In a peaceful corner of Batu Gajah, a modest sized town in Perak, lies an Anglican cemetery known as God’s Little Acre.
It dates back to 1891 and contains the remains of more than 600 persons many of whom were early pioneers in Perak.
One such pioneer was Charles Alma Baker who must have been quite a character. More on him in a later post.
The cemetery saw a sharp increase in occupants during the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960). The first shots in this struggle were fired in Perak with the murder of three European planters on their respective estates by ‘bandits’ , a term later replaced by ‘CTs’ or Communist Terrorists.
Often stationed in isolated areas, planters were soft targets for the terrorists.
In all, 115 planters, miners, dependents, police and military personnel who lost their lives during the Emergency are buried here. Their names are inscribed on a Roll of Honour memorial near the entrance.
You can find more details about these names on the Roll of Honour website.
The cemetery is beautifully maintained now but apparently it was not always so. The graves had been neglected for many years until 1980 when Police Superintendent (now Dato) R. Thambipillay encountered the deserted and desecrated graveyard in the course of his duties. Thanks to his efforts, together with support from the Perak Planters Association and the Malaysian Palm Oil Association, the graveyard is well looked after and annual remembrance ceremonies are held there on the second Saturday of June each year. Although the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s brief is to only look after the graves of those who died in the two World Wars , its website says that these Emergency-era graves at Batu Gajah are also under their care.
At least their lives were not lost in vain. Although the Emergency years were a tremendously painful period for Malaya/Malaysia, the country emerged victorious in one of the few examples, if not the only one, of a country successfully defeating a full-blown Communist insurrection.
You can read more about heritage sites in Batu Gajah on my Malaysia-Traveller website.
25 thoughts on “God’s Little Acre – Batu Gajah”
If you haven’t read a good book on the Malayan Emergency I would strongly recommend “The War of the Running Dogs” by Noel Barber.
And well done Police Superintendent Thambipillay.
Just to add to what you have written, God’s Little Acre has its own charm. Some of the notable Perak personalities such as Alma Baker, Cecil Rae, Labrooy and some FMS servicemen too are buried here. Baker was a surveyor from New Zealand who did road construction for the government in Kinta in 1890. Another personality who is buried here is planter Donald Baxter, the son-in-law of the famous Danish architect B.M. Iverson. Baxter was killed in a salary heist in 1964 near Tanjung Tualang. His headstone is one of a kind – a block of marble selected by Iverson and Baxter’s wife Ruth Iverson.
The heritage charms and the rich stories locked in God’s Little Acre can be turned into a heritage tourism spot. Maybe the Perak Tourism Board should consider my suggestion since they are going to launch 2012 as Visit Perak Year. They can even further they horizon to other cemeteries such as the Muslim, Chinese, Indians and the Japanese cemetery in Buntong, Ipoh.
Thanks very much for the additional information.
My beloved Donald was murdered in a payroll robbery on 6.4.1963, five weeks after the birth at Batu Gajah hospital of our first son. 55 years ago on Saturday. He lies there and I visit his grave when I have the fortune to visit the land of my birth. Ruth Iversen Baxter Rollitt
So sad. I will pay my respects when I am next in Batu Gajah.
Hello Ruth, Sten & I were there recently to say Hello to Donald at Little Acre Feb 2018. Am now back in UK, hope to catch up with you soon. Am also reading the book Boris Hemry ( got the book at KL airport before boarding plane back to Heathrow). Best wishes to you & Family 🙂 from Suz & Sten
Thank you. My Grandfather was John Munt Allison, my Father and Grandmother were, like him interned, but eventually rescued.
Thank you for your comment Sally. It is always interesting to hear from people directly connected to these historical events. Coincidentally I am reading a book at the moment which mentions your grandfather and how he died. The book is called Malayan Spymaster by Boris Hembry. If you haven’t already read it I am sure you would find it interesting. It is available on Amazon Books if you can’t find a copy in your local bookstore.
A great book!
Am reading this book Boris Hemry now ! got this at KL airport – WH Smith outlet. Very interesting indeed by Monsoon books – great photos too – the Lion Hill near K Kangsar which my mum always pointed out to us children when driving from Ipoh to Penang… we pass this Lion Rock and we are close to Penang soon. ( those days no express highway so it took over 3 hours to reach Penang via the hills and winding roads.
This is wonderful. My niece found this web site. So good to read about our dear friends Donald and Ruth Baxter and the Iversons. I grew up in Batu Gajah, during the emergencie. My mother always did wonderful floral decorations for the church service in the BG church, and after we would place the flowers on the graves of these heros. Flora nee Whitaker.
Thank you for the comment Flora.
This is a most interesting website as is your Batu Gajah heritage trail blog. I too lived in Batu Gajah in 1948-51. My father Michael Bernacchi was District Officer there and we lived in the DOs house a photo of which you show in your Batu Gajah blog. My parents were very great friends with the Whittakers for many years, even after Malaya days. I remember Flora and her sister Rosalind. We are visiting Malaysia in July and are staying at Ipoh from where we will visit Batu Gaja and Kuala Kansar (we lived there for a short time also). Also the Cameron Highlands where we used to go for R&R accompanied by an army convoy.
It would be wonderful to go to the DOs house and see it all again. Does anyone know how I can achieve this?
Rosemary Palmer (nee Bernacchi)
Hello Rosemary, thank you for your comments. You are very lucky to have lived in that super house. If you want to see inside the DO’s house perhaps you could write to the present incumbent directly for permission. I don’t know the name of the person but the official address of your old house is:
Kediaman Rasmi Pegawai Daerah Kinta
31000 Batu Gajah, Malaysia
Flora! How wonderful to hear from you! I lost touch many years ago after having seen Iona a few times in the 70s. Hope you all are well! Ruth
I wrote a book about my father, published three years ago: Iversen Architect of Ipoh and Modern Malaya – published by Areca Books in Penang.
Hello Ruth, I will look out for your book. Since I have already written about two other famous architects on this blog (Coltman and Hubback) it is time a wrote a piece on your father.
Hello David Thank you very much for your prompt reply and the address of the house. I will do as you suggest and see what happens. We are really looking forward to our trip
I read with interest the article about your experience in Batu Gajah on The Star Online published on 14 September 2014(http://www.thestar.com.my/Lifestyle/Family/Features/2014/09/14/What-it-was-like-to-be-a-child-of-colonial-rulers-in-Malaya/). As a Malaysian( I am from Ipoh), the perspective of an expatriate during 1950’s offers an intriguing comparison to my own parents’ memories of Malaya.
In the article, it is written that your mother Elaine Bernacchi chronicled the family’s life in her diary.
Has it been published anywhere? If not, do you intend to share this publicly in the future? It would be a very interesting point of view for Malaysian readers to ponder on.
TQ, Like Ming Wah….I am also interested since I was born in BG in 1958 and experienced last bits of the emergency period mentioned. Would love to hear all about life in those days when my mum was a child ( born 1930) and my grandparents lived and worked in BG during WW2 having moved from Penang as a newly married young couple to Kinta Valley.
That was my mum Madm Cheng Yim TQ
I am an heritage enthusiastic, and have a passion about the past, especially, which was left by the British. Anyone interested to visit the God’s Little Acres at Batu Gajah ( Elephant Stone), can reach me at 0125057654 for some assistance. Thank you.
My Husband was born in the Batu Gajah Hospital in November 1949 His father was a miner but died of a gun shot wound around51/52 His name was George Christie Stevens. His wife Sanat (Susan) Stevens had three children 2 boys and a girl,she left Ipoh a few years after her husbands death, going to Singapore where my husband and his sister went to school and their older brother was sent to Western Australia for schooling.I hope to visit Ipoh one day
Hello Kaye, thank you for commenting. It is interesting to hear your family history. I see your father-in-law’s name is inscribed on the Roll of Honour photographed above. Details of all the casualties buried at Batu Gajah are listed in R.Thambipillay’s book The Last Post. In case this information is new to you, the details for George Christie Stevens (misspelt as Stevnes) read as follows:
“Stevnes G C, Resident Manager
Date died & place: 9.3.1952, Idris Hydraulic Tin Ltd.
Age: 44 years
Cemetery Plot: GLA/484
Died of gun wounds. Shot accidentally by SC whom he checked on the tower.”
I believe SC stands for Special Constable.
I hope you manage to visit Ipoh and Batu Gajah one day.