To honour those who served their country

“In this their finest hour”

Royal Artillery-tn

1811374

Gunner

William Ashworth

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1921/04/07 - Born Newark on Trent

Son of Thomas Henry and Mary Ellen Ashworth

1941/06/12 - Enlisted

Royal Artillery

3 Heavy A.A. 29th Battery

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Leaving for the Far East

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Unknown location, William is back left of photo

 

Japanese PoW

1942/02/15 - Captured Singapore

PoW No. M-702

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Reported a PoW

Japanese Index Card - Side One

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Japanese Index Card - Side Two

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Nissyo Maru

1942/04/04 - Oversea in Nissyo Maru to Saigon, French Indo-China with 1118 PoWs (All Ranks) called ‘Saigon Battalion’

Commander Lt-Col. Frances Edgar Hugonin’s Party (Awarded OBE 1946/09/12)

New PoW No. IV 13812

1942/04/09 - Arrived Saigon with half the PoWs down with dysentery because of the bad conditions on board the Nissyo Maru

Worked on docks unloading cargo

1942/07/07 - Saigon Hospital

Escapes:- Baxter & Cassidy. Strong rumours in the camp that they were captured after 36 hours of freedom, brought back to Saigon and executed.

1943/06/22 - Transported to Thailand with 700 PoWs under Lt-Col. Hugonin

1943/06/29 - No. 2 Jungle camp Kinsaiyok (Camp Ldr. Hugonin)

Lt-Col. Hugonin protested to the Japanese about the shortage of food. They threatened to shoot him if he protested again but he stood firm. He was well respected by the men under him.

1943/07/24 -  Kinsaiyok. (Camp Commander Lt. Col. Lilley)(159km from Nong Pladuk)

1943/10/30 - Tha Sao ( Commander Lt-Col. Knights. Norfolks)(125km from Nong Pladuk)

 1944/03/14 - Tha Muang (39km from Nong Pladuk, base camp at the end of railway construction)

New PoW No. 2157

1944/07/05 - Tha Muang, worked on service and repairs to railway

1945/01/23 -  Kan’buri (Camp Commander Lt-Col. Swinton) (50km from Nong Pladuk)

1945/09/06 - Liberated Thailand

1945/09/21 - Travelled home from Rangoon on SS Orduna

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Via Colombo, Ceylon (1945/09/27), Port Said (1945/10/10) and Suez Canal

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Photo taken at Echelon Barracks Colombo. William is on the front row in the centre, you can kind of see a circle around his face. It was taken whilst ashore on their journey back to England aboard the SS Orduna

1945/10/19 - Reached Liverpool

 

Post War

1946/09 - Married Margaret Bailey

 

The Ghostly Buglar

Tribute to William Ashworth

They could hear it in the distance. The whole camp woke in the night to the sound of a ghostly bugler playing ‘The Last Post’.

Immediately there was shouting, the searchlights were turned on and the tracker dogs set off beyond the barbed wire of the camp.

“Nobody human could have got away” William Ashworth told me “ It had been a terrible day. One of the worst since the Japanese had taken us prisoner to the dreaded Nakomnai Camp. But somehow that ghostly bugler call seemed to raise our spirits and gave us hope.”

William Ashworth a member of the Royal Artillery Regiment, had an eventful army career. Even when he was spending his 21st birthday aboard the HMS Repulse on his way overseas his family had a nasty shock. William was reported to have “accidentally Downed At Sea” by the local newspaper. Only weeks later they were informed that there had been a mix up in names and he was still alive.

William Ashworth was amongst members of the regiment captured by the Japanese when they arrived in Singapore. They were moved to Saigon and then set to work 18 hours a day on the notorious Railway featured in the film ‘Bridge Over The River Kwai”.

The men worked in terrible conditions, often dressed in only a loin cloth and their feet were bare.

William said hr reckoned that 40,000 men died making that railway, “One For Every Sleeper”.

They existed mainly on boiled rice and sour maze and occasionally dried fish. With no tea, bread or potatoes etc.. Many of them were starved, tortured and beaten during the four years that William was a prisoner.

“One of the worst incidents” William said “Was seeing my mates dying beside me.” killed by their own side when the planes from the Royal Air Force bombed the camp. Many prisoners died that day.

Their moral was very low when he and his fellow prisoners were sent out to dig a ditch all around the camp. They had only been back in camp for three days when they discovered the ditch had been filled with machine guns.

A rumour went round the camp that they were all to be killed on August 16th.

On the night of the 14th the prisoners awoke to the sound of the ghostly bugle call.

It was on the morning of the 15th August that their hopes were raised with familiar sounds.

The British had come to release them.

 

Information

Nicola Rossin
Thailand-Burma Railway

KEW:- WO 361/2172, WO 392/23, WO 345/2, WO 361/1979, WO 361/1954, WO 361/2196, WO 361/2169, WO 361/1987, WO 361/2068, WO 361/2184,

*

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