‘The liv­ing still re­mem­ber what we did in WW2’, says vet­eran, 93

New Straits Times - - Front Page -

KUALA LUMPUR: Seventy-five years have passed since the end of the Malayan Cam­paign dur­ing World War 2, but James Jeremiah re­mem­bers the mis­ery peo­ple had to en­dure as if it was yes­ter­day.

The 93-year-old, who was only 18 dur­ing the cam­paign in 1941 when he joined E Com­pany, the Malayan Vol­un­teer Force, re­counted how he barely made it out alive dur­ing the pe­riod. “When the Japanese (sol­diers) landed and oc­cu­pied Pe­nang, ev­ery­thing changed. Laws were very rigid, there were suf­fer­ing, food short­ages and re­stricted move­ments. Bread, eggs and rice were like gold.

“Any­one caught with torch­lights or ra­dios; their items were con­fis­cated and they had their heads chopped off. There are other things to add, but some mem­o­ries, I do not wish to re­call,” he said dur­ing a memo­rial ser­vice yes­ter­day to mark the 75th an­niver­sary, last year, of the Malayan Cam­paign.

As a mem­ber of E Com­pany, Jeremiah was posted to the air­port in Pe­nang. He was there on guard duty when the Japanese first bombed the area.

“This was the first time in my life that I had heard and felt the shock­waves caused by bombs. They fright­ened the life out of me. The ground shook and I ran for my life.”

Later, Jeremiah was posted back to E Com­pany head­quar­ters in Pe­nang, where its mem­bers helped to pro­tect cer­tain places and main­tain or­der. As part of his du­ties, he had to carry the bod­ies of peo­ple killed dur­ing the bomb­ings and load them onto a truck.

“I sur­vived be­cause I did ev­ery­thing they (the Japanese) told me to do. Those who went against them were sent to the Death Rail­way (Burma Rail­way). And one of them was my brother.”

As the only sur­viv­ing vet­eran of the Malayan Cam­paign in Malaysia, Jeremiah was one of those in­vited by the Com­mon­wealth War Graves Com­mis­sion to the cer­e­mony yes­ter­day at the Cheras Road War Ceme­tery.

“It is a ter­ri­ble re­minder for us all. More than 70 years have passed, I’m the last sur­vivor, and I thought you had for­got­ten me. I had no cre­den­tials or medals as I was too young when I joined, but I did my duty.

“But, I was wrong. To­day, we con­tinue to re­mem­ber the sac­ri­fices made. You are keep­ing alive the mem­ory of my com­rades’ courage and their suf­fer­ing, lest we for­get.

“I am 93 years old, and soon I, too, will fade away. But I hope the rec­ol­lec­tions I have told will live for­ever.

“When I fade away, and when I meet my com­rades, I will tell them that the liv­ing still re­mem­ber us, and what we did to­gether was not in vain.”


Com­mon­wealth War Graves Com­mis­sion (Africa and Asia Pa­cific Area) di­rec­tor Richard Hills (left) aid­ing James Jeremiah (cen­tre) to put a wreath on a World War 2 memo­rial at the Cheras Chris­tian Ceme­tery, Kuala Lumpur, yes­ter­day.

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