The best Myanmar website News

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The BBC News

During World War II, British captain Peter Robert Sandham Bankes headed a group of Chin tribes in Burma - now called Myanmar - to fend off Japan's march on the near Indian frontier. Dead in these secluded mounds 72 years ago, but as Mark Fenn, a reporter, found out, he is still a real protagonist in the locals' minds.

In 1942, when the Japs marched into Burma, many Burmese first backed them and saw them as emancipators from the hateful Britain's overcrowding. However, in the border areas, mountain peoples such as Chin, Kachin, Karen and Karenni stayed faithful to the Brits. Among them were men like Lieutenant Col Edgar Peacock in the Karenni Mountains and Major Hugh Seagrim in the Karen countries - courageous and often off-centre men with a lot of regard for the indigenous culture and the forces that ruled them.

Col Peacock was an old Burmese man with a profound understanding of the territory in which he worked, a passionate hunting enthusiast and early animalist. Captain Bankes was someone else. When he graduated, he took a position at Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation, which had a strong interest in North Burma tea wood.

He was bound to the Chin Levies, a group of tribal people accused of halting Japan's march on India, after receiving an arrest order in Burma's officer's reserve. Peter, his 71-year-old boy from Salisbury, Great Britain, says they were equipped with Boer War rim guns and had also equipped themselves with blades, weapons and sabers.

"It became known as'Chin Express' because it was the quickest mountaineer in the mountains, with its long feet and limited energy," said Peter. "They had a major role in keeping the chin fighters at the front for several hundred leagues and stopping the enemies from reaching India. "But Capt Bankes did not see the end of the battle.

In November 1943, he was gunned down and murdered by a rogue Chin military man, whom he had blamed twice for being on guard duty because of his sleep - the man went to pick up his bounty from the Japanese. At the age of 32, Capt Bankes was given the posthumous Military Cross for "gallant and noble services in Burma and on the eastern border of India" for his ministry in the Chin Heights.

Meanwhile, his expectant mother Pearl had escaped to India, where she worked in Burma's recently founded women's relief organization, giving decisive assistance to the forces. In May 1944 she herself was named in the despatches for outstanding services. born in Assam, India, in July of this year, Peter came back to England at the age of about a year.

Burma still had links - his sponsor was UK military and bullfighter James Howard Williams, also known as Elphant Bill, who was known for his work in the tea and Burma-campaigns. Burma has opened up in recent years, and last November the National League for Democracy, headed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, won the election.

As the land became more and more open and open, Peter was planning a journey and chose to learn more about his sire. "We' re trying to provide funding for the survivors of Burma's mountain people - the Chin, Karen, Kachin, etc.," said executive director Peter Mitchell.

" A further great help was the pensioned shrink Desmond Kelly, who wrote a pamphlet about the Chin Hills Rosary Camp, on the basis of his own father's letter, Lieutenant Col Norman Kelly, a colleague and companion of Capt Bankes. Peter brought Peter into contact with Pastor Thang Khawm Pau, a Baptist pastor and principal of a Tiddim municipal college.

They are very thankful to the British who were building streets during the conflict and rescued them from the Japans, the priest says. During the Burma battle, there was a call for violence from Japan's troops and they were widely dreaded. He did a lot of research and informed Peter that his father's tomb was about 30 leagues due North of Lampthang (48 km).

A senior inhabitant of a neighbouring town said that the place was known as "Bank of Gentleman Bankes", which in Chinese means "Mount of Gentleman Bankes". Together with some mates, he went to the tomb and took three remains of bones that a British man Peter brought with him to England.

Peter is sure, however, that the bone came from his dad, as he thinks he was the only Brit or Commonwealth military officer to have been murdered and interred in the area during the Great Depression. By the time his dam Pearl passed away in June last year at the tender of 94, he put the bone in a bag of satin, along with some soil from the Chin Mountains, and the funeral director put it in her hands - and thus united them in the dead, 72 years apart.

When Peter Tiddim went to visit with his spouse Jennie in January last year, he was surprised to learn that his dad is regarded there as a community character, with several photos of him in a community college and students being asked to honor the man who is said to have given his own lives for the Chinfolk.

Though he could not attend the tomb himself, as the area is forbidden for aliens, Peter was glad to see where his dad had ministered. "I was in an area where he was operating, and in fact he probably used this path for his regular Tiddim walk back to briefings," he said.

Now" in peace" Peter went back to Myanmar in November and went to a memorial worship at the Taukkyan war cemetery near Yangon, where his father's tomb is shown as unfamiliar on a column of masonry. After that he revealed a plain wooden tablet on a pedestal of stones, which honoured Captain P.R.S. Bankes, MC, "Pearl's dearly loved spouse and Peter's father".

Awaiting a small personal wedding reception, to his amazement he was accompanied by the UK Embassy, some tourist and a group of international embassies who had just visited the memorial services for those who had been killed in the Second World War in Burma. "It was a "very emotive couple of minutes," said Peter, himself a former Royal Marine, when he recalled the sire he had never known at the end of his long search.

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