The evergreen poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow came to mind during the remembrance week and beyond: “Your silent tents of green, we deck with fragrant flowers; Yours has the suffering been, the memory shall be ours.” Pinning the red poppy to our coats, the spirit of the war memorials is to remember and enshrine those who have made the ultimate sacrifice beyond the shifting sands of time.
The week started off with the inaugural 1400m goodwill trophy race dedicated to the Tasmanian Turf Club and National Malaya & Borneo Veterans Association Australia at the Perak Turf Club (PTC) on Saturday, June 4. “To commemorate the event of them coming here for the memorial, we run this race. The veterans will present the prize, a wall clock, to the winner,” Soo Lai Kwok, the general manager of PTC told Ipoh Echo. Will this be an annual event? “I would say so,” Soo enthused.
Ipoh Echo did an exclusive one-on-one with Ken McNeill, the International Liaison Officer of the National Malaya & Borneo Veterans Association Australia. The Tasmania-based Aussie veteran who was also the organiser of the Taiping service for Thursday, June 9 said: “At the Kamunting Road Christian Cemetery, we put Australian flags on their graves. This year we’re bringing wooden crosses which have been inscribed by Australian school children and supplied by the Australian War Memorial. It will be placed at the gravesides too. The naval veteran band will play at the cemetery as well as at the Taiping New Club.”
Ralph Daines, 70, attended the memorial for the first time last year. This time, he brought the Royal Australian Navy Veterans Band along for their first-ever performance in Malaysia. The 34-strong band played the clarinet, French horn, euphonium, trombone, oboe, alto saxophone, flute, trumpet and drum. It was incredibly admirable to see these ex-navy men lugging heavy instruments; all treated as if their own, in the hot sun for the whole week.
“We’ll go anywhere where we can provide music for a remembrance service. Just playing is what keeps us young and happy,” Daines, the vice president of the Royal Australian Navy Veterans Band, explained. He joined the band as a 15-year-old.
The Cenotaph War Memorial at the Ipoh Railway Station honours soldiers who died during the two World Wars, the Malayan Emergency and the Indonesian Confrontation. Not forgetting civilians and war prisoners who perished at the Thailand-Burma Death Railway between 1943 and 1945.
The naval veteran band was at the cenotaph on Friday, June 10. It performed together with the bagpipers from British Gurkha Regiment and the St Michael’s Institution band. Organising chairperson, Dato’ R. Thambipillay, stated, “This annual Ipoh sentinel remembrance has grown in significance. It’s supported by the Armed Forces, the Royal Malaysia Police, Commonwealth High Commissions, Ipoh City Council, military veterans and schools in Ipoh. Our sincere gratitude goes to these people.”
On Saturday, June 11, planters, miners, police personnel, Commonwealth troops and the general public who gave their lives during the Malayan Emergency were honoured during a memorial service at the God’s Little Acre cemetery in Batu Gajah.
Organised by the Malaysian Palm Oil Association, guests attended a service at the Church of Holy Trinity before proceeding to lay wreaths at the memorial. Present were British High Commissioner, Her Excellency Vicki Treadell; Defence Adviser of New Zealand High Commission, Captain Keith Robb; Defence Adviser of Australian High Commission, Group Captain Wendy Horder and Vice Chairman of MPOA, Poh Syee Wha.
June 16, 1948 was the day when three British planters, Walker, Alison and Christian were murdered near Sungai Siput. “We must honour these young men from far flung corners of the British Empire who answered our call for help,” Poh said.
The Gurkha remembrance service at Syed Putra Camp saw His Excellency Dr Niranjan Man Singh Basnyat, Ambassador of Nepal, presenting a donation of RM19,500 for the upkeep of the recently-built memorial to Dato’ R Thambipillay, president of Wira Association Malaysia.
Time is a River
Time is catching up on those who have contributed to the memorial efforts here. Dearly missed is the late Professor Dr Colin Wendell-Smith, 88. A Brit who lived in Tasmania, Colin was a medical doctor serving the British Army during the Emergency. The gynaecologist then became a professor at the University of Tasmania. His first memorial service in Malaysia last year was his last, as he passed away in December. “Colin was a great man. He spent a lot of his life teaching. He loved to share his knowledge,” Ken said.
According to Daines, some of the elderly players have to switch instruments, for instance to those with lesser tone holes, as their fingers are getting less mobile. Meanwhile, Hendrik Willem Hol and his Ipoh-born wife, Mee Yoke, may not be able to attend upcoming commemorations as Hendrik moves around with a walking aid.
“There are 28 Australian soldiers interred in Taiping from the 1950s. While I’m still alive I’ll keep going there to conduct services for them. These fallen soldiers are virtually forgotten unless we gather there every year,” 77-year-old Ken declared. He was enlisted at the age of 17 in the Royal Australian Air Force. He first came to Malaya in 1962 and has been involved in the Taiping remembrance service since 2007.
Ipoh Echo Team