Some Facts About the History of Sentosa Island, Singapore.
Sentosa Island is a popular island resort in the Asian country of Singapore that receives around five million visitors every year. The name Sentosa, is from the Malay language and means peace and tranquility. The main attractions of the resort are theme parks, golf courses, hotels and a two kilometre sheltered beach. Here are some facts about the islands past use.
Before it was renamed with its present name the island was known as Pulau Blakang Mati which when translated into English means the ‘Island of death from behind.’ It was given a number of variations to this meaning all having some reference to death and so it became known as dead island or island of the dead. These names may refer to the islands past that included piracy and murder although another account claims that an outbreak of disease on the island in the 1840’s wiped out the population of settlers. A British coroner laid the blame for the deaths on the swampy conditions and the decaying vegetation. This led to controversy at the time but in 1898 these conditions were discovered to be ideal for malaria, the first research station into the disease was set up on the island.
A British army captain stationed in Singapore in 1827 wanted to name the island St. George, because the island was seen as nothing more than an unhealthy swamp and unfit for habitation the proposal was never granted. Despite its being not suitable for habitation the location of the island was seen as being important in defending Singapore from enemy attack and protective forts were built in the 1880’s, four defensive structures were built and today only one Fort Siloso stands as a reminder of those times. During the Second World War the island was heavily defended and the base for the Royal Artillery.
The island was seen as the main fortress in protecting against a Japanese attack from the sea but the invading Japanese landed further north in Malaysia and neutral Thailand and after overrunning the British in the north of the peninsular did the same in Singapore. There were many thousands of British and Australian prisoners of war that were then housed on the island until the wars completion. After the war ended Singapore returned to British rule and the island was used to train the Singaporean soldiers. One of the then surviving forts became a Catholic retreat and another used as a protestant church. The British handed control to Singapore in 1967 including the island of Sentosa. It was at first used as a base for maritime training and a naval medical centre until the 1970’s when the government of Singapore decided to redevelop the island as a holiday resort.
The island was given its present name of Sentosa in 1972 and over S$420 million of private funding and double that of government money has gone towards the islands development. For many years it was seen by locals as being an expensive place to visit and nothing to see.