Marsiling Tunnel


Marsiling Tunnel: a long-forgotten remnant of British colonial rule in Singapore.

British Tunnels in Singapore

Marsiling is located in the Northern region of Singapore, near the Causeway that leads over and into Malaysia. Under British rule from 1826 to 1963, Singapore’s landscape today contains several remnants of underground military facilities from that bygone era. The Marsiling Tunnel, constructed in 1942 and given back to Singapore in 1965 is essentially a remnant of both the British and World War Two’s footprint in the country. But, hidden from view beneath the picturesque, peaceful scenery of Woodlands Waterfront Park, the maze of British-built tunnels were not discovered until the early 2000s. A WWII storage bunker was also discovered nearby. Together these underground marvels beckon curious explorers and adventurous historians.

Marsiling Tunnel
- Dickson Phua

The Origins of Marsiling Tunnel

Upon their discovery, there were a lot of theories and rumours swirling around about the purpose of the Marsiling Tunnel and bunker as a forgotten piece of Singapore's past. Speculations included whether they were torture chambers or secret passages to a nearby mental institute, and intrigued locals and historians for years. However, investigations by the National Heritage Board shed light on the Marsiling Tunnel's true identity.

Extensive research, aided by declassified British Wartime Intelligence reports and a 1945 map, revealed that the Marsiling Tunnel was a Royal Air Force fuel reserve depot built in 1942. During World War II, the Japanese Occupation saw the Imperial Japanese Army expand the tunnel's storage capacity for oil reserves by more than 5,250 tons. At the end of the Japanese Occupation the Marsiling Tunnel and Bunker, abandoned to the wilderness, were consumed by the natural world until their discovery.

Inside the Marsiling Tunnel

Once part of the Woodlands North Depot, operated by the Asiatic Petroleum Company, the setting of the Marsiling Tunnel seems like something out of a horror story. Endless pipes, secret tunnels, and stairwells, now inhabited by countless geckos and spiders, paint a vivid picture of a once-bustling facility.

The Marsiling Tunnel's architecture reflects the challenges and resource constraints faced during its construction. The tunnel comprises a series of interconnected chambers and passageways, showcasing a blend of functional design and wartime necessity. Ventilation shafts, rusting pipes, narrow corridors, and reinforced walls provide a stark reminder of the tunnel's original purpose as a military facility. Today, if you want to visit the Marsiling Tunnel, part of the exploration requires crawling through very small spaces – it's not for the claustrophobically inclined, that's for sure!

Marsiling Tunnel 1
- RB

Community Projects for Marsiling Tunnel

In recent years, efforts have been made to engage the community in the preservation and understanding of the Marsiling Tunnel's historical value. Guided tours and educational programs provide visitors with insights into the tunnel's role during World War II, fostering a deeper appreciation for Singapore's resilience and the impact of wartime experiences on the local landscape.

Visiting Marsiling Tunnel

Embarking on a visit to the Marsiling Tunnel in Singapore is a journey into the heart of wartime history, coupled with the thrill of exploration. While the four main entrances to the underground tunnels are sealed off, a small opening, discovered by local explorers, offers daring adventurers an opportunity to step into the abandoned corridors that played a pivotal role in World War II. To initiate this adventure, start at Woodlands Waterfront Car Park and proceed on foot to Marsiling Crescent, facing the challenge of finding the semi-established trail amidst the trees along the northern edge of the open park.

The trek to the Marsiling Tunnel entrance involves navigating through dense woods, with the northern approach near the Jetty requiring extra resilience due to thicker foliage and uneven terrain. As you arrive at the tunnel entrance, brace yourself for the descent two stories underground, where darkness prevails, and your headlamp only offers a very limited view. The tunnel echoes with the sound of trickling water, creating an immersive experience as you navigate the cold, brown mud underfoot. Encounter the mysterious presence of massive geckos guarding their nests, eerie handwritten notes, time capsules, and cautionary graffiti along the tunnel walls. The ominous staircase at the tunnel's end leads you back to the surface, completing your journey from the depths of history back into civilization.

Marsiling Tunnel 2
- RB

Two access points through the forest exist: the north, closer to the Jetty, requires perseverance through dense vegetation, and the south, along Marsiling Crescent, weaves through wild foliage and jungle vines. While signs and landmarks are absent, the South Entrance, concealed by overgrown greenery, presents an opportunity to descend into the WWII underground tunnel. As you venture deeper, ankle-high sludge becomes your shoes' formidable adversary. But please be warned there are areas where this can reach chest height! It's essential to exercise caution and avoid straying off the path, as the ever-changing landscape and potential hazards pose challenges, making every exploration of the Marsiling Tunnel a unique and adventurous endeavour.

The Marsiling Bunker

The Marsiling Bunker is also an integral piece of the island's wartime narrative. As a vital component of the tunnel's architecture, the bunker served diverse wartime functions, encompassing storage, communications, and medical facilities. The entrance to the bunker, though narrow, beckons intrepid explorers to slide underneath and navigate through tight spaces, offering a unique first hand experience of the underground fortress's strategic layout.

Exiting the bunker involves a stooped walk through another tunnel, inhabited by hundreds of frogs, adding an extra layer of adventure to the exploration. While the Marsiling Bunker is less muddy and more easily located than the tunnel, its entrance requires a backtrack to Woodlands Waterfront Car Park, followed by a ten-minute walk to Admiralty Road. Stone markers along the way guide adventurers uphill, providing a treacherous yet rewarding journey through uneven terrain. The bunker, with its visible and open entrance, stands in stark contrast to the concealed tunnel, offering a spooky ambiance filled with historical echoes and likely critter inhabitants.

Marsiling Tunnel 3
- RB

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Marsiling Tunnel Questions


What you need to know

Marsiling Tunnel
Admiralty Road West, Singapore, Singapore
1.432540, 103.774000
Tips before you visit

Bring mosquito repellent to protect you as you pass through the forest on the way to the tunnel and bunker.

Headlamps are very important as the WWII sites are both pitch black inside.

We recommend putting your phone and any valuable items into a waterproof or Ziplock back to keep them safe from the sludge! In the same manner, wear (sensible) shoes, socks, and jeans you don’t mind throwing away after!