Growing up I often heard stories of my family’s life in Singapore. Not one of them wanted to leave when Grandad’s secondment to the Singapore Infantry Regiment ended in 1962. But I’ll write more about that another time, as what I wanted to share with you today is some photographs I recently came across in a bunch of family photos that reminded me of the only unhappy memory I remember them talking about.
The photographs were of a military funeral. When I came across the photos I recognised one of the pallbearers as my Grandfather. Looking at the other pallbearers and my Grandfathers uniform I could tell the photos were taken in Singapore and I suddenly remembered one of Grandads stories about a friend of his who was killed escorting the payroll back to Camp.
My memory of the story had faded over the years and all I could remember was that the friend was really well-respected and had very bravely managed to throw the payroll over the fence into the camp before being murdered by the men that ambushed his vehicle. Luckily I later came across a couple of photos of the grave and one was taken after the headstone had been erected which gave me the friend’s name as Major D M A Wedderburn of the Grenadier Guards. I decided to try and find out a little more so that I could include the details with the photos so future generations of my family would know why they are included in our family photographs.
I decided the best place to look would be the Singapore newspapers and I wasn’t disappointed. The Singapore Free Press, 23 April 1960 included a small article saying the police were offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the people responsible for “… the murder of Major David M A Wedderburn who was shot dead in Holland Road on Feb. 26 …. Major Wedderburn was driving back to the Singapore Infantry Regiment camp in Ulu Pandan Road with a $35,000 payroll when he was killed by robbers.”
Page 5 of The Straits Times, 1 March 1960 had a short write up on the funeral. It states that Major Wedderburn was second in command of the 1st Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment and that five companies of the 1st Battalion were represented by 20 men each. My Grandfather was one of those representing the battalion.
Eight officers of the 1st Bn., Singapore Infantry Regiment, bore the coffin of Maj. David Wedderburn in a slow walk from the entrance of Ulu Pandan military cemetery (now Kranji Military Cemetery) to the burial plot (Plot 11 Row D Grave 5) accompanied by music from the regimental band. My Grandfather is the bloke second from the front in the photo to the left with his hair slightly falling over his forehead. I can remember him saying that the weather was so hot that sweat was pouring down from his brow into his eyes causing them to sting and he struggled to see where he was going.
As the coffin was lowered the men stood to attention as three volleys were fired and the last post sounded.
The pastor of St George’s church, Tanglin, Reverend G F Grobecker, officiated the ceremony. Major Wedderburn’s wife and his three children were unable to attend the funeral as they were in England, but his cousin Mrs Nancy Harmerth represented the family.
As well as wreaths sent from his wife and family in England were wreaths from the Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Ong Pang Boon, the Commander-in-Chief FARELF, the G O C Singapore District, the Commissioner of Police, Lt-Gen Sir Rodney Moore and officers of the Household Brigade, Brigade Commander Singapore Military Forces and the C O and all ranks of the 1st Bn Singapore Infantry Regiment.
In a recent visit to my Grandmother I mentioned the photos and how I had done a little research to include with them. I asked her what she remembered about the event. She basically told me everything the newspapers mentioned, but also added what a very handsome, brave and well respected man Major Wedderburn was and what an awful event his death was to everyone that knew him. She also added that sadly his murderers were never caught.
Click on a thumbnail to enlarge the photograph.