Fort Siloso



Fort Siloso, located on the northwestern tip of Sentosa Island, was built in the 1880s on Mount Siloso to aid in protecting the port, particularly the western entrance to Keppel Harbour and the coal stocked nearby.1 It was part of Singapore’s coastal defence along with Fort Serapong and Fort Connaught on Pulau Blakang Mati (or Sentosa, as it is known today).2 The guns were used to fire at Japanese troops in the western sector of Singapore during the Battle of Singapore leading up to the Japanese Occupation.3 Today, the military facility has been converted into a military museum and serves as a tourist attraction on Sentosa. It is the only complete fort in Singapore.4

History
As trade flourished in Singapore with the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, it was deemed necessary to protect Singapore’s port.5 Although the 1827 report by Captain Edward Lake of the Bengal Engineers had considered building a fort on Pulau Blakang Mati, the construction of a fort on the island take place until 1878.6 Two years earlier, William Jervois, then governor of the Straits Settlements, had expanded upon Singapore’s defence plans.7 His successor, William Robinson, further developed the defence strategy and saw to the construction of new forts.8


Artillery

By the mid-1880s, Fort Siloso had been equipped with two seven-inch rifled muzzle-loading guns and two 64-pounders.9 Electromagnetic mines, powered by an underground electric powerhouse, were laid across the narrow strait. In the 1890s, five 10-inch guns were installed. These guns were operated electrically from the extended underground powerhouse.10 Further additions were made in the 1930s, particularly with reports of impending war.11 They include a twin six-pounder, quick-firing anti-torpedo boat guns, five searchlights, an operational tower, two machine guns and two twin Lewis anti-aircraft machine guns.12 Fort Siloso was manned by the British Royal Artillery and the Singapore Artillery Corps.13

Japanese Occupation (1942–45)
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.14 When the Japanese army invaded Singapore from the west, the guns at Fort Siloso were turned 180 degrees inland and fired at Japanese positions and troops who were advancing towards the city from the Tengah Air Base.15 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.16

The fort’s guns were also used to destroy the oil tanks in Pulau Bukom and Pulau Sebarok with the impending fall of Singapore.17 During the Occupation, the fort was used as a prisoner-of-war camp.18

Postwar developments
After the Japanese surrender, 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 1st Malay Coast Battery and the Royal Artillery were disbanded.19

Fort Siloso was manned by the 10th Gurkha Rifles to prevent Indonesian saboteurs from landing on Sentosa and Keppel Harbour during the Indonesia–Malaysia Confrontation (1963–66), when Indonesia launched a series of attacks to obstruct the formation of the Federation of Malaysia.20

Later, Fort Siloso became a Catholic retreat centre for British forces until 1967, when Sentosa was handed over to the Singapore government with the withdrawal of British forces. Fort Siloso then came under the command of the Singapore Armed Forces.21

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.22



Author

Wong Heng



References
1. Yap, S.-Y. (1992). Fortress Singapore: The battlefield guide. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 86. (Call no.: RSING 959.57023 YAP); Choo, S. B. (1990, November 30). Fort Siloso to come alive with plans for visual, sound effects. The Straits Times, p. 25; Cloth dictionary among Fort Siloso artefacts on display. (1992, June 6). The Straits Times, p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 477–478. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA]) 
2. Savage, V., & Yeoh, B. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish, pp. 302–303. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV); Yap, S.-Y. (1992). Fortress Singapore: The battlefield guide. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 86. (Call no.: RSING 959.57023 YAP)
3. Ong, C. C. (1997). Operation Matador: Britain’s war plans against the Japanese 1918–1941. Singapore: Times Academic Press, p. 26. (Call no.: RSING 355.7095957 ONG)
4. Yap, S.-Y. (1992). Fortress Singapore: The battlefield guide. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 86. (Call no.: RSING 959.57023 YAP)
5. Samuel, D. S. (2010). Singapore’s heritage: Through places of historical interest. Singapore: Dhoraisingam S. Samuel, p. 106. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS])
6. Murfett, M. H., et al. (2011). Between two oceans: A military history of Singapore from 1275 to 1971. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 59, 61, 106. (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 BET)
7. An Indian garrison for the Straits. (1878, May 19). Straits Times Overland Journal, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Murfett, M. H., et al. (2011). Between two oceans: A military history of Singapore from 1275 to 1971. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 100–101. (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 BET)
8. Murfett, M. H., et al. (2011). Between two oceans: A military history of Singapore from 1275 to 1971. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 103–106. (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 BET)
9. Murfett, M. H., et al. (2011). Between two oceans: A military history of Singapore from 1275 to 1971. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 93. (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 BET)
10. Samuel, D. S. (2010). Singapore’s heritage: Through places of historical interest. Singapore: Dhoraisingam S. Samuel, p. 106. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS])
11. Samuel, D. S. (2010). Singapore’s heritage: Through places of historical interest. Singapore: Dhoraisingam S. Samuel, p. 106. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS]); Yap, S.-Y. (1992). Fortress Singapore: The battlefield guide. Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 86–88. (Call no.: RSING 959.57023 YAP)
12. Samuel, D. S. (2010). Singapore's heritage: Through places of historical interest. Singapore: Dhoraisingam S. Samuel, p. 106. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS]); Yap, S.-Y. (1992). Fortress Singapore: The battlefield guide. Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 86–88. (Call no.: RSING 959.57023 YAP)
13. Samuel, D. S. (2010). Singapore’s heritage: Through places of historical interest. Singapore: Dhoraisingam S. Samuel, p. 106. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS])
14. Ong, C. C. (1997). Operation Matador: Britain’s war plans against the Japanese 1918–1941. Singapore: Times Academic Press, p. 26. (Call no.: RSING 355.7095957 ONG)
15. Samuel, D. S. (2010). Singapore’s heritage: Through places of historical interest. Singapore: Dhoraisingam S. Samuel, p. 106. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS])
16. Yap, S.-Y. (1992). Fortress Singapore: The battlefield guide. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 87. (Call no.: RSING 959.57023 YAP)
17. Yap, S.-Y. (1992). Fortress Singapore: The battlefield guide. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 87. (Call no.: RSING 959.57023 YAP)
18. Choo, S. B. (1990, November 30). Fort Siloso to come alive with plans for visual, sound effects. The Straits Times, p. 25; Cloth dictionary among Fort Siloso artefacts on display. (1992, June 6). The Straits Times, p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 478–479. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
19. Samuel, D. S. (2010). Singapore’s heritage: Through places of historical interest. Singapore: Dhoraisingam S. Samuel, p. 107. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS])
20. Samuel, D. S. (2010). Singapore’s heritage: Through places of historical interest. Singapore: Dhoraisingam S. Samuel, p. 108. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS])
21. Pestana, R. (1967, September 2). Blakang Mati likely to be bulk depot. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Samuel, D. S. (2010). Singapore’s heritage: Through places of historical interest. Singapore: Dhoraisingam S. Samuel, p. 108. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS])
22. Samuel, D. S. (2010). Singapore’s heritage: Through places of historical interest. Singapore: Dhoraisingam S. Samuel, p. 108. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS]); Yap, S.-Y. (1992). Fortress Singapore: The battlefield guide. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 87. (Call no.: RSING 959.57023 YAP) 



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we can 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.

 

Subject
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Military Sites
Recreation>>Places of Interest
Fortification--Singapore
Historical Periods>>World War II and Japanese Occupation (1939-1945)
1942-1945 Japanese occupation
Coast defenses--Singapore
Arts>>Architecture>>Architectural structure
History>>Asia>>Southeast Asia>>Singapore
Military museums--Singapore--Sentosa
History--Japanese occupation, 1942-1945
Places of interest
Military facilities