Forgotten Names Recalled: The Singapore Cenotaph Project

11/04/14
The British Library is a place to get lost in. Not just the scale of the building, with its numerous reading rooms, galleries, sitting nooks, but the huge number of collections and within those the books and documents and maps and photographs.

Unfortunately for the Singapore Cenotaph Project newspapers were not available. Not that they would have been at the St Pancras building. From 1932 the newspaper archive was housed in Conlindale, north London and very hand on the Northern Line for someone staying in Balham. After several reprieves on the closure dates, the absolute last week that researchers could visit Colindale was the first week of December 2013. That was the week I arrived in the UK and went to visit my mother in Northern Ireland. Well, this project is a labour of love but I love my mother more.

So, end result: my hopes of finding some information on the men of the cenotaph within the pages of newspapers once published in Perak and Penang came to nought. Nevertheless a trip to the British Library was necessary for one little book that, so far as I know, exists nowhere else except perhaps on a family's bookshelf quietly gathering dust.
 
After Irvine Thornton was killed in action his father, retired judge S. Leslie Thornton, collected his son's letters into a book for distribution among family and friends. Holding this little tome in my hands was a pleasure, not only for its exquisite design -- velum bound, gold tooling, deckle-edge linen paper -- but for its simplicity of concept and success as a memoriam of a much-loved son. I was reluctant to part with it, having photocopied only a few of the pages thanks to the strict copyright regulations of the library. A voice from the past spoke from those pages and at some point in the future perhaps they'll have a wider audience.
 
Now that I am back in Singapore I'm moving on to the next stage in the project. At some point research has to stop and writing has to start and I'm glad to report that it has begun.
 
Rosemary Lim