James F. (Castle) Charlton
Although christened ‘James Francis’ known as James Castle
1915/04/16 - Born Wisbech
Son of Florence Gill
Educated at St. Peters School
Occupation Plasterer at H. Rands & Son Ltd, Wisbech
Royal Norfolk Regiment
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.
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.
The 5th battalion Royal Norfolk Regiment were in residence at Marbury Hall Military Camp from April 1941 until early October .
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.
1941/10/30 - 5th Royal Norfolk Regiment were transported from Liverpool in Duchess of Atholl Convoy CT.5
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.
The 53 Infantry Brigade moved into Jahore on the 16th January and were under the command of the 11th Indian Division.
Johore - Malaya
Detail from Royal Norfolk Regiment
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.
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.
1942/02/15 - Captured Singapore
POW No. M815
Japanese Index Card - Side One
Japanese Index Card - Side Two
1943/03/19 - Transported overland to Thailand with ‘D’ Force
New PoW No. IV 10591
New PoW No. 4374
1945/09/02 - Liberated Thailand
Kew Files:- WO 392/23, WO 361/2167, WO 361/2167, WO 367/2, WO 361/2070, WO 361/2172, WO 361/1954, WO 361/1979, WO 361/2196, WO 345/10, WO 367/2