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The Fortification of Pulau Blakang Mati


Siloso Road, Sentosa (S)099981 (main entrance of Fort Silso)

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The island of Pulau Blakang Mati (now known as Sentosa) has been considered strategically important by colonial powers since the 17th century due to its commanding position in the straits around Singapore, which were crucial passages within global trade routes.

In the 1600s, Flemish merchant Jacques de Coutre proposed building a fort on Mount Siloso to exert Portuguese control over the area. He noted that the island possessed the defensive qualities of a natural fortress and recommended the installation of artillery. The Dutch also considered constructing a fort on Blakang Mati, but neither plan came to fruition.

It wasn't until 1878, under British rule, that the island was used for military purposes as a defence outpost of the British Empire. Forts and batteries were constructed to protect Singapore's shipping and coaling facilities at Keppel Harbour, with artillery batteries established on Blakang Mati to defend the harbour entrances.

By 1887, the straits around Singapore were well defended with Fort Siloso on the west side of Blakang Mati, and Fort Serapong and Fort Blakang Mati East (later named Fort Connaught) on the east. Infantry redoubts were also situated on Mount Imbiah and Serapong, with a battery at Berhala Reping and underwater mines at the harbour entrances. In the following decades, the military infrastructure expanded to include barracks, a hospital, training and sporting grounds.

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