27,000 Allied soldiers died during WWII in Burma and Assam (with a reported 200,000 Japanese also dying). Growing up in Europe we were repeatedly taught about the War in school history lessons, each time with a more critical perspective on its origins and its outcomes. But this was more than a World War, with a globalization in which the allies “outsourced” their fighting across the British Empire. A fact that we never touched on back in English High School, as the battles of Europe and North Africa that figured in our lessons relied less on the Indian, Burmese and African armies. But Taukyyan leaves you in no doubt as to who fought, and at which cost.
|Rupert Brooke rings true|
Of the 6,347 graves, I found graves marking British, Indian (back when India covered Pakistan also), Burmese (by then separate from India) Ghurkas (Nepalese), New Zealand, Gold Coast and Nigerian soldiers. The memorial stone also mentions East Africans, and I didn’t pay enough attention as the morning heat set in to see who else was included.
|Even Buddhists were fighting|
A depressing reflection on a Sunday morning was the ages marked on the graves, with almost the entire majority between 20 to 32 years old and the fact that most died from April 1945 onwards, which we were taught in school was when nearly all the fighting had finished (in Europe, or course). And the way the whole Cemetery was maintained was impressive, regardless of your views on Empire or war. I’ve seen memorials to the Great Fatherland War across Central Asia which have lapsed in to complete disrepair, but in Myanmar the headstones remain set in painted and polished and organized with military precision across the maintained garden. Somehow that seems fitting for those who died “for all free men”, irrelevant of whether it was really the case or not for all those from across the Empire who are buried there.
|"They died for all free men"|
|The long list of East Africans|