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Search Cambridgeshire Regiment Men Who Died WW2

This database contains details of the men who served in the Cambridgeshire Regiment and died during the Second World War. Links to any war memorials in the United Kingdom that these men are known to exist on are also provided plus photographs of either the men of their graves.

Database contains 765 records - 25 March, 2009

At the end of the Second World War English survivors of the notorious ‘Death Railway” set foot upon their native soil after an absence of three-and-a-half years. Among them, sadly diminished in number, were men of the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Cambridgeshire Regiment. They and their comrades from the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries underwent the most trying ordeals as captives of the Japanese. Most of the men had been compelled to take part in the construction of the Bangkok-Moulmein railway, which ran through the dense jungle and mountains of Thailand and Burma far away from the war front. Infantrymen raised from the pleasant, undulating countryside of Cambridgeshire and the flat green and golden fens of the Isle of Ely commenced the long voyage to the Far East on October 29th, 1941. They were later joined by officers and men of the 5th and 6th Battalions of the Royal Norfolk Regiment, the 135th Field Regiment Royal Artillery, the 198th Field Ambulance R.A.M.C., the 287th Field Company Royal Engineers and other Regiments and corps which, with the 2nd Battalion of the Cambridgeshire Regiment, formed the 53rd Infantry Brigade. The 1st Battalion of the Cambridgeshire Regiment formed part of the 55th Infantry Brigade.

Comprising a section of the 18th Division, the units were committed to action in Malaya, supporting troops of the East Surrey Regiment and the Leicestershire Regiment who had fought a weary, bitter action against Japan’s elite Regiment, the Imperial Guard. Supported by tanks and aircraft Japanese troops quickly over-ran the defending troops in the Malayan Peninsula. Although resistance was fierce and spirited the defenders, untrained in jungle warfare and with negligible air and sea support, were forced back to the causeway and eventually Malaya was abandoned. The 18th Division occupied defensive positions alongside Commonwealth soldiers on the island of Singapore. Facing them across the Johore Straits, 30,000 well-equipped Japanese soldiers prepared to invade the island. They were commanded by General Yamashita who, desirous of maintaining his initiative, knew he must secure Singapore’s surrender as quickly as possible.

Shortage of ammunition, petrol and water placed the defenders in a perilous position from which they faced annihilation. Singapore capitulated and approximately 130,000 men, of whom 28,500 were British, laid down their arms. The majority were taken to various sites in Thailand and Burma and set to work building the railway under most appalling conditions. Starvation, overwork and disease claimed at least one life in four. Since the war ended much of the railway has been dismantled, but a section is still in use between Non Pladok and Kinsayok, a distance of 130 km. (81 miles). This stretch of line conveys travellers on a most interesting and beautiful journey. It serves as a permanent reminder of the hardship and suffering of thousands of men of many nationalities, including those who live—and who once lived—in the peaceful lands of Cambridgeshire.

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Sources:

  • Battalion at War Singapore 1942 by Michael Moore
  • Commonwelath War Graves Commission (www.cwgc.org)
  • Colin Glendenning
  • Line of Lost Lives by Jack S Cosford
  • With the Cambridgeshires at Singapore by William Taylor
  • Kanchanaburi grave & cemetery photographs copyright © Larry Scott & Allan Poole - with thanks

Naval & Military Press Military History Books

See the COFEPOW site for details of the 2nd Battalion, Cambridgeshire Regiment

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