When I was little, Fort Siloso was a scary place, with stories about dead soldiers haunting the underground tunnels and empty barracks. It didn’t help that it was really run-down and ill-painted for a long time. Until the place got a facelift at the turn of the century.
Fort Siloso is Singapore’s only well-preserved coastal fort that served as part of the country’s defences. The on-site military museum contains a treasure trove of WWII memorabilia, including coastal guns, the remains of fortified military structures and tunnels, as well as an interactive video documentary, complete with wax figures of Japanese & British soldiers at the Surrender Chambers.
Fort Siloso Skywalk
Standing at 43m high (there is a lift service available, thankfully), the Fort Siloso Skywalk serves as a walkway that connects Siloso beach and Fort Siloso. As you traverse this 181m bridge, you will be rewarded with spectacular sights of flora and fauna and a panoramic view of Sentosa.
Also known as Sarang Limau or Tiger’s Lair, Fort Siloso is Singapore’s only preserved coastal fort. Built on the western end of Pulau Belakang Mati – or Sentosa, as we all know it – it was used to protect cargo against enemy attacks during the British rule.
When constructed in 1879, Fort Siloso was armed with coast artillery weapons that met the standards of its time. However, with the rise of industrialisation in Europe and North America, these guns and armaments improved significantly.
The extensive infrastructure built into Mount Siloso includes barracks, casemates, underground magazines and tunnels. Many of these structures are now refurbished and air-conditioned so you can take a momentary reprieve from the heat and learn about the history of the place and the war at the same time.
In the early 20th century, Imbiah Battery housed an infantry fortification and a battery with a 9.2-inch breech loading gun. The battery became non-operational in the 1930s, after gun upgrades at Fort Connaught rendered it obsolete.
In the 17th century, the rival colonial powers Portugal and the Dutch Republic had both considered building a fort here, but it was only in the 1800s that the British constructed Fort Siloso, Imbiah Battery, Fort Serapong, Fort Connaught, as well as a battery at Berhala Reping and other military infrastructure.
Battery Command Post
With a clear view of the horizon and the western sea lanes that lead into the Singapore harbour, the Battery Command Post was used to direct coastal defence guns. It came into service in 1897 and was equipped with a Depression Range Finder and Position Finder.
It underwent a number of upgrades and modifications over the years, and the Battery Command Post as it was in the 1930s stands at Fort Siloso to this very day. Those who love a bit of realism can even hear the featured sounds of 1942’s Battle of Singapore.
This was my childhood memories (or nightmares) of Sentosa. The Surrender Chambers at Fort Siloso was first opened in 1985 at an abandoned military hospital and was moved to Fort Siloso (into a repurposed monorail station) almost 20 years later in 2004.. This wax museum, a bit like Madame Tussauds, used wax figures to depict dioramas of the surrenders of the British and the Japanese during WWII.
The first scene was the surrender of Singapore by Lieutenant-General Percival to General Yamashita that took place at the boardroom of the Ford Factory at Bukit Timah. This set the stage for a 3 years 8 months Occupation of Singapore by the Japanese, and Singapore was renamed Syonan-To 昭南岛, literally meaning “the island to the south (of Japan)”.
A corridor showing photos of the occupation and artefacts from the period connects us to anther diorama depicting the Allied representatives at the surrender ceremony held on 12 September 1945 where the Japanese officers signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender, marking the end of World War II. The actual signing happened in the City Hall (currently the National Gallery, an art museum) accepted by the Commander of the Allied Forces, Lord Mountbatten.
About Fort Siloso
The word “siloso” is actually derived from a Malayan word meaning “rock”. And according to historical records, shots where actually fired from the fort against the invading Japanese ships, contrary to what we heard that the guns where all pointing the wrong direction.
It was still scary as one walks through the corridors of history, because it was quite empty and under-utilised. But it is definitely a must better visitor experience vs the old time, with more dioramas and explanations of the functions of different parts of the fort. If only history lessons back then were so interesting.
For WWII history buffs, a visit to the fort (free entrance) is a far better choice compared to Madame Tussauds in the same island. The Fort is open from 9 am to 6 pm but I’d definitely recommend avoiding a visit at noon as the place can be scorching hot – some parts of the Fort are not covered. Not of course unless you want a proper sun tan with your clothes on.
Visited Sep 2021