2nd Battalion - Cambs Regiment
Submitted by the late David Langton
Originally formed in June 1939, the 2nd Battalion finally became a separate entity when embodied on 1st September of that year. It was not, of course, purely a battalion of new recruits, for with the reorganisation of the Regiment on a geographical basis those companies of the1st Battalion which existed in the northern half of the county were transferred over to the 2nd . On the outbreak of war, Battalion H.Q. moved from Cambridge and joined Headquarters Company and 'C' Company at Wisbech; 'A' Company was at March,'B' Company at Ely and 'D' at Chatteris.
To begin with, shortage of equipment, arms, clothing and boots, with a lack of instructors considerably hampered the companies in their efforts to turn themselves into full-time soldiers, but the task was tackled with great keenness by everyone and the fullest use made of the limited instruction available. On November 1st the Battalion concentrated for the first time as a complete unit at Melton Constable in Norfolk and was shortly afterwards transferred to the 53rd Infantry Brigade of the 18th Division, thus parting company with 1st Battalion which remained in 55th Brigade. At the end of the month a further move took place to Holt , where companies were assigned a variety of billets, including a condemned school and a disused chapel. Here the first Christmas of the war was spent, chiefly memorable for the generous gifts of cigarettes, woollen comforts and luxuries sent by the people of Cambridgeshire and also for a large scale influenza epidemic!
In January 1940 the Battalion marched to a new station at Stiffkey on the coast which, being a hutted summer camp by design, received the full benefit of the extremely severe weather of that winter. The camp was on the edge of the salt marshes and everything froze solid. Heavy snowfalls disrupted communications throughout the district and companies were employed in clearing roads and digging out railway trains until better weather enabled a start to be made on platoon and company training. Guards were also supplied to various V.I.Ps in the neighbourhood.
In the meantime a cadre of officers and N.C.Os was sent from the Battalion at Wisbech, who were drafted to the Battalion as soon as their primary training was completed. These new drafts were of first class material and were badly needed to fill the gaps caused by the withdrawal of 'category' men.
With the spring, training began to get under way, but the invasion of the Low Countries resulted in the Battalion being allotted an operational role and other considerations had to be shelved in a hurry. The unit took over defence of a sector of coast and responsibility for a number of airfields as well. The size of the task necessitated the dispersal of companies over an enormously large area and, like the rest of the small garrison of Britain at the time, the 2nd Battalion found itself holding the equivalent of a Divisional front, 'A' & 'B'held the coast between Salthouse and Cley, with Battalion H.Q. and H.Q .Company behind them, while 'C' was at Fakenham and 'D' distributed between King's Lynn, Docking, and Hunstanton. It took all day to distribute mail round the whole unit. At this time a Mobile Group was formed within the Battalion for patrol and airfield assistance duties and they were really the only people who got any training at all. The remainder spent every day and many moonlit nights furiously digging and erecting defences to the detriment of seaside amenities.
In July the Battalion moved back into Brigade Reserve and was at last able to get down to training again while stationed at Melton Park and later in Gresham's School, Holt. While at the latter station it was inspected by the Prime Minister who appeared to be satisfied with it's appearance.
While in reserve, the unit held a mobile counter-attack role and was allotted a number of double-decker buses for this purpose. In the numerous exercises which took place along the coast, many headaches were caused by the problem of how to camouflage these enormous Eastern Counties vehicles in flaming scarlet. The drivers also had a peculiar habit of disappearing before a practice alarm.
In August, coast defences were again taken over, this time at Sheringham and West Runton. Here the Battalion sustained it's first air attack but suffered no causalities though some were rudely awakened from their Sunday afternoon siesta. Finally the defensive role ceased and it was moved inland to Houghton Hall, Raynham and nearby villages, where the second Christmas was spent in greater comfort.
With the move of the Division to Scotland early in January 1941, the 2nd Battalion was sent to Dumfries. It was expected that orders would be given to prepare for service overseas, but these failed to materialise and the unit settled down to intensive company and battalion training over new and formidable country, followed by Higher Formation exercises in severe weather. Considerable hospitality was shown by Provost and citizens of Dumfries and the Battalion came into contact with the Free Norwegian Army stationed in the same town. Unfortunately the Norwegians had more money and this gave them an unfair advantage in the eyes of the local maidens.
In April the Division moved down into Western Command and the 2nd Battalion took up quarters in Crewe Hall, Cheshire. The summer was principally occupied by Divisional exercises carried out over large distances into Lancashire and Yorkshire. In addition, time was found for field firing on Ruabon Mountain in Wales and company camps at Plas Power, near Wrexham . In August, companies were dispatched to carry out defensive wiring tasks on the north Wales coast and to help with the harvest in Leicestershire. Assistance was also given in the evenings to local Home Guard units in Crewe and large scale co-operation exercises with Home Guard, Civil Defence and other units took place in Crewe, Birmingham, and Carlisle.
In October, orders were at last received to prepare for foreign service and on completion of mobilisation the Battalion was inspected by H.M.The King in the grounds of Crewe Hall. Last minute visits were also made by the Bishop of Ely and the Honorary Colonel of the Regiment, who brought wit him a personal message from the C.I.G.S.
On October 31st the Battalion sailed from Gourock in the Polish Free State vessel, M.V.Sobieski and joined the 18th Division convoy off the Irish coast. On arrival at Halifax, Nova Scotia, the Battalion re-embarked in the U.S.S. Mount Vernon and began the long voyage to Cape town.
On leaving Capetown, the Divisional convoy continued on it's way to India but the Mount Vernon, carrying the 53rd Brigade, parted company from the other ships and put in to Mombassa on Christmas Day. Mombassa was found to be about the hottest spot yet known; there were few facilities for amusement except bathing and even this resulted in severe sunburn for most people. However after three days the Brigade was on the sea once more and it was soon known that it's destination was Singapore.
On January 13th the Mount Vernon arrived at Singapore in the middle of an air raid, for which the ship was meant to be the target, but a sudden squall of heavy rain and mist providentially concealed the vessel and the aircraft unloaded somewhere else instead. In heavy rain the Battalion disembarked and proceeded to a makeshift camp on the Bukit Timah racecourse which consisted largely of mud, expecting to spend some weeks re-organising and training after a long voyage. However, owing to the critical situation on the mainland, these illusions were rudely shattered and the unit was rather unceremoniously pushed into battle on the 16th without having time to unpack. It was attached to 15th Indian Brigade and dispatched to Batu Pahat in north Johore to relieve a composite Leicester-Surrey Battalion (the 'British Battalion') and prevent the enemy occupying the town and it's airfield. Within a few hours of arrival on the mainland the first causalities were sustained from dive-bombing attacks.
The last few days in Batu Pahat were spent in active patrolling. Contact was soon made with parties of enemy who had landed on the west coast behind Battalion positions and were threatening communications. Before long, many enemy forces driving south from Muar had built up a considerable force round Batu Pahat on the north of the river and began to attempt to break into the town. The British Battalion was brought back from reserve to reinforce the small garrison of the town which consisted of the 2nd Battalion, a company of the Malay Regiment and a battery of the 155 Field Regiment. Even with the addition of the British Battalion it was a very small force to hold a place of the size of Batu Pahat and meet attacks from every direction. Meanwhile, the enemy continued to land troops behind the defence line, and before long the defenders found it necessary to form a complete circle, which perforce was only thinly held in parts. The Japanese then attacked the troop positions of the Field Regiment, taking them by surprise. A company each from the British Battalion and the 2nd Battalion had to be sent to disperse the enemy and rescue the guns. This was done with the loss of one gun only.
Having failed in their attempts to take the town by direct frontal attack, the enemy next sent out a flanking force to work round to the south -east and cut the Ayer Hitam road, the principal line of communication with the rear. They succeeded in doing this on the 22nd, ambushing part of the 2nd Battalion's 'B' Echelon and destroying a number of vehicles; the R.Q.M.S. who was in charge of this convoy was wounded, but managed to escape from the trap with two of his trucks. From this day onwards, no further food or ammunition could be delivered to Batu Pahat and life became rather austere.
The enemy now began to feel their way towards the town by the Yong Peng road after crossing the river some miles outside the defence perimeter. The garrison was by now so hard pressed for men that this road could not be effectively patrolled so far from the main defences since all available reserves were in daily use attacking enemy infiltration parties nearer to the town itself. Although the Japanese were thus able to effect a crossing of the river, they soon ran against 'A' Company's positions astride the north-eastern entrance to Batu Pahat. They were promptly driven back into cover each time they tried to break through. Similar attempts to cross the Muar Road Ferry in the harbour area of the town were held by 'B' & 'C' Companies with the assistance of the gunners.
The last remaining line of communication with the besieged garrison was the coast road to Benut but unprotected vehicles could not be sent up by this route since enemy landing parties some miles to the south were known to have reached the road and prepared blocks in places.
On the 23rd, orders were received by wireless for a withdrawal from Batu Pahat to a position some mile down this road, where it was intended that the garrison should halt and fight a delaying action to cover the establishment of a further defence line through Benut. Soon after nightfall the complete force broke off action and withdrew from the town without difficulty' The Brigade formed up on the coast road with its vehicles and began the march south, headed by the last armoured cars remaining and with its guns disposed in the column.
No sooner had the move commenced than a further signal was received cancelling the withdrawal order and ordering the force to reoccupy the town and hold it for a further 48 hours to enable certain British units on the east coast to be extricated first. It is profitless to question why and how mistakes such as this are made; from a wider point of view it may be but a small error and unimportant, but to the garrison of Batu Pahat it was an extremely serious matter. Had no withdrawal order been given in the first place, the town could have been held indefinitely without any trouble since the defenders were well placed in carefully chosen positions on which the enemy had made little or no impression as yet. Now, however, they had in pursuance of orders withdrawn from these positions which thus fell to the enemy without any necessity of fighting for them. The garrison had thus to recapture the Batu Pahat by force before it could be held for a further period and the enemy now had all the best positions in town.
The reoccupation of the town was effected by night attack, delivered by the 2nd Battalion with the assistance of two companies of the 5th Norfolks, which with their Battalion H.Q. had been sent up to reinforce the Brigade just before the coast road became impassable. The attack was successful though the enemy held on grimly to hill 127, an important feature, and were only dislodged from this after a series of company assaults in the course of which 'B' Company Commander Captain Cutlack was mortally wounded and a number of officers and other ranks killed and wounded.
Throughout 24th, the Japanese made a sustained effort to retake the Batu Pahat and pressed heavily on the defenders from all sides; the brunt of these attacks were borne by 2nd Battalion and causalities began to mount up. Street fighting developed in several quarters of the town and confused close-quarter actions prevented the use of artillery to support the hard pressed infantry but the Battalion mortars were in constant demand. In the course of the day 'A' Company captured an enemy infantry gun.
On the night of the 25th the Batu Pahat force, having fulfilled the demand made upon them, finally withdrew down the coast road to the village of Sengarang where it was found that the last way out of the trap had been already blocked and the force was surrounded. An enemy landing force had erected blocks across the road and prepared strong positions to prevent a break out.
From dawn on the 26th until 1630 hours in the afternoon continual attacks were launched against these blocks in the hope of being able to clear the road to allow the ambulances and other vehicles of the Brigade to pass through, but in vain. Once again, the brunt of this action was borne by the 2nd Battalion and every man was thrown into the fight including cooks, drivers, signallers and batmen. The opening of the road was a matter of desperate necessity for the Brigade was still carrying with it the accumulated causalities of the last four days' fighting in the town, for whom there was no chance of evacuation to hospital.
The enemy positions were well chosen. The only way of attack lay over marshy ground, thickly wooded, with every clearing covered by both light and heavy automatic weapons. By reason of the limited visibility in this type of country the use of artillery to support the attacks was quite useless and even mortars were employed with difficulty. Up to their knees in mud and water, and hampered by the thick vegetation the companies struggled to reach their objectives, suffering heavy casualties from concealed weapons of the enemy; destroying one post after another only to find that the Japanese position was planned in great depth, with every position covered by another. While the battle was in progress, the guns in the village itself were constantly attacked by Japanese aircraft and threatened by infiltration parties who closed in on the houses armed with machine guns and mortars. Behind the Post Office, the Field Ambulance staff worked under great difficulties, being continually under fire.
When finally it was found to be impossible to open the road for the passage of vehicles (there were found no fewer than six blocks and ambushes between Senggarang and Ringit) the Brigade Commander gave orders to destroy all guns and transport and to attempt to break out through the jungle and link up with the nearest British forces who were believed to be at Ringit or Benut. A bitter decision had to be made - such of the wounded as were too ill to be moved were left in the village under the care of two doctors of the 168 Field Ambulance. When the 2nd Battalion Padre heard of this he elected to stay with them and share their fate.
When the break-out order was given at Senggarang, the Battalion was widely deployed amongst the swamps on both sides of the roads with every man in action. As a natural result, it was impossible to collect the scattered sub-units into a complete Battalion in the time given in the order. However, in companies, platoons, sections and groups of every size and sort, under their respective officers and N.C.O's, the great majority of the Battalion managed somehow to break out of the enemy ring and make their way back to Singapore, 70 miles distant
The stories of the adventures of the parties who found themselves alone in the jungle, desperately weary and hungry, hampered with many walking wounded in need of assistance, and constantly harried by enemy ambushes on the few practicable tracks and river crossings, would alone be sufficient to fill a book. One can only say that by the qualities of great endurance, faith and unconquerable cheerfulness these men won through; mud-covered, exhausted, their clothing in rags they came back, their weapons in their hands, the strong helping the weak. Some marched through swamp and jungle till they contacted British units in Benut or south of that town. Others found sampans and paddled down the coast, while a large group of 9 officers and 400 men were taken off by naval craft from a fishing village on the coast. All those who escaped were sent to Singapore in the hope that there would be sufficient survivors to reorganise as a Battalion again.
However, there were many who did not come back and these were killed or captured in the trap or succumbed to their wounds and exhaustion in the mud of the mangrove swamps. As the survivors returned, the Battalion was able to reorganise and re-equip at a temporary camp on Serangoon Road outside Singapore. As the days went by and more and more of the 'missing'turned up, each with stories of wild adventures to tell, the spirits of all ranks rose high and the Battalion had its tail up as never before.
The rest of the Division had now arrived on the Island and contact was made with the 1st Battalion again, but this rest period lasted a bare five days, after which the unit found itself once more in the line, taking over a sector of coast to the east of the naval base. Here there was a complete lack of any sort of defence works and much digging and wiring was involved, principally by night and often under shellfire from the enemy batteries across the Straits. Any movement by day drew artillery and mortar attention. Here the Battalion returned to 53rd Brigade. Air attacks increased in intensity daily.
Shortly afterwards, as a result of the Japanese landings on the west coast of the Island, the 53rd Brigade was ordered to carry out a withdrawal in stages to the south to conform with the movement of the left of the general line. This operation was successfully concluded although at one time the enemy cut the road behind the Brigade and nearly caused a second Senggarang. Finally positions were taken up on the evening of 13th February to the north of Braddell Road but owing to darkness the positions could not be thoroughly reconnoitred the same evening and information of the positions of other units were scanty. The same evening, the C.O. with a small party of officers and other ranks of the Battalion was ordered away from the Island on an official 'escape' party and in spite of his forceful protests to Brigade was compelled to leave his Battalion. Major Stephen took over command.
Soon after midnight, the enemy attacked the Battalion line in several places and a force which outflanked the Brigade came in from the left and assaulted Battalion H.Q. which though mustering only 15 all ranks, fought back stoutly and thus contained a complete company on its own. Confused and bitter fighting ensued in the darkness and the Battalion found itself assaulted from front flanks and rear. The C.C. was killed while manning an L.M.G. and the Adjutant with several of the Battalion H.Q. met their deaths in a gallant attempt to drive back the enemy with the bayonet. All communications were cut and part of the defence line was temporarily overrun, but Major P.T. Howard took command of the Battalion and at dawn the line was reformed and gaps closed; the enemy withdrew into cover and seemed to have exhausted his strength for the time being.
The following night further attempts were made by strong enemy patrols to find a weak spot in the defences, but these were countered and the line held. Throughout the 15th the Battalion continued to hold its ground though its left flank was now in danger and communication with the rear was no longer possible. In the late afternoon the Brigade Commander came in person to deliver the order to cease fire, lest this be disbelieved.
The Escape Party
The 2nd Battalion Escape Party consisted of Lt.Col. Thorne, Capt. Page, Capt. T.A.D. Ennion, Lieut. Squirrel, C.S.M. Randall, and Pts Bray, Clarke, Desborough, Powell, Pells, and Johnson. These were the only men of the Regiment detailed for this venture, since the 1st Battalion did not receive the order until too late for it to be complied with.
On leaving the Battalion this party made its way to Brigade and there joined similar parties from 5th and 6th Norfolks, afterwards proceeding to the docks. here it was found that shipping was not available for the whole Divisional party and the greater part were returned to the Y.M.C.A. building to wait for the next night. Here Lt. Col Thorne was informed of the true nature of the 'special'mission for which he and his men had been selected and they at once asked permission to return to their unit, only to be informed that they were under orders to escape and must do their best to obey the order.
During the evening of the 14th the Y.M.C.A. building came under heavy shellfire and received several direct hits. When the 53rd Brigade party reported to the docks after dark they again found no ships and received a message to the effect that they were to attempt to find boats and make their escape unaided. The night was spent searching the docks for seaworthy craft, and with the coming of daylight this task was hampered by continual air and artillery strafing. Finally on the afternoon of 15th , the party embarked 41 strong in a ship's lifeboat and began to row in the rough direction of Sumatra.
After crossing over the Straits of Malacca and calling in at several islands for information and supplies, at one of which the lifeboat was bartered for a decrepit motor launch, the party reached Sumatra. Here they were taken in buses over to the west coast and conveyed by ship to Java. After a few days only on Java they were put aboard a small flat-bottomed river steamer and taken to Ceylon being attacked by torpedoes on the way, but escaping by reason of the vessel's light draught.
In the story of this party there is again a tragedy. While waiting in the Y.M.C.A. on the 14th, before making their escape from Singapore, Lt. Col Thorne was taken from them and ordered to join a number of senior officers who were to be evacuated first. Regretfully, Thorne said goodbye to the other Cambridgeshires and was sent off almost at once. He was never seen again. When the rest of the Battalion 'Escape Party' finally reached Ceylon, they made every endeavour to rejoin their C.O. but could find no trace of him. After extensive inquiries amongst other Officers and men who reached safety, they learned that he had arrived in Sumatra and had been embarked in a vessel which was believed to have been lost in the Indian Ocean with no survivors.
The news of the loss of Lt. Col G.C.Thorne did not reach those of his Battalion who were in captivity until long after, when one of the few letters to arrive from home gave information that he was reported missing. Even then, there was still hope that he might somehow have survived and been made prisoner somewhere in the East, but as the war drew to its close that hope died away. The best tribute that can be paid to the memory of this well loved Commander is this, that whenever, in slave camps of the East, two members of his Battalion met together they asked each other if there was news of the C.O.. For those of us who served under him, he is remembered as he was that morning at Senggarang, tired, hungry, and as grimy as the rest of us, standing on the open road in full view of the enemy block, smiling and cracking jokes to cheer us on into battle, his helmet as usual forgotten.
In the Second World War the Cambridgeshire Regiment went into battle for only a very short space of time and took a small share in an ill-fated and disastrous campaign in a remote corner of the Empire. It was not numbered among the conquering hosts that finally overcame the forces of darkness and it made no triumphal progress through liberated countries into the land of the oppressors. Instead it was sent to fight for a lost cause and its fate was certain before it ever landed on that far shore. There were no laurels to win, only death and chains.
Yet in that brief action which preceded the Tragedy of Singapore both battalions carried out the tasks assigned to them and were not found wanting. They stood fast where they were ordered to stand; they were surrounded and were not dismayed and they attacked the enemy with confidence at every possible opportunity. They gave rather more than they received.
During the 1914 - 1918 war it had become a tradition in the Regiment to expect to be assigned the hardest and most thankless tasks and go into them gladly without fuss and without self-advertisement, in the spirit of Leonidas; the year 1942 gave to the sons the opportunity of observing the tradition of their fathers.
When the shadows closed in on the city of Singapore, the survivors of the two battalions, united for the first time since that last camp of 1939, were cut off from the world for three and a half bitter years. The history of those years was written in the jungles of Siam, on the infamous Burma Railway, on the airfields of New Guinea, in the mines of Japan and in the packed holds of prison ships. It is a tale of disease, degradation, cruelty and death and much of it is best forgotten * NB1.
However, it also brought forth some things that should never be forgotten: cheerfulness, comradeship, unselfishness and bravery and such are the qualities that a regiment may be proud to find in its members, whether in victory or in ruin. Though it was not for us to win laurels on the battlefields of the world, yet perhaps after all we won a victory of our own, for each man overcame selfishness and brought out the good that lay in him for the benefit of his comrades in misfortune. Wherever fate led them, Cambridgeshire men stuck together and the strong did their utmost for the sick and dying. They also learned a loyalty which was not limited to their own Regiment alone; many took it upon themselves to suffer that others might have better treatment and of these the name of Lt. Col. E.L.V. Mapey, O.B.E., T.D. will be remembered.
Until the end of 1943 a large number of survivors of the Regiment managed to keep together in two of the main working parties; one of these Cambridgeshire parties while working in Singapore contrived to build a wireless set and obtain regular news from the outside world. When moved to Siam they smuggled with them a large store of radio components out of which a certain officer of the Royal Corps of Signals, encountered in Chungkai, was able to construct five secret sets for distribution to various camps along the river. One of these sets was retained and worked by this Cambridgeshire party , No. 5 working party, from Chungkai to Takanun and assisted greatly in maintaining morale at a high level. On one occasion at Wan Tai Kien an officious guard discovered the existence of this instrument, but was fortunately in need of a wrist watch, so those responsible for working it escaped the usual fate of discovered radio operators and were able to preserve the set into the bargain.
When the Japanese commenced the sending of parties of prisoners overseas to Japan and Formosa the splitting up of the men of the Regiment began and from 1943 onwards they were scattered all over the Pacific. Some of the prison ships were torpedoed on their way and most of their human freight met death at the hands of our own people; in one such sinking one officer and 90 men of the 2nd Battalion alone were lost. Among those left in Siam there were soon casualties from Allied bombing attacks on the railway.
Throughout the captivity, accurate records of all deaths and burials were constantly kept, although such things were of course forbidden. Whenever a party containing Cambridgeshire men left for some remote or unknown destination, the senior officer, N.C.O. or private made himself responsible for recording the fate of his party. If he died, the next senior took over the job and so it went on. Lists of casualties were buried in tins, hidden inside bibles and sewn in shirts and miraculously all these records survived, though many of the authors did not. In this way the fate of almost every man of the Regiment was known as soon as these documents came back to England at the end of the war.
There are many who deserve to be remembered for their work in those days of misery, but special mention should be made of the medical staffs of the two battalions, in particular Sgt. Easingwood for his work in the cholera epidemic at Takanun at a time when he was himself a sick man. Nor shall we forget Noel Duckworth, the Padre of the 2nd Battalion, of whom it has been well said that he was a true servant of his Master.
Then after the long years came the liberation and the survivors began the journey home from the furthest corners of the Far East. Some by plane to Rangoon and India, some by ship to America and others to Australia and thence to Southhampton and Liverpool. It was perhaps fitting that one of those ships which carried them home again should be our old friend the M.V.'Sobieski' on which the 2nd Battalion had set sail for Halifax so long ago in 1941.
It was a very wonderful homecoming and it was made even happier by the deputation from the Territorial Army Association of Cambridgeshire, which, dodging back and forth with great rapidity, met every ship at both ports to welcome home each member of the Regiment and arrange transport to his own doorstep.
Regimental offices were at once established at Cambridge, Ely and Wisbech and survivors of the headquarter staffs of the two battalions volunteered to spend their leave compiling records and answering inquiries. With the help of the T.A. Association this work was soon well under way. Each returning group of ex-prisoners, as they reached home, sent in their casualty lists to one of the regimental offices and within a few weeks complete returns for both battalions were supplied to the Infantry Record Office. Part Two Orders were published up-to-date and plans of the various cemeteries in Malaya and Siam submitted to the War Office. Many hundreds of enquiries were dealt with.
Throughout the days of captivity a plan had been maturing in the mind of several members of the Regiment and had been discussed at length in Chungkai in 1944. On the 17 February, 1946 this plan was put into execution; a 'Cambridgeshire Weekend' was held, to which everyone who had served in either battalion during the recent war was invited; they came in their hundreds. On the Saturday, a separate reunion took place for each battalion, the 1st in Cambridge Drill Hall and the 2nd in the Wisbech Corn Exchange. In each town, as the men arrived, they were registered at a battalion office, allotted accommodation in the town if they needed it and presented with a souvenir book containing the history of the Regiment in the 1939 - 45 war. Records were prominently displayed so that everyone might know what had happened to his friends and give such information about the missing as he might have. There was a vast supply of food and an equally vast supply of beer. The Commander of the East Anglian District and the Mayors of the two towns welcomed their battalion home on behalf of the county and this was followed by a first class ENSA concert at each reunion and then, of course, everyone renewed old friendships and talked far into the night.
On the following day, the two battalions were brought by special trains to Ely, together with members of the Old Comrades Association and the relatives of many of the fallen and marched up to the Cathedral for a Service of Thanksgiving and Remembrance to which many guests and friends of the Regiment had been invited. The address was given by Padre Duckworth and the Bishop of Ely delivered a charge to the Regiment. Over three thousand people were gathered in the great Cathedral, which made a magnificent setting for a very memorable and moving service.
After the service the two battalions marched through the streets of the city and the salute was taken by the Honorary Colonel of the Regiment. It was a day of brilliant spring sunshine and the rout was crowded with spectators from the towns and country.
Mobile canteens supplied the entire parade with food and drink and special trains and buses began the task of returning the members to their homes, some laying as far afield as Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The organisation and expense entailed by this weekend reunion was considerable and the project could never have been attempted without the generous assistance given by the Lord Lieutenant, the Mayors and citizens of Cambridge and Wisbech, the Old Comrades Association, the W.V.S., the T.A. Association and many others throughout the county.
A second opportunity for a reunion occurred on 29th of September, later in the year, when the Honorary Freedom of the Borough of Cambridge was ceremonially conferred upon the Regiment in recognition of its services over many years in the cause of freedom. Every member of the Regiment since 1908 received an invitation to attend the parade and some 1,500 were able to take part. Three uniformed parties as escort to the Colours, which were followed by the Singapore Drums, in the place of honour. The remainder of the parade, to the number of 1000, were in mufti, wearing their decorations. Led by the drums of the Cadet Battalions affiliated to the Regiment, the parade marched through Cambridge to the Market Place, where the silver casket containing the Scroll of the Freedom was presented by the Mayor to the Honorary Colonel. The flag of the 1st Battalion, concealed from the Japanese during captivity, flew proudly from the tower of Great St. Mary's church during the ceremony. When the Honour had been conferred, the Regiment, led by its Colonel with ten of its past commanding officers at the head, marched past the Mayor and through the principal streets of the town. The entire Regiment was then entertained to tea by the Mayor, Aldermen and Burgesses of the borough of Cambridge and the proceedings ended with a party arranged by the Old Comrades Association in the Drill Hall.
Honours and Awards for Services in the Far East
1. Malaya and Singapore
Bar to D.S.O. 1
Mentioned in Despatches 11
2. As Prisoners of War, 1942 - 1945
British Empire Medal 1
Mentioned in Despatches 4
Many Officers and Other Ranks of the Regiment served on othe fronts including Norway, France and Belgium 1940, Middle East, Crete, East Africa, Sicily, Italy, Burma and North-West Europe 1944 - 1945. Unfortunately, the record of awards made to members of the Regiment for these campaigns is not yet complete, but the list includes the following:-
U.S.Bronze Star 1