Resting in peace: Soldiers buried at Karachi War Cemetery

Published: November 13, 2012
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There are 642 graves at the Karachi War Cemetery (above), each marked by a carved white marble headstone and all identical in shape, size and colour. PHOTO: SAAD ZUBERI

There are 642 graves at the Karachi War Cemetery (above), each marked by a carved white marble headstone and all identical in shape, size and colour. PHOTO: SAAD ZUBERI

KARACHI: 

The CWGC strictly abides by the principle of equality in commemoration of all casualties regardless of civil or military rank, social status, race, faith or decoration. It’s interesting to learn upon closer analysis of records that apart from the Christian majority, there are several Jews buried at the cemetery.

More interesting to note are the various well decorated soldiers. There are numerous recipients of Mention in Dispatches (MiD) and Distinguished Service Order (DSO), three recipients of the coveted Military Cross (MC), as well as one listed with Member of the British Empire (MBE) and three with the Order of the British Empire (OBE). The most impressive military decorations pertain to a Major Walter John Clare Duncan of Somerset, who has a DSO and Bar with MC. He belonged to the 12th Frontier Force Regiment Guides Cavalry which is an elite cavalry unit of Pakistan Army even today and in Victorian era was known as Queen Victoria’s Own Frontier Force Regiment.

The majority of soldiers are under 30 years of age, with a large portion in the early twenties along with a fairly striking number of teenagers. The youngest burial is that of 17-year-old Merchant Navy Deck Boy Francis James Topham of Australia who died of burn injuries on April 11, 1944 after his ship MV Grena (of Norway) was hit by three torpedoes from a Japanese submarine in the Indian Ocean.

The greatest composition of the soldiers buried, belonging to the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, West Africa and British India, is that of 527 British.

The most senior officer buried belongs to the Army and is Brigadier William Knowles Rebsch DSO of Surrey from Royal Indian Army Service Corps. The earliest grave is that of Fusilier Terrence Joseph Augustine Griffiths of Liverpool from Lancashire Fusiliers at age 20 on September 26, 1939. The most recent is that of Lieutenant Colonel HAP Hutchins of Royal Artillery on December 27, 1947.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 13th, 2012.

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