*Copyright by Sandra Carney. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish by WorldWar2BurmaDiaries.com
Sandra Carney, Author
The story I am about to tell you today is one that has unfolded thousands of times, as the tragedy of war separates loved ones. This story is about the plight of the Mellican family of Moulmein,Burma.
In 1941 as war raged around the world, Donald Mellican was a young man of 17½ years.As an Anglo-Burman dedicated and loyal to Britain, he volunteered along with a few thousand other young Anglo-Burmese men, and joined the British Territorial Army. He embraced his doting mother and left his family behind in the town of Moulmein, in the South of Burma and marched with his battalion into India.His family consisted of his parents and 5 siblings, whose ages ranged from 19yrs. to 7 yrs. (two sisters and three brothers). As he marched over nine hundred miles towards Kohima and Dimapur in India through the dreaded Kabaw Valley, an escape route well-traversed by the British army in full retreat after their rout in Southern Burma, the young man wanted to turn back and return to the arms of his loving family.Little did he know that he would never see any of them again. After arriving in India, he spent his first leave from duty visiting Calcutta where he knew camps had been set up to receive the arriving refugees from Burma.He did not find his family, but left notes pinned to the walls, stating who he was, giving his unit and identification numbers, along with the names of his family. Well into the War out in the jungles of Burma he was embedded as a Burma Intelligence corpsman attached to the returning British Indian Fourteenth Army,Donald received a worn out faded letter, which was over two years old. It was from a lady who had known his family in Moulmein stating that she had been with his family, and all but one had perished during the trek out. His mother had died first of starvation.A younger brother had hurt his foot and an infection set in. There was no medication to treat the grievous wound.The letter said that the young lad went mad and died a horrible death racked with the pain of gangrene.The last to survive was his father Arthur Robert Mellican and youngest brother, 7 yr. old Reginald “Reggie” Mellican. His father, believing he was near to death himself and in no condition to continue the trek, handed his youngest son Reggie, over to a passing Gurkha family.The Gurkhas are a Nepali tribe, well known for their loyalty and bravery in battle.The last sight that the elder Mellican had of his child was to see the Gurkha man pick him up, hoist him onto his shoulders and walk away. Ironically, Arthur Mellican did make it all the way to Calcutta, but died there alone. Wretched with grief for his lost family, Donald Mellican has never given up the search for young Reggie.
PART II. Donald Mellican’s own story is remarkable, but today, I want to continue with the story of a young person, evidently Anglo-Burmese, but for all intents and purposes a Gurkha, whom I met in post-War Burma, who most likely was the lost Reggie Mellican.
About two years ago in 2006, on behalf of my aged mother, I posted on a “looking for lost loved ones” list, the name of a young man who had wandered into my own family’s life in about 1950.He was then about 16 years old.He had signed up in my father’s regiment, “The Fourth Burma Rifles”, which was at that time situated in Bautau, a suburb of Rangoon.It was a Gurkha regiment in Burma, and a request was made for him to become my father’s orderly (batman).My father Colonel Raymond G.A. Campagnac, was the commanding officer. The young man we affectionately called: 'Dumbar', Bahadoo Chettri, was a handsome young fellow, with brown hair, green eyes and a fair complexion. (Please see attached picture below).He hardly looked like the rugged stocky brown skinned Gurkhas.He spoke virtually no English, just a smattering of words here and there, and I, as a tiny child, certainly believed that he was a Gurkha.He took up residence in our home and became a good friend to me.I was an only child, and I liked to think that he was my older brother. At some point he told my mother that he wanted to become a Catholic, so she had him baptized, Dudley Chettri, in the Catholic Church in the town of Kalaw, Burma.My parents Col. Raymond Campagnac and Mrs. Joyce Campagnac were his God-parents, as is recorded in the Church records in Kalaw.
Time went by, and my father was transferred to another Burmese Regiment, the 5th Kachin Rifles in Myingyan.Though we parted with Dudley, he remained in our lives for many years following.He spent Christmas 1955 with us in Myingyan and my mother continued a correspondence with him for a few years till about 1960/65, when he wrote to her in England saying he was planning to immigrate to Australia with some of his children.
He had married a Burmese girl in the town of Kyaukme, which is situated between Maymyo and Lashio.She was the daughter of a Jeweler in Kyaukme.Dudley never wrote to my mum again, so we can only speculate that he did immigrate to Australia. Back to 2006, a gentleman named Phillip Melson wrote and asked me to give more details about the young lad my mother had asked me to find.Following this, I received a phone call from Donald Mellican, who lives in England. On questioning me thoroughly and prying and prodding every nook and cranny of my memory and looking at photographs that I was able to send to him, we have come to the conclusion that Reggie Mellican and Dudley Chettri, are one and the same person. The search for Reginald Mellican, aka Dudley/Dumbar Bahadoo Chettri, still continues.He would be 73 years old today.He was born in 1934,in Moulmein, Burma.
Among the questions that Roman Catholic Donald Mellican asked me was, “did this young man ever speak to you of his mother” … I spontaneously answered something that I did not even know was logged in my dormant memory … I answered “yes … he said … ‘merra ahmma marrgia!’ ”… in the Gurkha language meaning, ‘my mother is dead!’ ------------- A Note from the Editor: In the experience Sandra Carney (nee Campagnac) relates, one cannot but have an eerie sensation that it was a mysterious Providence which brought a lost child,one of probably thousands, to their door to be taken into their family's warmth and protection by Colonel Raymond Campagnac, his wife Joyce and their daughter Sandra. Given his experiences in the loss of his family and the utter insanity of war, this child was sustained and helped to rejoin the human family as a man, soldier, husband and father only by their love and comfort.
In the studio photograph below it is quite plain that Dudley Chettri is, as Tagore's hero was, a 'Gora' or European. I'm sure that it would take a Tagore, no less, to do justice to write of the many lives of that young man who shared the resilience,grit and heroism of Sgt.Donald Mellican,Retd., Burma Intelligence Corps of Field Marshal Slim's never to be "forgotten" British Indian Fourteenth Army, who I am convinced is his brother both in blood, and in spirit. I salute both of them, and I say once again my favorite saying: "Where else can you find men like these? Only in Burma,of course." Joseph Valu, Editor WorldWar2BurmaDiaries.com
Dudley/ Dum Bahadoor Chettri, Kalaw 1950
LtoR: Ada Pugsley,Wynne Pugsley,Dudley Chettri, Mrs. Joyce Campagnac,Sandra Campagnac with Santha, Kalaw 1950
Dudley Chettri, Kyaukme, Burma circa 1955
Copyright 2008 by Joseph Alwyn Valu. All Rights Reserved.