1908/07/18 - Born Edmonton, London
Son of Henry and Elizabeth Adrian of Edmonton
1931/01/25 - Married Margaret Grace Smith, of Edmonton
Father of Kathleen Margaret (born 1938)
Occupation French Polisher
48/21 Light Anti Aircraft Regiment
William, Grace and Kathleen Adrian. Late 1941
1943/03/25 - WO 417/58, Casualty List No. 1092. Now a Prisoner of war.
PoW No. 2378
Japanese Index Card - Side One
Japanese Index Card - Side Two
1942/09/22 - Transported from Java in Java Party 2, ship unknown
1942/09/26 - Arrived Singapore
1942/10/09 - Transported oversea from Singapore to Borneo in Hiteru Maru
1944/11/17 - According to the Japanese Adrian was diagnosed with Beri-Beri and Malaria at Labuan Island
1945/01/05, 0900 hrs. - Date of Death as given by Japanese
The Japanese Death Certificates shown are known to be false
Place of Death Labuan Island
1945/11/08 - WO417/99, Casualty List No. 1905. Previously shown on Casualty List No. 1092 as reported Prisoner of War. Previous Theatre of War, Netherlands East Indies. Died.
Husband of Margaret Grace Adrian, of Lower Edmonton, Middlesex
48th Battery, 21st Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment
By Jane Harris
“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
Gunner William Adrian was a man who did just that.
William was born on 18th July 1908 to Henry and Elizabeth Adrian in Edmonton, North London. William had an older brother, Harry, who was a member of The Royal Field Artillery. Harry was killed in action in France on 5th October 1916. William was just eight years old.
On 25th January 1931, at the age of twenty-two, William married Margaret Grace Smith. They moved to their own house in Edmonton.
In 1938, a year before war broke out, his daughter Kathleen Margaret was born. They lived a happy, simple, family life in Bury Street, Edmonton, North London. He was employed as a skilled French Polisher.
On 16th January 1941, William decided it was time for him to serve his King and Country, to help protect his family, friends and fellow countrymen. He joined the Royal Artillery, a decision perhaps influenced by his late brother. He was not however called to serve until late 1941.
It was on 6th December 1941, after just six weeks of basic training, William set sail for the Middle East. However, when in early January 1942 he arrived in Durban, South Africa, William’s destination had been changed to Singapore. This meant sending a troop ship, full of men and equipment destined for the desert, to the jungle. Just before arriving in Singapore, the destination was changed again. On 4th February 1942, whilst under aerial attack, William arrived in Batavia aboard the Empress of Australia. He was deployed to the Soerabaja area on airfield defence duty.
On 9th March 1942, when all British Forces in NEI were ordered to lay down their arms, Gunner William Adrian was captured, in Java, by the Imperial Japanese Army.
He spent approximately six months at a POW Camp in Batavia, before being transferred to Singapore. William spent just a few weeks there before being one of the 776 men deployed to Jesselton, Borneo. His voyage, on a “Hell Ship”, lasted for ten awful days. He arrived on 19th October 1942. The conditions in Jesselton were appalling and even the Japanese were concerned cholera may break out.
April of 1943 saw William transferred to his fourth POW Camp. He was one of a group of 243 British men, who were described as being in a “parlous state”. William had arrived at Sandakan Camp.
For the next fourteen months, Gunner William Adrian worked on the construction of an airfield, just as he had done in Jesselton. He lived in the British part of the camp, separated from over 1500 Australian POWs.
The local community in Sandakan were so brave. They helped the POWs so much by passing intelligence, messages, and most importantly, provided the men with medicines and additional food. All this done knowing full well the grave danger they and their families were in. Without their kindness and compassion, the POWs would surely have lost all their faith in humanity.
The final part of William’s story begins in early June 1944 when, as one of a group of one hundred men, he was transported by sea to Labuan Island. Here again, the plan was to construct an airfield. William’s group were joined by other POWs from Kuching. It is understood that the men were never set to work on this project, and because they were not working, they were not fed.
There were no survivors on Labuan Island. Their bodies and remains were found, unidentifiable, in two different cemeteries.
Gunner William Adrian died on 31st December 1944, although this is believed to be an artificial date. His death certificate simply states that he “died on Labuan Island, whilst a prisoner of war in Japanese hands.” He had been away from his family and had had no contact with them for over three years.
Seventy-five years on William Adrian is remembered by his granddaughters and great-grandchildren who are all aware that it is ultimately because of William that they exist and enjoy the freedom that he helped to protect.
“When you go home,
Tell them of us and say,
“For your tomorrow,
We gave our today.”
Jane Harris - Granddaughter
KEW Files:- WO 361/1623, WO 361/1463, WO 345/1, WO 361/1676, WO 361/2208, WO 361/2184,