John Kenneth Walker
Known as Ken
1918/07/22 - Born Willesdon
Son of Florence Walker
Occupation Commercial Traveller
7 Coast Regiment
7th HKS Battery
Ken is front row far right
1942/02/15 - Captured Singapore
Japanese Index Card - Side One
Japanese Index Card - Side Two
1942/10/18 - Transported in Kenkon Maru to Rabaul with the Gunners 600 Party
In October 1942 there was a lot of activity in the Singapore PoW camps. The Japanese had decided to use the prisoners for labour parties. This began with Java Parties 1 and 2 being taken by rail to Bam Pong, Thailand, with other parties being transported to Taiwan and Japan. One party was made up of 600 Ak. Ak. Gunners from Southern Area under the command of Lt-Col. J. Bassett, R.A. (35th L.A.A. Regt.). This party, now known here as Gunner 600 Party, sailed eastwards from Singapore on 18th October, being written in the Changi register as “Destination New Guinea”. The Bureau of Records and Enquiry at Changi later were led to believe the ship was torpedoed and all on board lost.
The Gunners 600 Party included 126 officers and men from the 35th’s 144 Battery, 7 Coast Regt., 9 Coast Regt., 11 Coast Regt., 3 Heavy Ak. Ak., 5th Searchlights and the Hong Kong Singapore Artillery. There was also a few from Royal Army Medical and Service Corps.
The ship used to transport them was an ex-Liverpool coaler. In “What Price Bushido” it is noted as being the Eige Maru or the Masta Maru, we now think it was the Kenkon Maru. 400 men were put into the first hold and the remainder into the smaller aft hold.
Under miserable conditions with only a thin layer of straw on the floor the prisoners found it hard to breath and also the the stench from sweating bodies. The ship called at Timor, Bali and the Halmarhera Islands, the on the first casualty was when Battery Sergeant Major Tommy Lamborne of 11 Coast Regt. dying on his way to the benjo (toilet), he was buried at sea during that afternoon.
On the 5th November the ship arrived at Simpson Harbour, Rabaul on the island of New Britain, which the Japanese had captured from the Australians in January 1942. The local villages were known as Kanakas and they lived under the constant threat from volcanoes, one of which was very active.
1945/09/02 - Liberated
Gunners 600 Party
‘What Price Bushido’ by Alf ‘Blackie’ Baker
KEW:- WO 392/26, WO 361/773, WO 361/773, WO 361/774, WO 361/2188,