Interesting historical photos of Miri?

You have some wonderful old photos on this site.

I was wondering if anybody has WW2 photos showing the Lutong Airstrip and the adjacent Beach. The reason I am investigating of old wooden piles that have been exposed in recent years due to erosion of the coast line. I believe these piles are foundation remains of a substantial structure that was destroyed by Allied Bombing in WW2. If this can be proved to be true these piles are part of Miri Historical Heritage.


  1. There are currently about 75 piles exposed, almost 0.5 Meters diameter systematical arrange over a length of 230 Meters parallel to the coast line in two parallel rows approximately 9 Meters apart. Its expected more piles will be exposed in the future due the ongoing erosion.
  2. The piles were originally not on the beach. The concrete coated piping piles installed in the 1980’s to stop the coastal erosion marks the coast line at the time. Obviously, this attempt to stop the coastal erosion has failed.
  3. There is a high probability that there was a substantial topside structure supporter by these wooden piles and the that topside was destroyed in the heavy Allied Forces bombardment on the Lutong Airstrip in WW2 (World War 2). We need more historical data to support this thesis. If you have any useful information, please forward to me.
  4. Assuming the top side structure was destroyed during WW2 it may have been a pre-war structure or constructed by the Japanese occupying forces.

I was hoping someone may have photos of any structure that were constructed in this location before the WW2 Bombing destroyed it. Hope you can help.
Thank you. John

The piles were originally not on the beach. The concrete coated piping piles installed in the 1980’s to stop the coastal erosion marks the coast line at the time. Obviously, this attempt to stop the coastal erosion has failed.

Good to know the history about those concrete piles along the beach…that end my long curiosity. :slight_smile:

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I am happy that my comments have solved the mystery of the concrete coated piles on Lutong Beach. What we can learn from the concrete piles that if they put on the coastline in 1984 with the current rate of coastal erosion the sea will reach Jalan Pantai in a few more years. See marked up Land Survey map.

What I am more interested in though is the mystery of the wooden piles . I have just received a map from the Australian War Memorial . This is an Australian Airforce 1946 Photo Mosaic , that’s what they did before we had drones . The map does identify a bunked (Legend item 1) at about the location where the wooden piles that have recently been uncover on Lutong Beach. The bunker will by definition would be bomb proof, heavy duty construction needing a heavy duty piles for its foundation, As expected this bunker in located inland . There has been significant erosion of the coast line over the years and the coastline on the map is different for the current coastline shown on the current Land Survey Map . There is not much to see on the surface as the bunked would be covered with earth & camouflaged .

I am hoping that some of readers of this discussion may have a photo of this bunker in the old photo WW2 photo albums handed down from your grandparents. Can please check and post any interesting photos you can find.
I did a Google search for WW2 Japanese Bunkers. I cant find any photos for Sarawak but there are quite a few examples below of WW2 Japanese Bunkers built on Air Strips., so please check if you can find anything that looks similar to these photos please post on this discussion.

Example of WW2 Japanese Bunkers.

Example of WW2 Japanese Bunkers

Example of WW2 Japanese Bunkers

During my Google search on WW2 in Borneo I came across some very interesting videos. See links below.
This a Boat video attack on Lutong. Its like a John Wayne movie.

This is bombing raid on Lutong Refinery but the commentary says Labuan? It makes you realize what terror your grandparents may have lived through. You would need a strong bunker to with stand this bombing.

I am sure this will be of Interest but not really related to bunkers or Lutong. Its 1937 Video Flying Boats in North Borneo. You get a glimpse od Sandakan but it’s mainly somewhere in the jungle with the Murut. A bit stage managed film but still interesting


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I have found these WW2 films of Lutong on the Australian War Memorial site. I am sure you will find the very interesting. Let me know if the links work.
1 Lutong Ferry. They use ropes to pull the Ferry across the river. Lutong Ferry
2 Lutong Refinery just as the Australian Troops arrive. Lutong oil refinery
3 Trial of Japanese Officer in Labuan. Trial of Sergeant Major Sugino, Labuan
There are even more films on Brunei on this site.

Nostalgia ! :joy: Thank you for sharing ! :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

Another recent development with the mysterious wood piles at Lutong Beach is another 6 more piles have suddenly appeared to the north of the main cluster but about 6 meters closer to the coast (see photo) . They have only been exposed in the last few weeks due the high tides and rain accelerating the coastline erosion. My best guess it’s the entrance to the WW2 bunker shown on the 1947 aerial survey map I have acquired from the Australian War Memorial. Any other Ideas ???
Another issue related to the coastline erosion is how long will it be before Jalan Pantai becomes a beach road, not a coastal road. Last high tide there was some small sand depots on the road surface . There is another high tide in Sunday night 15 December 2019. I will check the road surface on Monday. Nobody seems to want to take responsibility for protecting the road from coastal erosion?

I am still looking for a photo of the WW2 bunker at Lutong Beach. I found this 1947 picture on the Australian War Memorial Website showing Aircraft parked end of the Lutong Airstrip. In the background mounds of earth about 4 meters high. I can’t say for sure but I suspect that may be the bunker. Bunkers are normally cover with turf and scrub to camouflage the bunker during bombing raids.

During the MCO I have kept myself busy by learning how to edit and publish YouTube videos/movies. I have made this YouTube video/movie covering the WW2 Ironwood piles at Lutong Beach. Our research leads to believe this these piles are the remains of a WW2 Japanese Bunker. I hope you find the video interesting.

If your grandparents have any old photos of this WW2 Japanese Bunker please share then by posting on this site

I have been studying the 1947 WW2 map sent to me by the Australian War Memorial. I notice there is another Bunker in the same area as the Shell Office/Shell Facilities. I have converted the WW2 into a high-resolution JPEG file and overlaid on to Google Earth. See the map below to see the Bunker location. Please read this map along with the WW2 map legend
I did go to this area where I have marked up the WW2 Bunker on my map a few month ago to see if there in evidence of the remains of a Bunker… Its near to the fence of the Shell Facilities. There is also an office there for the Shell Auxiliary Police nearby . The Shell Police chased me away and told it was a high security area and not to take any photos. There goes my dream of finding a Samurai Sword.

You could do this yourself but you would need the high-resolution WW2 map JPEG file to overlay onto Google Earth. Its to big of a file to post on this site but if your interest I could email the file to you.

hi john,may i have the map? thanks

I have another shot at the WW2 Bunker near the Shell Office at Lutong. This time I have added a photo of the location and then saved the view as a screen shot. Hope adding the photo makes it more interesting as you now know the exact present day location of where the WW2 Japanese Bunker was as shown on the 1947 map …

Hi J,

Can you please share the AWM map? coz Im also doing some historical research on WW2 in Miri…thanks

can email me at or


Well, bout the wooden piles, it doesnt look like a coastal mitigation’s work for erosion… and based on the photos provided, for me it is more like something was build and stood on the location about nearly 75 years ago or more… I may agree with the theory of perhaps it is the remaining of the missing bunker which build near the airfield…

just to share some info, somewhere in 2007-2008, PRSG had done several research on the airstrip and surrounding area… and actually later after that, we realized that the airstrip was not as what we knew nowadays. It was big back then in the early 40s or 30s…the reason why we believed it is larger than the one that we saw today:

  1. according to the terrain studies by AWM and there is a photo showing the size of that airfield… which is twice or triple the size of the current one

  2. the missing bunker structure are the actual key to the airstrip and during our research which were done in 2007-2008, there is a structure like pattern on the left side of the airstrip entrance from the sea and after cross checking with the map provided by AWM there is an indicator of a bunker like structures but unfortunately it is no longer can be seen today either due to the bombing or the construction work by local housing estate. and perhaps the wooden pile on the beach also possibly a camo structure for the aircraft hangar or maybe some other important (just a theory) coz if we refer to the 1940s map the beachline is further up to the sea and due to continuous erosion for years it become closer and closer to the land as it today

Thanks for your comments

According to the Shell History Book “The Miri Story” Lutong Airstrip was built by the Japanese during WW2. After WW2 Shell put a hard surface on the airstrip and made use of for Helicopters for offshore and fixed wing planes to Bintulu & Labuan/KK. I have put a copy of “The Miri Story” at

See extract below for the WW2 period:

“It was not at all unusual, after a hard day’s

work on the oilfield and at the refinery, to be made to work on the construction of the

Lutong bridge and the Lutong airstrip.

But if construction was strenuous, maintenance was even more so, especially where

the airstrip was concerned. In the dead of night one would be woken up by Japanese

soldiers for the purpose of carrying heavy baskets of sand from the nearby beach to

fill up the holes in the strip caused by Allied bombs. And more often than not, one

would find on the following evening that Allied planes had paid yet another visit

during the day, leaving the airstrip once again as pitted and potholed as the surface

of the moon. Indeed, as the war went on, this filling up of holes became almost a

nightly ritual .”

It is true there that the coastline has changed due to coastal erosion. Its difficult to see where the current coastline and river is from the Google Earth with the WW2 Map Overlay.
What I have done I have done is put landmark pins on the Google Earth showing all the Japanese built facilities and saved the image below .

You can see the Bunker on this map is about a 100 meters from the beach. The bunker would be underground and covered in earther so it would be camouflaged in this aerial view map.

The Fighter Revetment and Bomber Revetments are where the Japanese parker their aircraft behind a blast wall. I would expect they would be covered in camouflage . You can see there appears to be roads in place linking the Revetments to Airstrip.

I then remove the WW2 map overlay and saved a second image showing clearly where the WW2 Japanese facilities are located on Google Earth

Now you can clearly see that the WW2 Bunker and Fighter Revetment are now on the beach.
I think what may have happened is the WW2 Japanese Bunker would have been destroyed by the Australian forces . They would have put explosives on the inside of the Bunker . Bunkers are designed to withstand bombs and explosion from the outside so you would need to have an internal explosion to destroy it . The bunker structure would have been made of wood and would have burned down. However the wooden foundation pile would have been driven deep into the ground and the bottom of the piles driven hard into the ground would not have not burner. These remains of the wooden piles would have been buried in the ground for 70 years are so. They have only appeared in the last few years once the coastal erosion reached the area the of land the piles were driven into all those years before.

Regarding the structure you mentioned just the left of the airstrip in the survey you did in 2007-2008 I think you may be referring to the site of the oil Shell Passengers terminal see images below

I did use this terminal in the 1980’s when I first came to Miri, working offshore and Bintulu . Soon after Shell started to use Miri Airport this Terminal was demolished. That was a bit sad as it was of historical interest. This included the demolishing of one of the only wooden conning towers in the world.

Update on demolish of Shell Passenger Terminal

New information from one of my friends:- Shell stop renting the Airstrip after a sudden hike in the rent rate . It was no longer viable to rent the Airstrip so, Shell moved there Helicopter and Fixed-Wing flights to Miri Airport . After Shell vacated the Airstrip there was no longer any security to protect the Wooden Terminal from theft and vandalism. Over the years the wood has slowly been taken from the site. Now nothing remains of the wonderful wooden structure .

When I used to take of from there Lutong Airstrip in the 1980’s I could there were many round pools of water about 5+ meters diameter close to the airstrip. I was told they were bomb craters from WW2. I took this Google Earth image showing the bomb craters still there. They are living evidence of what happened in WW2. I was wondering if anybody who has a drone could they make a close-up survey of these bomb craters?? See image below;

We should live in the present and look forward to our future, but we should also learn from our history.

Hi J,

Thanks for the info…really good one…and very informative my friend… Ive also been doing a site visit somewhere in 2005, 2007-2008 to the former demolished Lutong Airstrip and trackin’ down the bomb crater and did find a few and took photos on in… and I also managed to find the remnants of the ww2 japanese aircraft halfly buried in the ground on the left side of the air strips towards the river… estimated about 300-400 metres to the centre of the pave… and about 100-150 metres into the vegetation on the left… ive tried to get some volunteering project on diggin’ it out with some fellow euthasist via our own money in order to proposed and to preserved it for the museum… unfortunately we’re unable to dig it deep and we went off just to come back within a week or two with some excavators… but when we went back to the location, the aircraft wreck already scavenged by the indonesian workers whom are also workin as coolies at the watermelon farm nearby and they told me and the team that they thought it just worthless historic remnants and no one have any interest on it so they cut it into pieces and sold it to the local metal recycle centre…

Regarding the bunker, Im so interested to do the same research on it coz as far as we have been doing the research on WW2 in Miri, we only able to tracked down 2 pillbox bunkers in 2008 which is now currently inside the SMTC compound. Before it that, one of the British Pillbox was left unpreserved outside the fences and near to the beach.

I believed there is another missing 2 pillbox belongs to the british but still need a confirmation on it which i suspect located somehwere in Tanjong Lobang hill and surrounding.

Regarding the Lutong airstrip bunker, yes Im totally agreed with you my friend coz based on the 1945-46 defense plotting by Australian military when they’re in Miri, there is mentioned a bunker or perhaps a pillbox which may once belong to the british but later used by the japs at lutong airstrip…

But that wooden piles half buried on the beach really catch my attention after you came out with your findings… and Im more excited to know more from your current research on the bunkers in Lutong. Perhaps if we can meet up one day in Miri and do some trackin together. Hear from you soon on the bunker research Jhill or should i call Jay…

thanks my buddy in WW2 research…

here’s some photo of the bomb crater which we took during our research in the Lutong Airstrip

thanks for the great info to Jay,

I dont think the Petronas or shell have that jurisdiction on the coastline anyway I think… coz all i know every coastline, river line is under government land and jurisdiction… but hard to say buddy…I was thinking to keep on doing the research and knowledge sharing to all mirian about the hidden history and missing history about miri… and their lost historical sites as what we bot are doing right now… and if possible to preserve the historical sites or any artifact for future generation to see and learn… there is more potential sites and location to dig and find in miri and im afraid all this sites will be loss sooner or later due to the fast development… we need more historical enthusiast and freelance researcher to combine our work for it buddy…

hear from you soon


Thanks .

This is excellent information. I have done some exploration myself but I had nothing like the same success as you. I think the Sarawak Heritage Society was thinking of setting up a museum in Miri, I will follow with them and keep you in the loop.

I do have some interesting information on what I found while exploring in the Kampung Pangkalan area, that I will share with you later.

In the meantime I want to share some recent history of the Lutong Airstrip:-

I just did a Google search and found this image of a Puma Helicopter landing close to the Shell Terminal at Lutong Airstrip.
You can see the Shell Terminal and Conning Tower in the background. I feel the Shell Terminal was of historical value and should have been left standing once Shell lost ownership of the Lutong Airstrip. Since the terminal was demolished so far nobody has developed this derelict site?

This Photo also brings back fond memories of Miri in the 1980’s. Before I came to Miri I had done a one year contract with ARAMCO in the middle of the hot harsh Saudi Arabian dessert where the summertime temperature is 50+ deg. C . When I arrived in Miri I thought I was in paradise. Anybody who complains about Miri should spend a year in the Saudi Arabia dessert, then they will appreciate how lucky they are to be living in Miri.

In the 1980’s I spent a few years working offshore on the E11 & F23 Projects on two weeks on two weeks off rotation. There is a possibility I could have been in the Helicopter in the photo!!! The E11 Project was running behind schedule. There were some heavy penalty clauses in the Shell contract if they missed the first ever scheduled LNG tanker loading. To get back on schedule Shell arranged for Bristow Helicopters to shuttle project crews on 12 hour shift changes to and from E-11 . This went on for months continuously on a 24 hour basis and this helped get the project back on schedule.

As I have mentioned before in the 1980’s Shell installed the 2 meter high concrete piles on the coast line (at that time) at Lutong Beach to protect these facilities from the sea . Since Shell lost ownership of the Lutong Airstrip facilities nobody has taken responsibility to installing barriers to prevent coastline erosion . The beach has already almost reached Jalan Pantai and its just a matter of time before it does. If you look at the coastline just half a kilometer north of Lutong Beach there are huge heavy duty stone erosion barriers in place. I think Shell or maybe Petronas have ownership of this coastline???
While Shell/Petronas may not be legally directly responsible for protecting the coast line its obviously in their interest to protect any of their facilities close to the coastline from damage due to coastline erosion.

More photos and history on Lutong Airstrip from Miri Resort City :slight_smile:

Lutong Airstrip in all its glory, 1989. Photo by Dougal

A legacy of World War II Japanese occupation, and bombed by allied forces multiple times during the Japanese occupation (see: History: Decline & War), this airstrip was then reconditioned and put into service by 1954, to actually became a destination of commercial passenger-carrying planes when Malayan Airways expanded its Borneo service air network, and remained so until Miri Airport runway was built.

It was used by Royal Dutch Shell for air operations, which was by then operating several aircraft and seaplanes of their own that replaced ships used to supply neighboring Seria with newspapers, mail, and cold storage food supply and other amenities - in addition to becoming used as air ambulances and photo reconnaissance flights, all of which fly out of Lutong Airfield. This article is from the web site miriresortcity dot com - this sentence is here to prevent blatant plagarism. These kinds of flights continued to much later when they operated Super Puma helicopters to offshore installations and Twin Otters to other land-based regions by the 1980s. The airstrip had an ICAO code “WMLU”.

Lutong Airstrip, 1993. Photo by Simon

The airstrip had basic hangars, a terminal and a control tower, with a strip paved runway. What made this airstrip unique was that it was located on a piece of peninsula land in between the sea and Miri River, with a road right by the sea at the end of the runway. So when a plane or helicopter came in to land, crossing lights and a barrier was activated by the airport controllers to stop cars along the seaside road (adjacent to Lutong Beach) to prevent cars from interfering planes landing as they come in low over the beach and road. The airfield also originally had a grass landing strip, which was later refurbished with a paved runway by the late 70s.

This placed Miri as one of the more unique places in Sarawak as a town with two operational airports within only a few miles of each other.

The Lutong airfield was decommissioned in the early 2000’s, and all of its buildings had been demolished, while the remaining runway used mainly as a venue for vehicle drag racing and paramotor. The airfield land has been marked for development (as of 2015). All offshore helicopter and oil platform flight operations have now been moved to and are currently handled at Miri Airport today.



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At the Lutong Airstrip Area, I have put landmark pins on all the WW2 map legend items on my Google Earth view with the WW2 map overlay and saved the image. I have then removed the WW2 overlay then saved a new image showing the landmark pins on the current Google Earth View only. The second image will help you clearly identify where the WW2 sites of interest are today. Depending on ease of access you may want to explore these sites to see if you can find any WW2 relics. A metal detector may help. If you want to do this, please wait until the MCO is over. Also probably not a good idea to do if your fasting. Hope you find these images of interest. You can clearly see how much the coastline and the routes of the rivers have changed over the years.

Dear Jay,

Thank you for the info buddy… Oh no worries, since its still Movement Restriction Order and also fasting month, there is no outdoor activities for now till everything back to normal. And besides that, Im working in KL and once or twice a year going back to Miri for a holiday. Thank you so much Jay for the really really really pack info on the airstrip. will do some field trip with our metal detector on the location, perhaps in June with my fellow team

Bout the photo, yeah Im aware of the beach erosion and there is one thing catches my eye… the underground shelter…how I wish it was still there…but I believe the site already gone due to the new housing development project activities…

But it doesnt stop our efforts on tracing down any remains of the WW2 remnants in Miri, and thanks again for the sharing my buddy.

Hear from you soon!!

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