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  The Straits Times, 12 Mar 05
Labrador Park brings WWII to life
by Glenys Sim

THE only area in Singapore where one can witness some of the destruction of World War II, when the country was invaded by the Japanese, opened to the public yesterday.

There are two tunnels between 2.5m and 4m high at Labrador Park, and jagged metal pieces jut out from the tunnels' brick walls and floor, which have been partially damaged, and there is loose stone on the floor. These are signs of the explosions that occurred during the war, said the National Parks Board (NParks), which installed lights and smoothed out some parts of the tunnels' floor to make it safe for visitors.

One of the tunnels was hit twice - once by Japanese soldiers and the other time by departing British troops in an attempt to prevent their enemy from getting the ammunition stored there. The tunnels, which are 46m and 63m long, were built in the 1880s. After Singapore fell to the Japanese in 1942, they were forgotten and hidden by vegetation.

NPark officials stumbled across them in 2001 and they are now part of the history trail at the park. 'I think we should try and create more of such opportunities for Singaporeans so that they can not only enjoy nature but also learn something about the history of Singapore,' said National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan at yesterday's opening.

To encourage people to visit the place, transport company SBS Transit will operate 'Parks 408' that will ply between the HarbourFront interchange and Labrador Park on weekends and public holidays from 9am to 7pm. The fare each way will be $1. Guided tours of the tunnels will be conducted daily every hour from 10am to 6pm from today. The tour costs $8 for adults and $5 for children.

The 16.8ha park off Pasir Panjang Road was gazetted as a nature reserve in 2002 because of the plants, birds and insects there. From the start, the place has served as a defence site, to protect Singapore's harbour. Since 1995, NParks has made several improvements, including erecting more shelters. The tunnel opening marks the third phase of the park's $5 million redevelopment. It is also part of a series of events to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of the war. Others include a memorial service and the launch of wartime exhibits at Changi Chapel and Museum in September.

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