The road to Man­dalay

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

In striv­ing to out­law dis­crim­i­na­tory prac­tices, are we in dan­ger of throw­ing the baby out with the bath­wa­ter? The Burma Star As­so­ci­a­tion is a group­ing of ser­vice­men and women who served in the Burma Cam­paign of World War II.

Ev­ery year, their dwin­dling num­bers gather to­gether at Lon­don's Royal Al­bert Hall for the Na­tional Ser­vice of Re­mem­brance for those who never re­turned from what was ar­guably the most bit­terly con­tested cam­paign of that war.

The mem­bers of Gen­eral (later Field Mar­shal) Bill Slim's 14th Army who fought in the re­treat through Burma, to the mon­u­men­tal strug­gle at Ko­hima, which turned the tide in fa­vor of the Al­lies be­fore push­ing the Ja­panese back un­til they were de­feated, of­ten re­ferred to them­selves as "the for­got­ten army."

They waged a war thou­sands of miles dis­tant from the Euro­pean the­ater, com­bat­ing an un­for­giv­ing cli­mate, a cruel ter­rain and ram­pant dis­ease as well as a fa­nat­i­cally de­ter­mined en­emy.

For those who have lit­tle or no idea of the pri­mal strug­gle of the cam­paign, the au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal books by two great nov­el­ists, Ge­orge Mac­Don­ald Fraser's Quar­tered Safe Out Here and John Mas­ters' The Road Past Man­dalay, pro­vide re­mark­able in­sights for the unini­ti­ated.

The melody for the song "The Road to Man­dalay" was writ­ten by Oley Speaks to a poem by Rud­yard Ki­pling. It was a fa­vorite march­ing song of the 14th Army's sol­diers.

For that very rea­son, the song has al­ways been a fea­ture of the an­nual Burma Star As­so­ci­a­tion's Re­union at the Al­bert Hall.

But this year, to the dis­may of the as­so­ci­a­tion's mem­bers, the song has been ex­cised from the pro­gram, ap­par­ently be­cause the per­former, a fa­mous op­er­atic bass-bari­tone, who was in­vited by the Bri­tish Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion to sing it con­sid­ered that one line was "deroga­tory to peo­ple of color."

The per­former's man­ager de­clined to say whether he voiced

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