This blog post was published under the 2015 to 2024 Conservative government

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Keith Allan

British High Commissioner to Mauritius

14th December 2017 Port Louis, Mauritius

A new country but we will still always remember them!

I arrived in Maurtius in August after four wonderful years in magnificent St Petersburg, Russia’s cultural capital. Russia to Mauritius? Quite a change people would say. Well, they were absolutely right. The biggest change is of course the weather. By December we would be well into a long, dark and freezing Russian winter, whereas in Mauritius December is warm, sunny and heading for summer. There are not too many similarities between Russia and Mauritius, although the Mauritan Foreign Minister has just been in Moscow, so perhaps things are about to change, if not the weather!

An important part of my role in Russia was ensuring that we continued to commemorate and remember our shared history, including the Arctic Convoys of World War Two, which brought essential supplies from the UK to the former Soviet Union. Every year we welcomed veterans of the convoys, all now in their 90s, to places like Murmansk and Arkhangelsk.

Remembrance Day 2017 brought back memories of these special events, particularly of the Remembrance Day service at the old English church in St Petersburg and wreath laying at the cemeteries in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk. Our Russian hosts always impressed our veterans with their generous hospitality and respect for the sacrifice that they had made during the convoys.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commision maintains a cemetery at Phoenix, Mauritius, where those who died during World War One, World War Two and earlier conflicts are buried or remembered. We organised a service at the cemetery at 11.00 am on Saturday 11 November. I was joined by my colleague the Australian High Commissioner, the Bishop of Mauritius and a wonderful group of Mauritian veterans, many proudly wearing their WW2 medals. We laid wreaths, read poems, listened to a fine bugler from the Special Mobile Force play Last Post, and above all remembered the sacrifice of the British, Mauritian, Australian, other Commonwealth and Allied forces who served. I was delighted to host them for lunch at my Residence after the service.

The following day I was invited to deliver a reading at the Remembrance Day service at historic St James’ Cathedral in Port Louis. In the presence of Her Excellency the President and the Honourable Prime Minister, the Most Rev Ian Ernest gave a stirring sermon, highlighting the terrible suffering of war and the importance of doing all possible to avoid conflict and tension today, including in communities. The following day I laid a wreath at the War Memorial in Curepipe.

It was interesting to look back at photos from my previous blogs of Remembrance Day events in Russia and compare them to what we just did in Mauritius. Yes, the weather was totally different. No winter coats and desperately trying not to slip on the ice. Instead, trying to find shade from the sun was the biggest challenge! But this is just weather. War has been fought in deserts, forests, mountains, at sea, in the air and in all conditions. What is important is that we continue to remember and honour those who served, wherever that may have been. We will always remember them, including here in Mauritius.

You can also follow me on Twitter @HCKeithAllan

3 comments on “A new country but we will still always remember them!

  1. Dear Mr Keith Allan,
    My brother Ian Nicholas Oliphant was born and died on 16th January 1951 at the Station Hospital, Vacoas and was buried at the Phoenix Military Cemetary,Vacoas. He lived for only 10 hrs. My father was a Major RPC in the British Army and was based there for about 18 months.
    I would very much appreciate if you could investigate if my brother’s gravestone is still there – I have a photograph of it-, if the grave is being maintained and its location in the cemetery. Thank you in anticipation. Tim Oliphant

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About Keith Allan

I have been British High Commissioner in Mauritius since August 2017. I was previously HM Consul General in St Petersburg, Russia, and used this blog to share my thoughts on…

I have been British High Commissioner in Mauritius since August 2017. I was previously HM Consul General in St Petersburg, Russia, and used this blog to share my thoughts on shared history and visits to cities and regions throughout Russia. In Mauritius, I will look to highlight some of the cultural and historical relations between the UK and Mauritius. Prior to St Petersburg, I was HM Ambassador to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, and also had another posting to Central Asia (Tashkent) in the late 90s. I was also HM Consul General in Miami and have worked in Trinidad & Tobago and Botswana, so Mauritius is not my first posting on an island or in Africa. I was born in Glasgow and am married with three children who thankfully also love to travel. You can also follow my activities on Twitter @HCKeithAllan