- Planning stages
- War years
- Occupation and post war years
- Modern day Pengerang
- Tunnel systems & underground places  
- A veteran remembers  

The war years (1939-1945)

In December 1941, under the command of Lt Colonel John Stitt MC, the 2nd battalion Gordon Highlanders were ordered to Pengerang to set up defensive positions bolstering up Pengerang's exsisting defences - this included laying anti personnel and anti tank mines and clearing fields of fire. From their positions they even had the pleasure of seeing HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales sailing up the Johor straits on their way to the Royal Naval base at Sembawang. In just over a weeks time, both battleships would be at the bottom of the sea.

During December, Japanese aircraft were seen on reconnaissance flights over Pengerang and were observed dropping flares.

When the first signs of fighting came to Johor by January 15th 1942, the Gordon Highlander's supervised the evacuation of the local population from Pengerang. On the 21st, the Gordon's handed over garrison defence duties to the 1st Mysore Infantry I.S.F. (Indian State Forces) and a company of Madras Sappers and Miners, commanded by British officers of the Johore Volunteer Engineers (JVE).

The commanding officer of Pengerang's garrison was a Colonel Preston with his 2nd in command Major Burrows. Col Preston operated from the "Battlebox" atop of Johore hill and had a direct line of communication down to the garrison by way of field telephone.

In the following days and weeks, Pengerang’s garrison began routine land patrols of the immediate area as well as into Johore. Patrols were sent out at least twice a day to find evidence of any Japanese incursions into the area. One such patrol was to find evidence that small Japanese units were indeed operating in the area, when a Japanese military map was discovered discarded in one of the nearby villages.

By the end of January the fight for the Malayan mainland was over with all allied forces having retreated over into Singapore. The order was then given to destroy Singapore's only physical link to the Malayan mainland, the causeway. A rather pathetic 60ft gap was then blasted out of the 3464ft total length of causeway.

The closest battle to Pengerang during this time was on the 7th of February, 12km to the west on Pulau Ubin. 400 Japanese soldiers had been sent to Pulau Ubin as a feint attack leading up to the main invasion of Singapore.

During this time Pengerang did see some action of its own, firing at Japanese aircraft with their anti aircraft guns. On the 11th, Pengerang even engaged a Junk (boat). The brief war diary entry mentioning this action doesn't however specify with what armaments had been used, if the junk had been damaged or sunk, or even if the Junk was under Japanese command. The likelihood perhaps, was that the junk was probably civilian and was fleeing from the invading Japanese.

Even by 13th, Pengerang had still not been directly attacked with force, nor had Pulau Tekong opposite. The men on Pengerang could hear and see clear evidence of the battle raging on Singapore, but little did they know how badly it was going for their comrades.

By the 14th, the Japanese held Singapore's reservoirs and were fighting their way up Bukit Timah road. At this time the order came through to implement Pengerang's denial scheme. Pengerang's guns, equipment and important buildings were to be destroyed to prevent them from falling into enemy hands. The war diary of Changi Fire Command records 18.30 hrs as the time of destruction of Pengerang, this was around the same time Sphinx battery opposite on Pulau Tekong was self destructed, as well.

The generator at Pengilih point's main Powerhouse ran for a few days after the denial order had been issued, even after having large doses of sand fed through its fuel system. Fires resulting from the denial scheme had also got out of control and was spreading quickly up the hill towards the HQ! A fire break had to quickly be made.

With Pengerang now out of commission and all allied troops fighting for their lives on Singapore, Pengerang's men and even Pulau Tekong's, were effectively left high and dry as nobody at high command had thought to organize boats to evacuate them back to Singapore!

The next day on that fateful 15th of February 1942, with demoralized troops and British commanders un willing to risk a massive counter attack back in Singapore, Percival was forced into a humiliating surrender of his own making.

It was at 6pm that a garrison duty officer at Pengelih, monitoring radio news reports from London, heard a special bulletin telling of unconfirmed reports of Singapore's capitulation. The shocked duty officer duly phoned his commander up on the hill and it was then confirmed to him that this news was in fact correct.

With no boats to be evacuated by, the men at Pengerang were left stranded for a whole week until finally on the 22nd did the Japanese arrive to take over. Pengerang's men were now POW's and evacuated back to Changi to an uncertain fate.
However, not all of Pengerang's garrison sat around waiting to become POW's. Seven days earlier, after learning of Singapore's surrender, twelve British soldiers, 10 from the 'Johore Volunteer Engineers', and 2 'Special Service Officers', had other ideas, and quickly improvised plans to make a break for Sumatra and possible escape to Australia. But that's another story..

Ultimately, I think the Pengerang defended area in the proper planning and defensive context did its job perfectly well. But as we now know, the Japanese had no need to go anywhere near this area with force. Singapore's back door had been left ajar by the British, they largely saw the main threat coming from the sea, and the Japanese did the other thing and came by land instead, leaving Pengerang largely out of the equation.