Burma Star Association

Second World War Burma veterans and family paid their respects at the Annual Wreath Laying ceremonies in London last week. Having travelled from various parts of the country, they came to lay wreaths at both the Mountbatten and Viscount Slim memorials in London. All present are members of Burma Star Association.

Louis Mountbatten acted as the Supreme Allied Commander to forces serving in South East Asia, including the soldiers and sailors present at these ceremonies. He also oversaw the partitioning of India and Pakistan as the last Viceroy of India. The veterans met and remembered at the Mountbatten memorial before making the five minute walk to the Viscount Slim statue.

Field Marshall William Slim, known as ‘Uncle Bill’ to his soldiers, fought in both the First and Second World Wars and was wounded three times. During the Burma campaign he led the 14th Army – also remembered as the ‘forgotten army’. Those under his command considered him a great man – someone who knew by name even the lowest ranking soldiers.

The formalities were brought to a close in the refreshingly informal settings of The Clarence pub, a moments walk away.

A great bunch of guys and gals were present. Medals glistened on nearly every chest and backs were purposely straightened. In fact, it was remarkable the number of guys that stood to attention as soon as I pointed my camera their way. Some habits never die, eh.

This wonderfully touching outing moved and stirred. Collective grief and positive remembrance of trying times are necessary constituents of a stronger society. Theirs is a generation fully in line with that principle and lessons can be drawn from time spent in their presence.

I couldn’t stop my mind from wondering what these animated characters were like in their prime. It appeared to me that they were perhaps not too disimilar – other than the agility of their movements, of course.

In the middle is the 2nd Viscount John Slim, the son of 'Uncle Bill' and former member of the SAS

Mountbatten memorial

Viscount Slim memorial

These annual ceremonies are not only times for remembering the fallen, but also being reminded of those still present. They were truly pleased to see one another.

This is Albert, or 'Bert'. He described being surrounded and then charged by 50 Japanese soldiers with bayonets fixed; he is adamant Gurkha soldiers saved his life.

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