5th Btn. Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regiment in South East Asia
1941 – 1945 fatalaties
Every year at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month we remember the end of the First World War and all who gave their lives then and since.About
Information for this document has been compiled from a number of sources, based upon available records of fatalaties.Appreciation for availability and use of data is extended to Ron Taylor, “Britain at War” Carol Cooper, “COFEPOW” Roger Mansell, “Centre for Research Allied POWS Under the Japanese” and The Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Design and layout of this document is copyright Martin Stiles Brisbane 2010.
About:The 5th Battalion The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment, in common with all other units of the Territorial Army, was embodied on 25 August 1939. The Commander of the 18th Division was Major-General M. B. Beckwith-Smith. The Battalion was in the 55th Infantry Brigade of the 18th Division. The 55th Brigade was commanded by Brigadier T. H. Massey-Beresford. The key officers in the Battalion at the time of embarkation were:-
The 5th Battalion spend between January and April in Galashiels, Scotland before being moved to Uttoxeter, Staffordshire for a few weeks in April and then onto Atherstone in Warwickshire. In September they move again to Litchfield, Staffordshire before leaving home shores from Liverpool on 29 October.
The 5th Battalion Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment along with the 1/5th Foresters and the 1st Battalion the Cambridgeshires, formed one of the three Brigades of the British 18th Division, 55 Brigade.
18th Division sailed from Liverpool aboard a converted P&O liner, the troopship Orcades, initially intended for the Middle East. The Orcades was diverted to S.E.Asia, destination Singapore.
The 5th Battalion land at Singapore Harbour 29 January, only to be rushed east to Changi. Two days later the remnants of the Allied forces that had been fighting the Japanese were concentrated on Singapore Island, ready for a last stand. Within 2 weeks Singapore has fallen and the battalion spent the rest of the war in the notoriously brutal Japanese POW camps. The Japanese prisoners of war from the 5th Battalion return home in several detachments. Although exact numbers are unknown, around a third of those captured at Singapore died in captivity.
During captivity records were kept by the Japanese to ensure a complete roll call as well as by Regimental commanders and Medical Staff who would have recorded deaths.
The Japanese were under orders to destroy records to ensure they did not fall into the hands of the Allies in the event of being over run.
Various engagements with the Japanese occurred at locations in the North of Singapore, typically the Jahore Strait as well as at some positions inland.
Records show; missing presumed dead 3, presumed killed in action 5, killed in action 25, died of wounds 7 and 1 escaped.
Following The Fall of Singapore, all Allied personnel became prisoners of war. Many civilians were also imprisoned, notably Dutch from 'Dutch East Indies'; Indonesia.
The POWs were massed in to various prison camps in Singapore. Overcrowding, meagre and often spoiled foodstuffs, disease and battle wounds were responsible for many deaths.
All told 55 men The 5th Battalion The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment died in Singapore. Departures from Singapore
POWs and civilian prisoners were forced by their captors to provide labour to support Japans war effort. Mostly this was for the construction of the Thai Burma railway, as well as labouring in occupied territories and at various industries in mainland Japan.
Prisoners were assigned in to work parties, some named after the camp they were held in and then in to number groups.
Departures commenced 18 June 1942 and continued through to 17 May 1943. Destinations were Thailand and Burma. Prisoners travelling to Thailand were carried by train, and to Burma by sea. Train journeys were in cattle trucks with worse conditions than in the camps. The sea voyage is presumed to have been by barge or coastal vessel.
From records of deaths and burials in Thailand and Burma, cross refernced to departures it appears that members of 5 Btn. Beds and Herts departed Singapore: 18/6/42 – 26/6/42 – No 1 Group, First Mainland Party by train in cattle trucks to Non Pladuk 9/10/42 – 15/10/42 No 2 Group River Valley Road Party by sea to Burma 18/10/43 – 30/4/43 % Group 'F' Force from Changi to Non Pladuk via Ban Pong.F Force Thailand - Burma Railway
At main camps such as Chungkai, Tamarkan, Non Pladuk and Thanbyuzayat were "base hospitals" which were also huts of bamboo and thatch, staffed by such medical officers and orderlies as were allowed by the Japanese to care for the sick prisoners. Work on the railway started at Thanbyuzayat on 1st October 1942 and somewhat later at Ban Pong.
The two parties met at Nieke in November 1943, and the 263 miles long line was completed by December.Thailand Parties from Singapore
F. FORCE 7000 prisoners under the command of British Lt Col S.W.Harris, with Lt Col Dillon leader of the British, were sent by rail to Non Pluduc during the latter part of April 1943. In March 1944 the bulk of the prisoners were in the main camps at Chungkai, Tamarkan, Kanchanaburi, Tamuan, Non Pladuk and Nakom Paton.
From May 1944 until the capitulation of Japan in August 1945 parties of prisoners were sent from the various base camps to work on railway maintenance, cut fuel for the locomotives, and handle stores at dumps along the line. Other parties were employed on cutting and building roads, some through virgin jungle, or in building defence positions.
Camps / Stations on Thai Burma railway
Death and Burial records indicate that 5 Btn Beds and Herts were at:
Following cessation of hostilities, Allied Forces and Humanitarian Organisations such as Red Cross; located POW camps to liberate and repatriate survivors and to locate buried remains where practical. The War Graves divisions of the Allied powers worked on behalf of each Nations' own War Grave organisation.
POWs were transported aboard a number of vessels, mostly cargo ships, to a number of destinations to work for the Imperial Japanese Army. The majority of fatalaties were in transit from Singapore to Japan following the connection of the Thailand and Burma Railway. Conditions on board caused much suffering and some deaths, most fatalaties were due to vessels being sunk by Allied shipping and air attacks; not knowing the vessels carried POWs as the Japanese did not mark their ships as required by International law. Some POWs were rescued and cared for by the attacking ships. Those rescued by the Japanese were sent on to Japan. Hakushika Maru
The Hakushika Maru departed Singapore on 04.07.1944, via Manila, Formosa and on to Nagasaki, Japan, with 609 prisoner of war of the Japanese prisoner of war Party 2 mainly from the Burma Railway. The transport took place in a convoy of 13 ships total. There were 5 ships with prisoner of war: the Asaka Maru, the Hakushika Maru, the Hofuku Maru Maru and the Rashin Sekiho Maru. On 08/13/1944, the Hahushika Maru berthed in Japan at Kagoshima (Nagasaki) and run through to Moji. Upon arrival at Moji the prisoner of war transferred to various POW camps.Hofuku Maru
The Hofuku Maru aka Fuku Maru, Toyofuku Maru or Fuji Maru, departed Singapore on 04.07.1944 with 1287 prisoner of war of the Japanese prisoner of war Party 2; 1076 British and 213 Dutch, bound for Japan, all from the Burma railway, departing Chungkai on 06/08/1944.Transport to Japan took place in a convoy of 13 ships total (5 ships with prisoner of war, except the Hofuku Maru: Asaka Maru, Hakushika Maru, Maru Rashin and Sekiho Maru). Total of 1047 men did not survive, the others reached the coast (on rafts, or by swimming to rescue by a Japanese ship) and were transferred to the Cabanatuan camp north of Manila. Some of the 63 survivors were taken on board Oryoko Maru on 13/12/1944, but this ship was attacked by aircraft the next day and sunk.Kachidoki Maru
The Kachidoki Maru (formerly the Wolverine State or President Harrison) disappeared on 06.09.1944 with 900 prisoner of war (all English) of the Japanese prisoner of war Party 3 from Singapore to Japan. On the evening of 9/12/1944 the submarine Pampanito attacked and sunk the Kachidoka Maru (the ship disappeared within 20 minutes). The next day survivors were rescued by the Pampanito sent on to the Allied base at Saipan . The rescued POWs who were dropped off Hainan, left on 15/09/1944 by Kibitsu Maru to Japan.Rakuyo Maru
The Rakuyo Maru aka Rokyo Maru or Rokyu Maru, departed Singapore for Japan on 06/09/1944 with 1317 prisoner of war 601 British and 716 Australians and some Americans, of the Japanese prisoner of war Party 3.The transport took place in a convoy of 13 ships total (including other ships with prisoner of war: Asaka Maru, Maru Kachidoka, Shincho Maru). On 09/12/1944 the US submarine Sealion II torpedoed the Rakuyo Maru. An escort ship picked up some POWs in which 157 men were saved and put ashore at Hainan(at least 300 men were left to themselves). The rescued stranded people who were dropped off Hainan, left on 15/09/1944 by Kibitsu Maru to Japan.Facts and Figures These details have been compiled from records currently available as at October 2010 and relate to fatalaties suffered by the 5th Battalion Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment, 1941 – 1945.
The fighting in Singapore lasted from 31 January 1942 to 15 February 1942. Japan surrenders 2 September, 1945.
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