Before the Japanese invasion of Malaya, the Japanese…
The past is a foreign country they do things differently there
L.P. Hartley The Go Between
To understand the past – the foreign country – and how it shapes our lives and those whom we love it is sometimes necessary to revisit it. We cannot take H.G. Wells' time machine and travel back, but we can visit those places – buildings - memorials – even graves that were significant in the past.
For some people this can be a journey of exploration and discovery - “How did a grandfather survive, let alone fight in the tropical heat of the Malayan jungle?” or “ I can see how a boy who had grown up in the industrial Midlands was stunned by the beauty of these places” or perhaps more prosaically how good a cold beer must have tasted to a young man who a few months before he became a soldier would have been too young to enter a pub.
But tours can also be a time for closure – a chance to visit the the grave of a mate, boy friend, brother or husband a person who lives on in memory and who will “never grow old”.
Malaysia has always been a beautiful and fascinating place richly endowed with natural resources and it is perhaps that this is why men have coveted it – British colonialists, Japanese soldiers, Chinese Communists and Indonesian nationalists. They have fought wars to seize it or defend it and through all these conflicts British and later Australian and New Zealand soldiers have fought and died. As in all wars the civilian population have suffered but born this with courage and dignity.
As the name suggests tours organised by Spirit of Remembrance give you the opportunity to remember – the good times as well as the grim. Returning veterans will be overwhelmed by how quickly the Federation has changed and is changing but for them it will be a time of affirmation – to look at a young and vibrant community and say “Yes my service and the sacrifice of my mates was worth it”
For those following family history it will be a chance to set in context the places where life changing events took place.