Taipei, Taiwan will send four military officers to attend the funeral of a retired British army captain to drape the Republic of China (ROC) national flag over his coffin in fulfillment of the veteran's request, after he was rescued by the ROC army in a World War II battle in Myanmar, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said Sunday.
Gerald Fitzpatrick, 99, passed away on Aug. 27 in Leeds, North England. He was one of the 7,000 British soldiers rescued by the 113th Regiment of the Chinese Expeditionary Force from Japanese Imperial forces during the Battle of Yenangyaung in April 1942.
Fitzpatrick repeatedly expressed his desire to have his coffin draped in the ROC flag to express his gratitude to the nation, according to the ministry.
After learning of his passing, military spokesman Chen Chung-chi (???) said Defense Minister Yen De-fa (???) immediately asked officers currently studying in the United Kingdom to pass on condolences to Fitzpatrick's family.
The military has also sent an ROC national flag to Fitzpatrick's wife, Chen said, adding that the military will send four officers currently studying in the U.K. to attend Fitzpatrick's funeral, which will be held on Sept. 20.
However, the four will not wear their military uniforms during the ceremony to drape the national flag over Fitzpatrick's coffin, according to Chen.
He did not explain why the four would not wear ROC military uniforms, but local media reported that the decision was made because Taiwan does not have official diplomatic relations with the U.K.
On April 17, 1942, a large British contingent in the oil fields in Yenangyaung, central Myanmar, was surrounded by Japanese troops, according to historical documents compiled by the MND.
In that situation, the Regiment Commander of the 113th Regiment of the Chinese Expeditionary Force, Major General Liu Fang-wu (???), was ordered to lead his men in an emergency rescue after Britain asked the ROC for help, the ministry said.
Two days later, after intense fighting, the Chinese forces defeated the Japanese troops and rescued more than 7,000 British soldiers, it said.
During his visit to Taiwan in 2013, Fitzpatrick told local media that he joined the British troops in Myanmar on March 5, 1942, when the British army was losing to Japanese forces.
During that period, it was said that the ROC army was coming to their assistance, Fitzpatrick recalled.
About 500-600 ROC troops arrived and immediately moved south to take on the Japanese forces, eventually winning the battle, Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick said he lost 21 kilograms, one third of his body weight, in the 11 weeks he was in Myanmar. He remained extremely grateful for the rest of his life and maintained cordial ties with the ROC government.
He also wrote two books on the ROC's role in the Battle of Yenangyaung, one called "Ditched Burma: No Mandalay, No Maymyo, 79 Survive" and another "Chinese Save Brits -- in Burma."
According to Chen, the MND remained in contact with Fitzpatrick over the years and Taiwanese military personnel visited him at the elder care center in Leeds where he was living this July.
Son of Major General Liu Fang-wu, Liu Wei-min (???), also visited Fitzpatrick four days before his passing, according to Chen, and will attend the funeral.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel