Range Finder
Replica Gun

Replica 15-Inch Gun

Johore Battery Page 3

There was a lot more to a coast gun battery than the gun emplacements and magazines themselves. There were Range Finders, Observation and Command Posts, support services such as the R.E. R.A.O.C. & R.A.S.C., reserve magazines, ammunition supply, stores and accommodation for the troops — to name but a few things.

When complete, Changi was more than just a single gun battery when complete. Five coast artillery batteries were built there; Johore 15-Inch Battery – three guns, Changi 6-Inch Battery – two guns, Beting Kusah 6-Inch Battery – two guns, Changi Outer (Palm) A.M.T.B. Battery – two Twin 6-Pounder QF Guns, and Changi Inner (School) A.M.T.B. Battery – two Twin 6-Pounder QF Guns (never armed).

Changi also housed the Changi Fire Command. Whilst each gun Battery had its own Battery Observation Post to direct fire, the Fire Command oversaw operations for all guns in the area. As well as the guns at Changi, there was the Sphinx and Tekong Batteries on Pulau Tekong, The Pengerang Battery on the Malayan mainland, and the A.M.T.B. Batteries at Ladang, Pulau Sejahat and Pulau Ubin (never armed).

Changi was a powerful defence against any attack from the sea on the Naval Base at Sembawang, but was not a good defence against attack overland from the north. It was not designed to be that.

Aerial photo of Changi
Changi,1938. Showing the location of the main Range Finder and Changi Fire Command

Changi Fire CiommandChangi Fire Comnmand
Changi Fire Command. Left, under construction. Right, post-war

No.2 15-Inch GunNo.3 Gun
The No.2 Gun (left) and No.3 Gun (right)

Moving a shell in the MagazineInside a 15-Inch turretThe railway tracks belonged to the Changi Railway. This transported ammunition from the pier at Fairy Point to the Magazines at Changi Hill and to the three 15-Inch Guns at Bee Hoe. The shells and propellant cartridges were carried on a train on one track, and lifted by a crane on the other track and then lowered in to the Magazines.

During the bombing of Changi by the Japanese in February 1942, the railway track between the Magazine at Changi Hill and the Johore Battery was badly damaged.

The Johore Battery Guns had a range of 36,900 yards (33,741 metres), and fired a shell weighing 1,938 pounds ( 879 Kg). The propellant charges would be in up to four silk bags. The rate of fire was one round per minute for the No.1 gun and two rounds a minute for the No.s 2 & 3 Guns.

Once the Japanese approached, it was time for the Johore Battery to play its part in the defence of Singapore. In response to a signal requesting information, this reply was sent:-

MOST SECRET CIPHER TELEGRAM

From:- Advanced H.Q. Malaya Command.

Desp. 1324.22/1/42.
Recd.1410.22.1/42.

To :- C. In C. South West Pacific.
Rptd. The War Office.

IMMEDIATE.0.(? 9)13.cipher.22/1.

Personal for General Wavell. Following are replies Chief of Staff M.O..10 20/1

1. 15 inch. Johore battery can bear on Johore Bahru and Approach and Buona Vista on part Johore coast. No landward firing ammunition. Recommend 50 (? round per gun). 9·2 inch. Hold 25 rounds per gun recommend another 75 rounds per gun. 6 inch. Changi (? Sphinx) Pasir Laba and (? Pengerang) can cover Southern Coast Johore. H.E. ammunition adequate ............

Following an urgent request from the War Office asking, “In emergency maximum possible arcs of fire on mainland JOHORE of all coast artillery guns down to six inch. Name of Battery left and right of arc over land will suffice.”, Malaya Command responded:-

SECRET CIPHER TELEGRAM

Desp. 0132 26/1/42.
Recd. 0430 27/1/42.

From:- G.O.C. Malaya
To:- The War Office

0.26 cipher 26/1.
Your 65542 (A.A.4.) 20/1

Coast Art. Maximum arc. Over Johore Mainland. Fifteen inch Johore Fort A1 067 100. A2 060 100 and 293 300. A3 75 100 and 292 315. Buona Vista B1 258 301 B2 051 061 and 253 290. 9.2 inch. Tekong. All round Arc. Except 01 limited for crest clearance even with half charge to minimum range ........ Figures each case after (A) give present maximum Arc. After (B) maximum Arc ........ At present only available 15 inch landwards projectile is one H(?E) obtained from Naval Base now at Johore Fort. Supreme Commander S.W. Pacific has been asked to supply 250 15 inch H.E. and 450 9.2 inch projectiles H.E.

Requests for H.E. ammunition were actioned, but time was too short, and none reached Singapore before the capitulation. It is unlikely that H.E. ammunition would have stopped the Japanese, but it would almost certainly caused them severe damage, and perhaps delay.

The War Diary Fixed Defences records:-

5.2.42.
JOHORE (15 inch, 2 guns), TEKONG (Three 9·2") and SPINX (sic) (Two 6") fired on WEST JOHORE BAHRU and mainland north of PONGOL Point.

7.2.42.
JOHORE engaged hostile railway gun.

8.2.42.
JOHORE, TEKONG and SPHINX engaged enemy troop concentration N.W. of PONGOL PO. Bombs fell in Roberts Barracks area.

9.2.42.
JOHORE, TEKONG and SPHINX batteries engaged targets between N. of PONGOL PO to JOHORE BAHRU. JOHORE Fort and SELARANG Barracks bombed.

10.2.42.
Village West of PASIR PANJANG village engaged by JOHORE Fort. JOHORE, TEKONG and SPHINX engaged targets on mainland N. of PONGOL PO. To JOHORE BAHRU. JOHORE Fort and SELARANG Barracks Bombed.

11.2.42.
JOHORE, TEKONG and SPHINX engaged targets on mainland between N. Point PONGOL Pt. and JOHORE BAHRU. JOHORE Fort and SELARANG Barracks Bombed.

12.2.42.
Morning. JOHORE engaged BUKIT TIMAH and PASIR PANJANG Road. There were 4 heavy bombing raids on ROBERTS BARRACKS area.

About 1300 hrs. C.P.D. Ordered all works of Changi F.C. on Singapore Island to be prepared for demolition but that JOHORE and CHANGI Forts were to fire away all ammunition possible. Demolition to be completed by 1830 hrs.

JOHORE engaged N.W. potion of Naval Base.

1630. F.C. reports receipt of orders from C.F.D. canceling demolition.

1730 hrs C.F.D. ordered demolition to proceed forthwith.

2045 hrs JOHORE Fort destroyed.

Approximate expenditure of ammunition at Johore Battery was 194 rounds of A.P.C.

The 15 inch reserve gun stored at NAVAL BASE is understood to have been rendered unserviceable by a bomb during a raid about third week in January. No official confirmation of this casualty was ever received.

An Intelligence report produced in 1944 as part of the preparation for the re-taking of Singapore contained this summary:-

PIECES. No.s 1 and 2 guns are reported at first hand to have been definitely blown up with 350 lbs (159 Kg) of gelignite in the breech of each gun. About No.3 gun, a slight doubt exists, as first-hand information is not available of the actual packing of the breech ..........