Our heroes’ record set straight

to "Our forgotten heroes" (Letters, Aug 27). As a historical researcher on the Eurasian volunteer soldiers who served in the Second World War, I noted a few inaccuracies in S.T. Rajagopal’s commendable letter.

I believe the mistakes are not his, but that of the late Bernard Sta Maria in his 1982 book, My People My Country.

First, the Malacca Eurasian (as they were classified during the British era) soldiers were part-time "volunteer" or reservist soldiers and not regulars in D (or Eurasian) Company of the Malacca Volunteer Corps (MVC), which was later re-named the 4th Battalion of the Straits Settlements Volunteer Force (4SSVF). The MVC or 4SSVF was formed in 1923 as a strategic military reserve.

Second, the Eurasian company’s strength never exceeded 130 men at any time and 4SSVF only mustered 675 men of all ranks in six companies on Dec 1, 1941 when they were mobilised for war. Their designated area of deployment was in Fortress Singapore and they were all in position in Singapore before the Japanese landed at Kota Baru.

Third, the Indian volunteers were mostly in the Signals Company and they were not in command of the medical corps which was British-led.

Fourth, when the British Surrender was announced on Feb 15, 1942, D Company was left practically leaderless as all the company’s officers and most of the NCOs had disappeared.

The late Theodore Moissinac in his 2001 memoir, Rev Fr Bourke, a Redemptorist priest in captivity stated that they were holding the fort north of Newton Circus in Singapore. As Moissinac was the Company Quartermaster Sergeant and the only NCO left, he took charge of D Company and led them on the march to captivity at Farrar Park POW Camp. The last English officer with them was Captain Rev Fr Gerald Bourke, the Roman Catholic military chaplain of 4SSVF, who was forcibly separated from the Eurasian volunteers. Capt Rev Fr Bourke survived the war.

The Eurasian officers and NCOs who had disappeared had in fact shed their uniforms and were keeping a low profile. A Eurasian traitor betrayed Capt Roy de Vries, Capt Andrew Pinto, Capt E. A. Rodrigues and Cpl Allen Sta Maria, who were all arrested by the Japanese on Oct 21, 1942, some eight months after the fall of Singapore. I have copies of the war crimes transcripts concerning the torture and death of Capt de Vries.

For all those interested in learning more about the brave volunteer soldiers who fought for Malaya in the Second World War, please refer to www.malayanvolunteersgroup.org.uk. or email mvg.malaysia@gmail.com.

Andrew Hwang
Kuala Lumpur