SINGAPORE - An old naval warship will not be preserved as a museum exhibit, as it is not possible to display every retired warfighting platform in land-scarce Singapore, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.
He was responding on Tuesday (Jan 11) to Mr Desmond Choo (Tampines GRC), who had asked if the Ministry of Defence would consider preserving the RSS Resolution L204 as part of the Republic of Singapore Navy's (RSN) heritage.
In November last year, Mr Raymond Lim, a former crew member of the landing ship tank (LST), started an online petition to have the ship salvaged and used as an exhibit in the Navy Museum. The petition has garnered more than 1,300 signatures as at Tuesday.
Almost eight decades old, RSS Resolution was one of five County-class LSTs that Singapore acquired from the US Navy in the 1970s, and the last remaining example of a warship from the navy's early years. The five vessels were replaced in the late 1990s.
In his written parliamentary reply, Dr Ng said: "Ideally, we would want to exhibit every retired platform because of the strong attachments for the unit personnel that served in it, but this is neither possible nor desirable for effective curation - not even for militaries in larger countries with longer military histories, let alone Singapore, with limited land and other resources."
Military museums thus preserve iconic retired platforms that are most historically significant, which most citizens can identify with, said Dr Ng, adding that these platforms are often related to pivotal historical battles.
He cited the battleship USS Oregon, which had served in the Spanish American War, and the light aircraft carrier USS Cabot that served in many battles, including one of the largest naval engagements at the Battle of Leyte Gulf during World War II.
Even then, these ships were dismantled, with several symbolic parts retained for display in museums and memorials in the United States, he noted.
There are several exceptions where vessels were kept in their entirety, he said, including the USS Missouri, which had participated in the fierce battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. It was also the very ship on which the Japanese surrendered to the Allied Forces, thus formally ending WWII.
"The costs to maintain these artefacts are high, amounting to tens of millions each year, but could be justified by their international significance and patronage," said Dr Ng.
"It is not something any nation should hope for, but if in our future, platforms of such significance do arise, one could envisage them being preserved for Singapore."
The minister said the RSN has preserved its first ship RSS Panglima's gun mount, which is now prominently displayed in the Navy Museum.
"This is the appropriate perspective for a young country with many more memories to be formed," he added.
The RSS Resolution's full story and that of other retired platforms can be told and relived by its serving crew even without physical exhibits, Dr Ng said.
Museum planners are exploring the use of digital technology and virtual reality to provide visitors a first-hand experience of what it was like operating this ship and other vessels, he added.
Stories from former service personnel who served on board the ships are also being collated and curated.