Fort Siloso, located on the northwestern tip of Sentosa Island, was built in the early 1880s to aid in protecting the port. It was part of Singapore's coastal defence along with Fort Serapong and Fort Connaught in Blakang Mati, as Sentosa was then called. The guns were used to fire at Japanese troops in the western sector of the island during the invasion of Singapore on 8 February 1942. Today, the military facility has been converted into a military museum and serves as a tourist attraction at Sentosa Island. It is the only complete fort in Singapore.
As trade flourished in Singapore with the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, it was found necessary to protect Singapore's port. With the Report by Major Edward Lake of the Madras Engineers, work began on building a fort at Blakang Mati (Sentosa) in 1874. Part of the work included blasting the top off Mount Siloso to flatten it for a gun platform. By the 1880s, gun batteries were installed on Mount Siloso and Mount Serapong on Sentosa.
By the 1880s, Fort Siloso had 7-inch RML guns and two 64-pounders. Electromagnetic mines, powered by an underground electric power-house, were laid across the narrow Straits. In the 1890s, five 10-inch guns were installed. These guns were operated electrically from the extended underground power-house. Further additions were made in the 1930s, particularly with reports of impending war. They include a twin 6-pounder, quick-firing anti-torpedo boat guns, five searchlights, an Operational Tower, two machine-guns and two twin Lewis anti-aircraft machine guns. The Fort was manned by the British Royal Artillery and the Singapore Artillery Corps.
Although built to defend the land against sea invasion from the south, the guns were used ultimately to defend against land invasion during World War II. When the Japanese Army invaded Singapore in the west, the Fort's guns were turned 180 degrees inland and fired at Japanese positions and troops who were advancing toward the city from the Tengah Airfield. Unfortunately, the guns were also used to fire against compatriots who were mistaken for the enemy, as they were attempting to retreat from the overrun Pasir Laba Battery back to British lines via sea.
Under the "Scorched Earth" Policy the Fort's guns were also used to destroy the oil tanks in Pulau Bukom and Pulau Sebarok with the fall of Singapore impending. During the Japanese Occupation, the Fort was used as a prisoner-of-war camp.
After the Japanese surrendered, the Royal Navy occupied the Fort in 1946, and its guns were manned by the 1st Malay Coast Battery and the Royal Artillery. Gurkha Detachments took over manning the guns when the Royal Artillery and the 1st Malay Coast Battery were disbanded.
Fort Siloso was manned by the 10th Gurkha Rifles to prevent Indonesian saboteurs from landing on Sentosa and Keppel Harbour during the Confrontation: the undeclared war between Indonesia and Malaysia between 1963 - 1965, when Singapore was part of Malaysia then.
Later, Fort Siloso became a Catholic Retreat centre for British forces until Sentosa was handed over to the Singapore Government with the withdrawal of British forces in 1967. Fort Siloso then came under the command of the Singapore Armed Forces.
Today, Fort Siloso has been converted into a military museum, displaying its history and guns. Other coastal guns from different parts of Singapore have been brought here for display. It is one of the key tourist attractions at Sentosa and a showcase of life in the Fort when the British still manned it. It had previously held the display of the British Surrender.
Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places (pp. 477-478). Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW)
Ong, C. C. (1997). Operation Matador: Britain's war plans against the Japanese 1918-1941 (p. 26). Singapore: Times Academic Press.
(Call no.: RSING 355.7095957 ONG)
Samuel, D. S. (1991). Singapore's heritage: Through places of historical interest (pp. 260-262). Singapore: Elixir Consultancy Service.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 SAM)
Yap, Siang-Yong. (1992). Fortress Singapore: The battlefield guide (pp. 86-88). Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: SING 959.57023 YAP)
Fort Siloso - The sole restored coastal artillery battery from 'Fortress Singapore' . Retrieved January 8, 2003, from www.fortsiloso.com
The information in this article is valid as at 2003 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Military Sites
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Historical Periods>>World War II and Japanese Occupation (1939-1945)
1942-1945 Japanese occupation
History--Japanese occupation, 1942-1945
Places of interest