Year

2010

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of History and Politics

Abstract

The Fall of Singapore was a significant event in Australia and in Singapore. The memory of defeat occupies a difficult place in each nation’s history. Since the end of the Second World War, Australians and Singaporeans have refashioned the event, and memories of the event to displace the reality of defeat. They have contextualised memories of defeat and suffering as sacred experiences and infused with ideas of cultural and national identity, often reflecting broader themes like myths of the nation. This is because nations from time to time are inspired by the myths forged in a previous conflict. Myths of a nation influence the way Australians and Singaporeans define their memories of war because of the sentiments it can invoke in a nation of people. And this has produced memories that, despite being anchored by a common event, are very different.

This thesis explores the themes and influences that shape memory of a single event, 15 February 1942, from the Australian and Singaporean national perspective. In the Australian case, 15 February is intimately linked with the history of the Australian 8th Division, the experiences of the men, and how their experience is accommodated in both Anzac and the language of commemoration in Australia. For Singapore, 15 February has strong resonance with the Singapore Chinese community; it has inspired leaders of the community to preserve and position their wartime memories not only to ensure that their experience is remembered but also that it is seen as Singapore’s history of the Japanese Occupation.

Australians and Singaporeans have constantly returned to popular memories of the event, seldom the realities of it. A study of the influences that shape the language of commemoration in Australia and Singapore will inform our understanding of the meanings, myths, and popular memories associated with 15 February in these two nations.

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