Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Pill Boxes & Bunkers in Singapore, Penang & Malaya ( Malaysia) Series No.3

Army FW3 Branch Design , 1940 Pill Boxes Type 22. Located at the perimeter of Alor Setar Airbase for close defence ; camouflaged as part of a garden setting (?)

Army Type 22 1940 Pill Box located at the front of the RAF(ex) Officer's Mess at the Alor Setar Airbase ( an extremely close quarter defence!). The Mess was used by General Yamashita and his staff as a forward HQ during the battle for Northern Malaya.

Army Type 22 1940 Pill Box located at Jitra Padi fields, as part of the Jitra Defence Line

Close up of the MG/Rifle Loop hole of the Pill Box

Army Type 22 1940 Pill Box located at the road leading to the Alor Setar Airbase

Pill Boxes & Bunkers in Singapore, Penang & Malaya(Malaysia) Series No. 2

Naval Design Pill Box Type 1, 1937/38 located in Pasir Panjang, Singapore. This type 1 is similar to the ones located in Penang ( series 1) and the Kota Tinggi Defence line. See below, frontal and back view of the pillbox

Naval Pillbox Type 2 1937/38 located at the coast of Labrador Park in Singapore. This type of pill boxes were located mainly on the coasts south of Singapore ( in Changi, Pasir Panjang and the Island of Sentosa). They can also can be located in Penang, along the coasts covering the Bayan Lepas Airbase.

The tower in the middle would have been installed with the range finder, as a Forward Observation Post for ranging Artillery/Guns against the invading vessels. Note the ventilation housing at the left of the structure. The flanks of the pill box, where the machine guns slots were, have been sealed.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Pill Boxes and Bunkers in Singapore, Penang and Malaya ( Malaysia) Series No.1

1937/38 Pill box with Naval Standard Procedures Design

Pill Box located in Penang, protecting the Northern Approaches to the Penang Airfield at Bayan Lepas

Frontal View of the Pill Box

1940's Pill Box with Army FW3 Branch Basic Design

Army Type Pill Box constructed for close defence of the Penang Airfield as it is located at the perimeters of the airstrip ( Can be seen approaching Penang International Airport on the left - However, all loop holes have been sealed and may be utilised for civil purposes now)

Pill Boxes and Bunkers in Singapore, Penang and Malaya ( Malaysia) Series No.1

Pill boxes can be located near Johor River, North of Kota Tinggi/Mersing Road & both sides of road. Other areas are Kota Bahru, Melawi Beach in Kelantan & Penang.

Pre WW2 Bunkers were built as Naval Defence types – as part of the Naval Defence System to protect the Naval Base of Singapore. There were mainly two types built ;

Naval Pill Box Type 1 had 2 loop holes in front of the pill box with a small copula/tower in the middle as observation platform. Loop holes and tower slots would have been protected by armour shield shutters and was built for frontal defences, with wide fields of fire.

Naval Pill Box Type 2 had 2 Section of Machine Gun posts to cover left and right of frontal section. A large tower standing about 2-3 Meters high in the middle as observation tower, sometimes installed with range finder as per Naval Standard Procedures in 1937-1938.

From 1940’s, army types bunkers with loop holes and rifle slots that protected and cover fire all around the pill box were built, probably based on 1940 Branch FW3 War Office.

In May 1940 the branch of the DIRECTORATE of FORTIFICATIONS and WORKS (FW3) at the War Office was setup under the Directorship of Major-General G.B.O.Taylor. Its purpose was to provide specific pillbox designs to be constructed at defensive locations.

During June and July 1940 saw the FW3 branch issue 7 Basic Designs. However, once in the field, the local construction companies modified these under the direction of the area commands. Occasionally, a `one-off`` type was designed to the War Office standard by the Command and Corps Chief Engineers.

The FW3 pillbox design concept was to provide a simple `fieldwork standard` that could be constructed very quickly. Most designs consisted of or incorporated some of the following features:

-Minimum of Bullet/Splinter Proof protection

-No attempt was made to provide living accommodation

-Some designs were enhanced to Shell Proof standard

-Simple Blast Walls to protect open entrances

-External flat side walls with rectangular or polygonal shape

-Protect an area and withstand all directions enemy attacks

The use of common designs with standard sizes for doors, loopholes and flat sides made it easier to `mass produce` items for concrete shuttering and hence the speed of construction. In Malaya, it appeared that the type 22 and lozenge design type of pill box design have been adopted.

The lozenges pill box was named for its shape. Designed for infantry units armed with rifles and submachine guns. The internal wall would be running lengthways down the centre to prevent ricochets inside the box and add strength to the roof.

The pill boxes were to be constructed close to each other to increase fields of fire and protection against flanking movement by enemy

Those pillboxes were probably built by Malaya Public Works Department (PWD) and local contractors under supervision by the army or by the Royal Engineers. The hexagonal type pill boxes of army standard type designs can be found in Kota Bahru, Jitra, Sungei Petani, Kuantan and Kepala Batas near the Muda River to protect the Butterworth Airfields.

More pill boxes pictures in Sinagapore, Penang and Malaya will be posted soonest. TOM

Defences of Singapore and Malaya – As assessed by Major General Sir William Dobbie 1935 -1939, GOC, Malaya Command

Major General Sir William Dobbie, 1935 to 1939 GOC Malaya Command - May 1942 Conclusion of his governorship of Malta ( source :IWM)

Lieutenant General Sir Lionel Vivian Bond, July 1939 to April 1941 GOC Malaya Command ( Source : National Potrait Gallery)

Defences of Singapore and Malaya – As assessed by Major General Sir William Dobbie 1935 -1939, GOC, Malaya Command

Defence plans of Singapore and Malaya was solely planned to defend the Naval Base of Singapore when it was decided to be built in 1921.

With a Naval Base in Singapore, sea communications and security east of the Indian Ocean would be controlled by the British Fleet.

Construction began in 1922 and the Admiralty made an assumption to the War Office that a Japanese expeditionary force coming through the Malaya Peninsular would not achieve its objective (Singapore). If the expedition was launched, Japanese shore based supplied aircrafts have to develop airbases close to Singapore and a long sea voyage has to be launched from Japan. This would enable a British Fleet to reach the Far East in time if it happened.

The assumption of command considered that

(1) the probable form of attack would be a landing on Singapore Island under cover of a naval bombardment;
(2) enemy air attack would be carrier-borne and therefore limited;
(3) the enemy would be unable to land on the east coast of Malaya during the north-east monsoon (October to March); and
(4) the difficulty of the country inland was such as to provide an automatic defence for the base from the north.

Major General Sir William Dobbie refuted this assumption when he was GOC of Malaya from 1935. He saw the Malay Peninsula as a decisive point for the defence of Singapore. He reassessed the situation when he assumed command at Singapore in August 1935. By then considerable progress had been made with the fixed defences at the base. The guns were then facing out to sea to repel the anticipated attack from that quarter.

Exercises aimed at testing the feasibility of an enemy landing on the east coast were held during the north-east monsoon of 1936/7. These exercises proved that it was not only feasible to land during the monsoon period, but positively advantageous to the attacker. This was by virtue of the fact that bad visibility limited the defender's air reconnaissance and reduced the efficiency of air attack on the enemy fleet and its transports.

Dobbie wrote to the Chief Of Staff:

...It is an attack from the northward that I regard as the greatest potential danger to the Fortress (Singapore). Such an attack could be carried out in the northeast monsoon. The jungle is not in most places, impassable for infantry.

Dobbie further added:

that an attack might be possible between the months of November and March, despite high winds and waves produced by the northeast monsoon. The recent landing of "5000 smuggled coolies" during this period, dissolved any preconceptions that the monsoon offered protection. On the contrary, this monsoon would provide good cloud cover for the invaders.

Dobbie’s thoughts on forward defence:

I am in any case seeing whether I can dispense with the Battalion of the Federated Malay State Volunteers which is earmarked to come to Singapore as part of the garrison of the Fortress. I can’t help feeling that the security of the Fortress might be better served by having a stronger force in being outside it… I consequently feel that the answer to the possible threat [of Japanese landing and establishing an advanced base on the mainland] is primarily to be found in Suitable mobile forces in being in the Malay Peninsula…

- Major General Sir William Dobbie, 1935 – 1939 GOC Malaya Command, to War Office 17 March 1936

In retrospect, it is almost as though Dobbie scripted the sequence of the Japanese attack in December 1941, which followed precisely his appreciation of what was likely to happen, based on the experience of the British forces during their 1936/7 maneuvers.

Dobbie's Chief of Staff during the exercises was Colonel A E Percival destined to serve as G Percival's finalised report in the late 1937, did confirm that north Malaya was a strategic position for the conquest of Singapore and Borneo. Both Dobbie and Percival made it clear that Singapore could no longer be seen as a self-contained naval base, and that its survival rested on the defence of mainland Malaya.

Dobbie sent to the War Office his appreciation of the likely methods the invader would use.

These were:
(1) the securing of advanced air bases in Siam or Indo-China;
(2) landings at Singora and Patani in southern Siam and at Kota Bharu in Malaya;
(3) possible subsequent landings at Kuantan and Mersing;
(4) an advance down the main road and railway on the western side of Malaya with the object of attacking Singapore Island from the north.

Hence, Dobbie proposed a defence line in Southern Johor called the Kota Tinggi Defence line ( Forward Defence system of Singapore Naval Base)He suggested Singapore Fortress defence line improved in 1937. Penang Fortress Defence should also improve. Hence, Penang, Kota Tinggi & Singapore Pill Boxes were similar with the Naval Pill Box design adopted design – related to Naval Defence Plans.

Pill Boxes would be protected by obstacles, backed by road grid of lateral roads. Pill boxes design were not uniform. Location and settings determined how they were built. Some had a tower projecting at the top of the structure for spot lights. These were found on beach and coastal regions to oppose landing and provide anti Motor Torpedo Boats raids over any water. The turret tops were used for observation for artillery and normally had two slots for machine guns. They were of the 1936-1938 Construction types.

GBP60, 000 allocated to construct pill boxes along the Johor River and short way westwards from Kota Tinggi. Roads were built by Rubber Companies at cost price

By 1939, GBP23, 000 have been spent on defences in Johor, Penang and Singapore. Dobbie retired at 60 & Lt Gen Lionel Bond took over as GOC Malaya Command in 1939. He accepted that the defence of Singapore rested on the defence of Malaya and appropriate preparations in anticipation were begun.

However, War office could have cut down the costs of developing the Naval Base in Singapore. Defence works was incorporated in the Defence Scheme Malaya and subjected to approval by the Committee of Imperial Defence & Chiefs of Staff Committee.

Defences work stopped as Malaya was not the only area on Britain's strategic agenda during the period of Lt Gen Sir Lionel Bond command from 1939 to 1941. However, army “economy” type pill boxes were built further north of Malaya in 1940’s as per Dobbie’s assessment and concurrence from Bond i.e. in the East Coast of Malaya to defend against Beach Landings and Airbases and North West of Malaya from Jitra down to Penang – mainly to protect forward aerodromes and attacks from the north.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Sarawak Rangers

Raja James Brooks, Sarawak

Sarawak Rangers under the White Raja

James Brook was made Raja of Sarawak, 24 September 1841. When he was Raja, he was accused of using excessive force against the natives under the guise of anti-piracy operations.

Sarawak then had pirates infested the coast and Dayak headhunters dominated interiors and were addicted to fighting, raids and plunder

Brook recruited a band of followers and mercenaries that evolved into a private army

1840 – A regular army began in 1840’s with 24 men under a native officer who served in the Ceylon Rifles (Malays that served the Dutch when they held Ceylon. The Ceylon Rifles were disbanded when the British took over)

1862 – The regular army or Central Military Force, expanded as men were recruited to garrison the coastal and river points and to pacify the interior. This force was named the ‘Sarawak Fort Men’.

1872 – The Sarawak Fort Men became the Sarawak Rangers comprised of coastal Malays and Dayaks from the jungles.

1902 – The Sarawak Rangers were commanded by British Officers, with the help of Indian and Javanese NCOs.

1907 – The Rangers had 458 Other Ranks including 290 Dayaks, 52 Malaya, 40 Javanese and 66 Indians. A band with 17 Filipinos completed the little army

1923 – Javanese and Chinese rioted and order restored after the Rangers and police killed 13 protestors

1930 – The Rangers strength increased to 540 men. Due to sharp drop in rubber prices, the Sarawak Rangers were disbanded in Feb 1932. Some were transferred to the Sarawak Police to form a military wing – Section B.

1939 – The Sarawak Rangers was revived and mobilized for the defence of Borneo, and formed part of the Garrison stationed in Kuching, Sarawak

Extracted from Forgotten Regiments, by Barry Renfrew

Straits Settlements & Federated Malay States Volunteer Force 1846 – 1931 : In Oriente Primus

Singapore Volunteer Corps machine gun section ( source: Life)

Straits Settlements & Federated Malay States Volunteer Force 1846 – 1931 : In Oriente Primus

1846 – Local Volunteer force proposed when Chinese riots occurred

1st Volunteer force formed:

1854 – Singapore Volunteer Rifles Corps formed, commanded by Capt Ronald Macpherson, officer of Madras Artillery

1857 – East India Company ordinance to give volunteers official status. Regimental colours presented to the force in Feb 1857. W H Read, 1st Volunteer to command the troops

1868 – 2 howitzers issued to the force to form a small battery

1869 – New Rifles were issue to the force

2nd Volunteer force formed:

1861 – Penang Volunteer Corps raised

1887 – Singapore Volunteer Rifle Corps disbanded in Dec 1887

3rd Volunteer force formed:

1888 – Singapore Volunteer Artillery (SVA) was embodied by official proclamation on 22 Feb 1888. Acted as garrison artillery unit and trained in the colony’s fortifications

1897 – SVA new role as field artillery; 6 x 2.5 inch RML mountain guns were issued

1890 – SVA had 104 men, with additional 4 x maxim machine guns purchased by public subscriptions

1890 – Drill Hall was erected and lasted till 1933

1894 – SVA cyclists section added

1896 – Federated Malay States (FMS) was formed. Penang Volunteer Infantry Corps of Europeans and Eurasians had 158 members by end 1899

1900 – New European Infantry Unit, the Singapore Volunteer Rifles was formed

1901 – Singapore Volunteer Infantry (SVI) formed with Chinese & European Companies

4th Volunteer force formed:

1901 – Singapore Volunteer Corps (SVC) formed with European and Asian Units in separate wings

1901 – Stretcher bearers formed as a multi racial unit, to become the Medical Company

1902 – The Singapore Volunteer Rifles was disbanded due to absenteeism. Those remaining men formed the SVA Maxim Company

1902 May, Royal Engineers (Volunteer) raised

1902 47 Volunteers formed the SVC Malacca Company, but was disbanded in 1906

1907 1st Chinese Officer promoted to Lieutenant in SVI

1911 – FMS; Only Europeans were recruited for Volunteer Units and they formed the Malay State Volunteer Rifles in 1911 with 554 men

1914 – SVC was mobilized to guard Singapore after the Regular Garrison was withdrawn for WW1

1915 – FMS; Asian units formed in the FMS as Malaya Volunteer Infantry

1918 = Eurasians finally accepted to form their company in the SVC

1921 – Reorganisation grouping for all units into the SSVF, Singapore Straits Settlements Volunteer Force (Singapore, Penang, Province Wellesley & Malacca). All existing commissions rescinded and a new officer’s corps selected. Men were issued with vouchers to purchase uniforms from local tailors

1921 – FMS also reorganized the MSVR and MVI into a multi racial unit, the FMSVF

1928 Johor small European Rifles Unit was changed to Johor Volunteer Engineers as there was no Sapper Units in Malaya

1929 – FMS light battery was formed with 4 x 3.7 inch Mountain Howitzers in 1928 and named in 1929

1931 – Enlistment of foreigners legalized and the SVC had 38 Europeans from 13 nations

1931 – Singapore cut defence spending by 50% due to economic slump and the quota for enlisting in the SVC was reduced.

Extracted from Forgotten Regiments, by Barry Renfrew