Friday, May 14, 2010

What was it like inside that machinegun pillbox?

When I took that photo of the machinegun pillbox at Pasir Panjang Road in my previous post, it did not occur to me to go near and take a shot of the inside or even try to see if it was still possible to go inside.

Anyway, reader Peter Stubbs has kindly sent me two photos of the inside of this particular pillbox which he took in 1995 to share with readers of Good Morning Yesterday. Thank you for the photos Peter.

“I apologise for the quality, but I did not have a decent camera in those days - 1995. Not only that, but the ones I had did not have wide angle lenses which is what I really needed inside. For some reason, which I cannot remember, I could not photograph inside the commanders copula in the centre of the pillbox. No. 1 is the right-hand side and No.2 the left-hand side. The white area on No.2 is the partition wall. I keep meaning to try to get inside and take some new photos when I visit Singapore, but never remember. Maybe next time.

Just below the firing slit is a wide shelf on which weapons would have been placed. The weapons used inside would have been the Lee Enfield No. 3 or No.4 Rifle, which were standard British issue and the Bren Light Machine Gun. Both fired the .303 Round, and both were very accurate weapons indeed.

I believe that this pillbox would have been manned by men of the Malay Regiment in February 1942. It was in their area of operations - see attached map."

By the way, Peter hosts an interesting website about Military History. Do check it out here.


peter said...

Peter Stubbs is good authority on WW2 defenses in Singapore. Beside what is already known on Sentosa island, I believe he is the only chap who knows the locations and has pictures of WW2 coastal defenses on Pulau Tekong; something we dont get to see much because it is a SAF-restricted area today.

Lam Chun See said...

I posed a little quiz at the comments section of my friend James Seah's blog. Would you like to take up the challenge?

The question concerns the block that houses the multi-storey car park and NTUC Fairprice Supermarket opposite the Library at Margaret Drive.

Brian and Tess said...

Perhaps Peter could also tell us something about the large gun emplacements that used to stand overlooking what became RAF Changi. I recall visiting these (no doubt illegally) in the early 1960s. They stood just to the east of what was the Upper Changi Road near where it crossed the taxiway to the Western Dispersal area and I think there were two of them. The story always was that they faced out to sea and could not therefore defend against the Japanese army arriving down the Malay penisula to the north. However Colin Smith in 'Singapore Burning' states that in fact they had armour piercing amunition - useful for attacking ships at sea but the shells would simply bury themselves in the ground if fired at infantry.

I recall, with some amazement, that the gun emplacements still smelled strongly of cordite.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

What's the difference between a "pillbox" as mentioned and a "Battle Box" situated at Fort Canning.

Peter Stubbs said...

There were two 6-Inch Gun Batteries at Changi (Changi Battery and Beting Kusah), and a three gun 15-Inch Battery, the Johore Battery. The guns to the east of the Changi Road formed the 15-Inch Battery. I will be adding information and photos about all these batteries to the Fort Siloso website over the next few months. Google Earth links to these batteries are at Two of the 15-Inch Guns and the Changi Battery fired on the advancing Japanese forces. There was only one 15-Inch Shell available for the Johore Battery. The Changi Battery had 50 high Explosive and 1200 Armour Piercing Shells.

The magazine of the No.1 15-inch gun still exists at Abingdon Road, with a replica gun on the emplacement. The No.2 (centre) Gun was on what is now prison land, and I suspect that the magazine may still exist. The No.3 Gun was nearest the taxiway to the Western Dispersal. That has been completely destroyed.

A pillbox is a small enclosed defensive position, usually built from concrete. They could be manned by a single person or several men. See The ‘Battlebox’ at Fort Canning was the underground Command Centre for Malaya Command. This was quite large as there were many men working inside. See

Icemoon said...

When I first saw the photo of the No.3 Gun in Probert's book, I was so excited that I would try to look for it (embankment remains, if any) from the plane or airport departure lounge.

Peter Stubbs, do you know which gun was that in the photos showing Wavell checking the 15-inch defence?

If Brian has a photo of himself sitting on the No.3 Gun embankment, that would be interesting!

Peter Stubbs said...

I'm afraid that I don’t know which gun Wavell was photographed at. It is something I have often thought about.

The Wondering Wanderer said...

The pillboxes around the southern shores were always a source of fascination for me as a child and I always wondered what the various sections were for. Back then we could still climb into them, and they always had a foul smell that came from the rotting matter that had accumulated inside them – that however never stopped my friends and me from getting in an imagining that we were manning the guns and repelling a Japanese attack on the beach.

Brian and Tess said...

I am afraid no photo of me in the gun emplacement exists. If I went with my friend David Taylor I expect he has some, I might email him and ask.


Peter Stubbs said...

CORRECTION: I should of course have said 'Cosford Road' not 'Abingdon Road', in my above piece about the Johore Battery.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you Peter Stubbs for explaining the difference. Saw the term in book about Goh Keng Swee.