Finding new ways to tell the Total Defence story

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16 Feb 2022 | COMMUNITY

Finding new ways to tell the Total Defence story

Story by Thrina Tham / Photos by Amos Chew

English 华文
A decommissioned AMX13-SM1 tank stands at the entrance of the National Museum of Singapore, as a part of its new Dislocations exhibition that commemorates the 80th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore.

Singapore has to constantly look at how to tell the Total Defence story and prepare it for a different generation, said Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen.

As Singapore marks the 80th anniversary of the fall of Singapore to the Japanese, there are few alive who experienced the Japanese occupation firsthand.

"We have to prepare Singapore for another generation that not even vicariously – from their parents or grandparents – are able to hear these stories."

Dr Ng was speaking to media on 16 Feb, in a visit to the National Museum of Singapore’s Dislocations: Memory and Meaning of the Fall of Singapore, 1942 exhibition.

Dr Ng viewing a collection of photos and paintings from those who lived through the war. His visit to the exhibition comes a day after Total Defence Day, which makes the fall of Singapore to the Japanese on 15 Feb 1942.

On how the Total Defence message can stay relevant, Dr Ng noted that the personal stories captured in this commemorative World War II exhibition creates opportunities for people to relate to events that occurred in the past.

He added that agencies such as Nexus under the Ministry of Defence, as well as inter-ministry committees, would continue to look at preparing the message for the next generation.

Dr Ng walking through the final section of the exhibit, which encourages visitors to contribute their stories on how they have remembered the war through their families.

After touring the exhibition – which is divided into six sections ranging from evacuations before the Japanese invasions to the aftermath of the occupation – Dr Ng said that the exhibits were well done as they focused on personal stories rather than the political or military environment.

"(It’s) about what happens to the common man or woman on the street when your country falls and that is very much the essence of Total Defence."

Dr Ng added that such accounts were possible through the early interviews done by the National Archives of Singapore.

"The National Museum told me that as families came to see the exhibition, they remembered certain things and they added to it. So, all in all, I think it's been a good experience."

A section of the museum explores experiences of the surrender of Singapore retold through oral narration.

The Dislocations exhibition utilises interactive methods such as augmented reality and gamification to present different aspects of the war.

For instance, in "The Battle of Singapore" section, visitors can use their camera phones to see what certain artefacts would have looked like in their original state.

There is also an interactive game in the "Defence Preparations" section which allows visitors to follow the decisions made in planning the defence of Singapore.

Dislocations will run at the National Museum of Singapore until 29 May.

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