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Poignant day for Burma Star Association

PUBLISHED: 19:42 03 December 2001 | UPDATED: 10:58 03 March 2010

TODAY the Ipswich and District Branch of the Burma Star Association is officially disbanded after the poignant laying up of its standard at St Matthew's Church.

TODAY the Ipswich and District Branch of the Burma Star Association is officially disbanded after the poignant laying up of its standard at St Matthew's Church.

NICK RICHARDS, whose grandfather was involved in the Burma campaign, witnessed the moving ceremony.

IN THE end it simply came down to resting the gold and blue standard on the holy table at the front of the church.

In the end, such a straightforward deed could never represent the actions of so many who gave so much for all our futures.

This large piece of coloured cloth could not represent the tears, the ruined lives, the shattered dreams and the sheer fear of war, but it was a symbolic gesture and a chance for former colleagues to remember their fallen comrades.

Around 60 Burma veterans, many of whom fought in the battles of Imphal and Kohima, were among the congregation at St Matthew's Church in Portman Road, yesterday afternoon.

The 45-minute service began with the national anthem before branch president Lionel Ruffles stepped forward to hand over the standard for eternal safe-keeping in the church,

The Rev Paul Hardingham, who accepted the standard on behalf of the church, said: "In one sense it's a sad occasion, but it's also a chance to thank God for all those who have served the country. We remember those who have given the supreme sacrifice."

Among those in the congregation was Deputy Mayor Don Edwards who listened on as a list of former members of the branch was read out in church.

The congregation sung the hymns Praise My Soul the King of Heaven, Now Thank We All Our God and O God Our Help in Ages Past, which perfectly caught the dilemma facing the association with its moving words: "Time, like an ever-rolling stream bears all its sons away. They fly forgotten as a dream."

Before bugler Doug Storey performed The Last Post, Canon Edward Wells paid tribute to those who fought in the Far East.

"Today is a sad day for we lay up the Burma Star Association's standard in this house of God which represents the closure of the branch.

"It is 56 years since the Burma War ceased and there is no doubt that the war of 1939 to 1945 was one of the most bloody conflicts known to man."

The Burma Star Association was officially founded in 1951 with the involvement of Lord Louis Mountbatten, overall commander of the Commonwealth Forces in South-East Asia and Field Marshall Viscount Slim, former commander of the 14th Army.

The aims of the association were to promote comradeship amongst those involved in the Burma conflict and to set up a welfare organisation for members of widows.

As the members of the Burma Star Association filed away from church they parted as an official branch for ever more.

It is a tragic and inevitable fact that, having survived such horrors and braved so many battles for the rest of the free world, our war heroes are slowly dwindling away in number.

Poignantly, many of the pews of St Matthew's Church were not occupied by former soldiers that fought in Burma. They were not occupied by great men who had been prepared to die for their country more than half a century ago. They were occupied by their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who, as hard as they might try could never imagine what the conflict in Burma was really like.

For those who can still recall the events, the sad memories and the loss of comradeship we owe so much.

To those who gave their youth for all our future generations, you have our eternal respect. Lest We Forget.


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