Fort Siloso, Singapore’s best-preserved 19th-century fort, will be gazetted as a National Monument on 15 February 2022.
In commemoration of its role in the Battle for Singapore which marks its 80th anniversary this year, Fort Siloso was officially gazetted on Total Defence Day (15 February).
The historic site that stands as a testament to Singapore’s war years and rich military history will be accorded the highest level of protection, with 11 fort structures that collectively tell Singapore’s defence story. This marks the first time that a site with structures is gazetted as a National Monument.
What Does It Mean?
National Monuments are an integral part of Singapore’s built heritage, which the National Heritage Board (NHB) preserves and promotes for posterity. They are monuments and sites that are accorded the highest level of protection in Singapore.
As a gazetted monument, Fort Siloso will continue to serve as a social and community space enjoyed by Singaporeans, as well as a tourist attraction.
Fort Siloso's History
Fort Siloso was one of the five forts commissioned in 1878 as part of a large-scale extension of Singapore’s defences. The Fort was part of Singapore’s coastal defence system on Pulau Blakang Mati and was set up to defend Singapore’s “New Harbour” (Keppel Harbour today), to protect Singapore’s trade and to defend the country from foreign invasions from the sea. The Fort’s strategic location on the western tip of the island allowed it to guard the narrow western entrance to Keppel Harbour.
During the Battle for Singapore, the coastal defences of Pulau Blakang Mati, including Fort Siloso, apparently helped to deter a Japanese seaborne invasion from the south. Colonel Masonobu Tsuji, who planned Japan’s invasion of Singapore, assessed that a seaborne attack was not possible due to the seaward fortifications. As a result, the Japanese attack came from the north instead, which lacked permanent defences.
When Japanese troops invaded Singapore by land from north Malaya, Fort Siloso’s guns were turned towards the mainland instead to help support the ground forces defending Singapore from the invasion. Its guns also destroyed the oil refineries at nearby Pulau Bukom and Pulau Sebarok to prevent the Japanese from using them. The Fort also served as a Prisoner-of-War camp for Australian and British soldiers during the Japanese Occupation, and later for Japanese soldiers after their surrender.
Pulau Blakang Mati was returned to the Singapore government after the British military withdrew from Singapore in 1967. The island was renamed “Sentosa” and re-branded as a tourist destination in the 1970s. Fort Siloso was opened as an on-site military museum on 8 February 1975.
11 Gazetted Structures
In a collective telling of Singapore’s defence story, the site includes 11 gazetted structures consisting original Casemates of an early-19th century design; four Gun Emplacements; three Tunnel complexes that functioned as underground magazines directly beneath the guns, illustrating advances in military design in the late 19th-century; key defensive structures such as the Battery Command Post and the Fire Director Tower with Searchlight Posts; and the former Sergeants’ Mess and Officers’ Mess which provide a picture of how
soldiers lived in a fort.
Collectively, these coastal artillery fort architecture structures comprehensively illustrate Singapore’s defence story, from its early significance as a colonial trading post that needed to be well secured, through to the fall of Singapore to the Japanese, its merger with Malaya and the Konfrontasi period, as well as the Fort’s present use as an on-site military museum.
Visiting Fort Siloso
So if you have not visited Fort Siloso before, you may wish to consider a visit with the kids. To get to Fort Siloso, take the Sentosa Express and alight at Beach Station before transferring to Sentosa Bus A or C. You may alight at Siloso Point Stop, 2 stops away from Beach Station. If driving, you may park at next to the Interim Market.
Head to the Fort Siloso Skywalk where you will get a great view of the island before walking toward the fort to continue your discovery. You may also wish to pop-by Southside at Sentosa (before or after your visit) for a meal at the Interim Market.
*Photo Credits: National Heritage Board