To honour those who served their country

“In this their finest hour”

Royal Artillery-tn



Basil William Bancroft


1918/11/03 - Born South Africa

Royal Artillery

3 Heavy Anti Aircraft Regiment

11 Battery



Deployed to Kuala Lumpur Malaya.

Battalion deployed to Keppel Harbour, Singapore.

Shot down Japanese planes under heavy bombardment.

1942/02/15 - Singapore surrendered to the Japanese


1942/03/28 - WO 417/40, Casualty List No. 783. Reported ‘Missing’.

1942/10/09 - WO417/52, Casualty List No. 950. (Previously shown on Casualty List No. 783 as Missing, 15/02/1942). Now reported a ‘Prisoner of War’.


Japanese PoW

1942/02/15 - Captured Singapore

PoW No. 391

Japanese Index Card - Side One


Japanese Index Card - Side Two


Nissyo Maru

1942/04/04 - Oversea in Nissyo Maru to Saigon, French Indo-China with 1118 PoWs (All Ranks) called ‘Saigon Battalion’

Commander Lt-Col. Frances Edgar Hugonin’s Party (Awarded OBE 1946/09/12)

PoW No. VIII 577

Nissyo Maru

1942/04/09 - Arrived Saigon with half the PoWs down with dysentery because of the bad conditions on board the Nissyo Maru

Saigon Camp 10-tn

Worked on docks unloading cargo

Escapes:- Baxter & Cassidy. Strong rumours in the camp that they were captured after 36 hours of freedom, brought back to Saigon and executed.

1943/06/22 - 700 PoWs under Lt-Col. Hugonin were transported to Thailand

Basil remained at Saigon.

New PoW No. VIII 2421

While at the Saigon Docks Camp Basil made contact with the French Underground and with staff at the local hospital. At great risk to himself, he regularly went behind the wire at night to bring back medicines and food for the prisoners. His actions saved many lives.

1943/09/02 - Basil failed to return and didn’t return until the following morning. He was advised by his Commanding Officer to make his escape to avoid punishment by the Japanese as his absence had been noticed, so he went back behind the wire.

For the next 8 months he lived in Indo-China, travelling from Saigon to Hanoi at various locations along the way, being sheltered by the French and given false identity papers. According to his French associates, he led a normal life there, circulating freely without ever being bothered either by the French Police or the Japanese, quite amazing as he had never studied French.

In April 1943 he was taken from Hanoi to China by members of the GBT Network which assisted Allied POWs to escape. His exact route home is not known, but it is thought that he made his way home to South Africa via Burma. Following a period of recuperation from malaria, he made his way to the UK where he worked for the Army until his medical discharge in 1945.


1944/06/13 - WO417/76, Casualty List No. 1471. Previously reported Prisoner of War in Japanese Hands now Not Prisoner of War. Previously shown on Casualty List No. 950. Previous Theatre of War: Malaya.




Entry for Basil Reads


6. Record of Escapers.

Total number of Escapers since Fall of Burma (incl China)  519

Increase reported during month of April 1944                         113


British escapers from enemy hands were:-

(i) .................................................................

(ii) No. 1470534 Gnr B.W. Bancroft 11th Heavy A.A. Bty 3rd Heavy Regt R.A.

Escaped from Saigon P.W. Camp. Sep’43 via China. Reached India 30 April ‘44

Basil was taken from China to India by the British Army Aid Group (BAAG) which was headed up by Australian Lt. Col. Sir Lindsay Ride. This group assisted evaders and escapers and was associated with MI9 and SEAC (South East Asia Command, headed up by Lord Mountbatten of Burma).

From comments made by Basil after the war, it is believed that he was enlisted as a British Military Policeman in India.


Courageous Acts

Report by

Captain Charles  Peter Stanley Ligertwood - Saigon Camp Adjutant

Those mentioned below:-

Lt. Hughett US Air Force

S/Sgt. White UA Air Force

S/Sgt. Stoddard UA Air Force

S/Sgt. Heald US Air Force

Gnr.  Bancroft 3 HAA Regt RA

Gnr. Balhatchet 3 HAA Regt. RA

Gnr. Purcell 6HAA Regt. RA

All risked their lives in 1942 in night excursions from Saigon main camp in 1943 and 44 in order to obtain medical supplies from French POW  assistance movement. As camp adjutant I was informed of all these excursions and their results.


List of Officers and others recommended for Awards and mentions

Camps 8 and 10 Saigon F.I.C




Japanese Index Card Explanation

Japanese Index Card - Side One

The red boxed characters in the centre top indicate that he escaped.

Japanese Index Card - Side Two

The lower line of text was crossed out in red because it wrongly indicated that he was liberated from the camp in 1945.




1939-1945 Star-tn

Pacific Star

War Medal

1939-1945 Star


Post War

Basil married Daisy Phipps in 1947, they had 6 children over the ensuing 13 years.


Photo is of Basil (on right)  with US Sergeant Charles Heald who was one of his friends and fellow night time escapees during his time at Saigon. Sergeant Heald remained at Saigon until liberation and was later posted to the UK for a short time.

During the 1970s Basil worked for the University of London at London House, and following a chance meeting with Reuben Kandler he attended several reunions of his regiment. He also went on a reunion trip to Singapore.

During their time at London House Basil and Daisy were very proud to be presented to HRH Queen Elizabeth II, who was the patron of London House. He and Daisy visited his family in South Africa in mid1985



27th March 1986

At Stevenage



Dena Jordan (née Bancroft) - Daughter

Dennis Bancroft - Son

Reuben and Richard Kandler

Martin Mickelsen

Japanese Transports

KEW Files:- WO 361/2172, WO 345/3, WO 361/1979, WO 361/1954, WO 361/2196, WO 392/23, WO 361/1987, WO 361/2168,  WO 361/2044,


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