Thursday, 16 February 2012

Fall of Singapore remembered by survivors

Australian war veterans Peter Dimopoulos, George Smith, George Butler,  Bill Ennis, Roy Cornford, and Derek Holyoake attend a service at the Kranji  War Memorial yesterday.
NOT many can make the journey now. Only a dozen ageing Australian survivors of the fall of Singapore stood when asked to identify themselves at the city-state's Kranji War Memorial yesterday during a service commemorating the 70th anniversary of perhaps the greatest military defeat in the history of the British empire. Veteran Affairs Minister Warren Snowdon announced the fast-diminishing roll call. While 14,792 Australian servicemen and nurses were captured by the Japanese in Singapore in 1942 ''only 520 of those brave souls are still with us,'' he said. ''We are fortunate some of those who survived sit with us here today.'' One of them, Bill Ennis, 89, of Sydney, said despite the passing of many of his comrades he believes the sacrifices made in Singapore will grow stronger in the minds of Australians when they are all gone. ''It don't know why but just like Gallipoli the young people are taking a much greater interest in what happened in these battles,'' Mr Ennis said. ''It's very sad that so many of us are passing but you just have to get used to it,'' he said. George Smith, 86, of Western Australia, who lied about his age to enlist in June 1941, said that during the solemn service held on a hill overlooking the graves of thousands of servicemen he remembered his many mates who were killed. ''Usually I try not to think about it - you get too upset otherwise,'' he said. Air Vice-Marshal Neil Hart, representing the Australian Defence Force at the service, said it was important to continue to speak about the stories and the sacrifices that were made 70 years ago. ''It is hard for those of new generations, those without the personal experiences of the veterans here with us today, to understand, to comprehend,'' Air Vice-Marshal Hart said. ''All these numbers, all the killed, all the wounded, had loved ones, had their own personal and unique stories; some of them known to us, some of them unknown,'' he said. Constituting only 14 per cent of the troops defending Singapore, Australian forces sustained 73 per cent of the battle deaths, about 400 people attending the service were told. Of the Australian prisoners, a third died in captivity, many of them in conditions that Mr Snowdon described as barbarous. Staff of Australia's Department of Veterans' Affairs have fussed over six of the survivors who were flown to Malaysia and Singapore for services marking the anniversary. The youngest are 86 and the oldest 93. According to the department, 326 Australians who were prisoners of war in Europe during World War II are still alive. But the department says there are 54,118 Australian World War II veterans still alive, the youngest of whom would be 85, if they lied about their age. The oldest are 100 or more. There are no survivors of World War of WW1. From the Age Newspaper
Peter Dimopoulos George Smith lay a wreath at a service at the Kranji  War Memorial yesterday.

1 comment:

Nambi said...

also there is a good article on the Fall by Jane Petersen in today's Straits Times