Rangoon Memorial & Taukkyan War Cemetery, Taukkyan Village, Yangon
In January 1942, Japanese forces invaded Myanmar (then known as Burma), starting one of the longest and deadliest land campaigns of World War II. Within five months, the Japanese managed to drive all Allied forces out of the country, including British, Indian, Chinese, and Burmese servicemen. This left Burma under Japanese occupation for almost three years during which a locally-staffed but Japanese-controlled government was installed and repeated Allied incursions into Burma were repelled. In the first half of 1944, the Japanese even attempted an invasion of British India but were met with decisive defeat at Imphal and Kohima. The tides had turned and in late 1944, the Allied contingent commenced their successful reconquest of Burma. In May 1945, the Allied forces reclaimed Rangoon (now Yangon), but fighting continued until the end of the war, which left the entire country scarred by battle, politically fractured and economically devastated.
The Taukkyan War Cemetery, located 25 kilometres north of Yangon, was officially opened in 1951 to receive the graves from four outlying battlefield cemeteries – Akyab, Mandalay, Meiktila and Sahmaw – as the locations of these sites were too difficult to preserve and access. The graves from each of the Allied cemeteries had their groupings at Taukkyan maintained to ensure the individuality of each battlefield cemetery was conserved for the future. During the 1950s a number of other burials from around the country were transferred to Taukkyan from civil and cantonment cemeteries, as well as isolated jungle and roadside sites. In total there are 6,374 Commonwealth burials from World War II, 867 of which are unidentified and 52 Commonwealth graves from World War I. Managed and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the cemetery is one of the most visited war sites in Asia.
The Rangoon Memorial, erected within the Taukkyan Cemetery, was designed by Mr H.J. Brown and revealed by General Sir Francis Festing in 1958. Standing in the centre of the cemetery, the memorial displays the names of almost 27,000 Commonwealth soldiers who died during the Burma Campaign and have no known gravesite. Engraved on the memorial in the languages of English, Burmese, Hindi, Urdu and Gurmukhi are the words ‘They Died for All Free Men’. At the opposite end of the cemetery is the Taukkyan Cremation memorial, dedicated to the 1,049 soldiers who were cremated in accordance with their faith.