Remember the activities you took part in at school on Total Defence Day? It could have been observing a moment of silence after hearing a distant siren, or participating in simulated safety drills, as a reminder to be prepared in an emergency. You might have even experienced reenacted wartime scenarios, to have a taste (quite literally too, of food rations from that time) of what your grandparents may have gone through during World War II.
But what is it about Total Defence that matters to us Singaporeans, and why do we commemorate Total Defence Day annually?
Total Defence in a nutshell
There’s a part for everyone, in this land that we belong…”
– There’s a Part for Everyone (1984)
As a small island nation without natural resources, people are our most valuable resource. Therefore, our collective effort in defending our nation and our home will enable us to respond to any potential crises that we may encounter.
As Singaporeans, we are integral to, and can contribute towards our nation’s strength, security and cohesiveness! This is the core of what Total Defence is about.
More than just about Military Defence
Indeed, while Military Defence is usually top of mind, there are four other pillars that also make up Total Defence. Here are the five pillars of Total Defence, and how you can do your part to contribute to them, even while overseas:
L-R: Military Defence, Civil Defence, Economic Defence,
Psychological Defence and Social Defence
Military Defence: Pay tribute to our service men and women on SAF Day by sending them encouraging messages.
Civil Defence: Learn valuable life-saving skills (such as CPR or first aid) while overseas – you’d never know when this could come in handy, wherever you may be!
Economic Defence: Never stop learning! Keep upgrading your skills and knowledge, both on and offline. Other ways to put Economic Defence into action is to be a savvy saver and wise investor, and to practice safe cybersecurity habits.
Psychological Defence: Be proud to be a Singaporean! Be ready to share more about Singapore with overseas friends or acquaintances, and help set the record straight on certain misconceptions.
Social Defence: Get to know fellow overseas Singaporeans, and form strong bonds with them through regular gatherings, or even by lending them a helping hand. Contribute to your own overseas community and make a difference in the lives of others!
Commemorating Total Defence Day
L-R: School programmes, sounding of Important Message signal,
the annual War Memorial Service
Total Defence Day is commemorated annually on 15 February, a day that coincides with Singapore’s fall to the Japanese during World War II – also known as the Japanese Occupation. It serves as a stark reminder that as Singaporeans, it is our responsibility to protect and defend our island nation, and that Singapore – our home – is worth fighting for.
On this day in 1942, the British surrendered to the Japanese at 6.20pm. This is why the ‘Important Message’ signal, one of four Civil Defence sirens sounded through our national Public Warning System, is sounded across the island at this time on 15 February.
Aside from commemorating Total Defence Day in schools, through drills, simulations and other educational activities, an annual War Memorial Service is held at the War Memorial Park in our Civic District, to remember the civilian lives lost during the Japanese Occupation.
Remember that ‘Together, we keep Singapore strong’, even from wherever you may be in the world!