WW2 battery can be tourist draw

It is the story of the small town which became the British army’s Waterloo in 1936 when they paid a “multi-million” pound mistake for under-estimating the intelligence of their biggest nemesis — the ruthless Japanese army.

The Japanese captured Malaya without a single shot being fired from the battery (fort where weapons such as guns and cannons are stationed) as they surprised the British army by landing in Kota Baru instead of coming in from Singapore.

The battery, located at Tanjung Pengelih, is said to be the biggest defence fort outside England. It sits on a 600ha site and was once self-contained with barracks and a hospital.

Though the area is now covered by dense foliage, the battery has fascinated both locals and foreigners who often wonder what it is.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, who recently found out about the battery during a working holiday in Pengerang, said the whole place, which never saw action, was built by the British to keep the Japanese away. It was constructed at a cost of ₤3 million (at today’s prices that would be ₤300 million or an incredible RM1.86 billion).

“There’s a lot of work to be done before we open the place up as a tourist destination. These places will attract the war veterans, historians, university students and families of those who were posted in Malaya during the war.

“Malaysians, too, will want to look at some of the war relics left behind by the British,” she said.

Azalina was in Pengerang, Johor Baru, to visit new eco-tourism destinations, including Pulau Tanjung Surat, Sungai Lebam, Tanjung Belungkor and Tanjung Pengelih.

Some of these places are just a half-hour boat ride from Singapore. Daily, hundreds of Singaporeans go to Pengerang to visit nearby Desaru and other attractions there.  

 One of the other attractions of Johor which has long been overlooked is the grave of the local hero, Si Bongkok, who was a freedom fighter.

Si Bongkok’s grave was also recently discovered at Ladang Bukit Belunkun Kecil, just a few minutes’ drive away from Tanjung Belungkor. It could be added to Johor’s tourism spots and would have appeal to those who like historical tours.

According to Azalina, the country should also show off more of its rainforests, mangrove forests, beautiful rivers, mountains and national parks.

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