This 72 Years Search For a WW2 Prisoner-of-War Led to a Grave in Singapore
If 72 years’ worth of search for a long-lost kin hadn’t brought one to Kranji War Cemetery here in Singapore, it might never will. For the family of the late WWII prisoner-of-war (PoW), Naik Srikantaraj Urs, kismet had a part to play in their unexpected reunion.
After learning that a grave spotted in Singapore is possibly Naik Urs’, the family from India seized on the opportunity to locate it.
The backstory of Naik Srikantaraj Urs
After being recruited to the 1st Battalion Mysore Infantry in 1940, Naik Srikantaraj Urs was stationed at Munireddy Palya in the Bangalore Cantonment. Shortly after, he was held captive in Singapore by the Japanese, for the Battalion was deployed to Singapore in a bid to fend off attacks from the Japanese.
According to Ms. Devyani’s grandfather R.S. Veeraraj Urs, Naik Urs would write monthly postcards to the family but all that stopped in 1944. Only till the end of WWII in September 1945 did the family hear of Naik Urs’ passing away on February 27, 1945.
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This piece of devastating news was broken to the family by another relative Subedar Major Subramanya Raje Urs. He was also captured as a PoW.
Unearthing a discovery that came better late than never
Raja Chandra, the son-in-law of the last ruler of Mysore, Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar, was key in unravelling the obscurity of Naik Urs’ grave Last year, one of his friends chanced upon a tombstone at Kranji War Memorial, which had an “Urs” on it. The friend informed Raja Chandra who in turn notified Mr. Veeraraja Urs of a promising lead.
In February this year, some of the family members made a trip to Singapore to ascertain the identity of the grave. It was no mean feat scouring through a sea of graves that belonged to soldiers and airmen in the Kranji War Memorial, especially when the graves are numbered. Along the way, some Tamil-speaking workers lent a helping hand before the three-hours search ended.
Upon the sight of the very grave that belonged to the late Naik Urs, his nephew Mr Veeraraja Urs, 84 was deeply moved. He hadn’t expected to see it in his lifetime. After all, it took 72 years before his tombstone was found.
The family has come a long way in their quest for the elusive grave
Since Naik Urs’ passing in 1945, the family has been searching for his grave but to no avail. They’ve always felt there’s still a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.
However, that changed when the British Army, which was known for its meticulous documentation didn’t yield much leads in their search. Following years of leads and correspondence with various agencies, the culmination of dejection over time caused Mr. Veeraraja Urs to eventually give up.
After throwing in the towel, the family didn’t expect to hear of any news regarding the late Naik Urs’ grave – until the phone call from Raja Chandra. At last, Naik Urs’ grave has been found and his family’s search for it is now reciprocated – albeit in a way beyond their imagination.
This is one of many stories from the Kranji War Memorial located at 9 Woodlands Road. The memorial was set up to honour the men and women from the Commonwealth who died in the line of duty during World War II. Naik Urs’ story is one of such.