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Labrador Nature Reserve

Labrador Nature Reserve Singapore 1

History

Many historical relics and natural objects may be found at Singapore’s Labrador Nature Reserve, the majority of which date from the Second World War and previous periods of time, and most of it was left behind primarily by the former British colonial legacy on the island. This is owing to the area’s extensive history, which dates back to the 19th century, and its vital part in the city-history. state’s

Pasir Panjang Beach used to be the name of the whole nature reserve, including the present park (Pasir Panjang, translated from Malay, means similarly as “Long Beach”). Before land reclamation, the area used to be where a long strip of coastal land was at high tide and a rocky beach was at low tide, but before land reclamation, the area was where a long strip of coastal land was at high tide and a rocky beach was at low tide, forming the seawall and the modern park seen today.

On the summit of the hill, above the cliff in front of the sea, there was a historic British military installation (a fort) known as Fort Pasir Panjang (the fort was first constructed as early as the 1890s). The British government designated the cliff as a key defense position to guard the entrance to Keppel Harbour in the southern section of mainland Singapore, as well as Singapore’s southwestern shoreline (near Pulau Blakang Mati (present-day Sentosa)). It became one of nine key locations where the British military established gun batteries, and it is an important element of the overall British defense system for Singapore.

At the time, the stony beach below the cliff was still open to the public (lasting until the 1930s). The location was famous for leisure activities, and there was also a coastal resort for inhabitants of villas in the surrounding districts, as well as people of neighbouring communities. Along the area’s beachfront, there were even private beach cottages, self-built seawalls, and personal jetties.

In the aftermath of the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Empire of Japan’s expansion of its military (especially its navy) during the 1930s (when the US and the UK were concerned about Japan’s increasing aggressiveness and the country’s rapid pace of militarization and desire to conquer most of Asia), the British government conducted a general review of Singapore’s coastal defences and found that Pasir Panjang Beach would be an easy place for an enemy military to land. As a consequence, the British colonial administration took over the surrounding area and renovated it for the development of Pasir Panjang Fort. Machine-gun emplacements, artillery-gun casemates, and barbed-wire entanglements were constructed and installed together with a barrier that ran the length of the shore. The artillery and coastal-defence guns facing the sea were also upgraded, including the installation of two six-inch naval guns weighing 37 tonnes each, capable of firing 102 pound shells up to a range of ten miles, as well as numerous searchlights facing the sea to prevent an enemy naval force from landing and invading at night, and to seek out any enemy naval force approaching under the cover of darkness.

The British military attempted to turn the beach into a “impenetrable fortress” as part of their strategy to turn Singapore into a powerful military base in Southeast Asia (akin to a “Gibraltar of the East”) to protect the UK’s colonial interests and territories in the surrounding region, which would be demonstrated by making it extremely difficult and costly (in terms of manpower and related resources) for an invading enemy.

Unfortunately, there was little military activity in the region of Pasir Panjang Beach during WWII. When Japanese military forces invaded Singapore after capturing all of British Malaya in 1942, they did so from the northern coast of mainland Singapore (along the Straits of Johor, which mark the border between Malaysia and Singapore) rather than the southern coast, as the British military had expected. There were no Japanese naval boats that ventured beyond Singapore’s southern shore. As a consequence, most of the military equipment that had been put up and built in the fort was left idle. During the Battle of Singapore, the fort was charged with providing much-needed shelter and serving as a storage location for munitions and military equipment for the defending British forces in Singapore. The fort was also close to the site of the Battle of Pasir Panjang (less than 10 km away). When the British military surrendered to the invading Japanese military forces in Singapore on February 15, 1942, the military equipment and ancillary facilities at the fort were quickly dismantled and/or destroyed by the surrendered British troops stationed there, and the fort was closed down soon after. The fort remained abandoned when the Japanese occupation of Singapore ended in 1945.

In 1961, Japanese industrial firm Maruzen Toyo built a large oil refinery not far from the area (taken over by BP in June 1964 when the oil refinery was sold off by Maruzen Toyo), as well as a long jetty with pipelines for transporting crude oil to and from ships and the oil refinery (the jetty served two purposes, with the transportation of oil between the oil refinery and ships and the supplying of oil from oil-tankers to the nearby Pasir Panjang Power Station). Because it was hidden behind a steep cliff and inaccessible at the time, the rocky beach received few visitors. In addition, there were no necessary amenities in the region (such as toilets and lamp-posts). However, daring nature-seekers and nature-explorers continued to visit the nearby woodland and seashore on occasion.

In 1951, Labrador Beach was classified as one of five designated nature reserves.

[1] This classification aided in the prevention of large-scale development in the region, which might damage and endanger the flora and animals in the local vicinity. Labrador Beach’s status as a nature reserve was dropped to that of a nature park in 1973. [1] Because there were no rules in place at the time to protect the damage or destruction of nature parks, the future of the coastal environment became questionable. Many people believed that the region would have to be demolished to make room for industrial expansion. The public made repeated demands and pleas to the government and relevant agencies to preserve the area’s rich history and distinctive ecology, particularly given that it was home to the last rocky beach and coral reef on mainland Singapore.

Finally, in November 2001, it was announced that Labrador Park (formerly Labrador Beach) will once again be gazetted as a natural reserve.

[1] The old jetty (once owned by the nearby BP oil refinery, which was closed and demolished by the end of the 1990s) was extensively renovated and opened to the public (it was initially open daily from 7am to 8pm until it was declared closed indefinitely (due to safety reasons) by NParks at some point between 2014 and 2016, before being reopened but now being open for 24 hours), as well as the rocky shoreline (now closed off indefinitely to the public).

In addition, a labyrinth of tunnels unearthed in 2001 inside the park area were an important element of the historic fort established by the British administration (located on the top of the cliff). These were utilized as a storage facility for ammunition and other vital military supplies, as well as a base-camp for British soldiers protecting the fort. One of the tunnels runs under the waters of Keppel Harbour’s entrance and connects to Fort Siloso on Pulau Blakang Mati, now known as Sentosa (this is alleged by many to exist although there is a lack of concrete evidence to prove it). Since then, a tiny segment of the tunnels has been available to the public (but are recently declared to be structurally unsafe and have been sealed off until further notice).

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