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Taukkyan War Cemetery: A memorial to allied soldiers who died in battle in Myanmar during the First and Second World Wars

Photo - Phyo Thiha

U Thet Mon, Regional Manager of Commonwealth War Graves Commissionin Myanmar recalls a vivid and fond memory of an occasion at a gravenear the Cross of Sacrifice Monument at Taukkyan War Cemetery which took place a number of years earlier.

A few days after the annual Remembrance Day for fallen soldiers at Taukkyan War Cemetery in November 2016, he had a visitor to the cemetery named Dr. Christopher Allmandand two other family members who were paying homage at his older brother’s grave.

The grave that was adorned witha wreath by these visitors from London was that of their brother Captain Michael Allmand. On June 23rd 1944, the Captain who was already suffering from trench foot, singlehandedly captured a Japanese machine gun base in the last attack on the Pin Hmi railway bridge in Mogaung in Kachin State.

The next day, however, he was fatally wounded and died at the young age of 20 years old.

Due to his outstanding leadership and protracted heroism, he was posthumously honored the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award presented to the armed forces for gallantry in cation with the enemy by King George VI.

“His brother was not only a brave person but also a well-known champion of righteousness. They all were sick at heart for the fallen M.Allmand. But they were very proud of him and his deserved Victoria Cross,” U Thet Mon told My Magical Myanmar in his recap of the unforgettable event.

According to the records of Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Myanmar, the number of visitors who visit Taukkyan War Cemeterysuch as tourists and family members of fallen soldiers isincreasing year by year.

Taukkyan War Cemetery is on the Yangon-Pyay Road, 21 miles north of the city and is easily accessible and immediately adjoining the village of Taukkyan where a great battle was fought.The cemetery was established in 1951 for the reception of graves from Akyab, Mandalay, Meiktila and Sahmaw cemeteries which were difficult to access and could not be maintained while the Chindit cemetery contains many of the casualties from the battle for Myitkyina. The construction of the Yangon Memorial was finished in 1957, andsince that day visitors have been paying homage there.

1.7 million men and women of the Commonwealth forces were honored in 25,000 war cemeteries in some154 countries across the world by the registers of Commonwealth War Graves Commission.Taukkyan War Cemetery is the largest among the three war cemeteries in Myanmar and the Asia-Pacific Region.

The Yangon Memorial bears the names of almost 27,000 Commonwealth soldiers of many races united in service to the British crown who gave their lives in Myanmar and the words,“They died for all free men”are engravedon the stone circle of the memorial in a number of different languages namely English,Myanmar, Hindi and Urdu.

The cemetery contains the graves of 6,457 soldiers including almost 100 Myanmar soldiers in service to the British Army who died in the Second World War and the graves of 52 soldiers who died in Myanmar during the First World War. The site also houses the graves of seven soldiers who were holders of Victoria Cross.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Myanmar arranges the graves of soldiers by dividingthem into the groups according to their respective religions and engraves the religious emblems on each gravestone.

“The majority of Commonwealth soldiers were English and New Zealanders and others were African, Indian, Canadian and Austrian,” said U Thet Mon.

The officials from Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Myanmar predict that the arrivals of foreign tourists who visit the Taukkyan War Cemetery may rise to between30,000 and 100,000 each year, increasing by 10 percent from year to year and this prediction includes at least 50 family members of fallen soldiers per month.

According to official figures collected by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Myanmar, English and Australian tourists including the family members of fallen soldiers as well as tourists from other European countries are the most common visitors toTaukkyan War Cemetery.

“English tourists arethe most interested group. This is followed by the French; they like to know about and observe the cemetery. American and Canadian tourists also consider a visit during their trip to Myanmar,” a local from Yangon Region, Ko Ye Aung Zaw said to My Magical Myanmar.

Tourist guides and travel and tour agencies have confirmed that there is no specialised tour to Taukkyan War Cemetery but they encourage foreign tourists to visit if their tour route passes by the cemetery.

A staff member from Golden Express Travel & Tours told My Magical Myanmar, “If our guests request a visit toTaukkyan War Cemetery, we arrange the trip for them but we have no separate tour there.”

Commonwealth War Graves Commission provides over US$100,000 to the three war cemeteries in Myanmar including salaries for workers, gardening expenses and a small maintenance fee for the Yangon Memorial each year. Over halfof funds are used on the Taukkyan War Cemetery according to the records of Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Myanmar.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Myanmar has plans to installvisitor panelsin the cemeteries, to deliver pamphlets at Yangon International Airport and busy hotels and to display information on billboards near the cemeteries. The officials also help to explain to foreign visitors the history of each cemetery if requested.

“I’m so pleased to see the Commonwealth soldiers’ graves which are now under maintenance of Commonwealth War Graves Commission,” said an English tourist nameMatthews.

To honour Commonwealth soldiers who gave their lives in the Second World War, a Remembrance Day ceremony is held every year on the second Sunday of November at Taukkyan War Cemetery with the help ofthe British Embassy while theAustralian and New Zealand Embassies hold the ceremonies on April 25th every year.

“They thanked me for preserving their beloved brother’s grave and I saw satisfaction in their faces after they all saluted Captain M.Allmand’s grave,” U Thet Mon enthusiasticallynarrated the occasion of the visit of Dr.Christopher Allmand.

“He was very happy at that time because he was able to come and see his brother’s grave during his lifetime. He told me his solemn wish was fulfilled.”

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Aung Phay Kyi Soe is a Journalist who worked as Culture, Tourism, Environment and Health Reporter for five years at The Messenger, The Trade Times,DEMOCRACY Today, The Voice and Mawkun In-Depth and Investigative Magazine. He won the Best Feature Award for Climate Change Reporting supported by UN-Habitat and organized by Myanmar Journalism Institute.


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