Sunday, July 27, 2014

Looking Back to the Past - the British Colonial Cemetery

The remains of British residents who once lived and died in Bencoolen
Last updated: June 5th 2018

By Adriansyah Putera

The Colonists Endured Hard Times and Great Strife in Bencoolen
The graves in the British Cemetery (Indonesian: Makam Inggris) in Bengkulu are pieces of history that will tell us about bitter conditions and experiences linked to the British East India Company and deaths of hundreds of British Bencoolen inhabitants who were affected by the Bencoolen resistance movements and fatal diseases during the British colonial rule in Bencoolen (now known as Bengkulu). This historic cemetery is known by various names, including Makam Inggris, Kuburan Belanda, the British Bencoolen Cemetery, the European Cemetery, and the British Cemetery at Bencoolen.

This site, less than a kilometer east of the Fort Marlborough, was selected by British colonial government as a cemetery location not only to host the graves of British soldiers who fell in the vicinity of various Bencoolen battlefields but also to host the graves of British Bencoolen inhabitants who died from malaria and diarrheal diseases. During the 17th and 18th century, several diseases like malaria, cholera and dysentery were major problems in Bengkulu. These diseases killed more British Bencoolen inhabitants in the 18th century than those that died on the battlefields in Bencoolen.  

During the British colonial period (1685 – 1824), there were 709 recorded deaths of British Bencoolen inhabitants in Bencoolen – including four of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles’ children. Raffles, best known for his founding of Singapore and a Governor General of Bencoolen (administration 1817 – 1822), was devastated for losing four of his five children by his second marriage with Sophia Hull. It is so sad that Raffles’ children tragically died before their fifth birthday due to diarrheal diseases during an epidemic. It is strongly believe that four Raffles’ children were buried at this site, but I can not confirm their graves due to a number of inscriptions are damage or lost. Probably, their graves are parts of the sunken graves or unmarked graves.

The remains of Capt. Thomas Tapson who died on July 1816
Although hundreds of British inhabitants died and might be buried in the British cemetery, only a total of 53 graves (but the BP3 Jambi report records 128 graves) with some of them unmarked can be found in the British cemetery to this day. From a total of 53 surviving graves, there are 15 graves with large gravestones and 4 graves in one gravestone. The earliest surviving colonial British gravestone in the British cemetery commemorates Stokeham Donston Esquire, a British man who died in 1775, and the last British surviving gravestone dates to 1858 which marks the final resting place of Frances Maclane.

A Carved “Five-Petal Flower” on the Gravestones
When the Dutch controlled Bengkulu, after the Anglo-Dutch treaty signed in 1824, the British cemetery was reused by the Dutch colonial rule as a Dutch burial site. The last colonial Dutch surviving gravestone is dated 1940. Unlike Dutch colonial graves, in this site, British colonial graves usually have a carved “five-petal flower” on the gravestones. What does that five-petal flower symbolize? I did a research and found out the meaning of that carved floral symbol. A five-petal flower symbolizes the “Tudor rose”, the symbol of the united houses of Lancaster and York, which is also the traditional floral heraldic symbol of England. A Tudor rose on a headstone may indicate that the person it commemorates was of English descent. This cultural symbol can be very helpful for visitors to identify the difference between the British and the Dutch colonial gravestones in the cemetery.

Besides British and Dutch graves, this cemetery also hosts a Japanese grave. This lone Japanese grave is located at the far right of the cemetery main gate where a Japanese name Tanakara was buried.

The Sad Condition of the British Cemetery - A Call for Concerns
In contrast to the Fort Marlborough which is always in excellent condition, this British colonial cemetery seems to have been allowed to fall into a sad condition. The cemetery has been sadly neglected for many years since the last major restoration and preservation project that was conducted in 1988 to 1991 by the Bengkulu provincial government which funded by British companies based in Jakarta.

Some unmarked graves
Many visitors in Bengkulu have complained and remarked at the sad condition of the British cemetery. Sunken, tilting gravestones, damaged inscriptions hold almost all the remains of British residents who once lived and died in Bencoolen.

An English tourist James Richardson said, “Don’t be surprised when you visit this site and see laundry covering and choking the headstones and leaving you with the impression you're in something of a large open laundry, not a cemetery. In the late afternoon, the cemetery turns into a fun playground for children playing soccer.”

“It is hoped that some action will soon be taken by the authorities to prevent the British cemetery from becoming more of a wreck than it is. I give this cemetery a 5-star for the historical value and probably a 2-star for the condition of it,” said Lisa Ross, an Australian taphophile. “Why the city has left the cemetery continue in such a condition?” Miss Ross asked.

It is sad, but true. The cemetery is still under threat. The relevant departments and the locals need to keep the cemetery safe from dangerous conditions and criminal violations, so Bengkulu's past can be maintained. I hope this writing can help more people understand, interpret and appreciate this British colonial cemetery as important cultural and historical resources.

Location: The cemetery is located at *Jl. Veteran or Jl. Rejamat, kelurahan Jitra, kecamatan Teluk Segara Bengkulu. Right behind the gereja HKBP (the Batak Protestant church), across from the Bencoolen cafe. Click here to find the British Cemetery location on Google Maps 

Let’s help each other!
Let’s make this post available in various languages! Translating this post can help more readers in your language to understand this post. If you would like to translate this post into your language or if you need help to translate some of your posts into Indonesian, please send me an email to

More photos:
These graves are testament to the colonialists’ vulnerability to malaria.
The colonial graves will surely take you back to the memories of the British rule days

Photos by: Peter Kimball, Adriansyah Putera and Edward Sullivan

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Secondary Drowning: What Every Parent Needs to Know

By YouBeauty Editors May 24th, 2014

Secondary drowning is something every parent needs to know about, so please read this if you're a parent or share it if you're a friend of a parent!

The weekend of May 17, writer Lindsay Kujawa and her toddler son Ronin were at a family pool party. Kujawa sat at the edge of the pool while Ronin played on the top step of the spa, and for five seconds she shifted her position to say something to a relative. Suddenly, she noticed Ronin wasn't on the step and was instead being whirled around by the jets in the whirlpool, frantically trying to get his head above water. She pulled him out immediately and other than him coughing and being very upset, he seemed totally fine after a few minutes and they went on with the rest of the party.

When they got home later on that day, Kujawa noticed that Ronin was acting a little odd—he seemed extremely tired and had a weird cough. To be on the safe side, she put a call into his pediatrician, and was surprised to get an immediate call back. The usually calm pediatrician was emphatic that they go to the ER immediately, because she thought Ronin may have been experiencing secondary drowning.

At this point, Ronin was almost unresponsive.

Many parents have never heard of secondary drowning, but it can happen in a pool, in the ocean, and even in a bathtub. "It occurs when a small amount of inhaled fluid acts as an irritant, causing inflammation and leakage of liquid into the lung," says Michael Roizen, MD, chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic and co-founder of YouBeauty. "In some cases, the body may respond by pushing even more liquid into the lungs (this is called pulmonary edema) over the following hours, reducing the ability to breathe and leading a person to drown in their own body fluids." The reaction can take place up to 72 hours after a near drowning incident.

Luckily for Kujawa and Ronin, the ER doctor saw them right away and quickly ordered a round of blood tests and X-rays. His chest X-rays were not good: The doctor said his lungs were aspirated, which could be very serious, and he immediately ordered an ambulance to transport them to Children's Hospital in San Diego to see a pediatric specialist.

Ronin turned out to be OK—the water in his lungs began to clear out after treatment and close monitoring. One doctor told Kujawa that this freak accident happens more often than you'd think—there were two other cases on the same floor with secondary drowning symptoms that very day! She also said it was right to bring Ronin in and that many times it goes terribly wrong for children in similar situations (as in, their parents put their kids down to sleep and they never wake up again.)

We'd never heard of secondary drowning until reading Lindsay's story—and we just had to pass it on to our readers. It turns out that the World Health Organization has tried to limit use of the term "secondary drowning" since it issued a 2005 report aimed at improving reporting and prevention around the world. The paper called for secondary drowning (along with five other types) to all be considered the same thing—drowning—whether or not the incidents are fatal or the effects immediate.

Regardless of what you call it, as we can learn from Ronin, it's still very much a threat to small children. "If your child breathes in water or comes out of the pool coughing or sputtering, monitor them closely, keeping an eye out for difficulties in breathing, extreme tiredness or behavioral changes," says Roizen. "All of these are signs that your little swimmer may have inhaled too much fluid."

Source: utm_source=yahoo&utm_medium=partnership&utm_campaign=secondary-drowning

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Humane Tourism

Fun dinner with the locals at a restaurant in Bengkulu 

Humane tourism is part of the movement of responsible tourism. The idea is to empower local communities through travel related businesses around the world, first and foremost in developing countries. The idea of humane travel or humane tourism is to connect travelers from Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand seeking new adventures and authentic experiences directly, to local businesses in the specific locations they wish to visit – thus, giving economic advantages to local businesses and giving travelers authentic and truly unique travel experiences. Humane travel or humane tourism focuses on the people, the local community. The idea is to enable travelers to experience the world through the eyes of its local people while contributing directly to those people, ensuring that tourist dollars benefit the local community directly.

Humane tourism is about giving opportunity to the local people, empower them, enable them to enjoy the fruits of tourism directly. The Internet is changing tourism. More and more travelers are planning their travels and vacations via the net. The Internet enables people to cut off commissions. The traveler can search for new destinations to visit, talk or read about other people experience, and buy the services directly. The Internet platform can encourage local people to start new businesses and that already existing small businesses will begin to promote themselves through the net and receive the economic advantages of this directly in their communities. The world is now in a new tourism age, with globalization and the Internet playing a key role.

The new travelers have traveled the world, they have seen the classic sites. Staying at a Western hotel is not attractive enough, and they are excited by the prospect of experiencing the authentic local way of life: to go fishing with a local fisherman, to eat the fish with his family, to sleep in a typical village house. These tourists or travelers, are happy to know that while doing so they promote the economic well-being of those same people they spend time with.

Humane tourism is part of Responsible tourism. The concept of Responsible Tourism originated in the work of Jost Krippendorf in The Holiday Makers called for “rebellious tourists and rebellious locals” to create new forms of tourism. His vision was “to develop and promote new forms of tourism, which will bring the greatest possible benefit to all the participants – travelers, the host population and the tourist business, without causing intolerable ecological and social damage.” As one can see he already talked, back in the 80s about benefits for the host population and used the term human tourism. Humane travel focuses on that host local population.

The South African national tourism policy (1996) used the term "responsible tourism" and mentioned the well-being of the local community as a main factor.

The Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism in Destinations, agreed in 2002, that Responsible Tourism is about “making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit.” The declaration focused on "places" but did mention the local population.