Kuala Lumpur Cenotaph

Kuala-Lumpur-Cenotaph

Following the recent Remembrance Day ceremonies marking 100 years since the end of World War One I thought I would relook at our own cenotaph here in Kuala Lumpur.

This simple granite monument was unveiled in 1924 as a memorial in tribute to those who lost their lives in that war. It was designed by the architectural firm Stark & McNeill with offices in Penang, Ipoh and Johor. It used to stand on Cenotaph Road (Jalan Tugu), off Victory Avenue (Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin) outside KL’s famous railway station but it had to be shifted in 1961 to make way for a flyover and the cenotaph now stands proudly at the Tugu Negara (National Monument) garden near Kl’s Botanical Gardens.

Each of the four sides of the monument displays a bronze tablet engraved with the names of the fallen from WW1 (mostly British and Indians fighting for the British).

Compared to World War Two, which affected Malaya severely, Malaya was not greatly impacted by the First World War. Apart from a German naval attack on Penang there was no fighting in the country. Indeed the economy of Malaya experienced a boom as its main exports, rubber and tin, were in great demand. The British working in Malaya at the time were playing an important role in the war effort by supplying the home country with vital commodities and there was no obligation for young British men to go home and fight. Even so, many felt the need to volunteer and play their part and a good number paid the ultimate price.

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Every year on Remembrance Sunday the British High Commission hosts a service of remembrance at Tugu Negara for those who served in both World Wars, the Malayan Emergency and other conflicts.  Representatives of various Commonwealth countries and other organisations leave poppy wreaths here.

Trawling though the internet I can find no list of the names inscribed on the KL cenotaph so I am including photos of each of the four plaques in case they are of use for people tracking down lost ancestors. I have also tried to find details of one name from each plaque, so that these souls at least know that they are not entirely forgotten.

We always say ‘We Will Remember’ and indeed we do remember the terrible cost paid by that generation but as the years have passed we are inevitably losing our collective memory of the individuals. There is probably nobody left alive today who personally knew anyone who died in that war.

Kuala-Lumpur-Cenotaph-A-DMajor Tom Lowis Bourdillon M. C. 8th Batt. Kings Royal Rifle Corps 14th Division,. Killed in action at Ypres 24 August 1917. Aged 29. Son of Sir James and Lady Bourdillon of Liphook, Hampshire. He is buried at Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium.

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Lieutenant Frederick St John Ford North Echlin died of wounds on 27 September 1916, aged 27. He was from Echlinville in Northern Ireland which today is home to a whiskey distillery of the same name. He had not long been married, to Dorothy Blanche Echlin (nee Dobree) of Guernsey, and they had one child. Prior to the outbreak of the Great War Frederick Echlin had been working in the Federated Malay States. He volunteered for service and was commissioned on 6 March 1915 to the 5th Battalion Royal Fusiliers. He joined the Royal Flying Corps on 27 October 1915 and became a pilot. He was buried in Achiet-Le-Grand Communal Cemetery Extension, France.

Kuala-Lumpur-Cenotaph-N-REric Herbert Justus Maule-Ffinch was a Second Lieutenant killed in action near Bray, France on 27th August 2018 aged just 18. He served with the 7th (Res.) Batt of the London Regiment. He is buried at Bray Military Cemetery. Son of Knightley Heneage Mauleffinch and Evaleen Massie Maule-ffinch (nee O’Dowd), of Hendon, London. Joined the Malay State Volunteer Rifles at 17 years of age

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Uttam Singh. It is hard to be sure due to many soldiers with a similar name but the only Uttam Singh with a Malayan connection listed on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s website is Sepoy Uttam Singh of the Malay States Guides who was killed on 9 December 1915. Son of Sher Singh of Tangri, Tarn Taran, Amritsar, Punjab. His name is commemorated on the Heliopolis (Aden) Memorial in Cairo. The Malay States Guides saw action in Aden in 1915 against Turkish soldiers threatening the British-controlled city.

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Malay States Guides

Melaka Tourism

 

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Melaka is one of my favourite places in Malaysia but whenever I visit I come away thinking that it could be better.

Melaka-Tourism-christ-churchAs a UNESCO World Heritage Site it attracts a lot of tourists; 16.7 million in 2017 according to press reports, with Chinese tourists taking the top spot.

Melaka-Tourism

They are not evenly distributed. On any day you can see coach loads of Chinese tourists milling around ‘Dutch Square’, taking selfies next to the Stadthuys, Christ Church, clock tower and the Hello Kitty trishaws. Then they are taken to selected souvenir and food shops in nearby Jonker Street, probably owned by associates of the tour operators, to buy chicken rice balls, durian products and pineapple tarts, before being bussed back to a hotel in KL. You have to wonder whether the ordinary small business owners in Melaka see much benefit from the daily invasion of tourists.

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Deserted alleyway. Murals have been painted in many places in Melaka to brighten up the dreary and cover up the ugly.

By the time the sun sets, most shops in downtown Melaka are firmly shuttered and soon the streets take on a deserted look apart from a few eateries in Jalan Hang Jebat and side streets but even here they struggle to find customers on weekday nights.

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Melaka’s tourism chiefs and real estate developers have plans to vastly expand Melaka’s attractions with ambitious developments under way on land recently reclaimed from the Straits of Malacca. These projects were agreed prior to the Malaysian General Election and it remains to be seen whether they will all be completed given the new Government’s emphasis on saving money.

Even fewer tourists venture beyond Melaka City to visit other places in Melaka State. At Kampung Duyong few example just outside the city is a large tourism complex, built at considerable expense, celebrating Malaysia’s famous hero Hang Tuah.

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The Hang Tuah Centre includes a large museum, shops and a Malaysian martial arts arena. I was the only visitor there.
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Dark Hedges, Northern Ireland

I was in Northern Ireland recently where we saw Dark Hedges, a tree-lined street which apparently featured in Game of Thrones. It doesn’t look anything special in my photo (probably need a zoom lens).

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Dark Hedges, Melaka

This is Malaysia’s version of Dark Hedges, a street near Kampung Duyong, Melaka. It looks much more impressive.

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The mausoleum of Sultan Ali of Johor near Merlimau, Melaka. He was in dispute with the Temenggong of Johor for his throne.

Perhaps Melaka needs to become the setting for a popular series like Game of Thrones with filming locations spread around the state in order to share the benefits to tourism more widely.

Sidney Street Siege

In the early hours of 3rd January 1911 police quietly took up positions outside a tenement flat at No. 100, Sidney Street in London’s Whitechapel District. They had received a tip-off that armed criminals were holed up there. These men were suspected to have taken part in a jewellery robbery in Houndsditch a fortnight earlier in which three policemen had been killed.

Once in position, the police, perhaps unwisely, threw stones at the first floor window to get the attention of the criminals. They were met with a hail of bullets, injuring a police inspector. Thus began a prolonged siege, which became known as the Siege of Sidney Street.

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On hearing of the incident, the Home Secretary of the day, Winston Churchill, sensing a chance for self-promotion, rushed along to take personal command. Finding the police equipped only with out-of-date firearms he ordered a detachment of Scots Guards from the Tower of London to assist.

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After several hours of unremitting gunfire, the house caught fire and eventually the shooting stopped as the flames took hold. Once the fire was out, police found two charred bodies in the debris.  These were later identified as Fritz Svaars and William Sokolow, petty criminals from Latvia.

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Peter the Painter, as he appeared on his wanted poster in 1911

The alleged leader of the jewellery robbers, Peter the Painter, was nowhere to be found and was believed to have escaped. Peter the Painter’s real name was thought to be Peter Piaktow, a Polish decorator. Interesting that even 100 years ago, Londoners were dependent on Polish handymen to maintain their houses!

One of the police detectives at the scene later claimed to have seen Peter the Painter in Australia while others believe he may actually have been Jacob Peters who became Stalin’s deputy head of secret police before being executed.

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The original Sidney Street siege location no longer stands  but just down the street are some similar looking blocks.

The most surprising part of this story for me was that the two deceased criminals were known to have at one time frequented the Jubilee Street Anarchist Club, just around the corner from Sidney Street. Bomb-lobbing anarchists, hell-bent on revolution, are not the sort of people you would expect to have a club. But on further checking, it seems the meaning and image of anarchists has changed over the years. At that time there were at least 3 anarchist clubs in London. The one at 165 Jubilee Street was opened under the guise of a Jewish Friendly Society and catered mainly for Jewish émigrés fleeing persecution from Tsarist Russia. It served more as a refuge and it was described as peaceful and friendly with a library and reading room, a kids’ Sunday school, lectures, dances, recitals and no alcohol. The police would often point homeless East European refugees in the direction of the Anarchist Club knowing they would get looked after. No doubt many of their members would have held leftist and communist views and there were probably a few hotheads among them – this was after all only a few years before the Russian Revolution – but nowadays these people would likely be labelled Corbyn supporters rather than anarchists.

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Elegant terraced houses in Jubilee Street.

What would the members of Jubilee Street Anarchist Club have made of today’s Whitechapel? They might wish they had hung on to their old premises. Their club was demolished but this terraced house with the blue door diagonally opposite where the club stood is on the market today for a cool £1,500,000.

Despite the inflated property prices however, the area is still an area inhabited by immigrants with a lot of social housing. The Jewish population has largely moved on and today’s residents originate mainly from Bangladesh and other Muslim countries.

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The anarchist club members would have been amazed that Tower Hamlets Borough Council, which has always been at the radical end of London politics, in 2006 named two of the their community housing tower blocks Peter House and Painter House, much to the annoyance of the Metropolitan Police who felt the buildings would be better named after the Houndsditch burglary victims rather than an accused cop-killer.

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Another nearby block is called Siege House.

The Sidney Street Siege affair led to a clamour among British newspapers for more stringent regulations regarding the entry of foreigners into Britain. That sounds familiar!  

You can read more about London’s Anarchist Clubs here.

Monte Palace Tropical Garden Madeira

 

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On our recent family holiday to the gorgeous Portuguese island of Madeira we walked around Monte Palace Tropical Garden, reckoned to be one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the world.

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Madeira’s southerly location (same latitude as Marrakesh), moist Atlantic air and rich volcanic soil combine to provide ideal conditions for year-round, frost-free cultivation of all kinds of flora ranging from English roses to tropical bananas to native laurel trees.IMG_3309

Early British settlers on the island played an important role in the local economy and they spent their wealth on lovely estates and gardens where they could enjoy the healthy climate and great views.

Monte Palace was one of these estates, developed by Charles Murray, a Scottish merchant and British Consul from 1777-1801, high on a hill overlooking Funchal, the capital of Madeira. This home came to be known as Quinta do Prazer (Pleasure Estate).IMG_3276

The property was acquired by Alfredo Guilherme Rodrigues in 1897 who built the current house, inspired by castles he had seen on the banks of the Rhine. The house later became the Monte Palace Hotel until it was closed down in the 1940s. It is now owned by a charitable foundation which transformed the grounds into a tropical garden and museum open to the public.IMG_3319

The Tropical Garden covers seven hectares of sloping hillside and contains a fine collection of exotic plants from around the world including cycads, proteas, azaleas, hydrangeas, heather, sequoias, acacias and olives. People like us, visiting from Malaysia, can feel at home to see hibiscus, heliconia and orchids.

There are two oriental gardens with and koi fish ponds, with Japanese and Chinese style bridges, stone lions, pavilions and so on.

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Panel of Tiles “Nymphs”, Jorge Colaço, Lisbon late 19th century

One of Portugal’s most important collections of tile panels dating from the 15th century up to contemporary works, depicting historical, religious or purely decorative designs is displayed along footpaths around the garden.

IMG_3300IMG_3295A separate exhibition centre shows off the Berardo Foundation’s collection of stone sculptures from Zimbabwe and rocks and minerals from around the world.

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The best way to reach the Monte Palace Tropical Garden is by cable car (Teleféricos Da Madeira) from Funchal but it is possible to get a taxi or drive.

You can find details of opening hours, admission prices and location on Monte Palace’s official website, www.montepalace.com

If you still have energy after seeing the Tropical Garden there is another botanical garden in Funchal, Madeira Botanical Garden, which you can reach by a second cable car.

Malaysia’s Old Post Offices

Pos Malaysia has done a good job in preserving a number of Malaysia’s old post offices, some of which date back a hundred years or more. While most of the large cities in Malaysia now have large modern mail distribution centres and post offices there are still a number old post offices which can be considered heritage buildings.

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In 2010 Pos Malaysia issued an attractive set of stamps featuring 28 post offices, mostly old ones.

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The oldest surviving post office building in Malaysia is probably in Taiping. It was finished in 1884 and has recently been converted into the Telegraph Museum. My picture was taken prior to its restoration.

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The old general post office in Kuala Lumpur (completed in 1907) still stands although it has not been used as a post office since 1984. Ipoh and Kota Kinabalu also have old post office buildings which are over a century old but they are now being used by other government departments.

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The grandest post office building which is still being used for its original purpose is, in my opinion,  Kuching’s General Post Office, completed in 1932. It proudly displays the Sarawak State motto, Dum Spiro Spero, meaning While I breathe, I hope.

Here are some arty images of more old post offices which I have snapped during my travels around the country.

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‘The Mouse That Roared’ Solution to Britain’s Brexit Dilemma

Britain has got itself into a hopeless muddle over Brexit. Two years of dithering and bickering have still not produced a viable exit proposal and the country remains as divided as ever. With the exit date fast approaching perhaps a radical new approach is needed.

Introducing …..

The Mouse That Roared Solution

MouseThatRoared

Inspired by the 1959 comedy film The Mouse That Roared, the United Kingdom should apply to the United States to become part of the USA or, more precisely, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to become the US’s 51st, 52nd, 53rd and 54th States respectively.

Before you pooh-pooh the idea let’s consider the advantages:

  • The EU would not be able to bully the US on Britain’s exit terms.
  • No need to pay the £40 billion EU exit fee. Mr. Trump would never agree.
  • No need to renegotiate trade deals since USA already has global trade deals in place.
  • Scotland and Wales would finally be free of English domination and could call themselves autonomous States, albeit as part of USA.
  • London would not have to subsidise Scotland any more. That would be the job of the Federal Government.
  • Britons could once again be proud to have the world’s strongest armed forces.
  • UK’s enormous national debt would be merged with USA’s even larger national debt and seemingly disappear.
  • Britons would exchange their Pounds for Dollars and feel richer as a result.
  • Some Britons would benefit from America’s generally lower income tax rates.
  • Britons could sell their over-priced UK properties and move to the American ‘mainland’ where real estate is much cheaper.
  • Britons concerned about immigration should be happy as most immigrants would immediately move to California to become millionaires. Also President Trump would be in charge of UK’s borders.
  • Talented British politicians (can’t think of any off the top of my head) would be eligible to run for President. Tony Blair or David Miliband might fancy their chances since they are far more popular on that side of the Atlantic than at home.
  • Those Brits who dislike President Trump would have the opportunity to vote him out of office.
  • The Queen could remain Head of State for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with the equivalent rank of State Governor. After she passes away her successors would have to stand for election as State Governor if they were interested. Prince Louis of Cambridge would be the last royal to inherit a title. Future royals, earls and other nobility would be just regular untitled American citizens, only richer.
  • The National Health Service would become a State Health Service and, deprived of Federal support, would rapidly become bankrupt. It would be replaced by a self-funded health insurance scheme which is what the current British Government would secretly like to achieve but is not brave enough to suggest.

The issue of the hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic would remain. Maybe Eire would also like to join USA, as the 55th State, which would eliminate the problem. Since most Americans claim some Irish heritage they should feel very much at home.

England could be renamed Old England to avoid confusion with New England. Or better still, Ye Olde England, to maximise the tourism potential of the brand.

Those are some of the advantages of this proposal for Britain but what’s in it for America?

  • They gain 65 million new citizens who can’t speak a word of Spanish, thus swinging the language mix in America firmly back in favour of English.
  • They would be able to absorb Britain’s highly regarded armed forces into their own.
  • They get control of GCHQ and the other UK intelligence assets.
  • They get the City of London’s financial centre.
  • They will learn about cricket, football and rugby.
  • They acquire history, culture, royalty, entertainment, etc., etc.

Ok, Britain will lose its sovereignty but that’s an overrated commodity in today’s world. We would be able to celebrate America’s Independence Day instead.

The more I think about the Mouse That Roared solution, the better it sounds. What do you think?

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Flor De la Mar’s Colourful History

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In Melaka, on the quayside near the mouth of the Malacca River, stands a replica of a Portuguese galleon, or carrack, called the Flor de la Mar which sailed in these waters in the early 1500s.

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Afonso de Albuquerque

This vessel, which is often (mis?)spelt Frol de la Mar, was the flagship for the Portuguese fleet in the Indian Ocean under command of the famous conqueror Afonso de Albuquerque.

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Flor de la Mar was built in 1502 in Lisbon. Weighing in at 400 tons, with a length of 120 feet and a height of 110 feet she was the largest vessel of its kind at the time. She was armed with 40 cannons distributed over three decks with a high stern and forecastle from which the crew could rain down fire on her enemies but this top-heavy design also made for poor stability when fully laden.

Her maiden voyage to the Indian Ocean departed Lisbon in 1502 under command of Esterão da Gama, a cousin of the explorer Vasco da Gama, returning to Portugal in 1503. The next voyage left Lisbon in 1505 under the captaincy of João da Nova. On her way back she sprang a leak and had to spend the winter in Mozambique before being commandeered by Afonso de Albuquerque for further missions in the Indian Ocean. She never saw Portugal again.

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Al Jalali Fort, Muscat

Flor de la Mar plundered her way around the Indian Ocean taking part in various bloody sieges and brutal raids against unsuspecting towns and ports in Arabia and India. She took part in the conquest of Socatra (now part of Yemen), Kuryat (Quriyat), Muscat, Corfacão (Khorfakkan), Quelba (Kalba), Sohar (all in modern day Oman and UAE), Ormuz (Hormuz, Iran) and Diu, Calicut and Goa (India).

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Hormuz Fort 

By 1505 King Manuel of Portugal’s attention had turned towards Malacca. When Vasco da Gama returned from his first voyage round the Cape of Good Hope as far as Calicut he brought back tales of a fantastically wealthy distant city called Malacca where all the goods of Asia were traded – pearls from Arabia, porcelain from China, cloth from India and nutmeg, cloves and pepper from the Spice Islands. It was the most cosmopolitan city in the world where over eighty languages were heard, according to the account of Portuguese apothecary and traveller Tomé Pires. With over 100,000 inhabitants, Malacca was larger than Lisbon at the time and almost as big as Venice, and it was ruled over by a Muslim Sultan.

Plan of the Portuguese Fortress in 1512

Pires wrote in his book Suma Oriental in 1515  ‘whoever is Lord of Malacca has his hand on the throat of Venice’ meaning that Malacca was the source of Venice’s spice monopoly wealth.

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Tomé Pires

Albuquerque was determined to throttle Venice by seizing or at least gaining access to Malacca’s lucrative spice trade. Although he only had a small force of 700 Portuguese and 300 Indian soldiers he set about defeating the Sultan’s army with his usual ruthless efficiency and Malacca was conquered in 1511.

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Battle of Diu

The city was plundered and Albuquerque, leaving a small force behind, set off with his loot for India aboard the Flor de la Mar accompanied by two other vessels the Trinidade and the Emxobregas. Some accounts, possibly exaggerated, say he had 60 tons of gold and 200 chests of precious gems with him intended as gifts for the Portuguese king and queen as well as a jewel encrusted table, a pair of bronze lions and a rare map drawn by a Javanese showing the routes to China and other lands.

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Replica of the old Sultan’s Palace in Malacca.

 

His crew were reluctant to sail on the Flor de la Mar which by now was nine years old and barely seaworthy. Normally the ships on the India run could only survive four years or so before shipworms, nicknamed termites of the sea, caused irreparable damage to their unprotected wooden hulls. Also the vibrations caused by continual cannon fire had caused the Flor’s timbers to shake apart and the ship leaked badly and required constant pumping. 

When  stormy weather struck off the coast of north Sumatra, Flor de la Mar anchored in four fathoms of water to ride out the storm. Heavy seas pushed her onto a reef where she ran aground and broke into two with only the superstructure visible above the waves. Albuquerque and a few other survivors managed to escape the wreck and they were taken aboard the Trinidade. Many of his crew and a number of slaves were not so lucky and were lost along with the treasure.

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The Malacca Museums Corporation seems in no doubt that Flor de la Mar’s sinking was an act of divine retribution for the misdeeds of the Portuguese conquerors.

The Trinidade was overcrowded and they were desperately short of food and water.  Some captives were thrown overboard in their sleep to reduce the number of mouths to feed but the ship eventually made it back to Goa.

Numerous wreck divers and salvage companies have tried to find the location of the Flor de la Mar wreck in the hope of recovering some of the lost treasures but seemingly so far without success. With the ship sinking in shallow waters close to the shore you would have thought something would have been found by now.

Had this happened in our modern age of conspiracy theories and fake news people might have speculated that Albuquerque deliberately sank the ship and kept the loot concealed for himself rather than handing it over to the king. He wouldn’t be the last Portuguese colonial governor to enrich himself corruptly before proceeding on retirement. But that would be a terrible slur to make against a Portuguese national hero! Even if he did succeed in keeping some of the plunder for himself he would not have lived long to enjoy it as he died in Goa in 1515.