On Armistice day 11 November, in Curepipe town there was an exhibition of war period items. Located in front of the monument dedicated to the Unknown Soldier symbolising the end of World War 1 but also in honour of those who gave their lives in the two major wars. Here, a display of military items could be viewed from the back of an old Bedford van. This small collection is part of a larger one belonging to a private collector named Mr Chuttoo. The display was jointly promoted by an NGO named “SOS Patrimoine en Peril” which seeks to save national heritage.
It is disappointing that such collections are not in a national museum. This particular collection includes many personal items donated by ex-soldiers and their families. It should be noted that many Mauritians participated in the war by joining the British forces. Many enlisted in the Royal Pioneer Corps but others were also in the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. Mauritian women also participated by joining the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) others were in the Mauritius Women’s Volunteer Force. Therefore, we can say that, although being a small island nation, the country did considerably contribute to the war effort. All the more reason to safeguard personal and regimental memorabilia which has historical and educational value. Sadly this does not seem to interest the authorities which are preoccupied with other cultural and historical issues unrelated to the war years. Nevertheless, each year, Remembrance Sunday is officially celebrated by government members and diplomatic officials.
I hope that, soon, Mauritius will be able to display a war years section in a national museum. Certainly, looking at the military memorabilia collected by Mr Chuttoo there is a vast amount that could go on display. I also remember that Vacoas had a Police and Special Mobile Force museum which was interesting. Sadly, this too was discontinued.
Maybe, enthusiastic citizens could contact their MPs to see whether there would be an interest in releasing a starter budget for a project. I know that this is not a major priority when faced with urgent social issues. Nevertheless, the risk is losing the heritage to external collectors or it being lost in dust-covered boxes.
Links My previous article "Heritage Saved" NGO SOS Patrimoine en Peril Book: "Mauritians in the Second World War" by Amit Bhoonah View photo gallery