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The word Siloso is derived from a Malayan word meaning rock ( Sanskrit root : Sila ). There was a huge rock at the mouth of Singapore's harbour which was very dangerous to shipping. With trade flourishing in Singapore due to the Suez Canal in 1869, it was necessary to protect Singapore's port. Based on the report by Major Edward Lake of the Madras Engineers, a fort was built at Blakang Mati (Sentosa) in 1874. As part of the fortification, Mount Siloso's top was blown off to flatten it for the installation of a gun platform. By the 1880s, gun batteries were located on Mount Siloso and Mount Serapong on Sentosa.
By the 1880s, Fort Siloso had 7-inch RML guns and two 64-pounders. In the 1890s, five 10-inch guns were installed. These guns were operated electrically from an underground power-house. In the 1930s, twin 6-pounder, quick-firing anti-torpedo boat guns; five searchlights; an Operational Tower; two machine-guns and two twin Lewis anti-aircraft machine guns were added due to reports of impending war. The Fort was manned by the British Royal Artillery and the Singapore Artillery Corps.
The forts were built to defend the land against sea invasion from the south. However, during World War II, the Fort's guns were turned 180 degrees inland to defend against land invasion by the Japanese Army in the west. The Fort's guns were fired at Japanese positions and troops who were advancing toward the city from Tengah Airfield.
British and local troops, were retreating from the overrun Pasir Laba Battery and heading back to British lines via the sea, when they were fired upon as they were mistaken for the enemy.
This building is now known as the Surrender Chambers and has a vivid portrayal of the scenes of British and Japanese surrender with actual footage of the war being played interactively. This is on the upper storey, the ground floor has been turned into a souvenir shop. During the Japanese Occupation, the Fort was used as a prisoner-of-war camp.
After the Japanese surrender, the Royal Navy occupied the Fort in 1946, its guns were manned by the 1st Malay Coast Battery and the Royal Artillery. Gurkha detachments took over manning the guns when the British gunners were withdrawn and the 1st Malay Coast Battery was disbanded. Fort Siloso was manned by the 10th Gurkha Rifles to prevent Indonesian saboteurs from landing on Sentosa and Keppel Harbour during the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation between 1963 and 1965, when Singapore was part of Malaysia.
Fort Siloso became a Catholic Retreat for British forces until Sentosa was handed over to the Singapore Government with the British withdrawal in 1967. Fort Siloso then came under the command of the Singapore Armed Forces.
Fort Siloso was converted into a military museum in 1974, displaying its history and guns. Other coastal guns from different parts of Singapore were brought here for display. It had previously held the display of the British Surrender.
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