Labrador Park
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Labrador Park

Labrador Park (拉柏多公园, Taman Labrador), is located in the southern part of mainland Singapore. It is home to the only rocky sea-cliff on the mainland that is accessible to the public.

Labrador Nature Reserve is the site where many historical relics and natural artifacts are located in Singapore, most of which date from the Second World War and earlier periods of time, much of which were left behind mainly by the former British colonial legacy on the island. This is due to the fact that the area has a long history dating way back to the 19th century and its playing of a significant role in the history of the city-state.

There was an old British military base (a fort), referred to as Fort Pasir Panjang, located on the top of the hill and above the cliff in front of the sea (the fort was first constructed as early as the 1890s). The cliff’s high vantage-point led the British government to identify it as a strategic defence site to protect the entrance to Keppel Harbour in the southern part of mainland Singapore as well as Singapore’s southwestern coastline (near Pulau Blakang Mati (present-day Sentosa)). It became one of nine major sites where the British military had set up their gun batteries and is a crucial part of the entire British defence system for Singapore.

The rocky beach below the cliff was still accessible to the public at that time till the 1930s. The area was a popular place for recreational sports and there was also a seaside resort for the residents living in villas located in the surrounding areas, as well as for the nearby villages. In fact, there were even private beach-houses, self-constructed seawalls and personal jetties built along the area’s shoreline.

The British government conducted a general review of the coastal defences in Singapore and showed that Pasir Panjang Beach would be an easy place for an enemy military force to land ashore. As a result, the surrounding land was taken over by the British colonial government and was redeveloped for an expansion of Pasir Panjang Fort. Machine-gun emplacements, artillery-gun casemates and barbed-wire entanglements were built and set up together with a fence running along the entire length of the beach.

During the Second World War there was not much combat action in the area of Pasir Panjang Beach. When Japanese military forces attacked their way into Singapore after taking over the whole of British Malaya by 1942, they invaded from the northern coast of mainland Singapore (along the Straits of Johor that marks the border between present-day Malaysia and Singapore) instead of the southern coast where the British military had initially expected. No Japanese naval vessels went past the southern coast of Singapore at all.

The Equipments built were hardly used. The fort was then tasked to provide much-needed shelter and serve as storage place for ammunition and military equipment for the defending British troops in Singapore at the time of the Battle of Singapore. When the British military eventually surrendered to the invading Japanese military forces in Singapore on the 15th of February in 1942, the military equipment and ancillary facilities at the fort was quickly dismantled and/or destroyed by the surrendered British troops stationed there and it was closed down shortly afterwards. After the Japanese occupation of Singapore was finally over in 1945, the fort remained abandoned.

However, the surrounding forest and the coastline were still occasionally visited by adventurous nature-seekers and nature-explorers. In 1973, Labrador Beach’s designation of a nature reserve was downgraded to that of a nature park. The future of the beach environment became uncertain as there were, at that time, no laws enacted which prevented the damage or destruction of nature parks. It was feared by many that the area would have to make way for a site for industrial development. There were consistent calls and appeals from the public to the government and the relevant authorities to preserve the rich history and the unique nature of the area, especially considering that the area was home to the last rocky shore and coral reef on mainland Singapore.

Finally, in November 2001, it was announced that Labrador Park (renamed from Labrador Beach) would be gazetted as a nature reserve once more. A labyrinth of underground tunnels, which were an integral part of the old fort built by the British government, were also discovered within the area of the park(located on the top of the cliff). These used to serve as a storage place for ammunition and other important military supplies, as well as being a base-camp for British troops guarding the fort. One of the tunnels goes under the waters of the entrance of Keppel Harbour and leads to Fort Siloso on Pulau Blakang Mati, present-day Sentosa. A small portion of the tunnels have since been opened to the public (but are recently declared to be structurally unsafe and have been sealed off until further notice).

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