In my previous post I detailed our family trip to Singapore and my reunion with my Mum and Dad after nearly six months. Our trip to South East Asia was not only a great opportunity for my parents to experience a different part of the world, but it was also a chance to explore our family connections.
My Great-Grandfathers, Stanley Mountain and Joseph Horner worked and raised their families in Malaya and India. When the Second World War was announced both joined the forces. As the Japanese moved further south, Singapore was the last stronghold of the allies in the region. In 1942, Arthur Percival signed the fall of Singapore and secured the fate of both of my Great Grandfathers. Joseph was taken as a Prisoner of War to Japan, to undertake hard labour in Nagasaki. Whilst digging his own grave underground, the atomic bomb hit the city and Joseph miraculously survived due to his location below the surface. He returned back home to England and lived into his 90s, seldom to speak about this experiences.
Stanley suffered a different type of fate. He was taken as a Prisoner of War to Sumatra, the largest of the Indonesian Islands and set to do hard labour in the ruthless camps. This is where he died, most likely of Beri Beri disease due to the bad conditions in the camps. It is here where our personal family journey started in South-East Asia. Stanley was buried in Jakarta, the capital of Java, Indonesia. He was reinterred in 1961 from Sumatra to the commonwealth prisoner of war cemetery in the heart of Jakarta which is his final resting place
Whilst in Singapore, we went on a tour of Singapore's War history. Here we saw the battlefields and learnt the tactics that had taken down Singapore to the Japanese. Whilst at the tour of Fort Canning Bunker Hill we learnt of the impact this bunker had had in keeping military personnel safe during the war and where the treaty had been signed to pass Singapore over to the allies enemy.
Heading to Jakarta for the night made the history much more personal and real. In the midst of this crowded, busy and hectic city, lay a peaceful and well kept cemetery filled with beautiful native flowers and plants. Each tombstone was lovingly kept and it felt like the perfect resting place for these brave men and women who had given up so much for freedom.
What particularly moved me was that we were the first family members to ever visit his grave. He had previously only had one other visitor, the RAF air attaché of Indonesia, who, when my Grandfather took the position as the air attaché of Ankara, asked him to call upon Stanley with flowers and a message from his son as a favour. Mum had brought with her a wreath with a message from the family to lay at his grave and although neither Mum or myself had ever met this man, knowing that he lay so close to us, so far away from home was moving. For both of us it meant a lot that we could be there for my Grandpa and our short 24hour stop in Jakarta meant the world.
This was a particularly pivotal point of this trip and my wider travelling experience. As a lover of history, I always enjoy learning about the past in different countries and cultures. It is especially fulfilling to learn more about your own and to visit someone who was so important to our family.
This post is in memory to Stanley Mountain and Joseph Horner