Penang War Museum (GPS: 5.28142, 100.28872) or Muzium Perang Pulau Pinang, is a privately-run museum preserving the war relics in Batu Maung, Penang. It is located on the hills above the fishing village. It preserves the British war relics that dot the hill. The museum was officiated by Datuk Paduka Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir, the Minister of Culture, Arts and Tourism, on 14 October, 2002.
After going up the windy hill road, now named Jalan Muzium Perang, I passed through the gate, where I paid a reimbursable RM5 parking fee (this is to keep away people who simply use up the limited parking space without actually visiting the museum).
Before going off to explore the war relics, I was given a private briefing:
A brief introduction about the Penang War Museum
Map of sights at the Penang War Museum (26 October, 2013)
I visited the museum for the first time way back in 2002, just following its opening, and roughly eleven years later, on 26 October, 2013, I made a second visit to it. I was given a briefing about the museum (which you can see in the video), and then off I went to explore the sights.
Much has changed, but much has also remained the same. I see that the numbering of each points remain the same over the past eleven years, though there is now a proper covered walk over what was once a tarred road. It leads past the entrance to the tunnel (Point 29). You can see how it looks like in 2002 and 2013 below:
Entrance to the ammunition storage tunnel in 2002(14 October, 2002)
Entrance to the ammunication storage tunnel in 2013 (26 October, 2013)
Exploring the Penang War Museum
Let me take you with me to explore the War Museum through photographs I snapped on the 2013 visit.
After paying the entrance fee, you go through this passageway, where there are interpretive boards explaining the advance of the Japanese during the Second War War, (26 October, 2013) A replica of a cannon, to be precise, a 6-inch breech loading gun that was originally installed in that spot, in 1941. (26 October, 2013)
Corridor leading towards the various war relics. (26 October, 2013)
Huts in the jungle? I am not quite sure what these are for. (26 October, 2013)
View of the sharp bend between the corridor and the entrance to the ammunition storage tunnel. When I was a teenager (long before the Penang War Museum was opened), I could ride my motorcycle all the way to this spot. But I never had the guts to explore it. (26 October, 2013)
The inside of the ammunition storage chamber, now an interpretation gallery for the War Museum/ (26 October, 2013)
From the ammunition storage chamber, there is a tunnel connected to the staircase. It is an escape route leading to the top. (26 October, 2013)
The ammunition hoist (26 October, 2013)
Steep steps going up. (26 October, 2013)
Replica of abandoned Senior British Army Residence during the war years. (26 October, 2013)
Remains of a Pill Box (small fortification). (26 October, 2013)
Shaft going down to the amunition chamber. When I was young, I used to ride my motorcycle all the way to here, the end of the hill road. (26 October, 2013)
View of the Second Penang Bridge from the grounds of the Penang War Museum. (26 October, 2013)
Gun Firing Bay. (26 October, 2013)
An ammunition shaft. (26 October, 2013)
Bobby Trap Zone. (26 October, 2013)
Anti Aircraft Pit (26 October, 2013)
The Tapioca Garden. During the war years, tapioca became a staple food as it is easily propagated. (26 October, 2013)
The Penang Battery. (26 October, 2013)
Quarters for officers on duty. (26 October, 2013)
Cook House. (26 October, 2013)
Staircase going down to the quarters of the Indian Army soldiers. (26 October, 2013)
Doorway to tunnel, to the British Army underground command centre. (26 October, 2013)
Visitors at the Anti Aircraft Pit. (26 October, 2013)
The Exit. (26 October, 2013)
My Experience with the Batu Maung British War Relics
I have been aware of the British war relics in Batu Maung from small. When I was a kid, I would explore the hills above the fishing village of Batu Maung with friends. From the hill slopes, my friends and I could watch planes landing and taking off from the Bayan Lepas airport. We would pass by durian and rambutan orchards where kind pakciks will let us eat our share of rambutans and durians, if we don't pluck them.
However, deep in this jungle and high in the hills, there are dark, mysterious tunnels. From the first time we came across those tunnels I knew they are World War II relics, but I have never been in it. There were talks that the tunnels were haunted, and by their look, they don't really dispell this rumour.
Later on, as a teenager, I would ride my motorbike up the windy path to the entrance of the tunnel, but I never dated to enter it, for fear of snakes. Nonetheless the relics were a source of much curiosity, excitement as well as fear.
So for over twenty years, those tunnels were tucked away in the deep recesses of my mind. It was only recently - October 14, 2002 to be exact - that news emerged in the newpapers that those tunnels have been rehabilitated and turned into Penang's newest museum - the War Relic Museum.
On a lazy Sunday afternoon, after a rather uneventful trip to visit the World Fish Centre open day, I detoured to this museum. A worn-out track zigzaged uphill into the jungle clearing. Entrance fee in 2002 was a hefty RM5.00 (By 2013, the price has increased to RM35 for foreign guest and RM20 for MyKad holders!) Considering I have come all the way here, I reluctantly parted with the money.
The war museum is a monument to the mistake made by the British in thinking that the enemy would attack from the sea, and thus they constructed the bunkers and enforcement with cannons aimed to the sea. As it turn out, the Japanese invaded by land, coming down the Peninsula, and rendering the preparation moot.
The British defense consisted of light machineguns and Bofors anti-aircraft on Bukit Batu Maung, or more correctly, Bukit Punjab. The guns are aimed at protecting the Butterworth airfield. There are several pillboxes built to protect the island from sea landings. The entire complex covers an area of 20 acres. The British Royal Engineers and a work force comprising of local labourers blasted and dug into Bukit Punjab to create a fort.
As it turned out, on December 16, the British evacuated when the Japanese started bombing the island and seized many ships and boats in the harbour the day before. The Japanese came ashore at dawn of the following day. They arrived on small boats and seized the island without losing a single soldier. They were surprised that the British did not even destroy the radio station in Penang before evacuating, so they used it to broadcast their propaganda to Malaya and Singapore.
From under Japanese Occupation, it Batu Maung Fort was used to protect Japanese shipping from Allied attack. After ww2, it was abandoned. Another 60 years would have passed before the Penang Government decided to restore the complex and turn it into the Penang War Museum.
As you explore this museum, you get to see the pill boxes, tunnels, observation tower, lock up and even cook house used by the British soldiers. If you are keen to rediscover how it was during the Second World War, then you should pay a visit to the War Relic Museum. Otherwise, it may not be worth the while to allow the mosquitoes in this place to feast on you. And by the way, bring insect repellant!
Entrance to the Penang War Museum in 2010. (26 October, 2013)
The most convenient way to reach the Penang War Museum is by private transport, as it is located on a hillside about half an hour's walk from the main road.
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