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Sembawang Memorial Tree

Across the Shrine’s 13-hectare Reserve are more than 320 trees. They are dedicated to the memory of our military units, battalions, squadrons and ships. They are a living a reminder of the thousands who have served and sacrificed in war, peacekeeping and peacemaking. 

This tree is a Corymbia maculata, or a Spotted Gum, so called for the mottled pinkish-grey or blueish-grey bark. It was originally found in south-east New South Wales but has since been naturalised across other parts of Australia. This tree is a memorial to those who served at the RAF base in Sembawang during the Second World War.  

Australians began arriving at Sembawang base in July 1940. This was the location of Britain’s Royal Air Force base in northern Singapore. By mid-1941, the Royal Australian Air Force had four squadrons based there—Numbers 1, 8, 21 and 453 Squadrons.  

No. 1 Squadron was the first Allied air squadron to go into action in the Pacific War—one hour before Pearl Harbour was attacked. Sembawang didn’t survive long against the Japanese push through South-East Asia, and the base was abandoned in December 1941.  

By March 1942 those on the base had fallen back to Australia, been captured as prisoners of war, or disbanded due to loss of aircraft and aircrew.  

A service is held at this tree on the second Sunday of December each year. This date was chosen as it marked the start of the Pacific War. 

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Reviewed 30 March 2021

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