It is with very great sadness that I am contacting you to notify you that our much loved Honorary Chairman, Ron Mockford has passed away peacefully in hospital on Thursday, August 18th in the early hours of the morning. I received a phone call from his daughter, Maggie, yesterday and on behalf of the association I have passed on condolences to her, her family and friends and also offered her my support.
I am sure that many of you will wish to attend Ron’s final farewell and I will let you know the details as soon as the funeral has been arranged.
In honour of our dear friend, Ron, who was the most lovely, friendly and cheerful of gentlemen - a very special man - here is the story of his time as a POW that was used when he joined us in Birmingham to celebrate his 95th birthday. Ron had been unable to travel to our meetings recently due to Covid restrictions etc and he was sorely missed and spoken about often.
RON MOCKFORD, FEPOW, 02/05/1923 - 18/08/2022
Born on the 2nd of May, 1923, Alfred Ronald Mockford ‘Ron’ joined the RAF on the 20th of June 1941, Rank and Number AC - 1503792. After six weeks training in Padgate and Skegness he was posted to Andover. He was then given six days embarkation leave prior to leaving on his overseas posting. He embarked on the SS Orontes to Freetown - Capetown - and then on to Bombay from where he boarded the SS Devonshire to join 84 Squadron in Basra,Iraq in November 1941.
After a spell in North Africa, they were withdrawn and he left on the SS Taufiq at Port Taufiq bound for Singapore. Then the invasion of Singapore and subsequent surrender by the British to the Japanese, led to Ron being diverted to Sumatra. As part of a small force he was sent to secure and demolish a bridge to try to halt the Japanese advance. He was then sent on to the port where he and his fellows were put on a ship to Batavia. They were stationed in Dutch barracks and sent on to the airfield at Kalidjati. Unfortunately, the Japs landed and the airfield was overrun but they were able to escape and, despite strafing by the Japs, they made their way to Bandong and then on to the coast. A Japanese warship was laid off in the bay and the Dutch finally surrendered on the 8th of March 1942. Ron was taken prisoner by the Japanese and the most frightening and saddest part of his RAF service was about to begin.
Ron and his fellow prisoners were then taken by blackout train to B.Glodok prison in Batavia where over 100 of them were packed into a very small space. Working for the Japanese on the airfield at Batavia a piece of metal was taken off a crashed American Buffalo fighter plane and this was made into a 21st birthday key by Alex (surname unknown). It was presented to Ron on 2nd May 1944 in Changi prison camp.The names engraved on the key are; Alex, Oscar, Doughy (surname Baker), Ginger, Harry (surname Onions) and Blondie. They also fashioned the presentation box into which the key fits perfectly. The case is probably made from teak and is lined in green felt.
They were made to work on an airfield under the charge of Japanese marines - it was extremely hard work! They got little rest, starvation rations and the heat and humidity were extreme.He then worked on the docks and, after about twelve months, was moved to Tanjung Priok - a horrible place. Next he went by ship to Singapore, he was in a bad state suffering with septic sores and scabies. After disembarkation, he and his fellows were put under canvas outside Seletar Barracks where they were made to work repairing roads. They were then put onto a train and transported to Kanchanaburi, Thailand to work on the Railway with H Force. The story of H Force is one of starvation, deprivation and extreme cruelty at the hands of the Japanese and Korean guards and many didn’t survive the horrendous conditions.
H Force travelled up country, stopping at various camps along the way and it is well documented that the conditions in these camps were horrendous - Hell Holes - and just to survive took tremendous courage and determination. Ron told me that he had a pal who helped him, without whom, he didn’t think he would have survived - this ‘Pal’ eventually succumbed and didn’t make it to the end. Ron’s health deteriorated and luckily he was brought down to Kanchanaburi to the hospital camp. Medics and doctors sent from Singapore were there and he was finally sent back down to Singapore. When Ron was fit to resume work, he worked on the airfield at Changi and also in the Bukit Timah Hills digging tunnels.
On August the 6th 1945 the first Atomic Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and three days later another was dropped on Nagasaki. Whatever your views are on the rights or wrongs of these bombs, there can be no doubt that these events finally brought an end to the war with Japan and on August the 15th, Emperor Hirohito said that Japan would surrender unconditionally, the signing of which took place on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2nd 1945. So, after the bombs fell, what happened to Ron in Changi?
The first sign that Ron knew that the war was finally over was when British troops (about 9 men) landed at Changi and the island was re-occupied.The camp he was in had a visit from Lord and Lady Mountbatten which was very memorable. He also talked with great fondness of the care they received from the ‘excellent ladies’ of the F.A.N.Y. and they were also allowed to go to the docks to be fed, visiting the Aircraft carrier, HMS Activity and HMS King George V.
After about a week he boarded the Dutch liner, the Tegelberg, along with his fellow FEPOW and started the journey back home. They sailed to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) where they received a great reception from the Wrens and then finally back to ‘Blighty’,landing in Liverpool before going on to Chorley and then to RAF Cosford. ( I heard from another source that the FEPOWs would frequently go from Cosford to drink in the pubs of Wolverhampton and after outstanding treatment from the RAF, Ron was demobbed in September 1945.
Ron, you were a very special man - one of the very special group of young men who were defending our country against a cruel enemy and ended up going through one of the most difficult, cruel and harshest times as a POW during the War in the Far East. We, the members of BAFEPOW have our own links to loved ones who we will always love and commemorate but we are sad to learn that you have passed away and you will be missed - our condolences go to your daughter Maggie and her brothers and to all your Family and Friends, RIP, dear Ron xx
Ron frequently joined his FEPOW comrades at services of Remembrance and here is a photograph of him at the NMA which may have been for a VJ Day service. Ron is second on the left and on his left is Bill Wheale, also a BAFEPOW member at one time after the closure of the Wolverhampton Association.
And we all remember Ron driving around RAF Cosford Museum on his mobility scooter when BAFEPOW went on our trip there in 2019. So many happy memories of the times we were blessed with Ron’s presence at our meetings in Birmingham. RIP, dear Ron - we will miss your lovely smile xx
To all my fellow members of BAFEPOW, I know that everyone will be very sad to receive this news and it has been a difficult message to have to send out but if you want to contact me please do and it would be really helpful to me -if you are hoping to attend the funeral - then please let me know and I can send you the details as soon as I know about them (this will make it a lot easier for me to manage)
You can email me on:-
Kind regards to all of my fellow members at this sad time,