We didn’t know you were here.
This is as much a genealogy story as a travel story.
To give you quick background on why I started looking into my family history I will start at the beginning. My mum is the oldest of her generation in our family, at nearly 80, it is her legacy to pass on the knowledge and verbal history of the family.
To this end her younger brother decided to research as far back as he could go using modern day resources as he was the most computer literate. Using the internet, microfiche and data files he had done fairly good job. Occasionally he got stuck and would ask me to help, so, slowly he dragged me into the absorbing world of genealogy and family history tracing. When he died suddenly mum realised that if she didn’t put as much information down now as she could it would be lost. We lost all my uncles fabulous verbal tales of life as a British Bobby and working in Scotland Yard.
So once again I got drawn deeper into the genealogical black hole.
Without boring you with the nitty gritty: My mum’s father had a younger brother who died in WW2. My mum remembers him staying at their house a week before he left for the ‘action overseas’
She remembers her father telling her he died in the war, and was pretty sure she was told he was killed in France.
So in trying to fill in all the blanks and get all the details right in the history, I researched him. Found his birth certificate online and went from there.
I found his war records and was amazed to find he was killed in the waters off Japan.
He was with the Middlesex Regiment defending Hong Kong against the invading Japanese
Those soldiers that survived the fall of Hong Kong were taken as POW’s and put on a troop ship the Lisbon Maru and set sail for Japan. The ship was NOT identified as POW carrier and was shot out of the water and sunk by an American submarine. Over 800 on board did not survive. My mums uncle was one of these.
The Commonwealth War Graves website had his detail listed at the Sai Wan Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in Hong Kong.
Nobody had ever commented or left family details on any memorial page related to his death or grave.
Mum was upset by this as it seemed he was forgotten. Forgotten by his family; forgotten in his sacrifice.
What also moved mum is that out of all the relatives scattered around the world we had actually been to Hong Kong numerous times and never once visited his memorial.
We had an opportunity to have a couple of days in Hong Kong in January, so we took full advantage of this and we rectified that this visit.
We caught the MTR Island line to Chai Wen, walked to the buses and caught the 16 bus, that dropped us by the front gate of the Sai Wan Commonwealth War Graves cemetery.
It’s a serene cemetery, slopping down the hill with headstones making the places of service men from around the world.
Marble walls of the entrance are lined with the names of the service men who were known to be killed but whose remains were never recovered for burial.
Here, in column 16, we found his name – W.A. TUNMER.
We were both moved to tears.
Not just for a life cut short, not just for the sacrifice he made, not just because he was a family member, but because we hoped didn’t look down and feel forgotten for the last 70 years, Sorry Uncle Bill ,we didn’t know you were here.
As a small footnote – I took a few other photos that day, of the memorial wall and headstones and sent copies to The War Graves Photographic Project. and The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website