Wednesday, July 1, 2009

In Memory Of Heroes

Meet a webmaster who has professed to a hobby of visiting war memorials.

It was a sunny day and the path Martin Edwards strode on was covered by a swathe of green carpet grass dotted with brightly coloured blooms. The 50-something Brit seemed to be completely at peace at the Cheras Christian Cemetary.

For a tourist, Edwards seemed to know the place well.

Here, he pointed out, was where Sir Henry Lovell Goldsworthy Gurney (27 June 18986 October 1951) was buried. The epitaph on his grave read, ‘Greater Love Hath No Man Than This Who Lay His Life Down For His Friends’. Gurney was shot to death on his way to Fraser’s Hill when the guerillas of the Malayan Communist Party ambushed his Rolls Royce. According to Lady Gurney who was with him at the time, he had sacrificed himself to the attackers in order to protect the lives of his wife and the driver.

And further down, where rows of headstones were laid in neat, straight lines, were the soldiers who had fallen during the Japanese Occupation and Emergency Period. Some of them were barely 18 and Edwards would refer to them as the ‘virgin’ soldiers.

One epitaph engraved beneath a 19-year-old soldier conveyed his family’s grief, ‘Guardian Angel, Watch This Spot With Care. Our Only Son Is Sleeping Here’.

In one grave, where the rain and elements had made the engraving intelligible, were laid the bodies of five soldiers. Edwards explained that they had been buried such as the whole bodies could not be recovered.

“The deceased were identified from rings or identification tags found on their body parts. These were buried in a common grave so that these soldiers would have a final resting place,” said Edwards.

Standing on the manicured lawn in the peace of a quiet afternoon with Edwards lay the stark reality of war. It questions one as to where the glory is. It is certainly not to be found with the mothers who have lost their sons nor the children who have never known their father. It brings forth a rage as to how wantonly leaders can sacrifice the lives of others in the names of their ‘beloved’ countries.

But for Edwards, there is no anger.

“I’ve gone through all that in my youth,” smiled Edwards.

For now, this IT project consultant’s only focus is to help the families of the bereaved seek closure. His website, Roll Of Honour is not only a dedication to the men and women who have lost their lives during the war but is an archive of information as to the whereabouts of their final resting places.

“For the living, it’s about seeking closure. This is especially so for families who have lost a relative who has been sent overseas to serve in the war. Sometimes, they have no idea where they are buried and it can be hard for the living to accept. With the website, it gives them a definite answer and this helps them to heal,” he said.

Edwards, who was spurred to work on this project after a bomb explosion caused Pan Am flight 103 to crash in Lockerbie in 1988, opined that he has visited many grave sites in Malaysia, including God’s Little Acre in Batu Gajah where an annual remembrance ceremony is held every year to commemorate the bravery of the 116 planters, miners, police and soldiers of the Commonwealth Army who had lost their lives in the communist uprisings .

“It is a sad thing when you think of all the possibilities if these soldiers had not lost their lives but if you ask me if this would have been avoidable, I would say, ‘No’. All over the world, even now, there is a war happening somewhere. It would be very ideal if everything could be resolved by discussion but the trouble is, we do not live in an ideal world,” said Edwards realistically.

And on further thought he surmised that as long as the arms industry exists, the chances for war to cease would be very slim indeed.

“There are some who opine that there is no point in the existence of war memorials but I say that they are reminder to the future generation that they should learn from the mistakes of the past. History, especially the tragic ones, should never repeat itself again,” he concluded.

1 comment:

Martin said...

Your links are not working, think you might need a 'http://' in front of them :-)

This ha sbeen my passion for many years. Malaysia has many sites where those who died can be found from the Commonwealth. Labuan, Malacca, Cheras, Taiping, Batu Gajah, and more...

This is very revelant to Malaysian history and heritage. What happened during the Emergency has shaped Mayalsia as it is today. Those who died came from Britain, Australia, Canada, India, Nepal, New Zealand and many from Malaysia, including the police and Malayan Volunteer Forces. Those who died did so to avoid greater bloodshed, a sad reason to give your life but it has to be respected. If it hadn't have been for these few then Malaysia could have been another Vietnam - the toll of life there was unacceptable and probably avoidable to the extent that it was.

We shall remember them....