A rare glimpse of Sentosa’s hidden World War II military facility Fort Connaught
The guided tours for the public were fully booked within 10 minutes of its release.
Fort Connaught, one of three forts involved in the battle of Singapore during World War II, will be open for guided tours from Feb 10 to Mar 5. This is the first time the fort is open to the public since it was built in 1878.
The Fort Connaught Rediscovery Tour is among over 30 programmes offered as part of the National Heritage Board’s (NHB) Battle for Singapore initiative to mark the 81st anniversary of the Fall of Singapore.
While the $20 tickets for the tour were quickly snapped up within 10 minutes of release, here are some glimpses from our visit to the hidden fort.
Our visit started off with a 10-minute upslope walk into the forest close to Sentosa Cove, where we got our first glimpse of half-buried stairs, hinting at the historic ruins that lay ahead.
The guide explained that Fort Connaught was constructed on the eastern side of Sentosa to defend Keppel Harbour, a crucial ship-building and repair facility in Singapore.
It was demolished by the British in February 1942 shortly before the fall of Singapore to the Japanese, but some of its structures remain till today.
Continuing through the forest, we reached the observation post, which was still relatively intact despite being overgrown by roots and vines.
As the site has been relatively untouched since the end of World War II, the remaining structures bear the scars of the Battle of Singapore.
About two minutes away from the observation post was a deep underground chamber that was once used to store ammunition for the fort’s guns.
As the stairs here are unstable, the underground chamber is off-limits to the public.
After another 10 minutes of trekking through the vegetation, the tour came to its final stop at the fort wall and gun emplacements. This is where Fort Connaught’s 9.2 inch guns used to be located, the largest guns on Sentosa at the time.
In this part of the tour, our guide shared more about the myth that Singapore’s guns were facing the wrong way when the Japanese attacked.
Although Fort Connaught was built to defend against maritime threats with its guns pointed out towards the sea, they were rotated to fire against the Japanese invading by land during the Battle of Singapore.
As the tour was off the beaten track, I was glad I was wearing comfortable clothing and a good pair of shoes. There were also many mosquitoes in the area, so insect repellent is highly recommended for those heading on similar walking tours.
Although the Fort Connaught Rediscovery Tour is currently sold out, NHB is also offering other Battle of Singapore tours including the Botanic Gardens to Bukit Brown tour. Guides will share stories of World War II heroes at heritage landmarks, such as the Jacob Ballas Garden and old Raffles College.
The tour will end in Bukit Brown, where participants will learn about the battle that took place between British and Indian soldiers and the Japanese.
There will also be talks and webinars including a series called Archives Invites. One of these talks by Dr Will Butler, head of military records at The National Archives, United Kingdom, will trace the British defence and fall of Singapore using a range of material produced by politicians and military leaders before, during, and after the conflict.