Fort Siloso gazetted as Singapore's 74th national monument, first site to be preserved

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Eleven features in Fort Siloso have been collectively gazetted as Singapore’s 74th national monument, the first site to be preserved.

SINGAPORE - Three underground magazines, a battery command post, casemates and four gun emplacements are among 11 features that have been collectively gazetted as part of Fort Siloso, Singapore's 74th national monument.

The National Heritage Board (NHB) said in a statement that the site's gazetting on Tuesday (Feb 15) commemorates the 80th anniversary of the Battle for Singapore.

On Feb 15, 1942, the British surrendered Singapore to Japanese forces, marking the start of about 3½ years of Japanese rule.

NHB said the fort bears an important testament to Singapore's rich military heritage.

Constructed in 1878, it was part of a coastal defence system on Pulau Blakang Mati (present-day Sentosa) protecting what is known today as Keppel Harbour.

In 1942, during World War II, the fort's guns were turned towards the mainland to fire at invading Japanese troops, and it was subsequently used by the Japanese as a prisoner-of-war camp for Australian and British soldiers.

Then in the Konfrontasi period in the 1960s, the 10th Gurkha Rifles Unit manned the fort to prevent Indonesian soldiers from landing on the island.

With the preservation of Fort Siloso, which lies on the western end of Sentosa, Singapore has now gazetted a site with multiple structures as a monument for the first time.

Ms Jean Wee, director of NHB's Preservation of Sites and Monuments division, said this was enabled by amendments to the Preservation of Monuments Act last year, which now allows for sites - including water bodies - to be gazetted as monuments.

"The amendments offer us more opportunities to preserve what is important," she said.

Following NHB's announcement on Jan 17 that it would gazette Fort Siloso, the board also sought public feedback on its proposal - a move that reflects its efforts to be more consultative, it said then.

Ms Wee said that those who wrote in asked about whether other forts may be protected, as well as what other sites could be preserved. She added that no negative feedback about the proposed gazette was received.

On whether other forts would be granted legal protections, Ms Wee said: "Not right now, but I wouldn't say it will never happen."

She noted that some other forts have fallen into disrepair, and preserving them might thus not be an option. For instance, Fort Serapong - also located on Sentosa - has a collapsed lookout tower.

A plaque on the wall outside the Casemates buildings stating that Fort Siloso is gazetted as a national monument on Feb 15, 2022. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Ms Wee said the 11 gazetted features were chosen for their design and function, and together reflect the fort's role in protecting the country.

Changes to other structures within the gazetted site boundary, which spans about 7ha, will also require NHB's approval, as it is a priority for the board to protect the setting of the fort, said Ms Wee.

Moving forward, NHB will produce a set of preservation guidelines for the restoration, preservation or maintenance of the fort, which is managed by Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC).

It will take at least two years for these guidelines to be produced, said Ms Wee, who added that guidelines could include the need for some vegetation to be cleared so that visitors to the fort can better appreciate its line of sight out to sea when it was in use.

SDC assistant chief executive Michael Ma said the gazette is significant, as it marks the 50th anniversary since the corporation was started and Sentosa was established as a leisure destination.

"We invite Singaporeans to revisit Fort Siloso's fortifications and historic coastal guns, and better understand Sentosa's storied past as a naval stronghold," he said.

Entry to the fort is free. Those who wish to visit it on a paid guided tour that is part of Sentosa's 50th anniversary offerings can find out more here. 

Fort Siloso will be officially gazetted by the National Heritage Board (NHB) as Singapore’s 74th National Monument on Feb 15, 2022. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

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