The Fatal Fortress

The Guns and Fortifications of Singapore 1819 - 1953

Bill Clements

* Will fascinate all those interested in fortifications of particular relevance to the disastrous 1942 battle for the Island, the greatest disaster of WW2

* Written by fortification expert and published author complete with pictures, plans and details of armaments both reference book and guide
Date Published :
November 2016
Publisher :
Pen and Sword
Illustration :
75 images and maps
No associated books available.


The Fall of Singapore in February 1942 was arguably the greatest disaster suffered by the British Empire. Between 1923 and 1938, the Singapore naval base had been upgraded with some of the largest coast guns ever installed. The guns’ design and incorrect siting have since been blamed for the humiliating debacle.

The Fatal Fortress traces the history of Singapore’s fortifications and guns from the city’s foundation in 1819 to the demise of coast artillery in the British Army in 1953. It also follows the development of artillery through the Victorian era of muzzleloading guns to the introduction of the large breech-loading guns of the twentieth century. The author argues that it was not the siting of the guns that brought about the fall of Singapore, but an overall failure in command and control and a lack of suitable ammunition.

The book is illustrated with a large number of photographs, drawings and plans, and contains a gazetteer describing all the batteries and forts, both existing and demolished. There is also an annex giving the details of the guns that were installed in Singapore.

About The Author

William Clements served in the Royal Ulster Rifles and the Royal Irish Rangers, commanding the 1st Battalion. He was Defence and Military Attache at the British embassies in Beijing and Rangoon.

He has contributed articles to the journals of the Fortress Study group, the Military History Society of Ireland and the Society for Army Historical Research. In 2011 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.


Bill Clements has done a most comprehensive job of explaining the paradox of Singapore. The text is clear and is supported by many interesting and unusual photographs, as well as clear mapping. Thoroughly recommended.

- Fortress Study Group

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