Fort Siloso is now Singapore's 74th national monument

Fort Siloso played a crucial role in the Battle for Singapore, which marks its 80th anniversary this year.
PHOTO: National Heritage Board

Fort Siloso played a crucial role in the Battle for Singapore, which marks its 80th anniversary this year. | Photos courtesy of National Heritage Board

To many, Sentosa is the epitome of sun, sea and sand, and has been that way for decades. The 500-hectare island resort proudly calls itself "The State of Fun", and rightly so. After all, it is home not only to Universal Studios Singapore, the S.E.A. Aquarium, and Singapore's first integrated resort, Resorts World Sentosa, it is also one of the choice destinations for beachgoers, adventure seekers and those in desperate need of an "overseas" getaway.

Amid the fun, fun, fun, it's easy to forget (or conveniently ignore) one of the historic marvels on this island: the 19th-century Fort Siloso, which has just been gazetted - on Total Defence Day (15 Feb), no less! - as a National Monument.

This means the site - along with 73 other National Monuments including Hajjah Fatimah Mosque, Sri Mariamman Temple, CHIJMES and Victoria Theatre - will be accorded the highest level of protection.

The guns in this battery (the one here is a replica) took part in the Battle for Singapore in 1942, firing landwards on the Japanese troops who advanced from north Malaya into Singapore.
PHOTO: National Heritage Board
This 7-inch Rifled Muzzle-Loading Gun Emplacement with shell and cartridge store dates back to 1878.
PHOTO: National Heritage Board
The Fire Director Tower formed part of a coastal artillery command which directed guns of increased range and accuracy.
PHOTO: National Heritage Board
The height and location of the Fire Director Tower at Siloso Point commanded a clear view of the western entrance to Singapore.
PHOTO: National Heritage Board

The gazetting of Fort Siloso as a National Monument is interesting because it is the first time that a site with structures has been given this title. The fort, constructed in 1878, has 11 fort structures and gun emplacements, some of which are intact and date back to that era.

Located strategically on the western tip of Sentosa (then known as "Pulau Blakang Mati"), it was used to defend the western entrance to Singapore's New Harbour (known as "Keppel Harbour" today).

During the monumental Battle for Singapore that occured from 8 to 15 Feb 1942, Fort Siloso provided critical defence by pivoting from its role in seaward fortification to providing firepower towards the mainland and turning its guns on the Japanese troops who decided to invade Singapore from North Malaya.

The Fort Siloso guns also took out oil refineries on Pulau Bukom and Pulau Sebarok (to the southwest of Sentosa), preventing the Japanese from making use of them.

The Battery Command Post was where the Battery Commander was located.
PHOTO: National Heritage Board
The Battery Command Post provided a clear view of the oil refineries on Pulau Bukom and the western sea lanes into Singapore's New Harbour.
PHOTO: National Heritage Board
These structures called "casemates" were strong underground chambers built to provide accommodation, office and storage space. They were designed to be shellproof and faced away from the sea to protect them from hostile naval firing.
PHOTO: National Heritage Board

During Konfrontasi, the period of hostilities between Singapore and Indonesia in the 1960s, the 10th Gurkha Rifles Unit manned Fort Siloso to prevent Indonesian saboteurs from landing on Pulau Blakang Mati and Keppel Harbour.

After the British military withdrew from Singapore in 1967, Pulau Blakang Mati was handed back to the Singapore government. Fun fact: the island was renamed "Sentosa" (meaning "Isle of Tranquility" in Malay) in 1970 - and has lived up to its name ever since.

A statutory board under the Ministry of Trade and Industry was established on 1 Sep 1972 and called the Sentosa Development Corporation. Its role: to oversee the development, management and promotion of Sentosa island as a tourist destination.

Fort Siloso itself was launched as an on-site military museum on 8 Feb 1975 and is chock full of World War II memorabilia.

There's a new slew of Sentosa tours that offer wild encounters and "time travel". Click this image to find out more.
PHOTO: Sentosa Development Corporation

This year, Sentosa celebrates its Golden Jubilee, marking 50 years of Sentosa's history as a unique leisure destination. With that come activities, experiences and adventures galore, under the umbrella of sustainability- and heritage-themed "Sentosights Tours".

Naturally, Fort Siloso will be part of the many ways to discover, rediscover and uncover fascinating aspects of the island. Monster Day Tours will be organising "Letters From Blakang Mati", a family-friendly gamified puzzle hunt game-based puzzle hunt that will test your mental and physical stamina as you decipher clues hidden within the Fort's installations to unravel secrets and stories about one of Singapore's key landmarks.

This tour hasn't been launched yet, but you can click here for updates.

In 1885, Tunnel A Complex consisted of a Submarine Mining Post (the present-day Observation Post), and an Electric Light (Searchlights) and Engine Room.
PHOTO: National Heritage Board

In 1885, Tunnel A Complex consisted of a Submarine Mining Post (the present-day Observation Post), and an Electric Light (Searchlights) and Engine Room. | Photo courtesy of National Heritage Board

Meanwhile, on your next trip to the Sentosa, consider taking a side-trip to Fort Siloso to marvel at and be grateful for this latest National Monument - it's one of the reasons we're able to sip cocktails and take selfies on the beach today, and be blissfully in the state of fun.

This article was first published in Wonderwall.sg.