Clifford Henry Hartland
1941/06/09 - Enlisted
7th Coast Regiment, Royal Artillery
1942/01/15 - Captured Singapore
1942/04/15 - Bukit Timah, Camp Leader Lt Col. Madden (RA)
1942/10/28 - No 1 Camp Siam, Camp Leader Col. Toosey (RA)
1945/02/03 - French Indo China, Camp Leader Sgt/M Bradstreet (RA)
Survived the Japanese Camps
11 Aug 2014
By Tom Brooks-Pollock, agencies
Second World War camp survivor and wife both die on 76th wedding anniversary
War veteran Clifford Hartland died aged 101, hours before wife Marjorie, 97, died 'of a broken heart'
A Second World War prisoner camp survivor and his wife of 76 years died within hours of each other on their wedding anniversary.
Veteran Clifford Hartland died at the age of 101, 14 hours before his adoring spouse Marjorie, 97, died “of a broken heart” on the very date they married in 1938.
Their deaths bring to an end what their daughter Christine Pearson, 67, called “the perfect love story” - including three years where Mr Hartland was missing, presumed dead in the Asian jungle but Mrs Hartland refused to give up hope that he was alive.
She even declined to take up her widow’s pension when the papers were sent to her after Mr Hartland surrendered in 1942.
Mr Hartland, a car-worker during peace time, was one of only four survivors from the 7th Coast Regiment Royal Artillery who were captured by the Japanese and forced into hard labour building the Burma railway.
The couple, who fell in love at first sight, met in Cardiff and married on August 5, 1938, three years before Mr Hartland was posted as a gunner to Singapore following the outbreak of war.
His regiment of 700 men surrendered to the Japanese the following year and Mr Hartland, like thousands of others, was tortured, starved and worked to the brink of death by his captors.
An estimated 13,000 people died building the railway, most of them buried near to where they fell along the unforgiving 250-mile route stretching to the Thailand border.
Mr Hartland, who was 11-stone when he left for Singapore, survived to the end of the war, by which time he weighed five stone and bore a scar on his leg - the mark of a poisoned bamboo shoot pushed through his leg by a camp guard who had caught him smoking banana leaves.
Having survived 15 different camps and been forced to dig his own grave, Mr Hartland was welcomed home to Cardiff in 1945 with a street party and a letter of thanks from King George.
Mrs Pearson said: "I don't know how dad survived, mainly luck and determination, I think. There were 700 men in his regiment when they went out, but only four ever came back. Dad was the last to die from his regiment.
In 1942, Mum got a letter from the colonel of the Coast Regiment saying Dad was missing, presumed dead. She had the papers to claim a widow's pension.
"She absolutely refused to believe it. At the time, she was conscripted to work in a parachute factory in Cardiff Bay. She hated it: it was dirty and rat infested.
"But every day, on her way to work, mum would go into the church she passed and pray that dad would come home. She lived without him for four years, but she never believed he was dead."
Last year, Mr Hartland said: "The worst thing was when we had to dig our own graves. We were due to be shot on the day the war ended.
"Then the 'all-clear' sounded. You can guess how I felt."
Mrs Pearson, the couple's daughter, was born in 1946 and the family moved to Wyken, Coventry in 1947, and Mr Hartland worked for Morris Engines as a factory foreman until he retired.
She said: "Dad was in hospital for a while after he came back from Burma, but neither of them cared. They were just so happy to be together again.
"They had an incredible marriage. They never, ever argued. Dad idolised Mum, and she adored him.
Mr Hartland died at Saint Martin's Rest Home in Woodway Lane, Coventry, last week, hours after his wife was discharged from hospital with a broken leg.
Mrs Pearson, a mother of two, said: "We think he was waiting for her to come back to the room they shared before he died.
"Afterwards, Mum just kept saying, 'I can't live without him'. That night, Mum rang me.
"She was upset and I told her to think about all the happy times they'd shared in their marriage while she drifted off to sleep.
"She died at 1am, and I like to think that's exactly what she was doing.
"It's a perfect love story. I'm devastated they're gone but so happy for them - they've never really had to live without one another.
"The undertaker said he had never seen anything like it, when he came to collect Mum. Paramedics said she died of a heart attack, literally of a broken heart."