Pengerang Battery (Johor, Malaysia)

Introduction

Pengerang Battery is a World War Two fort located in  Johor, Malaysia. It is located near the exit of Tanjung Pengelih  immigration custom. Unlike most of the War World Two forts (Fort Canning, Fort Siloso, Labrador Battery) in Singapore, Pengerang Battery is a completely forsaken site without any restoration in place. Except the courtyard (cook house area) which is almost fully consumed by the forest, most of the structures are still intact, despite braving elements of weather over 60-70 years.

The battery consists of a few buildings and structures scattered around an area (at least the size of a football field) on top of a small hill overlooking the eastern mouth of Straits of Johor. These structures include pillboxes, trench, bunkers, barracks, offices, cook house, toilets, tunnels etc. However unlike most of the old forts in Singapore, there is no decommissioned guns not even turrets or mounting platforms in sight.

It is believed that prior to Japanese occupation of Malaya, the British scrapped or destroyed the costal defence guns to deny usage by the Japanese. Contrary to what the British believed (that the Japanese will invade Singapore by sea), the Japanese invaded Singapore by land through the so-call impregnable Malaya jungle. Japanese forces under General Yamashita who was betting on a quick victory (in view of the shortfall in manpower and ammunition) skipped the pockets of resistance in Pengerang Battery and focused the attack on Singapore. Hence the defense system of armaments and tunnels in Pengerang went through the war without a single fire shot. This is however a far cry from the £60 million Singapore Naval Base (just across the Straits) which also saw no action and was partially destroyed by the British at the onset of the war.

Excursion

We walked along the small road that exits out from the immigration custom. The beach is just 10-20 metres away from the right side of the road (taking orientation with our back facing the immigration custom). Along the left side of the road is the hill side on top of which lies the battery ruin (We can’t really call it a ruin as most of the structures are still intact, but that is a good word to use as it connotes historical value). After walking about 50 metres down the road (just my own gauge but it really very near to the main gate of the immigration custom), we reached a wooden hut drink/food stall on the right side of the road and this is the point where we started to climb up the hillside to look for the ruin

Upon reaching the stall, we were approached by a taxi driver who touted us to take his taxi to the small town Sungei Rengit where most of the day trippers head for seafood. We asked him for the battery location and he directed us towards the hillside opposite the stall. We were reminded by him not to take photographs openly as the area is nearby a naval base with some sensitive installation like the radar tower on top of Bukit Pengerang. In fact you can feel the strong military presence when the bumboat is reaching the passenger jetty. On the western side of the jetty is the Pengerang Naval Base -  a recruit training centre for Royal Malaysian Navy (http://www.navy.mil.my/)

Opposite the stall, just beside the road, there is actually one small concrete structure which looks like a small pillbox. This is probably the first structure of the battery that we saw along the route. Too bad we were all too eager to see the main battery site and forgot to take a photo of it. During war time, this is perhaps the closest viewing post to the beach and definitely the first place to be cleared by the Japanese if there was a landing operation by sea.

The first structure that we encountered on the trail is a big concrete block. It is about one metre in height and its length is more than one arm length. This is one of the most intriguing structure. From its appearance, we can’t really tell what purpose it served.

The above photo shows the first pillbox which we encountered on the trail. It is very well camouflaged among the vegetation. There are at least two other similar sized pillboxes scattered on site. All the pillboxes are orientated with the armament windows facing the beach. From inside the pillboxes, you can have actually a tactical view of the beach below. From those of you who have served national service in the military before, the pillbox is actually a concreted trench with a low ceiling and a frontal opening or window from which ammunition can be fired out. (At least the defenders have a shelter over their heads and did not need to dig their own trench)

There is one entrance/exit to enter the pillbox which is at the side of it. The space inside the pillbox is quite big and can easily accommodate a platoon of soldiers (7-10 men). The back of  the pillbox is flushed with the hill slope so that any attempt to take the pillbox by attackers can only come from the front and side.

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