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Singapore’s newest National Monument

Fort Siloso on Sentosa has been put forth to be gazetted a national monument.

Fort Siloso. Credit: The Straits Times.

Announcing this on Tuesday (Jan 18), the National Heritage Board (NHB) said Fort Siloso is the best-preserved 19th century fort in Singapore, and serves as an important site to mark the nation’s war years.


Now a historical attraction, the fort was constructed in 1878, and was part of a set of strategic coastal fortifications set up as Singapore grew in importance as a trading port in the late 19th century.


Designed to protect Singapore from a seaward attack, its guns fired at Japanese troops in the west of Singapore during World War II and destroyed the oil refineries at nearby Pulau Bukom and Pulau Sebarok to prevent the Japanese from using them as a resource, said NHB on its Roots.gov.sg portal.


NHB noted that between 1963 and 1966, Fort Siloso was manned by the 10th Singapore Gurkha Rifles Unit during Konfrontasi to prevent Indonesian saboteurs from landing on Sentosa and Keppel Harbour.


A national monument gazette is the highest form of recognition for a structure or site’s significance. It accords it legal protection from alterations and changes that would affect its character and significance. In addition to their national importance, monuments also have to be of historic, cultural, traditional, archaeological, architectural, artistic or symbolic significance…


Ms Jean Wee, director of NHB’s Preservation of Sites and Monuments division, added that discussions with Sentosa Development Corporation, which manages Fort Siloso, are under way to finalise the exact boundary of the site to be gazetted.


Mr Tan said that the board is hoping to gazette Fort Siloso a monument in February, and added that heritage NGOs were informed of the board’s plans for Fort Siloso on Monday.


Among those present was International Council on Monuments and Sites Singapore president Yeo Kang Shua.


Dr Yeo said Fort Siloso’s upcoming gazette will mark the first time multiple structures within a larger context or site have been recognised as monuments.


“The collective preservation of these structures and their landscapes is important to preserve the historic integrity of the site,” he added.


Dr Yeo said he hoped the authorities could look into protecting other military fortifications in Sentosa and around Singapore, as they collectively tell the story of Singapore’s historical coastal defences.


Singapore Heritage Society president Jack Lee added that there are not many physical reminders of Singapore’s World War II history left, and hence the society feels it is worth giving a higher degree of protection to those that remain…


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Another physical reminder of Singapore’s WWII history which should get at least conservation status, if not National Monument status, is the Battlebox at Fort Canning Hill.

The Battlebox is a former WWII-era British underground command centre, built in the 1930s to complement the headquarters of Malaya Command on Fort Canning Hill. Malaya Command was the army which defended Malaya and Singapore during WWII. It was in the Battlebox that Malaya Command made the decision to surrender Singapore to the invading Japanese on 15 February 1942.


The building where Malaya Command signed the document of surrender with the Japanese - the former Ford Factory along Upper Bukit Timah Road - was designated a National Monument on 15 February 2006.


I was part of the team who revamped the Battlebox and reopened it as a museum in February 2016. The museum subsequently became Singapore’s number one museum on TripAdvisor, from 2016 to the present.


As a museum, the Battlebox has achieved international recognition. Its designation as a National Monument is long overdue.

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