Sep 28, 2010

1951 Air Crash at Upper East Coast – Final Resting Place of Sergeant Pilot Howson

House #494 Upper East Coast Road
Royal Air Force clearing the debris with the family of Paul looking on in the background. (Source: NAS)

** This post is dedicated to relatives and friends of George Edmund Howson, RAF who lost his life in the Aug 1951 air crash at Upper East Coast Road.

Since my blog post on the 1951 air crash at Upper East Coast, I have received comments and emails from unexpected quarters. There was this cheery young lady Ling who live at Calypso whose friend Paul’s grandparents own the house that was almost hit by the plane. The family was delighted to read the news articles; a photo of them standing outside the house looking on at the debris clearing can be found in the archives, captured for posterity. Even more unexpectedly was a comment earlier this month from Matt who made a shocking revelation – the pilot who perished in the crash was his granduncle!

The Straits Times, 12 Aug 1951 (source: NLB)

The pilot - Sergeant George Edmund Howson - was the younger brother of Matt’s maternal grandfather. The tragic accident snuffed out his life, as well as those of some of the children living diagonally across from Paul’s family. I am glad my blog shed more light on the air crash; from what I was told, the family was unaware of the details of the accident.

The question of Sergeant Howson's final resting place piqued my curiosity. Out of the blue I had this little crazy idea that after 60 years he could still be in Singapore. I searched and got excited when I found out that he is buried in our very own Kranji War Cemetery:

HOWSON, Airman, G E, 1625775. Royal Air Force. 10th August 1951. Plot 4 Row B Grave 4.

As Matt and family have not had the chance to visit the grave, I volunteered to take some pictures for them should I be free. Eventually on Sunday, I made my way down to Kranji. Would I be able to find the grave?

Kranji War Cemetery
A narrow lane leads from Woodlands Road to the main entrance of Kranji War Cemetery. The War Memorial stands proud in the background.

Kranji War Cemetery
The Cross of Sacrifice in front of the War Memorial. From the hilltop terrace, one gets a commanding view of the modern skyline of Johor Bahru to the north, the direction of Japanese Invasion.

The observant reader may wonder as a non-WWII casualty (in fact as a non-war casualty), why is Sergeant Howson buried in Kranji War Cemetery? Most people see Kranji as a war cemetery where casualties from the war (WWII, communist insurgency etc.) are buried. It nearly slipped my mind that Kranji also contains re-interments from other cemeteries. In fact the Sergeant's grave at Plot 4 Row B would not be found at the usual place you thought he would be - the rows and rows of graves on the perfectly manicured lawn in front of the War Memorial, as shown in most photos of Kranji.

Why is this so? Kranji War Cemetery actually has another section west of the War Memorial, with substantial non-world war burials, that I discovered during my visit on Sunday. I do not remember such a section from previous visits. From main entrance of the War Cemetery, this would be to your right as you make your way up the slope to the War Memorial. This adjacent section is the Kranji Military Cemetery with graves from the old Pasir Panjang and Ulu Pandan military cemeteries moved over in 1975 and 1976. It is here that we will find our Sergeant.

Kranji Military Cemetery
Kranji also contains the ashes of those formerly buried in Pasir Panjang and Ulu Pandan Cemeteries. As the latter was only opened in 1955, Sergeant Howson would have been buried in the former at Dover Road.

Kranji Military Cemetery
The Military Cemetery adjacent to the War Cemetery. The scenery here is more breathtaking than from the front side where you find the War Cemetery. You have to see it!

Kranji Military CemeteryKranji Military Cemetery
The Sergeant's grave at Plot 4 Row B Grave 4 would be at the first row, fourth from left.

Sergeant G. E. Howson
Sergeant G. E. Howson, RAF.

The insignia on the tomb is the Badge of the Royal Air Force, an eagle superimposed on a circlet that is surmounted by a crown. The motto Per Ardua Ad Astra means 'Through Adversity to the Stars'.

Badge of the Royal Air Force

Sergeant G. E. Howson
Sergeant G. E. Howson, Royal Air Force. 10th August 1951. The inscription on the tomb reads, "In our hearts your memory is kept. We smile with the world but never forget".

Sergeant G. E. HowsonSergeant G. E. Howson
Sergeant G. E. Howson
Sergeant Howson and his peers from the Royal Air Force at their final resting place on the slope of Kranji Military Cemetery.


Unk Dicko said...

Enjoyed your 'detective' work and this story very much. Must congratulate you for making the extra effort to trace and then locate the Sgt's tombstone.
Any idea what happened to the other kids who were killed? Were they also buried here in Sg?
Keep up the good work!

Lam Chun See said...

You did not explain how you came to know that Sgt Howson was buried in Kranji. Or did I miss it?

Icemoon said...

unk Dicko, some of the kids were buried in Bidadari. Probably exhumed and placed in CCK Columbarium now.

Chun See, I think the idea just came to me to search the cemetery registrar online.

Lam Chun See said...

Would you believe I have never been to Kranji War Cemetry before. Somehow when it comes to taking photos of old places, I am not to keen about famous landmarks. I suppose its becos there is little danger of not being able to find images of them if and when they disappear from the face of Spore.

Icemoon said...

Chun See, I believe many of us are like you. My motivations for visiting and investigating are not as strong when it comes to gazetted landmarks.

Matt@coronationcages said...

Thank you

Matt Nadin
(Great nephew of George)

Matt Finders Beepers said...

Hi @Icemoon I hope you still receive emails to notify you of comments I need to speak to you about this post (it’s Matt the relative of George again) email me please