We seem to spend a fair amount of time strolling around Fort Canning or attending the various activities on offer there. This 60 meter high hill is conveniently just 10 minutes from River Valley House and a green, leafy oasis away from the traffic and city noise.
Fort Canning has a long history, noted to be the place Sir Stamford Raffles built his residence due to the commanding view it offered over the colony he had established. Raffles also established Singapore’s first botanical garden here and today Fort Canning Park still boasts expansive lawns, a spice garden and Raffle’s House. It’s an iconic landmark and an important green lung for Singapore’s downtown city area.
In 1895, increased security concerns led to the hill taking on a military role and the building of a fort with an arms store, barracks and hospital. Under the British Army it served as a head quarters until the spread of WWII.
During a tour of Fort Canning, known as The Battle Box, we learnt about many of the historical milestones that took place atop this hill. Our informative and enthusiastic guide brilliantly directed our group of 12 around the underground bunker. The British Command Centre is located 9 meters underground and was built by Malaya Command in the 1930s. In just under two hours we walked in the footsteps of the British Army and discovered how Lieutenant Percival failed to defend Singapore from the invading Japanese forces and surrendered the island. This historical moment was described as ‘the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British History’. We felt rather sorry for poor Percy.
Fort Canning also offers a venue of choice for various cultural and artistic creativities. It has staged many outdoor events, activities, concerts and festivals including Films at the Fort. We attended one of the open-air cinema events on its opening night. We settled down on the grass with some wine, pizza and burgers, catered by The Providore. We watched ‘20th Century Women’, a feminist, coming of age comedy/drama directed by Mike Mills. We thought it was very funny, witty and artfully shot. You should check it out.
All in all, Fort Canning is a pretty special place, true both back in the day and today. Singapore has certainly made the most of preserving its historical background and current significant position as a green space in the city. There’s also a wonderful café called The Fabulous Baker Boy at the base of the hill if the joggers intimidate you and you want to indulge in some cake instead.