H4FA are about to send out their Annual Appeal Document to donors. You can read it here. If you would like to make a donation we would be extremely pleased to hear from you. It is the generosity of our donors that allows us to help our veterans.
Background and work
Help 4 Forgotten Allies, provides 2nd WW veterans and widows living within Burma/Myanmar, and in refugee camps on the Thai Burma border with small annual welfare grants. PSRB focuses on helping refugees in the camps with education projects and on humanitarian relief.
Burma's ex servicemen
The dwindling band of veterans and widows, Britain’s most loyal allies in the war against Japan 1942-45 now endure extreme old age on a pittance. Viewed, since independence, and through the weary years of the junta, as enemies of the state, they have paid dearly for their loyalty to, and affection for, Britain. Their subsequent fight for freedom cost them dear, they are still struggling for the rights of their people in the new political order.
Over two thousand “levies”, called up hurriedly prior to the Japanese invasion, were Karen or Karenni, and served in the legendary Force 136 one of whose prominent leaders was Major Hugh Seagrim GC. It is now over 70 years since Major Seagrim was executed as a prisoner of war with his Karen comrades. He gave himself up to stop the torture of Karen civilians by the Japanese, who were searching for him. After the British retreat, Seagrim alone remained in the Karen hills, sending out information to the Allies in India.
Later in the war during the retaking of Burma another great hero, Lieutenant Colonel Peacock led forces parachuted in to the same area; H4FA are pleased that his grandson Duncan Gilmour is one of our trustees. The Karen and Karenni were recognized as playing a pivotal role, and praised widely for their courage by General Slim.
Since WW2; many have had to hide their medals or any proof of their wartime service and change their names in order to get employment. Their affiliation to the British was viewed by the Burmese as sympathy for the “imperialist oppressors”; it has done them no favours. Now in great old age most have no pensions and many find it hard simply to eat, let alone enjoy the small comforts that make extreme old age bearable. With no support from Britain until a few years ago, we aim to make sure they are not forgotten again.
Following friendly discussions with Viscount Slim, President of the Burma Star Association and the Royal Commonwealth Ex Services League in 2007, H4FA began giving grants in the border area, increasing grant money year on year. In 2014 RCEL asked us to take on those old soldiers and widows in the Yangon/Rangoon area and beyond, and this year asked us again to extend our work to include Kachin, and Chin states. In November 2017 H4FA was accepted as a constituent member of RCEL. We are now therefore work officially as “agents” of RCEL and the relationship between our two organizations is one which both hope will develop and strengthen, to bring greater recognition and comfort to our beneficiaries. RCEL has no connection however with our educational and humanitarian projects.
This year our patron Dame Vera Lynn will be 102. Burma is a place she knows. At the height of the war in the East she traveled there to sing to the Allied troops, and came to know first hand the ferocity of the Forgotten War. Last year we were honoured to welcome General Sir Alex Harley as our President. Together with General Slim, now sadly deceased, and General Richards, they endorsed a film being made about Burma’s 2nd WW veterans and about H4FA called “Forgotten Allies”. The film is due to be launched in June.
Burma/Myanmar - 2018/19
The Rohingha remain the top news story for Myanmar. On 25th January 19 UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar called for the head of the Burmese military Min Aung Hlaing to be prosecuted for genocide. Reuters. 720,000 Rohinghas have been brutally forced out of their lands to become refugees in Bangladesh. Aung San Suu Kyi’s lack of response has led to international criticism and within Myanmar there is a bewildering lack of sympathy for the cruelty meted out on the “Bengalis”.
“At the end of 2018 the Peace Process looks in worse shape than at any time in the last seven years” writes Dr Ashley South Myanmar expert. During 2018 fighting between the Burma Army and Ethnic Armed Organisations have taken place in Kachin State, Shan State, Mon State, Karenni State, Karen State, Rakhine State and Chin State. Yet at the third session of the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference the rights of ethnic minorities were not discussed due to the objections of the Tatmadaw or Burma Army.
The two Reuter’s reporters jailed for 7 years, had their appeal turned down in January 19 despite a police office’s testimony in court that he was ordered to plant documents on the journalists. They are accused of possessing these documents.
While the West begins to turn its face away from Myanmar, China has strengthened ties. Despite these negative signs for 2018/19, people are adamant that the clock can now never be turned back to the days when the military regime ruled with an iron grip.
In the Refugee Camps
The Royal Thai Government, United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Myanmar government, The Border Consortium and the Karen National Union continue to negotiate on the closure of the camps on the Thai Burma border and the return of refugees to Karen and Karenni States. Some, but not many returnees have left for life back home. An increased build up in troops, poor provision of education and health services, landmines and land grabs remain problems back home. In the camps there have been further cuts in rations due to price hikes and donor fatigue, and a tightening in camp security.
Karen and Karenni civilians fled the 60 year war between the Burma Army and the Karen National Liberation Army, some arrived as early as the late 80’s; many refugees have been born in the camps. A ceasefire was signed in January 2012, but terms are still not agreed.
H4FA has as yet no paid staff, nor any ambition to compete with other, larger charities. Our engagement is simple and practical, and based on face-to-face meetings with those in need. How donations are spent is meticulously documented with accounts overseen by our treasurer, checked by a registered independent examiner and available to the public through the Charity Commission website. As our charity has grown, we now make small deductions for administrative costs. In 2018 this was less than 1%. Funds for H4FA and PSRB projects are kept separately. We now have eight trustees, with one trustee currently living in Yangon. Other trustees make visits annually.
In May we assisted Grammar Productions with their Gala Evening to raise funds for their film Forgotten Allies. Grammar’s director Alex Bescoby writes,”“After many months of hard work following our “Remembering WW2 in Burma fundraiser in June 2018, the Forgotten Allies documentary is almost ready for release. The Grammar Productions team will soon be announcing the UK premiere date in London. Please see our website for how to buy tickets.
H4FA’s work has produced a keener interest in these last old soldiers, who are “walking history”.
In November we paid for nine veterans to travel to and attend Remembrance Day in Yangon at which two H4FA trustees were present.
Our income for 2018 was £126,000 (final figures not confirmed)
Of our expenditure:
75% was spent on WWII veterans and widows, in Burma/Myanmar and the camps
12% on education of refugee children
1% on humanitarian relief
3% on adult Christian education
All contributions to H4FA go straight to these projects, and are sent as soon as possible. At our last trustees meeting it was decided that unless a preference is indicated all undesignated donations would be split, with 75% going to H4FA and 25% to PSRB projects. Our lists of veterans and widows becomes shorter as inevitably these now very old people pass away. They themselves have asked that any extra funds be dedicated to the education of their people.
Special thanks to H4FA's donors in 2018, among them Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League, Special Forces Benevolent Fund, Cuthbert Horn Trust, Mactaggart Third Fund, St Mary’s Church Holy Island, Holy Trinity Brussels, Dame Vera Lynn, Tadworth and Walton Overseas Trust, and many generous individuals in the UK, Belgium, Austria, France and Tokyo.
Please contact us for our bank account details
Photo Saw Aung Ba Win 94 photo courtesy of Denis Gray