To honour those who served their country

“In this their finest hour”

Royal Norfolk-tn

5772596

Private

William George Chapman

Chapman-William-George-3tn

1913/10/05 - Born Cawston, Norfolk

Occupation Greengrocer

Royal Norfolk Regiment

5th Battalion

53rd Infantry Brigade

 

Service

Late 1939 the 5th Battalion HQ was at Dereham with Lt.-Col. G.N.Scot-Chad in command with other units at Aylsham, North Walsham and Holt. For the first few months individual training was at Holt and Weyborne and the men were given the task of building and manning the North Norfolk Coastal Defences. The battalion colours were in Sheringham Church, as Lt.-Col. Scot-Chad carried the Kings Colours and Maj.B.Savory the Regiment Colours.

In March 1940 section training begun and Lt-Col. E.C.Prattley, who had served with the 2nd Battalion in France, took over command of the battalion and Maj. H.T.Crane took over as second in command. In May company training begun only to be interrupted during the early summer months, after Dunkirk and with the threat of invasion, the battalion was given the job of manning the Coastal Defences at Weyborne. Whilst building the defences they carried on with their training and were achieving a high degree of skill as a unit.

With the threat of an invasion past the battalion was issued with transport vehicles and advanced training was then carried out. The battalion was moved to Gresham School at Holt in September and they now had an assault course in the woods. Being now brigaded with the 6th Royal Norfolks and the 2nd Cambridgeshire’s to be part of the 53 Brigade of the 18 Division, brigade training was applied.

Chapman-William-George-Marbury Hall-tn

On April 7th the brigade was moved to Marbury Hall, Northwich, near Liverpool, this move had two reasons. The city had very heavy bombing raids and needed the troops for fire watching duties plus full scale brigade attacks were to be carried out in the Birmingham and Carlisle districts. The battalion took alternate roles in attack and defence in these exercises.

Chapman-William-George-Marbury Hall Postcard-tn

The 5th battalion Royal Norfolk Regiment were in residence at Marbury Hall Military Camp from April 1941 until early October .

Chapman-William-George-6tn

William was a dispatch rider for the 5th Battalian

Taken in Scotland 1941

They were now a fighting team ready for action. One final move on October 5th 1941 was back to Glasgow where on the 22nd a detachment of one officer and 55 other ranks were inspected by the King before going overseas.

Duchess of Athol -01b

1941/10/30 - 5th Royal Norfolk Regiment were transported from Liverpool in Duchess of Atholl Convoy CT.5

USS Mount Vernon-2

1941/11/08 - Transferred to USS Mount Vernon at Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Contained the 53 Infantry Brigade. 18th Division sailed from Halifax in Convoy William Sail 12X

After a brief visit to Trinidad to refuel, Cape Town was reached on December 9th. Shore leave was granted before sailing on the 13th December for Bombay only to be then ordered on the 23rd to sail for Mombassa and then finally Singapore. She was escorted by the H.M.S. Emerald in convoy DM.1 and reached Singapore Harbour on January 13th 1942, the battalion disembarked in heavy rain and moved to Tyersall Park Camp by truck.

Before the troops were moved, some hurried jungle training took place by officers who had been fighting in Malaya. This training was very sparse as the troops were needed to stop the Japanese who had landed and infiltrated behind the allied lines in Malaya.

map -1tn

Johore - Malaya

Detail from Royal Norfolk Regiment

The 53 Infantry Brigade moved into Jahore on the  16th January and were under the command of the 11th Indian Division.

Moving in military transport they reached the area of Ayer Hitam and took up positions around Yong-Peng but very soon were on the move again to Jemaluang, east of Ayer Hitam. Having made no contact with the Japanese the battalion was moved into divisional reserve at Ayer Hitam on the 20th January.

 

The Japanese were attacking the coast at Batu Pahat and also trying to infiltrate the allied lines by landing troops further south near Senggarang and Rengit which was over ten miles behind their present positions.

Malaya

Senggarang - Jahore

Detail from Royal Norfolk Regiment

That evening the road from Ayer Hitam to Batu Pahat was crossed by the Japanese but the next morning the road was still in allied hands. It fell to the battalion to keep it open, at 4pm the enemy crossed the road again and gained possession near the 73rd milestone.

The battalion were then ordered to move to Batu Pahat but as the road was blocked they stayed at the 72 milestone and prepared an attack on the Japanese block for the next morning.

The following morning the battalion found the road block to be heavily defended. Capt. A.J.Self  attacked with “B” Company but received many casualties including 2nd/Lt. McKean who was killed, later Lt. G.H.Pallister died of his injuries, they were driven back. “C” company led by Maj. C.P.Wood managed to get round the southern side of the road block but the battalion was then recalled to take temporary positions near Ayer Hitam.

Later that evening the battalion made a detour south from Ayer Hitam spending the night near Skudai. Starting early they went through Pontain Ketchil and Rengit reaching the outskirts of Batu Pahat at 7am the morning of the 24th. They met the 2nd Cambridgeshire’s who had been ordered to withdraw from the town. The Royal Norfolk’s were given the task of retaking positions in the centre of the town as a holding operation to allow other troops to withdraw, the operation began at 10.45am. With very little artillery support the task was partly successful, the right flank being heavily engaged by the enemy, there was a constant threat of the enemy getting behind them and cutting off a withdrawal, these threats cam from two high spots overlooking their positions and held by the Japanese. “B” company was given the task of clearing these high positions of the enemy, which they did only to be later driven off themselves. At 4am on the 25th “C” Company with the remainder of the 2nd Cambridgeshire’s attacked these high points again but were stopped by heavy machine gun fire making an advance impossible. The battalion were then ordered to hold their present positions and cover the 2nd Cambridgeshire’s withdrawal. At 9pm, the task completed, the battalion withdrew four miles out of Batu Pahat.

On the morning of the 26th January the battalion found the Japanese had landed south of their lines and cut off their withdrawal. An attempt was made to clear the road for the transport but failed. The Brigade Commander sent orders at 5.45pm to destroy the 250 transport vehicles and continue on foot through the jungle. It was to be a long strenuous 18 mile journey which on the top of the five days of fighting took its toll.

The biggest part of the battalion, 500 in total, kept together under Maj. Wood and reached Benet on the coastal road on the evening of the 27th.

Capt. H.E.Schulman led a party to the coast and were evacuated by the Royal Navy. The men left behind to blow the bridge at Senggarang were cut off from the main party but with the C.O. they successfully made their way to the coast and escaped in a canoe.

The following day, 28th January, the battalion was taken to Serangoon Road Camp on Singapore Island and all allied troops were ordered to fall back to Singapore.

 

1942/02/15 - Singapore surrendered to the Japanese.

One of William’s greatest disappointments as dispatch rider was losing his motor-bike! He had to throw his bike into the river to stop it getting into the hands of the Japanese!

William was asleep when Singapore surrendered and woke to find himself alone. He walked looking for the others, past stacks of rifles until he found the men.

 

Japanese PoW

1942/02/15 - Became a Japanese PoW

Camp Changi

PoW No. 1916

New PoW No. 2899

Japanese Index Card - Side One

Chapman-William-George-1

Japanese Index Card - Side Two

Chapman-William-George-2

1945/09/02 - Liberated

MS Sobieski repatriated the remnants of the Cambridgeshire Regiment that had survived captivity at the hands of the Japanese in Malaya and Thailand. Also returned former Changi prisoners of war (POWs) from Singapore, sailing via Columbo, in  a letter William mentions "hoping to receive some at Ceylon" so presumably on the way to Ceylon and docking at Southampton during a dockworkers' strike. Disgusted, dismayed ex-POWs had to unload their own baggage, such as it was.

 

Died

3rd January 2007

 

Verse Written in William’s Diary

Transcribed by Miranda Pointer

 

The End of the Tale I know Not

 

I've heard talk about the hard times

Our Dad's had in their war

So I'll unfold you a little story

Round a place called Singapore

-o-

We enlisted in Britain

To go and fight the Hun

As soon as we had signed up

We felt the War was won

-o-

They drilled us in the day time

And taught us stunts at night

They learnt us how to shoot too

And told us we could fight

-o-

We were loaded into trains at night

With all our flaming gear

We were off for embarkation

Leaving all that we held dear

-o-

They packed us on a mighty boat

And jammed us in damned tight

But no-one seemed to care much

Who we were going to fight

-o-

We sailed away from Blighty

From City, bush and town

We knew we would not fail them

Nor would they let us down

-o-

We were not sure where we were going

And no-one seems to care

We were headed for the horizon

And what fate might bring us there

-o-

To tell of our trip upon the sea

Would only be a bore

But when we finally landed

We found ourselves in Singapore

-o-

Everything here seemed queer to us

When first we lamped this joint

And queer things kept popping

Out from every flaming point

-o-

Damned near every race on Earth

Seems to have got tangled here

And bred and re-bred among themselves

With a result that made things queer

-o-

The smell of the place was awful

Made us curdly in the guts

Trying to make ourselves understood

Would damned near send us nuts

-o-

We were loaded into trucks again

And shipped northwards through Johore

By the time we got to our camp

We were fed up to the core

-o-

The trained us every flaming day

Beneath the boiling sun

Blisters rose up on our feet

And buggered us one by one

-o-

What with tin-ear, pimples, dobies, itch

Red tape pipps and N.C.O.'s

Canned fish and curry stew

The ….... was on the nose

-o-

I ate that many tins of fish

That we got from the other side

That I got the rowing of the guts

And that travelled with the tide

-o-

They found us with a lot of barb

For us to make a tangle

It was said in it the Japs would be caught

And then we would put them through the mangle

-o-

We went into a stronghold at Mersing

That was good on every side

Then God damn and blast it all

We meet the Japs outside

-o-

We ran out miles and miles of this

To protect us fore and aft

And we pulled it down again

Because some one was daft

-o-

The wire wouldn't have been any good

In fact it was a flop

No damned Japs got stuck in it

They flew right over the top

-o-

Everyone took it as a joke

And bragged what he would do

Some said they'd wipe the cows right out

Others chased them to the blue

-o-

Before we knew quite how things were

We started playing pranks

He gave us quite a nasty jar

And tore hell out of the flanks

-o-

In no flaming time at all

He'd grabbed the Naval Base

And came tearing down the coast

Like …...  horses in a race

-o-

And in even less time than that

Our backs were to the wall

He even told us over the air

That Singapore would fall

-o-

We withdrew down the mainland

Back through Johore, Bahru

We had no flaming aeroplanes

What the hell were we to do?

-o-

Back across the causeway

Feeling savage, tired and sore

Then we blew the damned thing up

And cut them off from Singapore

 

Where-ever we had fought them

We had done our level best

But they had savage War-birds

While ours were in the nest

-o-

Every move we made was spotted

Every thought they seemed to know

Their blasted planes were everywhere

Always flying to and fro

-o-

When we retreated to the Island

They bombed us day and night

What the hell could we do?

There was nothing we could fight

-o-

Where was out blasted Air-force

We'd heard so much about

We longed to see some fly over

To chase those bombers out

-o-

The Japs gathered on the mainland

All along the Southern shore

And made ready for a big attack

On the isle of Singapore

-o-

They'd heaped up tons of ammo

For motor and big gun

No one inter (interested?)

Or cared much what they had done

-o-

Their aeroplanes flew over

For positions they did seek

They got ready to let us have it

And were set within a week

-o-

Then on a certain Sunday

When the day was not so old

They began to let us have it

In hill and flat and fold

-o-

All that Sunday afternoon

And all that Sunday night

They rained tons of metal on us

As we took what cover we might

-o-

For seventeen solid hours

They gave us all they had

Things did not look so flaming good

And they turned out flaming bad

-o-

Then they rowed across the channel

That seperates shore from shore

We were ordered “Hold on to your fire”

In the name of the Lord what for

-o-

Next they were right behind us

How in hell did they get there

They banged away on right and left

The cows were everywhere

-o-

Some of our leaders fought real well

Other's didn't know what to do

Some of the B's ran like hell

And left all the men in the stew

-o-

Of the latter I might here make mention

They were great blokes on parade

But most were found sorely wanting

When the acid test was made

-o-

So men who contacted the enemy

Were left to die or get out

While others just blundered around and round

It looked like an Army in rout

-o-

Their bombers came over again and again

And played merry hell where they liked

While we retreat south down the island

Leaving behind guns that were spiked

-o-

Of organisation there was none

You couldn't even get a feed

All you could do was tramp on and on

And sweat and curse and bleed

-o-

Petrol dumps went up in flames

The smoke of which filled the sky

At night it was and awful sight

It appeared that everything would die

-o-

Outside the city we made out last stand

Against all sorts of odds

We were told our Air-Arm was coming

The heads swore it by all their Gods

 

We hung on through hunger and loss of sleep

With a hope that was worse than all pains

With ever longing looks to the skies

And Prayed God they send us some planes

-o-

But the only planes we were to see

Had a red spot under the wing

They flew around wherever they liked

And felt for us with their sting

-o-

They spotted out every crevice and nook

And where they thought we might lurk

They signalled back to their big guns

Who'd get in their dirty work

-o-

We felt we had been abandoned

That our Country had let us down

But damn it we'd go on fighting

Till every last man was down

-o-

I thought of the men who we had lost

Some of the best boys under the sun

Yet here we were, with no Air-Arm

Just left to die one by one

-o-

Churchill said there'd be no more blunders

No more stories like Greece and Crete

Yet here was a full equipped Army

Without a sign of our Fleet

 

They shelled hell out of Singapore

And bombed it day and night

Killing hundreds and hundreds of civilians

Poor blighters who could not fight

-o-

For the longest week in all my life

We held on and took all they gave

And swore we'd hold for ever

Or finish in one common grave

-o-

Half fed, dirty, no sleep for a week

We hung on without sign of relief

Not one of our planes were to be seen

It filled us brim full of grief

-o-

Then came another Sunday

It's a day we shall never forget

Words came through from our leaders

To pile arms, we'd lost our last bet

-o-

Why didn't they let us fight on

Many of us would sooner have died

Than suffered disgrace of surrender

And give in to the other side

-o-

We thought of our people back home

And wondered what in hell they would think

We all felt it wasn't fair ending

The whole ….. show was a stink

-o-

Why in the flaming hell were we brought here

Was it just to put up a face

It looked like  those, who had the say

Had no intention of holding the place

-o-

It looked like some cows had sold us

Fifth columnists, Malaysians or our own

Maybe the stage was well set up

By someone to us yet unknown

-o-

We were gathered in and marched to Changi

Tired, hungered, sore and depressed

We all felt it was a terrible calamity

And our outlook was far from the best

-o-

Our Colonels and Majors were left with us

Our Captains and Officers too

Maybe that was all for the better

Providing they all proved true blue

-o-

To some of those we have our objections

Those that were not seen to fight

Who shone out like stars on the parade ground

Then blotted out their glamour in fight

-o-

To those I especially made mention

Who yelled we were all one in distress

Yet thought we were not fit to eat with

And still wanted their Officers Mess

-o-

In hospital lay our sick and wounded

With very little to relieve them of pain

Yet some things were used in those Messes

Our stricken could by no means obtain

-o-

Within a month we were broken up in parties

And sent out to big labour camps

Most of us stricken with hunger

Some of us seized with the cramps

-o-

Maybe for us the War's now over

And may be again it is not

Damn it they cannot break our spirit

And we still possess blood that is hot

-o-

Rice is now our stable diet

We get it three times per day

Occasionally they bring us some smokes in

And we buy a few more with our pay

-o-

Three weary months have gone by us

Weeks of work, hunger and hope

Each day we hear thousands of rumours

You long for the fair dinkum dope

-o-

We wonder a lot about our home folks

Whether they have heard about us or no

How we long, yes just to see them

Or of our welfare to let them know

-o-

Some have a moment with their families

As they dream through a restless sleep

Others will not see their loved ones again

For they are at everlasting sleep

-o-

 

Written by G. Sharpe

 

In River Valley Prison Camp

after 3 months P.O.W.

 

7.11.42

W.G.Chapman

 

William Chapman’s Notebook

Information

Miranda Pointer

Convoy William Sail 12X

Royal Norfolks in the Far East

KEW:- WO 367/2, WO 345/10, WO 361/1946, WO 392/23, WO 361/2229, WO 361/2058

*

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