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Update on The Burma Boy: A plea to Sierra Leone

Update on The Burma Boy: A plea to Sierra Leone

Here’s an update on our documentary “The Burma Boy”, which was broadcast as part of the Al Jazeera Correspondent series.

I’m writing this because I’ve been overwhelmed with kind words about the film from viewers round the world, and it has not been possible to respond to every message. I know I speak for all the team involved in making “The Burma Boy” when I say that we are grateful for your comments.

It was very rewarding to make this film, so we are delighted that the audience has shared some of our pleasure and excitement. Isaac Fadayebo had a remarkable story to tell, and we felt a heavy responsibility to do justice to him and to everyone else involved. For me, it was a labour of love.

‪I thought viewers might be interested to know that Isaac had not seen the film before it was broadcast, and he is delighted with it. He was moved to tears by the scenes we filmed in Burma/Myanmar, where we met the family who had saved his life in 1944. Since then he has been in telephone contact with them, and despite language difficulties, has expressed his enduring friendship and affection.

‪One viewer complained that the Sierra Leoneon side of the story was neglected. We focus on the heroic deeds of Isaac Fadayebo and Shuyiman’s family in Burma. But there is one other hero in this story… and this is David Kagbo, the soldier from Sierra Leone who was injured in the same Japanese attack as Isaac, and who hid with him in the jungle. Without David Kagbo’s courage and determination, I do not think Isaac would have survived the ordeal behind enemy lines.

I am making enquiries in Freetown, trying to track down David Kagbo’s family, but if any viewers/readers in that country do have some information, I would love to hear from you. I am looking at trying to write a book on this story, so any leads would be appreciated.

‪Here is the little that I have been able to piece together, which might be helpful; Sergeant David Kagbo belonged to the 29th Casualty Clearing Station, a support unit attached to the 6th Brigade, 81 (WA) Division. He was Timni ethnicity, and not yet married at the time of the war. He was born Muslim, but converted to Christianity. He would probably be in his mid 90s today if he is still alive.

During the war he had troop number SL/109486. Other members of his unit who died in the attack of March 1944 included Sgt Moses Lamina, Pte Jaya Moigbi and Pte Tommy Sherman.

I estimate that David Kagbo returned home to Freetown in April 1945, when he said an emotional farewell to Isaac Fadayebo, who sailed on to Lagos. When Isaac arrived home in Nigeria, there was press interest in his story, so maybe the Freetown newspapers also picked up on David’s story. If anyone could put me in touch with David’s family, I would be very grateful. I am on barnaby.phillips@aljazeera.net

And finally , if anyone missed “The Burma Boy” on TV but would still like to watch it, you can find it on the Al Jazeera website.

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