23, Lake Road,
December 1st, 1945
since this time last year I have felt that it was my duty towards
you, as a friend of Richard's, to
communicate with you concerning him. And I sincerely hope that I
shall not cause you too much pain and grief in writing this letter
to you. However, I know that you would far better have the true
details from a friend of his than be content with a mere formal
communication from the War Office. When we were first liberated, we
were warned against communicating with bereaved relations before
they had been formally notified as it was liable to cause confusion
and unnecessary grief, so I have complied with this order, and
allowed some time to elapse before writing.
you probably know, I was at Keble with
Richard and met up with him again in the
O.C.T.U. then 501 Battery, 137th Regiment.
went overseas together, had a day together ashore at Capetown. When
we went into action in N. Malaya, we left
Richard with a Rear Baggage Party and
later on with the retreat I returned after many adventures to
Singapore, meanwhile Richard was
attached to 350 Battery, the sole surviving Battery of the Regiment.
We were taken Prisoner
on Singapore Island, and were together again at Changi P.O.W. camp
till the middle of June 1942, when we proceeded with Regiment to
Siam (Nong Pladuk No.1) to help in the construction of the Siam -
Burma Railway [also known also as the
Death Railway - Here for a Map].
Owing to sickness, I
did not go up until March 1943 and saw him for a few minutes at that
place on the way further north.
Later in October, we
were both drafted by the Japanese to the same Jungle Working Camp
near the Burma Border (Konkwita).
We both had slight
malaria, but he was starting to show signs of deafness which grew
worse as time went on.
However, he was
evacuated to a Base Camp (Nong P[laduk] No. 2) in November 1943 and
I followed him in February 1944. Then he went to the Main Base
Hospital Camp at Nakom-Paton (40 m. from Bangkok) in March 1944, and
remained there till September when he returned to Nong Pladuk, where
I met him again. However, I was drafted to another P.O.W. Group IV
Base Camp, Jamoang. From there I did another stretch of work in the
Siamese Jungle only to be evacuated sick again after 1 month,
returning finally to Jamoang on Dec 4th 1944 during a
very period of bombing by the Allied Air Force. On Christmas Day
1944, there was a reunion of the few men of the Regiment left in
that camp, held by the officers. It was then that the death of your
son was announced by Capt. Atkinson (501 Battery), but the news was
unconfirmed as it had happened as the result of an Allied Air Raid
at Nong Pladuk and communications were practically non-existent on
account of the strict surveillance of the Japanese. This was to be
treated as uncertain news. However, 1 month later I passed Nong
Pladuk Camp spending 2 days there and learned to my great chagrin
that the news had been correct.
The Raid took place on
Dec 3rd 1944 in fact the 3rd of a
succession of raids in the latter half of that year. Owing to his
failed to hear the approach of the 'Planes and the two medical
orderlies detailed to look after him happened to be on duty
elsewhere at the time. A bomb fell on his hut as he entered it and
it may be some consolation to you to know, that he could never have
known anything about it at all. As was the case with all P.O.W.s
the Japanese allowed the proper and decent Christian Burial. Bearers
were, as far as I can remember Captain Hilton (501), Lt Baum (501),
Lt Huntriss (501), Capt Coombs (350) all 137 officers, relieved by 4
Gunners of our battery (501). He was therefore buried at Nong Pladuk
Graveyard not far from the main Siam Railway line which has been
kept in good state of preservation, being a Base Camp Cemetary. The
Siamese natives will probably assist in the preservation of the
I think that these are
all the details I myself can supply you with. Should you required
further information, the following, I am sure, would be only too
pleased to give it to you. Gunner Arthur Slater. 50 Reservoir Road,
South Gate N.14 who were present at that time. Also:- Captain W
Hilton, T.D. c/o Hon. Col. William Parkinson, 137th Blackpool
Regiment. R.A., 'Kingsmede' 157 Whitegate Drive, Blackpool, Lancs.
I can now only end up
by offering you my condolences and further offering you my sincerest
sympathy in your bereavement, and hope that you have recovered
sufficiently from your shock to be able to read this letter without
too much pain.
I should be grateful,
if you would acknowledge this letter, so that I know that my duty
has been accomplished.
Please write to me care
of Major F.B.W. Bee. Heather Hills, West End, Woking whence it will
be forwarded to wherever I happen to be.
I hope to leaving for
Gibraltar, my home, after Dec 6th when I am being
released from the Army. But as usual, army organisation is very slow
My best regards to you,
Charles Douglas, 939369
Ex-Keble College, Gunner
The Original Letter: