Lest we forget

Kranji Cemetery, Singapore, 25 April 2005

I made my annual pilgrimage to the ANZAC Day dawn service on Monday morning, my second here in Singapore. Some of the pomp and ceremony makes me feel a little ill at ease, especially the religious aspects of it — or the institutionalised religious aspects do, at least. The words used by these people always seem so hollow and insincere. I also baulk at the singing of the national anthem. Not that I’m unpatriotic, it’s just that some people look upon this as a nationalist symbol, which is a little ironic given that nationalism has been the source of so many wars. Anyway, these personal hang-ups aside, ANZAC Day is always a special day for me, and this year was no exception. It was a very moving occasion, and the highlight was the halt in proceedings when, after all the dignatories had laid their wreaths, an old digger came forward to place his bunch of flowers in memory of his mates. This is commonplace in Australia, of course, but not in Singapore. Having read The Naked Island (by Russell Braddon) recently, I imagined to myself he might have been one of the inmates at Changi during the last war.

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