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British Army veteran buried with ROC military honors

2018/09/21 14:48:20

London, Sept. 20 (CNA) British Army veteran Gerald Fitzpatrick was buried in Leeds on Thursday with military honors but the honor guard detail comprised four officers of the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the flag draping his coffin was also that of the ROC.

Fitzpatrick, who was deployed to Asia in the 1940s, had requested before his death on Aug. 27 at the age of 99 that his coffin be draped with the ROC flag as a symbol of his gratitude to the ROC troops who rescued him and 7,000 other British soldiers during the Battle of Yenangyaung in Burma during World War II.

In keeping with his wishes, the ROC flag covered his coffin at the funeral service at a church in Leeds and was later folded and given to his wife at the cemetery.

The attending honor guard comprised four ROC military officers who are currently studying in the United Kingdom, although they were not in uniform at the funeral.

The funeral was also attended by ROC Representative to Britain David Lin (林永樂) and Liu Wei-min (劉偉民), son of the late ROC Army Major General Liu Fang-wu (劉放吾), who led the rescue of Fitzpatrick and the other British soldiers during the 1942 Battle of Yenangyaung in Burma, now known as Myanmar.

According to historical documents in Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense, Major General Liu was ordered to lead an emergency operation after Britain asked the ROC to assist its 7,000 soldiers who were under siege by Japanese troops in the oil fields in Yenangyaung on April 17, 1942.

It took two days of intense fighting for the ROC contingent to defeat the Japanese forces and rescue the 7,000 British soldiers, the records show.

Fitzpatrick, who had joined the British troops in Myanmar on March 5, 1942, had also given his personal account of the battle, saying in 2013 during a visit to Taiwan that immediately after the 500-600 ROC soldiers arrived, they moved south to take on the Japanese forces and eventually won the battle.

He also wrote two books that detailed the ROC's role in the Battle of Yenangyaung, and he sent letters to the British prime minister and foreign minister, urging the U.K. government to recognize the facts of history and the sacrifices and contributions of the ROC military in the battle.

During Fitzpatrick's visit to Taiwan in 2013, he was received by then President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who expressed deep appreciation for the British veteran's efforts to clarify the facts of history.

At the funeral service on Thursday, Liu Wei-min paid tribute to Fitzpatrick on behalf of Ma, saying the British veteran's death signified "the end of an important historic event."

Liu said the ROC had fulfilled two of Fitzpatrick's last three wishes -- to have his coffin draped with the ROC national flag and have an ROC honor guard --- but may not be able to meet his third request to have a memorial stone in his honor at the Martyrs' Shrine in Taipei, because of the relevant stringent regulations.

"At least two of his three wishes have been carried out today," said Liu, who had a close friendship with Fitzpatrick and visited him four days before his passing.

It has been reported that the decision not to have the ROC honor in full uniform at the funeral was based on considerations related to the fact that the U.K. does not accord diplomatic recognition to Taiwan.

(By Tai Ya-chen and Elizabeth Hsu)
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