Charles Thomas Laver
East Surrey Regiment
Born 22nd November 1917
Subdistrict of Silvertown in the county burgh of West Ham
Grew up in the orphanage St Barnabas which later burnt down.
Charles put his age up one year to enlist on 29th January 1935 into The East Surrey Regiment.
The 2nd Battalion were sent to China in 1938 then Singapore when he was 19 (by their records) and was sent into Malaya to help defend it against the Japanese invasion in December 1941.
During the defence of Malaya the Japanese attacked at Jitra during the night of the 11th December and in doing so suffered heavy losses by the Allied positioning of their machine guns. Saeki then decided to throw everything he had at the centre of the British defences and succeeded in driving a deep wedge into their positions before he came up against the Leicesters and the 2/2nd Gurkhas who stopped the Japanese attack, the 2nd East Surreys then counterattacked to help the Leicesters. By the 12th December Major-general Kawamura commanding the 9th Infantry arrived at Jitra and sent his 41st Regiment down the eastern side of the main road and the 40th Regiment down the western side to assist Saeki who was still being held by the Leicesters. Murray-Lyons ordered the Leicesters to withdraw behind a stream called the Sungei Jitra, the Leicesters had fought bravely and their good positions were argued but they had to obey the order. Later that evening with rumours about positions being over run he signalled Heath that he wanted to withdraw to behind the Sungei Kedah at Gurun. Heath and Percival who were still in Singapore agreed and Percival gave the order. That night the Japanese attacked in numbers and drove a gap in the Punjabi defences and reached the 2nd East Surrey headquarters and then the 6th Brigade headquarters, killing everyone there, when Murray-Lyon saw the damage he immediately ordered a seven mile withdrawal, but finding the numbers of troops left, sent more orders to withdraw behind the Muda River, the troops were left to get there as best they could.
The 2nd Battalion, East Surrey Regiment and 1st Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment were then amalgamated to form the British Battalion, because both battalions had suffered heavy losses at Jitra. They were amalgamated on 20th December 1941 as the British Battalion under the command of Lieut. Col. C.E. Morrison, D.S.O., M.C., of The Royal Leicestershire Regiment. They fought as such till Malaya and Singapore fell to the Japanese on the 15th February 1942.
After the surrender he was sent to Changi and later transported to Thailand to work on the Thailand-Burma Railwaya Railway. They left for Bam Pong, Thailand by rail on the 5th November 1942 in the Letter Party ‘M’, 650 men in the party from the Southern Area. Roll 43. under Lt.-Col. G.E.Swinton, 2/East Surreys.
After liberation in 1945, Charles was sent to New Zealand for recovery.
Charles like other FEPOWs suffered all his life from his experiences which effected him deeply.
3rd May 1995
Miss him so much and all the lost opportunities - Di