In fact, there exists an island that was identified as Blacan Mati in Manuel Godinho de Erédia's 1604 map of Singapore. However, early maps did not separate Blakang Mati from the adjacent island of Pulau Brani, so it is uncertain to which island the sixteenth century place names referred. Up to 1830, it was called Pulau Panjang ("long island").Other early references to the island of Blakang Mati include Burne Beard Island in Wilde's 1780 MS map, Pulau Niry, Nirifa from 1690 to 1700, and the nineteenth century reference as Pulau Panjang (J. In an 1828 sketch of Singapore Island, the island is referred to as Po. According to Bennett (1834), the name Blakang Mati was only given to the hill on the island by the Malay villagers on the island.A little discussed fact is that many generations of Malays and Chinese who had lived harmoniously on the island were relocated into high-rise apartments on Singapore, the idyllic island life was lost and not by choice.
Through the 1980s and 1990s, a number of pay-to-get-in tourist destinations were built on the island, most of which the local people found uninteresting.The British set up large-calibre gun fortifications at various points along the island that were aligned to the south, facing the sea in expectation of a seaward Japanese assault.The myth that the guns were incapable of pointing north developed after the War but this was wrong, they could swivel to point north but they were only equipped with armoured piercing shells for shipping which made the shells ineffective against land based forces.By the 1930s, the island was heavily fortified and a crucial component of Fortress Singapore, and the base of the Royal Artillery.
During the Second World War, the island was a British military fortress.
Different versions of how the island came to acquire such an unpropitious name abound: In 1827, Captain Edward Lake of the Bengal Engineers in his report on public works and fortifications had proposed an alternative name for Blakang Mati as the "Island of St George".