SINGAPORE – At the end of a short flight of steps in Fort Siloso’s Tunnel A Complex lies a submarine mine defence casement, which was used by British troops to prepare and inspect mines for defending Singapore’s southern coast during World War II.
While much of the complex – the fort’s longest and largest tunnel – is accessible to the public, the casement, about the size of a Housing Board living room, has been off limits.
But from later this month, some will be granted special access to it as part of events to mark the 79th anniversary of Singapore’s fall.
The Fort Siloso Rediscovery Tour, which features the casement, is one of 17 tours and programmes put together by the National Heritage Board (NHB) and NHB’s Museum Roundtable (MR) members, citizen historians and heritage enthusiasts.
This year’s Battle for Singapore programme runs from Saturday (Feb 20) to March 14, and aims to remind Singaporeans that the current pandemic is not the first and worst crisis that the country has had to face, said NHB director of international and museum relations Gerald Wee.
“In revisiting Singapore’s war experience and the stories of resilience of our forefathers who lived through those times, we hope that participants will be inspired by the themes of solidarity and strength that are built through adversity, even as we continue to navigate these challenging times,” he added.
Mr Saifullah Kamaludin, a guide for the Fort Siloso Rediscovery Tour, said that it will be centred on the importance of defending valuable assets, like the Singapore harbour and its entrepot trade business.
Besides the mine defence casement, tour participants will be granted special access to two other installations.
The first, located right by the sea and facing Keppel Bay, is what is left of the former Siloso Pier and its neighbouring machine gun casement.
Concrete beams that once supported a jetty stick out of the harbour, marking where the only pier which served Fort Siloso stood when the fort was built in the 1870s.
Participants will also get special access to a coastal search light station, one of five that served the fort, and was used by British troops to look out for enemy vessels, especially submarines.
The lack of a paved path to the search light station means participants will have to descend a steep slope while holding on to safety ropes – one of several measures the Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) has introduced to ensure the station can be accessed.
Other efforts by the SDC, which manages Fort Siloso, include assessing soil erosion in the area and clearing shrubs and branches that might get in visitors’ way, said Mr Saifullah.
Due to the difficult terrain, the tour will be open only to participants aged 18 and above. Tickets cost $5 per participant.
As 2021 marks the 25th anniversary of the MR – a collective of more than 50 public and private museums and galleries here – the board worked closely with members for its Battle for Singapore programmes this year, said Mr Wee.
For instance, a new two-stop guided tour format will see participants visit either the Former Ford Factory and Singapore Discovery Centre, or the Eurasian Heritage Gallery and National Gallery Singapore, where they will hear stories from the war.
Those hoping for a Mandarin tour can register for the Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital Heritage Gallery Tour, which will take place on Feb 27 and March 7 from 10am to 11am.
They will learn how the hospital continued to serve patients during the Japanese Occupation, despite being partially destroyed by bombs.
The Battle for Singapore 2021 programmes are on a first come, first served basis.
Those interested can sign up for the tours from noon on Tuesday (Feb 16) at this website. More information on the other programmes is also available on the site.
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