historical significance of the rock outcrop.

World War II Relics

Machine Gun Pillbox at Labrador Battery | Image credits:Battlefield Tours Singapore

A rumour suggest that a underwater tunnel was dug to connect Fort Siloso and Fort Pasir Panjang. However, no entrances to the rumoured tunnel were found, neither were there any historical records to back the claim.

Located behind Labrador Park seafront is a dense forest where several World War II relics can be found.

A replica of a six-inch gun along with statues of soldiers at work can be found near the top of the hill.

In 2001, several underground tunnels were unearthed. They are believed to be storage space for the ammunitions during World War 2. Many of these tunnels are closed to the public and can only be accessed during special tours held by NParks.

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