The Murder and Funeral of Major David M A Wedderburn, Singapore 1960


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.

Grave of Major Wedderburn, Singapore
Grave of Major Wedderburn, Singapore

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.

Funeral of Major Wedderburn, Singapore 1962
Pallbearers carrying coffin of Major Wedderburn, Singapore February 1960

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.

Photo Gallery

Click on a thumbnail to enlarge the photograph.

About Valmay Young

Family historian, collector of antiquarian books and postcards of British India, Website, social media manager and trustee of the Families In British India Society.

15 Comments

  1. Welcome to the Geneabloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill 😉
    http://drbilltellsancestorstories.blogspot.com/
    Author of “13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories” and family sagas
    and “Back to the Homeplace” and “The Homeplace Revisited”
    http://thehomeplaceseries.blogspot.com/
    http://www.examiner.com/x-53135-Springfield-Genealogy-Examiner
    http://www.examiner.com/x-58285-Ozarks-Cultural-Heritage-Examiner

  2. It is was nice that you were able to share the photos with your grandma who recalled the event. Hearing personal history always seems to add more depth to photographs.
    Regards,
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)

  3. I lived in Singapore (a “BritBrat”) from 1959 to 1962 but have no memory of this at all. In the relatively small world of a small place (still just “British” but with internal self-government) the murder of a British officer must have been big news locally. Thanks for the post (By the way is the “1962” in the title not wrong? The newspapers you quote are dated 1960)

  4. Dear Ms Young,

    I have just stumbled, for the first time, on your article about the murder and funeral of Major David Wedderburn in Singapore in February 1960, with those very clear and evocative photographs of the funeral.
    Neither I nor my sister and brother have ever seen these pictures before. We’re his children.
    This will mean a very, very great deal to us; already my sister Sarah, to whom I sent the link, has told me that she has been powerfully moved by seeing what you have posted. My brother Harry made a special trip to Singapore last summer and met former members of the Singapore Infantry Regiment who knew our father. We have two aunts, the two surviving sisters of our father. In old age they still miss and grieve for him acutely. I’m pretty sure they won’t have seen your posting and that they too will be strongly stirred by it – maybe even more strongly than the rest of us.
    Would you be happy to be in touch? Would there, even, be a chance one day to talk with your grandmother? It would mean a very great deal to us all.
    In any case, thank you very much indeed for making these photographs public and therefore available to us. For us they are priceless – and beautiful. You have done us a huge service.

    If you were willing to get in touch, my email is as below.

    Yours sincerely,

    Robin Wedderburn

    1. I’m absolutely delighted to hear from you Robin and so pleased I posted the article and photos on my blog for you to stumble upon! I have been in touch with my Grandmother, who is as delighted as I am that you have been in touch, and I will email you shortly.

      Best Regards
      Valmay

    2. Dear Robin,
      like you I stumbled on this website as I researched my father’s history. My father was Colonel Thomas Jackson. He commanded the Singapore Infantry Regiment and we had only just arrived in Singapore when your father was shot. I was 9 at the time but I have photos and cuttings amongst Dad’s memorabilia of the funeral. I would be delighted to send them to you. Itoo visited Singapore last year and there were many who remembered your father. Email if this link works and I will scan in and send you all I have.
      Frances McGee (nee Jackson)

      1. Dear Frances,

        I’m so glad you stumbled across this blog post. I just mentioned to my Grandma that I had a comment left on my blog by Colonel Jackson’s daughter and she said “That’ll be Frances Jackson. Am I right?” She has an amazing memory and remembers you and your parents well.

        I still have a lot of papers to work through, but I know that I have a photo of your father and the other officers of the Singapore Infantry Regiment taken at Ulu Pandan. If you would like a copy let me know and I will send you a scan.

        Regards
        Valmay

      2. Dear Frances,
        I have only just now spotted your post here. Thank you; of course I would like to be in touch, and if you were willing to send images of anything connected with my father they would be very gratefully received. My brother, sister and I have been talking a lot about these things lately and have agreed that we should try to get a more clearly-organized and better documented picture of all this.
        Very grateful to you for this posting; sorry not to have spotted it sooner.

  5. Valmay,
    I was at Alexandra Secondary Modern Singapore 1959 – 1961
    My name is Dupre and I know a Valmay came to my house on more than one occasion as a friend of my sister Carole Dupre. If you are related or indeed the same Valmay, please get in touch.

    1. Lovely to hear from you Bill. The Valmay you remember is my mother and I remember her mentioning your sister Carol. I have let my mother know you have been in touch and she is delighted. I will send you an email.

  6. Dear Valmay I think I have some photos of your grandad and I think your grandmother at Ulu Pandan .There was a clinic run for soldiers wives and my mum was involved as were your grandparents I think. Im a bit of a novice about using a site like this . How do I send you the scans .Do I send them to this website? Send my love to your grandmother .I remember them well. Frances Jackson (now McGee)

    1. Hi Frances,

      Yes, my Grandparents did help out at the clinic. I seem to remember a story about my Grandma losing her engagement ring dishing out rice there. I’d love to see the photos please. I’m visiting my Grandma again on Thursday. She’ll be tickled pink you remember her. I’ll email you my email address.

  7. Dear Robin
    I havent visited Valmays site again until today -apologies. I am not sure how to get around posting my address on here.I dont “do facebook”.(ex teacher and anti facebook habits instilled into me) but I do have a few more details on your father’s funeral which I could send . If you contact Valmay she has my email address and then I will send you all the material I have to you.
    Yours sincerely Frances McGee

    1. Dear Frances,
      I’m sorry to have been so rude as to fail to answer your earlier email. Thank you for being in touch. email address below – of course I would be glad to be in touch. it’s very good of you to offer to send things; could we perhaps be in touch. I too am an ex-teacher, by the way.
      Yours sincerely,
      Robin Wedderburn

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