Taukkyan War Cemetery (Burma) - Capt F C N Gwatkin & Lt A W Gwatkin, both died 14 Mar 1945.

Discussion in 'Burma & India' started by Carl, Jan 7, 2016.

  1. BritishMilitaryHistory

    BritishMilitaryHistory Junior Member

    I have just updated my biography on Major General Sir Frederick GWATKIN and his two sons, which is available on my Facebook Group, called British Military History at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/738746269623688/
    The brothers' medals sold for £500, but their father's medals remained unsold. I real shame, as I would have liked to see all three go to the same, good home. Is is possible to have permission to use the photographs of Freddy and Archie's graves at Taukkyan, as although I have visited that cemetery, these photographs are better than mine. Please let me know, then I will incorporate them into the biography, and post on my website.

    Many thanks, Rob PALMER
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2017
  2. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    It was a shame that the family medals did not stay together, always a sad occurrence.
  3. Carl

    Carl Now resident in Belgium...

    Dear Al,

    Apologies, I have been offline for a while and only just discovered your post. I would love to chat further and will contact you via email to put a little more context on my reason for visiting Myanmar last year.

    Like Clive suggests, may I also recommend that you delete your mobile and email from your post.

    Best Regards,

  4. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    I have unearthed an account of Archie's death that I will post once I have had the time to transribe it.
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2018
    CL1 likes this.
  5. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    A letter sent to Major Gen Sir Frederick Gwatkin, KCB DSO MC, Merriott House, Merriott, Somersetshire by Lt-Colonel Gerald Holt Critchley.

    H.Q. 254 Ind. Tk. Bde.


    May 4th

    Dear General

    Your letter of Apr 11th only reached me yesterday as I have left the Regiment and gone off as 2nd in Command of a Bde the other side of Burma. I will try and tell you more about Archie, as you have asked me. He had both legs blown off below the knees. I was with him for some time when he was brought in. The doctor told me about 9pm that he was going to send him back to the M.D.S. The last bit of the road back would have been very bad so I arranged for a special boat which would have saved a lot of jolting. The ambulance was waiting and I told Archie all the arrangements and we talked of this and that. He was drowsy and seemed interested and grateful; I told him that I would be down to see him next morning. I asked the doctor what his chances were and he said fairly good. I then left as the situation was rather tricky and the harbour area where the Sqn was, was being shelled and there were plans to be made.

    It was only next morning about 6am that I heard that the doctor had decided after I left against moving Archie and that he had died. I am trying to get in touch with the padre but he did not mention any messages then. Archie was very weak from loss of blood and drowsy from the morphia and I do not think that he realised that the end was near.

    The place where he died is about 16 miles in from the coast about due East from the Northern tip of Ramree Island.

    Please write again if there is anything else I can tell you. Geoffrey Keighley is commanding the regiment now.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Gerald Critchley.

    Colonel G H Critchley. I.A. 351.
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2018
    dbf, ozzy16, timuk and 1 other person like this.
  6. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Thanks HW, what a dreadful letter to have to write and indeed read. From one soldier to another I suppose, and I think I would have wanted to know the full details if it was my son.
  7. Pat Atkins

    Pat Atkins Patron Patron

    I was struck by that, too - initially I thought it was rather callous, but in fact Archie's father must have had no illusions about the reality of war and I believe the directness would be a mark of professional respect.

    Thanks to all for such a fascinating, sad thread.
  8. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    It is a shocking letter and I did think carefully before posting it, but, as it answers the original poster's question for information regarding Archie Gwatkin's death, I went ahead.

    I think that the crucial phrase in the letter is, "I will try and tell you more about Archie, as you have asked me". As a Major-General, Sir Frederick Gwatkin would have had first hand experience of the horrors of war and when a junior officer almost certainly would have had to write similar letters to the next of kin. He would have been well aware of the horrors hidden behind such stock phrases as, 'he died a hero's death' or 'it was quick and he passed away peacefully without suffering'.

    I cannot imagine the overwhelming sadness of losing two sons on the same day but I am very moved by the fact that they lie side by side in Burma.
  9. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    If anyone can identify the officer who took over command of the regiment after Colonel Critchley I would be grateful.
    All I know is that his first name was Geoffrey and that his surname began with the letter K.

    Attached Files:

  10. Matt Poole

    Matt Poole Member

    From Rob Palmer, 17 March 2017: Is is possible to have permission to use the photographs of Freddy and Archie's graves at Taukkyan, as although I have visited that cemetery, these photographs are better than mine. Please let me know, then I will incorporate them into the biography, and post on my website.

    Many thanks, Rob PALMER

    Hi, Rob,

    Yikes! I just noticed that you asked for permission to use the photos in March of 2017! ABSOLUTELY OK. I haven't investigated to see if you already used them, which would be fine by me, anyway. Thanks for asking.


    Matt Poole
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2018
  11. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce

  12. Matt Poole

    Matt Poole Member

    High Wood,

    Thanks for posting that letter. I would want to know such dreadful details, but sharing the hard truth is a touchy subject with no clear rules. I know this from my own experience and sentiments in corresponding with loved ones of men killed in the RAF in Burma or in Rangoon Jail.

    For example, the sister of RAF 159 Squadron Liberator rear gunner Jack King (shot down 29 Feb '44, died of beri beri in the arms of crewmate Don Lomas only one month short of liberation) wanted to know everything I'd learned about the death of her beloved brother -- including what Don had to say and what the secret prison diary of W/Cdr Lionel Hudson RAAF noted. When I sent the written passages to the sister, I covered them up with paper and cautioned her. However, she had been waiting half a century to learn the truth, and she read it. When I visited with her in the Southampton area at a later date, she told me that it had been shocking detail, but finally, finally, finally she knew! And she was so grateful.

    I refrained from telling my own mother various things I'd learned about her first husband's final moments (Sgt George Plank, also shot down on 29 Feb '44, but on a different 159 Sqn Liberator than Jack King). It is likely that she would have suffered terribly had I shared the detail, and I feared for her health. It was the right decision not to cause her undue grief, but others, like Jack King's sister, insisted that to know the truth, however horrible, was better than being denied the truth.

    Hopefully Major Gen Sir Frederick Gwatkin shared her philosophy.


  13. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    Good call: Lt-Col (T) G.E.V. Keighley (I.A.353) Served in the Indian Armoured Corps and seems to have retired to Kenya after the war.

    Many thanks,

  14. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    I have managed to locate a photograph of Frederick Charles Nichol Gwatkin taken during his time on his Officer Training Course at Mhow and obviously before his Commission on the 6th May 1942, he is the man in the red oblong.

    The man in the blue oblong is Terence Anthony Podesta who went on to serve with the R.I.A.S.C.and in one of the Indian Parachute Brigades. I have a few other photographs of him and I will post them elsewhere so as not to hijack this thread.
    M4 (2).jpg
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2019
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  15. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Thanks for the photo HW. Always great to put a face to a name. I was shocked to see that this thread is over 3 years old now. Time flies.
  16. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    That is another wonderful thing about this forum, a three years old thread is still alive and kicking as new information comes to light.

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