SINGAPORE: Sentosa’s Fort Siloso was gazetted as Singapore’s 74th national monument on Tuesday (Feb 15), becoming the first monument that is not located on the mainland.
The designation commemorates the fort’s role in the Battle for Singapore, which marks its 80th anniversary this year, the National Heritage Board (NHB) said in a news release.
“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,” the board said. Tuesday also marks the country’s Total Defence Day.
NHB added that this is the first time a site with structures is gazetted as a national monument.
The board first announced its intention to gazette Fort Siloso on Jan 17.
“The site was accorded immediate protection as a proposed National Monument, following the amendments to the Preservation of Monuments Act in 2021,” it said.
“NHB then engaged with key heritage stakeholders and also welcomed public feedback on the proposed monument.
“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 was built in 1878 as part of coastal fortifications amid Singapore’s “growing importance” as a trading port.
“The Fort’s strategic location on the western tip of Pulau Blakang Mati (Sentosa today) allowed it to guard the narrow western entrance to Singapore’s “New Harbour” (Keppel Harbour today) and defend the country from foreign invasions from the sea,” NHB said.
The military heritage site also played a crucial role during the Battle for Singapore in 1942, as one of the two known busiest batteries on Pulau Blakang Mati and supported the ground forces defending Singapore from the Japanese invasion in World War II.
Additionally, Fort Siloso’s guns destroyed oil refineries at Pulau Bukom and Pulau Sebarok, preventing the Japanese from using them, and served as a prisoner-of-war camp for Australian and British soldiers during the occupation, as well as for Japanese soldiers after their surrender.
After the war, Fort Siloso continued to play a role in protecting the country.
From 1963 to 1966 – during the Konfrontasi period - the 10th Gurkha Rifles Unit manned the fort to prevent Indonesian saboteurs from landing on Pulau Blakang Mati and Keppel Harbour.
The fort has been upgraded several times and also suffered damage, both by enemy attacks or deliberately as part of Singapore’s defence strategy.
Today it stands as a historical site and home to World War II memorabilia, including coastal guns and a collection of fortified military structures and tunnels.
Ms Jean Wee, director of the preservation of sites and monuments division at NHB, said Fort Siloso is “symbolic of every effort we take as citizens in defending our nation”.
The gazetting of the site is “significant as it takes place in the 50th anniversary since the establishment of the Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) and Sentosa as a leisure destination in 1972”, said SDC assistant chief executive Michael Ma.
“We invite Singaporeans to revisit Fort Siloso’s fortifications and historic coastal guns, and better understand Sentosa’s storied past as a naval stronghold, as we mark our Golden Jubilee as a multi-faceted leisure destination this year.”