Amidst the crowded streets and loud ruckus of day-to-day Yangon, the Rangoon War Cemetery is a welcome reprieve
The Rangoon War Cemetery is a perfectly-kept grass rectangle hidden down a dark alley from small street food shops and local car repair joints.
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From time to time I peruse sites looking for new programming on Myanmar as I’m always curious to see what the world is showing about this ‘little’ corner of the world. Recently I came across a BBC program entitled “Burma’s Secret Jungle War” and my first thought was “Oh great, a program demonizing this country during a time of transition from brutal military junta rule towards a liberal democracy… c’mon fellas, leave it.” You see, I presumed that this new program, a two-part series, was based around Myanmar’s (or Burma’s, if you will) decades-long struggle with rebel groups in Kachin State, Karen State, Shan State, etc. Planning to watch it anyways, I quickly realized that it was about the incredibly-brave British fighting force, the Chindits, taking on the Japanese army behind enemy lines in Burma back in World War II. Fears resigned and curiosity piqued, I settle in to watch both hours-long episodes with my Mrs. Of course, fate would have its say the next day as I somehow happened to find myself next to the small cemetery which pays homage to these fallen warriors in the heart of Yangon. More on my part of the story later.
I won’t give anything further away from the show (you can watch both episodes free on YouTube (Part 1; Part 2) however the last bit shows Simpson touring the Yangon War Memorial Cemetery. Having traveled all around Yangon it was one of the few places I’ve yet to go and the next day while randomly getting my car fixed down a dirty and dark alley (busted motor starters hey?) off the main drag a bit south on Pyay Road, I noticed a sign for the Rangoon War Memorial. Now it wasn’t the Taukkyan War Cemetery featured in the show, however it seemed that fate meant for me to check it out. What are the odds the local car repair joint sits next to a Commonwealth War Graves Commission site?
The immaculate grounds are in part thanks to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the good work of the British Embassy and a caretaker who resides on site. The Rangoon War Cemetery is open daily from 7:00 – 17:00. The CWGC site is wheelchair accessible and easy to access and meander about. The Rangoon War Cemetery was first used as a burial ground immediately following the recapture of Rangoon in May 1945. Later, the Army Graves Service moved in graves from several burial sites from in and around Yangon, including those of the men who died in the infamous Rangoon Jail as prisoners of war.
The cemetery is a lot to take in, however its location off the back road and insulation from the main drags by residential buildings make the cemetery a quiet ground to pay your respects. As a final resting place in Yangon, it really doesn’t get as serene or green as the Rangoon War Cemetery.