Victory Day In Europe Remembers Malaysian Brothers Who Flew High During WW2

Victory Day in Europe is celebrated to commemorate the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945 when World War 2 ended. Two outstanding Malaysian brothers who contributed to the victory, Henry and Cyril Talalla.

The Talalla brothers, barely out of school, joined the Malayan Volunteer Air Force in 1940. Both of them had some flying experience back then. 

The two brothers are sons of business tycoon Hewage Benjamin Talalla. Hewage was the first person to introduce modern sanitisation to Kuala Lumpur. The father encourages his sons to join British Royal Air Force (RAF) when the call for pilots went out to countries in the British Empire.

Richard Talalla, 84, a retired High Court judge, recalls the day his brothers left for RAF. He was then 11. His brothers were excited about joining the RAF and thought it would be a great adventure. 

He recalled that his father scolded the brothers for being late for their flight. 

The Talalla brothers

The Talalla brothers during their training in Canada. Image source via

Cyril Talalla was the first Asian and non-European over almost two dozen application to pass the rigid RAF entrance test and enrolled as a cadet a year later.

Henry followed suit later. They received further training in Canada before joining the British at the height of the war.

A Sinhalese pilot, the first to fly with his fighter command, scored his opening victory a few days ago. He is pilot officer Talalla. His section of the Spitfires was over the Dutch coast when two Focker Wulf 190s were sighted 100 feet above the water. Talalla saw that one had damaged a colleague's wing, so he dived down behind the Focker Wulf. "My fire burst sent pieces flying off it", he said. "There was an explosion in the cockpit, and the enemy dived into the sea with an orange flash." A second Focker Wulf was damaged. - reported by British Newspaper back then.

In early 1942, the Talalla family, including their extended family and friends, were caught and locked up by the Japanese for alleged camaraderie with the British when they knew the brothers were serving in the RAF.

My other brothers were tortured badly, and they were not kind to my mother. It broke my father completely and never recovered since, recalled Richard. 

It was very frightening, he added. 

Cyril survived the war, but unfortunately, Henry was killed on duty. The German tank hit his Typhoon fighter-bomber in France on July 25, 1944. 

Upon hearing the news, Cyril flew to seek his brother's plane, but it was a forlorn hope because of the war and massive destruction all over. His brother was only 24 at that time.

The family was cut off from all news on both Cyril and Henry until one day, they were informed by a British-led resistance group that Henry was missing in action while Cyril was doing well. 

The news of Henry being killed tore the family apart. 

Hewage refused to accept the fact that Henry was missing. He flew to England to seek the truth. Subsequently went to France to seek Henry's remains. 

Hewage finally managed to track down Louis Bree, the farmer who found Henry's grave by the side of his Typhoon plane on his farm in Airan, France.

Henry's remains were exhumed a few years later and reburied at the Bannervile-la-Campagne British War Cemetery at Calvados, France. 

Cyril Talalla with Queen Mary after being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Cyril Talalla with Queen Mary after being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Image source via New Straits Times

Cyril was a commissioned officer and was later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by Queen Mary.

Henry was a warrant officer, and he was very proud of Cyril and used him to show off to his fellow warrant officers. Both brothers were the best of friends. 

Cyril returned to Malaya in 1945 and changed his name to Jimmy. Cyril never wanted to talk about the war, and it became a taboo subject in the family. 

Many of his comrades and his brother were killed in the war. These people who survived felt that they had no right to live, said Richard. 

Cyril Talalla died on 18 August 1973 at the age of 53 in Wales, England.

In 1994, on the fiftieth anniversary of D-Day, members of the Talalla family and Henry's former Typhoon comrades converged at Airan to pay homage to the fallen airman. Despite fifty years later, the sacrifice of Henry was still not forgotten by the grateful people of the two French towns between which he fell.

The local church at Airan was packed with locals attending a special service in honour of Henry Talalla. 

The Talalla Brothers

On September 29, 1996, the mayors of Airan and Moult unveiled a sign officially naming the route between the two villages, Route Henry Talalla. Image source via

In 1996, the route between Airan and Moult in France was officially named Route Henry Talalla. 


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