Rushbrook, Peter: Lest We Forget: the Kapooka tragedy 1945

Peter Rushbrook

Lest We Forget: the Kapooka tragedy 1945‘, History of Education Review, vol. 37, no. 1, 2008, pp. 48-55 (pdf made available by author)

This article explores an incident that raises questions relating to the making and unmaking of history, heritage and social memory. It also points to the role of the historian in unravelling forgotten pasts. On 21 May 1945, at the Royal Australian Engineers Training Camp (RAETC) Kapooka near the provincial New South Wales city of Wagga Wagga, twenty-four ‘sappers’ or engineers, and their two ‘other ranks’ trainers, were killed in a demolitions training exercise gone terribly wrong. The accident remains the largest in Australian army history. However, following a brief flurry of national grief public memory of the tragedy soon slipped into historical obscurity. The article narrates the Kapooka story and then reflects on its role as an exemplar of how a society makes, unmakes or forgets its past.

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