Saturday, 29 August 2015

War veterans commemorate 70th anniversary of the end of World War II

Unforgettable images of World War II
Survivors and veterans share memories at ceremony to commemorate 70th anniversary of the end of the war
By Melody Zaccheus, The Straits Times, 28 Aug 2015

Major (Retired) Ishwar Lall Singh still remembers the shrill whistle of Japanese bombs falling through the sky and the sound of artillery fire thundering past.

The sight of dead bodies, crawling with maggots on the streets of Singapore, is another unforgettable World War II image.

Commemorating 70 Years Since the End Of World War II
While we celebrate a proud half century of independence this Singapore50, we also remember a very poignant landmark in our history some 20 years before our independence- when the Second World War officially ended in Singapore. The resilience and courage that our veterans displayed during World War II was recognised at the ceremony to commemorate the end of World War II yesterday. Many of those who experienced the war are no longer with us, but their tenacity lives on in the fighting spirit that their succeeding generations have exemplified in the decades since. From our Founding Fathers who overcame the early challenges of independence, to our Team Singapore athletes who recently overcame all limitations to excel above all expectations at SEA GAMES 2015, the greatest tribute we can pay to our forebears who lived through World War II is to live our lives in keeping with the values they stood so valiantly for. #70thAnniversaryWWII #LestWeForget
Posted by Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth - MCCY on Friday, August 28, 2015

The 86-year-old recounted his experiences at an event yesterday to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of the war.

"I saw many dead people. With very few able to lend a helping hand, many died due to lack of proper care, food and medicine. There was no one around to clear their bodies," said Maj (Ret) Singh.

"Scabies, malaria and dysentery were common ailments that afflicted the whole population."

The ceremony, which was attended by war survivors, veterans and Inter-Religious Organisation representatives, included a segment in which Cultural Medallion recipient Professor Edwin Thumboo read a poem he wrote about growing up during the war.

A minute's silence was observed as well.

The National Heritage Board event was held in the City Hall Chamber at the National Gallery Singapore - the former Municipal Building.

It was where British Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Supreme Allied Commander in South-East Asia, accepted the surrender of the Japanese forces in the region on Sept 12, 1945.

The ceremony yesterday was officiated by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong.

Maj (Ret) Singh said that as part of war propaganda, people were told to gather in open fields dressed in white "to avoid being bombed during air raids".

He also recalled having to bow to Japanese soldiers.

Twice a month, he would visit the Singapore General Store in Serangoon Road to buy a 15kg bag of atta flour to make chapati (a flat bread), where he would bow deeply to a sentry on duty whenever he passed.

"When I did not have a load to carry, I would cut across the many side roads to Mandalay Road to reach Serangoon, just to avoid the sentry post," he said.

In his speech, Mr Wong said such memories and accounts, as shared by Maj (Ret) Singh and Prof Thumboo, are part of Singapore's history.

He said: "As we look back, let us never forget the lessons we learned about the importance of peace and stability across nations, and the price that comes with violence and conflict."

Mr Wong said that strong bilateral ties exist between Singapore and Japan today and that it was possible to move on with "sincerity and largeness of spirit on both sides".

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The bonds that bind military veterans
By Lester Hio, The Straits Times, 28 Aug 2015

Bonds between military men are hard to break.

Since 2008, several members of 81 Squadron, a unit of the British Royal Air Force disbanded in 1970, have been holding annual gatherings here where they swop stories of their time in service as well as hold a simple ceremony for their fallen comrades.

Four former technicians met up at the Tiger Tavern at the Tiger Brewery in Tuas last weekend: Mr Al Taylor, 79, Mr Eddie Tan, 75, Mr Derek Yeo, 69, and Mr Mohamed Haniffa, 68.

"What binds us together is the camaraderie, which is special to all of us here, and everyone I've talked to who have been in the squadron," said Mr Taylor.

The squadron was based in Seletar camp before being relocated to Tengah.

"These two," said Mr Haniffa, pointing to Mr Tan and Mr Yeo, "have not met in 40 years. But on the day of the reunion, they were talking and calling each other like old friends. It was like the 40 years did not exist."

The squadron has an illustrious history in World War II, and was known for helping the Russians fend off the Nazis and clearing parts of the North African skies of Nazi planes.

Its local history starts after the war, when the unit was moved to Singapore and turned into a photo reconnaissance unit charged with gathering aerial footage of South- east Asia.

It stayed here from 1946 to 1970 and captured footage of a changing Singapore during a time of upheaval.

"81 Squadron left behind something tangible," said Mr Taylor. "The legacy of the squadron is its photos and maps of Singapore in the past, which have been left behind for heritage and historical use."

The reunions started when Mr Taylor, who was born in Britain and migrated to Australia in 1992, received an e-mail from local map researcher Mok Ly Yng, 48, inquiring about some old photos in 2008.

He flew to Singapore to meet Mr Mok, and subsequently decided to contact former squadron members online.

More than 450,000 aerial photos are known to have been taken by the squadron. They can be accessed through the National Archives of Singapore.

"There are immediate post-war photos, followed by photos of a recovering Singapore in the 50s, and the first few years of an independent Singapore," said Mr Mok.

"They provide a snapshot of Singapore's past. It's a visual record of heritage and history, to trace where old buildings, old kelongs (fishing villages) were and how they looked like."

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