Ernest Sydney Benford
1922/02/11 - Born Shoeburyness, Essex
Son of Edward Charles and Ruth Margaret Benford
1936/06/01 - Enlisted
137 Field Regiment
11th Indian Division
1942/02/15 - Captured Singapore
PoW No. 6486
Under Maj.-Gen. Key
Japanese Index Card - Side One
Japanese PoW Card - Side Two
1942/10/26 - Transported overland to Thailand in Letter Party ‘W’
New PoW No. 40054
Under Lt.-Col. R. McL. More, R.A., 2 H.A.A K.S.P.A
1944/06 - Transported back to Singapore
Under Capt. Wilkie
1944/09/04 - Transported Oversea to Japan in Rakuyo Maru in Japan Party 3
The ship was painted battle grey and flew the merchant marine flag, which was a red ball in the centre of a white field. It had no red cross markings.
The Japan party consisted of 2,250 prisoners, 1,500 were British the remainder Australian, the number who actually sailed with the convoy was 2,217. The Rakuyo Maru held 1317 PoWs and The Kachidoki Maru a further 900 (all British)
On 4th September 1944, the two ships joined convoy HI-72 and sailed from Singapore.
On the 12th of September the convoy was attacked by US submarines and both the PoW hell ships were hit. The Rakuyo Maru was the first to be hit by a torpedo from the US submarine Sealion.
Three steam torpedoes were fired at the Rakuyo Maru at 5.25pm, the target was 1,100yards away, all three hit. The torpedoes struck ten seconds apart, two hitting below the waterline the other exploded into the engine room.
The explosions did not kill any prisoners but the water that covered the deck to a depth of over 6 feet flattened anyone in its way, also making its way into the holds where the prisoners were. The prisoners soon organised the evacuation of the holds and looked for anything that would float, the Japanese taking ten of the twelve lifeboats, abandoned ship. The Japanese that didn’t escape found the prisoners not too sensitive to their pleas of help.
Ernest was rescued from the water by the Japanese and continued his journey to Japan on the Kibitsu Maru.
Fukuoka 6D Camp - Tanoura
New PoW No. 3671
POWs used as slave labourers in a carbon plant.
1945/06/30 - Camp closed PoWs taken to:-
Fukuoka 25B Camp - Omuta
New PoW No. 157
Under Capt. Wilkie
Slave labourers at a carbide mfg plant.
1945/09/02 - Liberated
Japanese Homeland Camps
Capt. Wilkie’s Diary
KEW:- WO 361/1987, WO 361/2169, WO 361/2058, WO 361/1586, WO 361/2184, WO 392/23, WO 361/1940, WO 361/1742, WO 361/1742, WO 345/4, WO 361/2005,