Tue, Sep 18, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Four military officers to attend British veteran’s funeral

Staff writer, with CNA

British World War II veteran Gerald Fitzpatrick, third right, is pictured last year attending a Double Ten National Day reception at Taiwan’s representative office in London.

Photo: CNA

Four military officers are to attend the funeral of a British veteran to drape the Republic of China (ROC) national flag over his coffin, as the man wished, to honor his rescue by the Nationalist Army in what was then Burma during World War II, the Ministry of National Defense said on Sunday.

Gerald Fitzpatrick, 99, died on Aug. 27 in Leeds, England. He was one of more than 7,000 British soldiers rescued by the 113th Regiment of the Chinese Expeditionary Force from Japanese Imperial Army forces during the Battle of Yenangyaung in April 1942.

The former army captain repeatedly expressed his desire to have his coffin draped in the ROC flag to express his gratitude to the nation, the ministry said.

After learning of Fitzpatrick’s passing, Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa (嚴德發) asked officers studying in the UK to convey the military’s condolences to his family and the military sent an ROC flag to Fitzpatrick’s widow, ministry spokesman Major General Chen Chung-chi (陳中吉) said.

Four officers studying in the UK would attend Fitzpatrick’s funeral on Thursday, but not in uniform, Chen said.

On April 17, 1942, a large British contingent in the oil fields of Yenangyaung in central Burma was surrounded by Japanese troops, ministry documents show.

The commander of the 113th Regiment of the Chinese Expeditionary Force, major general Liu Fang-wu (劉放吾), was ordered to lead an emergency rescue after the UK asked the ROC for help, the ministry said.

After two days of intense fighting, the Chinese forces defeated the Japanese and rescued more than 7,000 British soldiers, the ministry said.

During a visit to Taiwan in March 2013, Fitzpatrick told reporters that he had been posted to the UK contingent in Burma on March 5, 1942, when the British army was losing to the Japanese.

During that period, it was said that the Chinese army was coming to their assistance, he said.

About 500 to 600 Chinese Expeditionary Force troops arrived and immediately moved south to take on the Japanese forces, he said.

Fitzpatrick said he lost 21kg, one-third of his body weight, in the 11 weeks he was in Burma.

He remained extremely grateful to the ROC for the rest of his life and maintained cordial ties with the government.

He also wrote two books on the ROC’s role in the Battle of Yenangyaung, Ditched Burma: No Mandalay, No Maymyo, 79 Survive and Chinese Save Brits — in Burma.

The ministry remained in contact with Fitzpatrick and military personnel visited him at a care center in Leeds in July, Chen said.

Liu Fang-wu’s son, Liu Wei-min (劉偉民), visited Fitzpatrick four days before his passing and is to attend the funeral as well, Chen said.

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