History of 118th Field Regiment (TA) During and After the Fall of Singapore, with lists of Casulaties

The 118th Field Regiment was formed in 1939 as the second line regiment to 65th (8th London) Field Regiment (TA) to accommodate the large number of South Londoners (many from Lewisham) who wished to enlist. On the outbreak of war the 118th went to Woolwich to release the regular garrison, where it remained until 1941 when it was sent with the 18th Infantry Division to India. After arriving in India news reached them of the loss of HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales, which were ships defending Singapore. As events were developing in Singapore in December of 1941 it was decided (sadly unwisely) to send reinforcements to Singapore and they were told that they were to head for Singapore. Their equipment was camouflaged and set up for the wrong terrain and they had little or no experience of jungle warfare. In January 1942 the 118th Field Regiment joined 18th (East Anglian) Division, to reinforce the Singapore Garrison by about 20,000 at the 18th Division HQ, making the total strength of about 85,000. This was a mistake because unseen by the commanders Singapore was already beyond the point of reinforcement being able to save them. They arrived amidst the chaos of air raids on 29 January 1942. They were just in time to take part in the final week’s battle for Singapore (7–15 February 1942), but they were poorly prepared or equipped, so there very little they could do. During this time the Regiment lost 22 men. In total the Allies lost about 7,000 killed and 2,000 wounded or missing. The Regiment is recorded as lost in February 1942 and was disbanded in 1947.

Members of the 118th Regiment who died 7 – 15 February 1942.

Allsopp, William Henry Ayres, George Edward Bendon, Elias Brooks, Henry John Dobie, Ernest Dru, Graham Ernest
Dudley, George Thomas Harry Eaton, Eric Lawrence Evans, Arthur John Ereira, George Walter Jones, Douglas Cartwright Larbey, Ernest Alfred
Louch, Ernest William Mann, William Charles Martin, Arthur Denis Midwinter, Harold Arthur Pethybridge, Alan Bradshaw Pilbeam, Douglas Harry
Purdom, Richard Radford, Edward Leslie Horace Terry, Albert William Wright, Douglas Allen

At the fall of Singapore about 80,000 Indian, Australian and British troops were taken prisoner by the Japanese. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill described this as the `worse disaster’ and the `largest capitulation’ in British history. Many were transported in ships or marched to camps all over Asia or joined other prisoners in constructing the notorious Burma-Siam Railway. The Regimental losses during this time were 182 in the area of the railway out of a total of 291 lost during WW2. 72 further losses to the Regiment occurred after the official construction dates for the railway.

Members of the 118 Regiment who died as prisoners of war during construction of the Burma-Siam Railway

Allen, William James Anderson, Archibald William Anderson, Sidney Charles Ansell, Clifford Peter Heasman Baker, Charles Herbert Baldock, Victor Alfred
Ball, W F* Bardwell, Bertram George Barnes, Alfred Edward Basham, Bennett Thomas Basham, Sidney Robert Baylis, Edward
Bone, Albert Raiseberry Boodle, Thomas Bradley, Frederick Breacker, Ronald Victor Breakspear, Albert William Brett, Edgar
Broadhurst, William Charles Brown, Arthur Thomas William Brown, Ernest William Brown, George Charles Atton Bubb, Leonard Buck, Maurice William John
Burchell, Arthur Edward Gerald Burns, Alan Douglas Burrows, Thomas Burt, Harry Ernest Busby, Robert George Butler, Bernard Frank
Butters, Frank George Arthur Chalk, Henry Humull Chalmers, Joseph Allen Christian, George Frederick Clelland, John* Coleman, Frank
Collier, Henry Victor Collinson, Cyril Collischonn, Kenneth Charles Cooper, Alfred John Charles Cory, Andrew William Cox, Harold Stephen
Crees, Benjamin James Crewe, George Haydn Crocker, Henry Crofts, Peter Henry Francis Croxford, John Dennis Culpin, William
Curd, Maurice Frederick Currie, Harry Dadd, George Henry Denny, George Edmund Dickins, Peter Hambleton Dilley, Harry Elliss
Dowsett, Bertram Harry Duce, Edward Cecil Duggan, Michael Desmond Ferguson, Malcolm James Foley, William Henry Forsyth, Sidney
Foskett, Alfred Wilson Freeman, Arthur George Gardner, Gerald Charles Gardner, Trevor Thomas Gates, Ronald M. Gaunt, Albert Charles
Gilbey, Bernard Victor Gosling, Ernest Sidney Gosling, Norman Arthur Gray, Edmond George Greenaway, Stanley Frederick Gunn, William Alfred Charles
Haggar, Charles Roy Hamlyn, Henry Harry Harrison, William Walter Hart, Robert Charles Harwood, William James Hatcher, John Arthur
Hawke, Edward Rawlings Hazel, Richard Roland William Heal, Brian Heal, Eric Frank Heath, Frederick Henry James Hill, Arthur Ernest
Hill, William Alfred Hilliard, Lenard George Horlock, Kenneth Audsley Hudson, Dudley Parker Hughes, William Stanley Hull, Jacob Elliot
Hutton, Albert Henry Ivison, William George Jeffries, Sidney Albert Jeppesen, John Niels Peter Juneman, Henry James Keen, Leonard Arthur
Kelf, Thomas James Kewell, Reginald Kimber, George Robert King, William Frederick Litster, John Hill Mansfield, George James Henry
Martin, Lester Dudley Matthews, John McCarthy, Edward Mead, Robert Edward Meggs, Frank Moran, William James
Morley, Eric Murrell, Keith Edward Neller, Arthur Alfred Norris, James Nunn, Alec Ockenden, Eric William
Owers, Alfred Robert Paterson, William Leonard Pawley, Edward Wilfred Pearce, Ernest George Phillips, Robert John Pickering, Frederick Walter
Plumridge, Henry Charles Arthur Pooley, Maurice Fred Rixson, Ronald Alfred Roberts, Arthur Charles Roper, John Henry Rutherford, Henry
Ryan, John William Sabourin, Leonard Charles Sadler, William Sale, John Trevor Salmon, Ronald Charlwood Sampson, Dennis Grenville
Scott, Charles Sidney Seager, Percy Leonard Siggins, Charles Henry Simmons, Lawrence Frederick Simpkin, Christopher Simpson, William Harry Ernest
Smith, Frank Smith, Harry Smith, Ronald Arthur Sowery, John James* Spooner, Charles Henry Spurrell, Victor Charles George
Standbridge, Leonard Arthur Stevens, Kenneth James Cloete Stout, Ernest Charles Strand, Thomas William Sumpter, Albert Edward Swift, Ralph George
Taggart, Matthew Thomas, Matthew David Tickell, Richard Henry Trevena, Arthur Herbert Underwood, Henry Leonard Vernon, Henry William
Voak, Frederick James Wade, Norman Harold Alan Walker, William Roland Wall, Robert Charles Croft Ward, Cyril James Wardell, Robert Henry
Watts, James Webb, Charles George Webb, Stanley Richard Weir, Thomas Joseph Wells, Roy Albert Wennell, Walter Stanley
Wharton, Arthur Whiting, Leslie Wickerson, Sydney Wicks, Cyril Joseph Wilkins, Christopher Arthur Wilkins, Ronald Frederick
Williams, Frederick Williamson, Stephen Willshire, John Ralph Wilson, Jack Ewson Wilson, Victor Charles Young, Stanley
Young, William George Yule, Sidney Richard

*Not only lack of care, starvation and malnutrition killed the POWs but also disease and Malaria and Cholera were prolific killers in the camps. In Nikki or Nieke Camp in May-June 1943 300 prisoners were cremated to try and stop the epidemic there. Their ashes were buried at the camp but after the war they were reburied in two adjoining graves in Plot IX at Kanchanaburi. Among their number were 3 members of the 118th
Ball, W F
Clelland, John
Sowery, John James

Prisoner of War Transfer to Japan 1944

Sadly 43 of the 72 post railway deaths occurred on 12-14 September 1944 when a Japanese convoy carrying POWs was sunk by US submarines who did not realize over 2000 POWs, were on board two of the Japanese’s ships.

On the night of 11-12 September 1944, a wolfpack known as Ben's Busters consisting of the US Submarines Growler, Pampanito and Sealion intercepted a convoy of six ships and five escorts that had departed Singapore on 6 September 1944 bound for Japan. The submariners had ULTRA (codebreaker) intelligence regarding the course and makeup of the convoy, and that it was carrying war supplies including raw materials and oil, but they were unaware that one ship, the Rakuyo Maru, was carrying 1,350 British and Australian POWs and another ship in the convoy was carrying 750. They were part of the slave labourer who had worked on the Burma Railway, and were bound for Japan to work in the factories and mines. At Manila three more ships joined the convoy, making a total of 12 ships.

Growler began the attack, sinking the lead escort, a frigate, Hirado, and a destroyer, Shikinami. Sealion then sank two transports, the Rakuyo Maru and the Nankai Maru. Pampanito tracked the fleeing convoy and sank a tanker and another transport, the Kachidoki Maru. Thus half of the convoy went down. The Japanese rescued many of their own survivors but the POWs were left to fend for themselves. Around 4pm on 15 September, Pampanito re-entered the area and found it littered with debris and dead bodies. They then found live British and Australian survivors. Pampanito picked up 73 of them. A call for assistance brought Sealion to the scene, and it collected 54 survivors. By 10pm neither submarine could carry any more and they were forced to leave others behind.

Back in Pearl Harbour, COMSUBPAC, Vice Admiral Lockwood ordered the US Submarines Barb and Queenfish to the scene - 450 miles away. They moved at full speed (19 knots) but were delayed by running into another Japanese convoy. Ace submariner Eugene Fluckey led the attack in Barb, and sank an aircraft carrier, the Unyo, and a tanker, the Asuza, with one salvo. By the time they arrived at the scene at dawn on 18 September, the survivors had been in the sea for six days and a Typhoon was closing in. Nonetheless, Barb picked up 14 men and Queenfish 18 before they were forced to break off the search that evening.

Today we would call this a ‘friendly fire’ incident, as the troops were killed by the action of allied forces. All those named below died during this short period and are commemorated on the Singapore Memorial for those who lost their lives during this time in this area and have no known grave. Some did survive this incident and bodies were recovered but many were not identified. Many died at the scene, so would be commemorated on this memorial.

In Captain Wilkie’s War Diary [Transcribed at The National Archives
he writes that of the 1548 British POWs that set sail only 570 made it to Japan, 972 having drowned and 6 died on board ship. They had been divided up into 2 parties for the journey one under Captain Wilkie (950) and the other under Captain Keyes (550). Captain Keyes’ ship was the first to be torpedoed on the night of the 11-12th September. The ship was not seen the next day and Captain Wilkie states that they did not stop to pick up survivors. Only 55 survived from the other party. Captain Wilkie’s ship survived the first attack and was torpedoed the next day. The sinking was again at night and took about 5 minutes. The commanding British officers gave orders to abandon ship and it was done calmly. They all had lifebelts and in the morning vessels turned up and rescued the Japanese, leaving the POWs and the empty life rafts. The POWs got into the rafts and found supplies but no rescue. It was not until the morning of the 14th that they were finally rescued, sadly by the Japanese. On this ship there was no medical aid and 6 died on the way to Japan. Also this time life belts were only issued to the officers, it was noted that the Japanese had 2 or some had 3 lifebelts each. They quickly found paper and started recording what they could because in the sinking all their records had been lost. Once in Japan the scale of the losses was seen and how many of Captain Keyes’ party had been lost to compare Wilkie’s. Again the POWs were divided into 2 parties and one under Captain Pearce (270 men) and the other under Captain Wilkie’s party (300 men, 11 of whom remained at the hospital), who was the CO of Camp No 25, in which John Ewin was held.

Members of the 118th Regiment who died en-route to Japan

Amer, Robert William Ashford, Charles James Ball, James William Baston, Ronald George Cartwright, Roland Albert Constable, Robert William George
Davey, Frederick William Donnelly, James Drewry, Charles Stewart Gardner, John William Grange, William James Grimley, John
Halliwell, Ralph Hanney, Henry William Hanson, John Harper, Derrick George Heywood, Samuel Hogg, Graeme Scot
Irwin, Arthur Leslie Jasper, James Douglas John, Thomas William Saint Johnson, Dennis Howard Johnson, Leonard Samuel Jones, Alun Pierce
Kewell, Edwin Knott, Richard Albert John Labrock, James Liddle, John George Mandry, Dennis George William Mason, Arthur Rushworth
Miller, Richard Ouzman, Donald Herbert Parham, Leslie Harold Pincombe, Thomas Charles Procter, James Robert Rist, Edward Arthur
Rowles, Maurice Cameron Ryder, Victor Charles Sampson, Ernest Thomas Simpson, James Henry Smale, Reginald George Tedder, Frederick Walter Francis
Worth, Ronald Willitt

Members of the 118 Regiment (TA) who died in Japan before or shortly after liberation

From those who survived the incident and remained in Japanese hands 4 died in Japan:

CREES, Benjamin James and KELF, Thomas James both died of malnutrition at Tokyo No. 13 Branch camp (Omi) at T13B (Omi) camp. This camp had been established on the 12 May 1943 as Tokyo No.9 Branch Camp in the site of Electro-chemical Industry Company at Niigata-ken, Nishikubiki-gun, Omi-machi, Japan. The POWs were used by Electro-chemical Industry Company. On 1 August 1943 it was renamed Tokyo No. 7 Dispatched Camp and renamed again in August 1945 Tokyo No. 13 Branch Camp and it closed September 1945 at the end of the war. 542 POWs (432 American, 109 British and 1 New Zealander) were imprisoned at the end of the war and 60 POWs died while imprisoned.

EWIN, John Arthur died of colitis and possibly bronchitis at Fukuoka No.25 Branch Camp (Omuta-Denka). This camp had been established on the 29 September 1944 at Fukuoka-ken, Omuta-shi, Shinkai-machi, Japan. The POWs were used by Electro-chemical Industry Company (carbide manufacturing plant), 390 POWs (388 British and 2 American) were imprisoned towards the end of the war of these 4 POWs died while imprisoned. It was closed in September 1945 at the end of the war.

BAMPTON, Ernest John died after the war in Japan before he could return home.

118th Regiment Sibling Deaths

Because this was a TA unit there were a number of siblings, joining their brothers for the weekly training and social life that membership of the Reserve Forces brings. This meant when the Regiment was capture, so was a number of siblings. This sadly is reflected in the recorded deaths. The Siblings were:

BASHAM Bennett Thomas (30) and Sidney Robert (24) sons of Benjamin Basham, and of Rose Basham, of Bromley, Kent; Bennett was the husband of Constance Elsie Basham, of Thorpe Abbotts, Norfolk. Both died during the construction of the railway in August 1943 [18th and 29th] and are buried at Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery

GOSLING Ernest Sidney (27) and Norman Arthur (25) sons of Sidney and Jessie Amelia Gosling, of Catford, both died during the construction of the railway in 1943, Norman on the 14th June and Ernest on the 5th November and are buried at Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.

HEAL Brian (23) and Eric Frank (25) sons of Frank Eli and Lillian Caroline Heal, of Catford, London. Both died during the construction of the railway in 1943 Brian on the 9th September and Eric on the 2nd December and are buried in Chungkai War Cemetery

KEWELL Edwin (24) and Reginald (26) sons of Mr. and Mrs. A. G. Kewell, of Bromley. Reginald died during the construction of the railway on 7 December 1943 and is buried at Chungkai War Cemetery. Edwin survived the railway construction but died 12 September 1944, which is the date for the `friendly fire’ incident where a convoy of POWs to Japan was sunk by the Americans, he is is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial.

Members of the 118th Regiment who died in Formosa (now Taiwan) commemorate at the Sai Wan War Cemetery in Hong Kong

There are 5 members of the 118th commemorated at the Sai Wan War Cemetery in Hong Kong, how did they end up there? The remains of those who died as prisoners in Formosa (now Taiwan) were brought to Hong Kong for burial at Sai Wan in 1946 and they included the 5 118th members:

GATES, Ronald M. died 21 June 1943 at the Taichu Camp on Taiwan.

GREENAWAY, Stanley Frederick died during January 1943 at the Taichu Camp on Taiwan. The exact date for his death is not known.

ROE, Douglas Arthur died 8 April 1945 also at the Taichu Camp on Taiwan.

MAY, Stephen Alfred died 28 August 1945 Taichu, Heito, Taihoku Camp No 6

DIBLEY, Mervyn Edward died 2 October 1945 Taichu, Heito, Taihoku Camp No 6, Oka

Taichu Camp had originally housed American POWs, who were `shipped’ to Japan on the Dai Nichi Maru that had brought the British POWs from Singapore. The first wave of British POWs had spent the time from the surrender of Singapore in the Changi Jail until 13th March 1942 when they were moved to the River Valley Camp where they remained until they were shipped out to Formosa (Taiwan today) in October 1942. From Taichu (Taichung) Camp the now exhausted POWs embarked on a large river reconstruction project, which involved working long hours in the unbearable sun. Here they were diverting a river by excavating a large channel to prevent the annual monsoon rains from washing away the railway bridges that spanned the river. To do this the POWs had to move large boulders from the river bed and by digging a large channel. They did not have the tools to do this and were beaten if they did not meet impossible quotas.

Later in November 1942 after a 2 week journey another 1000 POWs arrived on the England Maru and were split into 2 parties of about 500 each. 1 group was taken to Taihoku No 6 (Taipei) Camp where they were involved in a number of hard labour projects and the other group went to Kinkaseki (Chinguashi on the North East Coast of Taiwan). This was a base camp for the nearby copper mines. Here they worked for up to 12 hours, without shoes, clothes and limited supplies of food and medicine until the end of the war. Over 1100 British Commonwealth troops lost their lives at this camp.

Heito or Haito (PingTung) was a camp in the south of Formosa where the main work was loading small stones onto trains for the use in constructing runways. When they were not doing this they were working in the sugar cane fields.

There were also several temporary camps used when the POWs were being moved from Singapore to Japan and when they were recaptured after the sinking of the `hell’ ships and were awaiting another vessel to take them to Japan.

Other members of the 118th held on Taiwan but who survived:

AUGER, Harry W. Gunner was held at Taichu and Kinkaseki Camps on Taiwan.

KING, Ernest Gunner was held at Taichu, Kinkaseki and Kukutsu Camps on Taiwan.

LORD, Harold Gunner was held at Taihoku Camp No 6 Camp on Taiwan.

WEBSTER, Harry Gunner he was held at Taihoku Camp No 6 Camp on Taiwan.

WOOD, Frank Lance Sergeant he was held at Taihoku Camp No 6 Camp on Taiwan.

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