Forgotten British Death March Honored.
Britain finally got their “Act of Remembrance” together in honour of the 641 British Prisoners of War who died in connection with the 1945 Sandakan-Ranau Death March.
The occasion saw a Royal Artillery Memorial Unveiling and Dedication attended by top brass from the British Army and a crowd of special persons.
The memorial dedication marked the climax of the first such British effort by 14 members of the Royal Artillery that completed a 12-day trek over the entire 250km Death March traail between Aug. 15-25 led by Tham Yau Kong and his boys.
“This is a simple yet very important ceremony to remember all those who sacrificed their lives for a Sabah that we now cherish,” said Deputy Chief Minister-cum-Minister of Resource Development and Information Technology, Datuk Yee Moh Chai.
Yee said from the Sabah perspective, it was “fitting” to pay tribute to the 641 British and 1,787 Australian prisoners of war who lost their lives here in the State.
Anglican Archdeacon, Moses Chin, officiated at the ceremony in the English Garden of the Kundasang War Memorial, in perfect weather.
Also present was Datuk Ellron Angin, Assistant Minister of Culture, Tourism and Environment, Permanent Seretary, Michael Imban, as well as the Assemblyman for Kundasang, Joichim Gunsalam.
Australian historian Lynette Silver, known for her extensive research writings on the Death March, was also present. Brigadier DRK Francis of British Embassy Beijing, represented the Director Royal Artillery.
The highest ranking British Military Officer present, Major General CC Wilson, the Colonel Commandant of the Royal Artillery, said he experienced a “very moving ceremony.”
“It is a tribute to all these people that we have forgotten for so long and at long last, we are able to remember them.”
“Sixty six years is too long because we hadn’t really understood what the ordeal was in the past until Major Tulloch (John) did all this research that it came to our attention, that the Royal Artillery suffered very badly (over 400 of the 641 dead came from the Royal Artillery Regiment),” Major General Wilson said.
“The Death March is a terrible thing to have happened,” he added.
“I think what people are most concerned about is not the fact that people are PoWs because that happens in war. It’s the way in which PoWs are treated which is not acceptable.
“Every war has prisoners but they have to be treated in a humane manner and that didn’t happen in this case,” Major General Wilson noted..
” I think that’s the piece that we really want to remember,” added Wilson who described the 14 British Royal Artillery trekkers as remarkable.
“I met them on the last day when they walked into the Last Camp and they looked still fit and well as if it was the first day.”
British High Commissioner to Malaysia, Simon Featherstone, cited “a very moving morning because this is a period of history which is very sad.”
“But I think it is very important that we don’t forget the people who suffered so terribly during the war and remember it as a spur to work for peace in our own time,” Featherstone said.
On why it has taken Britain so long, Featherstone said: “I think it’s never too late to remember people who have given everything for the cause of freedom,” he said, commending the efforts of a “few determined individuals” who made it happen.
On possibilities to raise British awareness, Featherstone said he’s “sure” the publicity surrounding the event will “increase the visibility of what happened.”
“The ultimate sacrifice of the British soldiers mostly of the Royal Artillery, has to be recognised and appreciated, ” said Tengku Datuk Dr. Zainal Adlin, Chairman of Sabah Tourism Board, who said credit must go to Major Tulloch who realised not much was known about the ultimate sacrifice by his own Regiment and is out to make it known.
Meanwhile, Major Tulloch said he was “absolutely and emotionally delighted” by the turnout and the conducive weather.
Tulloch’s wife, Victoria, said she was “glad to see it was finally so successful” an event that had taken very long to organise and put together.
‘I am very proud of my husband,” Victoria said.
Story Arrangement By: Harry George
Sources: Daily Express
Picture: Sabah Tourism.