Built in the late 1930s, Johore Battery was the main artillery battery of the British coastal artillery defence network. It was located at Cosford Road in Changi on the northeastern coast of Singapore, off Upper Changi Road North. The guns at the battery were destroyed by British forces during World War II to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. The battery was discovered after the war and the site was restored with a replica of the 150-inch gun and ammunition shell. Today, the site of the former Johore Battery is a tourist attraction.1
After World War I, Britain focused on developing its naval power as its defence strategy, especially when Japan was rapidly expanding its naval strength. With Japan’s military menace looming large by the 1930s, it became vital for the British to develop Singapore as a naval base. Work proceeded at full speed,2 and Changi was chosen as the site for the Royal Artillery’s batteries to protect Sembawang Naval Base against attacks from the east.3 There were six batteries protecting the naval base. The northeastern coastal batteries, together with other batteries in the southern and western coasts, made Singapore the most fortified British colony.4
The main battery in the northeastern coast was named Johore Battery in appreciation of the £500,000 contributed by Johor’s Sultan Ibrahim for the British war campaign and as a Silver Jubilee gift for King George V. Of this amount, £400,000 was used to install two of the three 15-inch guns at Johore Battery.5 These guns were the largest installed outside of Britain during World War II, and were also known as “monster guns” for their sheer size.6 The other two 15-inch guns in Singapore were mounted at Buona Vista Battery in the south.7
The guns at Johore Battery were called “15-inch guns” because the shells they fired were 15 inches (38 cm) in diameter. Each gun was positioned 500 m from each other in a row. They had a 16.5-metre-long barrel, and their 360-degree traverse enabled them to target both land and sea objects. Vertical shafts led to a labyrinth of tunnels three storeys underground, and the tunnels were connected to a bunker housing the ammunition. The shells came up on hydraulic lifts and were pushed into the breech by a ram. The ammunition was capable of piercing the armour of the most powerful ship 30 km away.8
World War II
Between 5 and 12 February 1942, when the Japanese invaded Singapore from the Malay Peninsula, two of the guns at Johore Battery were turned around to fire towards land in the north and east, including enemy infantry positions in Johor. The two guns fired a total of 194 rounds.9 The coastal guns, however, had limited impact against enemy forces coming from land, as the armour-piercing ammunition designed for seaborne targets failed to explode when the shells landed on soft earth.10 The battery was also not stocked with high-explosive rounds suitable for destroying enemy infantry and artillery.11
On the night of 12 February 1942, the British destroyed the guns at Johore Battery to prevent them from falling into enemy hands.12
After the British forces left Singapore, Johore Battery was forgotten until the Singapore Prisons Service discovered it during a routine cleaning at its Abington Centre in April 1991.13 The place was then spruced up with a replica of the 15-inch gun, as well as a replica of an ammunition shell weighing over 800 kg.14
The restored Johore Battery was officially launched on 15 February 2002 as part of the 60th-anniversary commemorative programme for the fall of Singapore. The event was witnessed by some 200 former prisoners-of-war, war veterans, as well as their family members and friends. The location was also marked as a historic site by the National Heritage Board.15
In 2009, Cosford Holdings was awarded a tender by the Singapore Land Authority to revamp the premises around Johore Battery for outdoor and indoor dining.16 Today, this former military post, which still has several underground tunnels, bunkers and cannons, is a tourist attraction.17
Jenny Kiong & Chan Fook Weng
1. Karl Hack and Kevin Blackburn, Did Singapore Have to Fall?: Churchill and the Impregnable Fortress (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004), 98, 209–10 (Call no. RSING 940.5425 HAC-[WAR]); C. Foo-Tan, “The Johore Battery,” This Month in History 8, no. 4 (April 2004), n.p. (Call no. RSING 355.0095957 TMH); Peter W. Stubbs, The Changi Murals: The Story of Stanley Warren’s War (Singapore: Landmark Books, 2003), 14. (Call no. RSING 940.547252092 STU-[WAR])
2. Yap Siang Yong, et al., Fortress Singapore: The Battlefield Guide (Singapore: Times Editions, 2004), 102 (Call no. RSING 959.5703 FOR-[HIS]); Hack and Blackburn, Did Singapore Have to Fall?, 97–98.
3. Foo-Tan, “Johore Battery,” n.p.; Goh Chin Lian, “‘Monster’ Guns at Johore Battery,” Straits Times, 16 February 2002, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Hack and Blackburn, Did Singapore Have to Fall?, 101–02.
5. Yap, et al., Fortress Singapore, 103.
6. Foo-Tan, “Johore Battery,” n.p.
7. Hack and Blackburn, Did Singapore Have to Fall?, 101.
8. Goh, “‘Monster’ Guns at Johore Battery”; “Tunnel Tour for Public in Six Months,” Straits Times, 16 February 2002, 5; “WWII Bunker Found in Prison,” Straits Times, 12 February 1992, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
9. Goh, “‘Monster’ Guns at Johore Battery”; “Tunnel Tour for Public in Six Months”; “WWII Bunker Found in Prison.”
10. David Miller, “Singapore’s ‘Underground’,” Straits Times, 12 February 1992, 22. (From NewspaperSG)
11. “WWII Bunker Found in Prison.”
12. Goh, “‘Monster’ Guns at Johore Battery”; Stubbs, Changi Murals, 22.
13. Foo-Tan, “Johore Battery,” n.p.
14. Goh, “‘Monster’ Guns at Johore Battery”; Ministry of Defence, “Johore Battery at Changi, Officially Opens to Mark the 60th Anniversary of Singapore’s Fall,” press release, 15 February 2002. (National Archives of Singapore document no. MINDEF_20020215001)
15. Goh, “‘Monster’ Guns at Johore Battery”; Brian Farrell, “Past Forward,” Today, 15 February 2002, 20; “How S’pore Marks the Day,” New Paper, 8 February 2002, 50 (From NewspaperSG); Ministry of Defence, “Johore Battery at Changi.”
16. Jessica Lim, “Dine with a Big Gun at Johore Battery,” Straits Times, 2 March 2011, 2; Jessica Lim, “More Boom for Changi,” Straits Times, 4 July 2009, 32. (From NewspaperSG)
17. “Johore Battery,” Battlefield Tours Singapore, accessed 29 July 2020.
The information in this article is valid as of January 2021 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
1942-1945 Japanese occupation