- A.N. Other and NHSA Webmaster
- History - WW2
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- RAN Ships
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- December 1976 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
One of the great mysteries of World War 2 was the ultimate fate of Singapore’s batteries of 15 inch guns. Records do not clearly indicate whether all the guns were blown-up before the surrender or whether the Japanese cut them up for scrap. The attached article written by the Curator of the Maritime Museum of Singapore tells the story of the batteries. The article was forwarded by member Captain lan Nicholson who is Defence Adviser, Singapore.
THE DEFENCE BUILD UP IN SINGAPORE in the period prior to the Second World War included a system of permanent gun emplacements known as Coast-Defence Batteries which were constructed at strategic locations to guard the seaward approaches to Singapore. The standard Coast Defence Guns which were installed, were functionally categorised as either Close Defence Guns or Counter-Bombardment Guns. The Close Defence Guns were intended for dealing with hostile warships and motor torpedo-boats which may have penetrated into the close vicinity of the Port to attack the ships at anchor, and they comprised the 6-inch guns with 15° elevation mountings, 6-pounder twin guns and 12-pounder quick-firing guns. The Counter-Bombardment Guns were to be used for dealing with battleships, heavy cruisers and light cruisers lying off the Port and bombarding the port installations, dockyards and the ships alongside, and they consisted of the 6-inch guns with 45° elevation mountings, 9.2-inch guns with 35° elevation mountings and the 15-inch guns. Altogether, a formidable complement of 51 Coast Defence Guns of these various calibres were installed.
The 15-inch guns were unique. With an extreme range of 24 miles they were specially installed in Singapore to deal with battleships of over 35,000 tons. The Johore Battery (located off Upper Changi Road) consisting of 3 15-inch guns and the Buona Vista Battery with 2 15-inch guns controlled the entire Singapore Straits.
Unfortunately, the Japanese strategic plans for the invasion of Singapore called for a land based assault from the north and no attacking warships were deployed during the Battle of Singapore (1 Feb. 1942 – 15 Feb. 1942). Furthermore, no land service ammunition was provided for the 15-inch guns and the only supply of ammunition was armour-piercing for use against ships. Nevertheless a temporary landwards counter bombardment scheme was worked out and both 15-inch batteries together with the Connaught 9.2-inch battery on Sentosa, engaged the advancing Japanese troop concentrations. However as observation of fire was difficult and the field of view inland was limited, not much damage would have been inflicted. The Buona Vista Battery was subsequently captured on 10th February and the Johore Battery was abandoned on the 12th, and Singapore capitulated on 15th February 1942.
Where are these 15-inch guns today? Considering that they weighed about 50 tons apiece, they could not have simply vanished without trace. Were they broken up and melted down? Or were they re-installed by the Japanese in some remote island in the Pacific? This is a mystery which the Maritime Museum is attempting to solve.