By: RaY KinZoKu

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Friday, 8-Dec-2006 00:25 Email | Share | Bookmark
Wasureta Rekishi ni kizumareta shunkan ~

Monsoon waves pounding the shoreline .....
with a lonely pillbox on their path ...
waiting bravely for the sea & sand, to seal its fate.
A peak into man's bloody history ...
lead to an unexpected finding ....
of another pillbox, a kilometre away ..
A 66 years of sand and brime ...
is no match for the neglect ...
and mistreatments by the hands of men.

8th of December 2006.
Northeast Monsoon.
Kelantanese shoreline.
Strong wind.
Pounding waves.

8th of December 1941.
Northeast Monsoon.
Kelantanese shoreline.
Strong wind.
Pounding waves.
Past midnight.
60 minutes
before Pearl Harbour.

Naminori Senshi.
Chi darake ano sunahama ni


    " 65 years ago, the Pacific phase of World War 2 began. But contrary to popular
    beliefs, the first salvos of the pacific War was shot NOT at Pearl Harbour, but here
    in our own backyard - near Kelantan.

    A RAF PBY Catalina was shot down by the Japanese as it monitored the Japanese
    invasion fleet that was closing in on Malaya. It was around 10am on December 7th,
    1941 local time (or, 10.30am according to our time now, or, 4.30pm on December
    6th in Honolulu, Hawaii). Shortly after midnight of 7th/8th December local time, fierce
    artillery salvos were let loose and the Japanese invasion of Malaya was underway.
    At this time, it was just after 6am on December 7th in Hawaii, and Admiral Nagumo’s
    planes were just on their way to Pearl Harbour. "

    From : Narcaholic's Blog - Thursday, Dec 7th, 2006 at 4:10 pm

In remembrance to that moment in time,
I dedicated this entry
to the dying history of our land ...

A small, low structure of reinforced concrete, enclosing machine guns, and employed as a minor fortress in warfare.

I found this pillbox on a lovely stretch of beach in Jajahan Bachok, Kelantan,
despite sinking into the sand, it still stands firm against the monsoon waves of the South China Sea.

Built by British troops just before World War II, pillboxes like this one used to dot the beaches and British military installations in Kelantan. Most of course, were built looking out to the sea as the British knew exactly how the Japanese would come.

It was reported that there are around 20 pillboxes, left in the state.
In coastal-erosion-ravaged Kelantan, with some had already gone into the sea and much had been deliberately demolished to give way to human activities, I doubt the figure is still reliable today.

This one on a beach called Pantai Kuala Belongan ( pantai = beach ) was in fact never used in the actual battle which took place some 15 km up north, in a small sandy estuary called Kuala Pak Amat ( Pantai Sabak ) in Jajahan Kota Bharu.
Now partly submerged in the fine sand and judging by its condition, I believe it was built quite further inland away from water edge, 66 years ago ....

I accidentally learned about the existence of this lone pillbox from Kamal's fotopage entry.
There is another one in nearby Melawi which I already knew exists and I thought to myself that this must be the last to be found intact in Bachok.

I was about to leave the spot and was admiring it for the last time when suddenly,
my eyes caught something peculiar a kilometer away.
A silhoutte of a very familiar shape and size.

Curious, I decided to walk the distance, southward, for a better look.

Surprised, the mysterious silhoutte was indeed, of another pillbox !

This stretch of beach, a kilometre or so from where I start ( Pantai Kuala Belongan ) is known as Pantai Kuala Nipah. A little bit further south should be the famous Pantai Melawi, I guess. ( I was facing north when I snapped this one ) ...

Amazed by the unexpected finding, I scanned the surrounding for other likeness, but none except for one, some 700 meters away southward. Looking up to the gloomy sky, I decided to return to my car and dismiss the sight as a boat shed. Besides, I was not expecting much either. But maybe I should come again sometime ( with a binocular, of course ).

~~~~~~~ & ~~~~~~~

Looking further back in time, to my childhood days,
I remember catching my first glimpse of this so called pillbox on a beach in Pengkalan Chepa, some 25 km from Kota Bharu town. The locals called it "Kubu Jepong" ( Japanese Fort ), a misnomer as I learned later that the British were the ones who built it, to face the then, approaching Japanese troops.

If you are a true Kelantanese of my age or older, you would probably know about that "Kubu Jepong" of Pantai Sabak. Today, large portion of the onced white sandy, beautiful beach had been eaten away by the sea, sadly along with the pillbox.

This is the last photo which I managed to snap of the ill-fated war relic :

This shot was taken on one of its last days in 1994 with a cheap Canon.
( you see, even back then, I was an avid photographer .. he he ).
No effort was taken to save this piece of history. Maybe to them, it is just a blob of useless concrete.

Now completely gone into the sea, even the very spot where I stood for the shot is probably 100 meters or so, off the remaining shoreline of today's Pantai Sabak.

Looking at this old photo reminds me of a written inscription on the pillbox wall.
In black paint, there was this sentence ( still visible in this pic. ) :


which simply translates,

" The fortification used to counter the Japanese Attack 1941 ".

I have no idea who put the words there but I still remember pointing my finger at the physical scars left on the pillbox surface. Ammunition inflicted scars, or probably just my exaggerated childhood imagination. Either way, the pillbox is no more there, to tell the truth.

A great personal lost indeed.

~~~~~~~ & ~~~~~~~

Honestly, I have no hope for the remaining pillboxes in Kelantan.
Not so long ago, a pillbox located next to the Sultan Ismail Petra Airport in Pengkalan Chepa, was demolished to give way to Taman Bendahara, a shophouses project .
It onced stood very close to the clock tower, built by Japanese WW2 veterans in 1988 and judging by the pillbox position, I am sure it was used by the retreating British troops as their last line of defence in the battle of Pantai Sabak ....

But the irony is this, onced Taman Bendahara was completed, the spot where the pillbox onced stood is left empty, void of any structure. I wonder why they should do that in the first place. Whatever the reason is, the historical pillbox had surely " died " in vain ......... for nothing.

Still, at the time being,
I could see nothing "promising" from the authority in favour of the pillboxes.
From my part, I decided to act alone, searching and cataloguing the remnants in text and photos for my personal collection. Doing so, I would know someday that they did exist and that the textbooks aren't bluffing .....

I have been locating those pillboxes for already quite some time since returning from Japan. To date, I had personally located and identified seven pillboxes altogether.

Besides those two newly identified pillboxes as shown above, there is another one on the bank of the Kelantan River in Kota Bharu, right between the Grand Riverview Hotel and the under construction, Pelangi Mall.

Then there is one right by the road side in Pengkalan Chepa and another one nearby, nestled in a coconut grove on a land belonging to Malaysian Airport Berhad. Within the Pengkalan Chepa Airport ground itself there is also a pillbox, located by the runway. I accidentally noticed it on one of my trip to Kuala Lumpur. The latter two are the ones that I know exist but inaccesible due to the private and restricted areas they are in.

Finally there is one at Pantai Melawi ( in Jajahan Bachok ), the one that I preferred most, neglected but naturally and beautifully preserved.

Now that I have found seven,
there should be at least 10 other left to be found ..... and from the latest info I got,
there should be one pillbox in Kampung Lalang Luas ( former British military airfield ) in Jajahan Machang and one, said to be in easy reach, somewhere very close to Jubakar Laut in Jajahan Tumpat. Their exact locations are sketchy though, so I guess, I will be out " treasure-hunting " again !

One thing for sure,

this one in the World War 2 Memorial in Kota Bharu,

is absolutely OFF my list !

A pillbox replica at the World War 2 Memorial ( the Bank Kerapu ) in Kota Bharu.
I wonder, what's the use of " keeping " a replica while the original ones are left to deteriorate out there ....
Thank you, I shall see this as one of the best real life irony .... * sigh ~ I wonder where we are heading to, really ?

Foot Note :

* Wasureta Rekishi ni kizumareta shunkan => " the moment carved in forgotten history "
* Chi darake no sunahama ni => " on the blood soaked shore "
* Naminori Senshi ( Japanese : 波乗り戦士 ) => " wave-riding warrior ". Ironically " senshi ", could also mean " war dead " ( 戦死 )




In the news :

Source : New Sunday Times, Sunday 10th Dec 2006, Section : Prime News, Page : 7

A pillbox overlooking the Kelantan River in Kota Bharu.
In the background is the Pelangi Mall & Condo project, which is currently under construction.
Lucky enough, no grave damage except for some signs of minor mistreatment from an illegal chicken slaughterhouse activity, some time ago.
( PVC pipes seen here sticking out from a turret hole ).

~~~~~~~~~ # ~~~~~~~~~

Source : New Sunday Times, Sunday 17th Dec 2006, Front Page !!

A historical building hits the dust in Ampang, Kuala Lumpur despite " fierce " lobbying to preserve it.

To me, what amazed me about this so called " Bok House " is not the story behind it but how it made Front Page in a well known national newspaper.
I wonder, could similar historical structure in Kelantan, if were to have the same fate, be made Front Page too ?

If yes, let's start with the pillbox !
( and I would be happy to name the others too ! )

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