Fall of Singapore Service 2017

This year marked the 75th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore. The annual Fall of Singapore Service was held at the Martin Place Cenotaph, and was the last service conducted by the 8th Australian Division Association. This service was extremely well represented including all members of the 2/20th Battalion Executive. There were eight veterans of the 8th Division who attended – including our Max Denning and Frank Smith.

Below, a link to an Address by Neil James, Executive Director Australian Defence Association, and a summary of the address given by The Honourable David Hurley, Governor of New South Wales.

Address  to 8th Division by Neil James Executive Director Australian Defence Association.

Address to 8th Division by His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d), Governor of New South Wales

As Patron of the 8th Australian Division Association, I am honoured to address you at today’s final Fall of Singapore service here

at the Cenotaph. We gather today on the lands of the Gadigal people – to whom we also pay our respects – and to their

Aboriginal brothers and sisters who have also served in defence of our nation.

This service is a special commemoration on the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore.

I thank Neil James for his excellent address. He has reminded us of the service and sacrifice of the men – and the women who served with the Australian Army Nursing Service as part of the 8th Division Australian Imperial Force – in circumstances that could well have been avoided.

This morning, I would like to pay my respects to those gathering for our ‘sister’ 75th Anniversary commemoration that will take place on Bangka Island, Indonesia tomorrow, for friends and relatives of the nurses and civilian internees massacred on this island.

As Patron of the Association, I have been asked to provide an ‘Epilogue’ on the 8th Australian Division Association.

An Epilogue usually contains some final, summary or concluding words. This is more difficult than it sounds. Where do I begin?

How to provide some ‘End Words’ on what for many here today can never be at an end?

How to convey the human cost of a devastating conflict in which we lost so many … to children who never knew fathers, grandchildren who never knew grandparents, to widows who searched in vain for husbands … and descendants who are still searching or seeking permission to visit a memorial or burial site on foreign soil … To mates who lost comrades?

How to sum up the events that consumed the lives of those who fought on land and those at sea?

How to explain to the descendants the emaciated and scarred bodies, the hollowed out cheeks and the silence …?

The stories too painful to be told to next of kin, to loved ones.

How to attempt to sum up in words what will convey the deep gratitude that we hold for our 8th Division veterans, our warriors, who lived through and suffered so much in defence of our nation?

There are no Last Words that we can say … except to say thank you – to our veterans of the 8th Division – and our eight representatives here today.

There is one other final word. On behalf of the people of New South Wales, I would like to acknowledge the work of the 8th Australian Division Association,which, up until 1987, was titled the Council of the Eighth Division and Service Associates.

The 8th Australian Division Association was formed in mid-1945 from the surviving members of this Division.

Following the repatriation of Prisoners of War and the recovery in 1944 of survivors from the sinking of SS Rakuyō Maru, a

Japanese ship that had been transporting POW survivors of the Burma-Thailand Railway, it became clear that there were several

very strong reasons for the Association to be established:

- to assist injured, ill and traumatised veterans and their spouses, families and dependants;

- to urge speedy release of those still held as POWs;

- to push for full recognition of service; and

- to ensure the physical, mental and economic rehabilitation of the Division’s members.

Our current experiences with the impact of operations on the mental health of our Defence personnel give us an insight into the challenges that 8th Division soldiers and families faced.

The 8th Australian Division Association, perhaps, more fully than any under association at that time, understood and worked towards ameliorating the effect of war on its veterans.

The Association members were unfailingly loyal to each other and to the 8th Division command.

This has been demonstrated on several occasions, including the unanimous support for General Bennett and the two inquiries into his actions in 1942.

This loyalty is also demonstrated by the commitment to holding the Fall of Singapore Commemoration service each year, here at the Cenotaph, since 1946.

After the war, large crowds attended these services, initially held in the evening after work, following a march down Martin Place from Macquarie Street, led by Generals Bennett and Callaghan. For some years, reunions were held afterwards.And this loyalty has been shown through the support and commitment of many veterans and their descendants, working through RSL Sub-Branches and other ex-service organisations, to provide ongoing support to families as they faced deep and ongoing mental, physical, emotional and financial difficulties.

The ranks of the 8th Division may have diminished but their spirit lived on through the work of this Association.

While there are several physical memorials to the 8th Australian Division Association, I congratulate the Association on its continuing support for a “living” memorial – the sponsorship of the AIF Malaya Nursing Scholarship for the education of Singaporean and Malaysian postgraduate nurses in Australia. This is an important legacy of the work of the Association.

The 8th Australian Division and the Association can look back with pride on a long and distinguished history of service to our nation. The Association can also look to the future, with a legacy that will remain undiminished in our nation’s memory.

For now, each year from 2018, at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, an 8th Division veteran will be honoured at the annual 15th February Last Post Ceremony.

The service of the men and women of the 8th Australian Division will never be forgotten.

On behalf of the people of New South Wales, I thank the Association for your support of our veterans and their families. I especially thank the 8th Australian Division … our 8th Australian Division veterans here today, and those that have gone before you. I convey our deepest gratitude from generations of Australians who have grown up in freedom – because of your defence of thatfreedom.

Lest we forget