Fred Okell Dewison
1908/01/05 - Born Durham
Son of John and Minnie Dewison
1929 - Fred married Hilda M Evans at Stockton, Durham
1940/11/21 - Enlisted Catterick
Next of Kin:- Wife, H, 44 Greenwood Road, Billingham, County Durham
Royal Corps of Signals
1941 - Fred with Hilda and two sons Keith and Graeme
Fred was known to drive officers, water tankers as well as other general driving duties.
1941 - Fred on Embarkation leave
On September 9th, Tropical kit was issued and orders were to proceed to Liverpool.
Reno Del Pacifico
The 18th Division HQ sailed in the Reno Del Pacifico.
Arriving at Halifax 8th November the men from the 54th Infantry Brigade were moved across to the transport ship tied along side, the 27,000 ton Wakefield.
On November 10th the voyage continued with six American troopships, two cruisers, eight destroyers and the aircraft carrier Ranger, the Convoy William Sail 12X was under way, destination still unknown.
The convoy passed through the Mona Passage between Puerto Rico and St Domingo, arriving at Trinidad on 17th November in glorious sunshine so our tropical kit came out, but unfortunately no shore-leave, we left after two days of taking on supplies. On 24th we crossed the equator, there was a crossing the line ceremony.
Crossing the Line Ceremony Certificate
After a month the convoy arrived at Cape Town, South Africa. By this time the Americans were in the war as the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbour and attacked Malaya and the rumours were that the convoy was now heading for the Far East and not the Middle East as first thought.
On December 13th the convoy left Cape Town and sailed along the coast of East Africa past Madagascar and into the Indian Ocean heading for Bombay. After 17,011 miles at sea Bombay was reached December 27th 1941.
Embarked on 17th January back onto the Wakefield. The convoy sailed the next day with a British escort, the H.M.S. Exeter and H.M.S. Glasgow with British and Australian destroyers. Japan had entered the war by attacking Malaya on 8th December 1941, destination was the far East. The Prince of Wales and the Repulse had both been sunk by the Japanese off Malaya. Passing Colombo, (Ceylon), crossing the equator for the third time, the convoy passed through the Sundra Straits between Java and Sumatra and then the Banka Straits. The convoy was then bombed by Jap Planes, there was no damage, the Wakefield was the first of our convoy to reach the safety of Keppel Harbour, Singapore on the 29th January 1942. Ships were ablaze in the harbour, clouds of smoke drifted across the sky and the smell of fumes was overpowering, this was not the best of greetings. The Japanese had taken most of Malaya in the last three weeks and were only thirty miles away from Singapore.
The 18th Division was moved to hold the north-eastern part of the island near the Changi Peninsula.
On the 5th February the Empress of Asia bringing military supplies, including ammunition for the 18th Division, was hit by bombs and went aground on the Sultan Shoal, this did not help the now desperate situation the battalion was in. The following days saw heavy bombing and bombardment from the Japanese. On Sunday the 8th February, using makeshift rafts, the Japanese 18th Division and 5th Division began the movement across the Straits separating Malaya and north-western end of Singapore. The Australian troops who faced them didn't get the artillery support they needed, and shielded by the dense smoke, the Japanese soon got a foothold, the fighting was soon hand to hand. On the night of 7th-8th the Japanese attacked the island of Ubin, off the Straits, to the right of the 54th Infantry Brigades sector. The enemy consisted of about 1,000 men and the small platoon guarding the beach had to make a quick withdrawal, four men failed to return.
The enemy were making ground quickly by infiltrated the allied lines and they were by the 9th February about two miles behind the defences. They then began to spread out putting the Peice and MacRitchie Reservoirs and the Seletar Aerodrome at risk.
On the 10th February “Tomforce” was formed, parts of the 54th Infantry Brigade along with the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers formed this force under Lt-Col.L.C.Thomas. Their orders were to support 12 Indian Brigade and stop the enemy advance on Bukit Timah. The force travelled in buses to the north side of Bukit Timah then advanced towards the village, the 1/5 Sherwood Foresters advanced from the south, but that night the village was taken by the Japanese.
It was considered an impossible task to advance further as the Japanese were heading north of “Tomforce” towards the reservoir near Thompson Village. The force withdrew to the Singapore Racecourse to try to stem the Japanese advance, joining with 4th Suffolks on the right to form a perimeter defence of the MacRitchie Reservoir.
All looked to be in place until an order for the 4th Suffolks to advance towards the Swiss Rifle Club Range, letting the Japanese infiltrate with cover fire from high ground they all ready held. This caused the right flank of the battalion to be exposed. The enemy quickly took the advantage and completely surrounded Tomforce leaving only a small area free to the east.
The command of the 54 Infantry Brigade, “Tomforce” was dissolved. Defences of the position in Adam Road were quickly put into place these included a barbed wire fence and that night some sleep was gained. The next day started with a heavy shell and mortar attack, allied artillery returned fire but there were many casualties during the day. That evening the battalion were relieved by 1/5 Sherwood Foresters, withdrawing to the east side of the road, however with the shelling very little rest was gained. The same pattern of shelling and bombing carried on into the 14th February causing heavy casualties, this later was followed by a prolonged attack to the north of the positions and with a second attack the Sherwood Foresters were forced back. “B” and “C” companies then counter attacked and regained their positions through heavy losses.
The situation on the island was now very critical with many troops over run and the enemy threatening to take control of the water supply. The end came very quickly, at noon on the 15th a car travelled down the Bukit Timah road with a white flag above a Union Jack, Singapore had capitulated.
1942/02/15 - Singapore surrendered to the Japanese.
1942/05/05 - WO 417/42, Casualty List No. 815. Reported ‘Missing’.
1943/08/17 - WO 417/65, Casualty List No. 1214. Previously posted Missing, 15/02/1942, Casualty List No. 815. Now reported a ‘Prisoner of War’.
1942/02/15 - Captured Singapore
PoW No. M-5986
Japanese Index Card - Side One
Japanese Index Card - Side Two
1942/11/03 - Transported overland to Thailand with ‘O’ Letter Party, train 10
28th Train to Thailand with 650 PoWs
Commander Lt-Col. F.I.N McOstrich, Royal Corps of Signals, 18th Division
New PoW No. IV 1575
Camps and Hospital Records:-
1943/11/26 - Tha Sao Hospital with Malaria and infected Scabies.
1944/01/10 - Released from Hospital.
1944/01/16 - Tha Sao Hospital with Chronic Malaria and transferred to Nakhon Pathom Hospital about April.
1944/11/01 - Transferred from Nakhon Pathom to Tha Muang, 38km from Nong Pladuk.
New PoW No. IV 5710
1945/01/05 - Tha Muang Hospital with S.T. Malaria.
1945/02/25 - Released from Hospital.
1945/03/07 - Tha Muang Hospital with Malaria.
1945/03/18 - Released from Hospital.
1945/04/03 - Tha Muang Hospital with Scabies.
1945/04/14 - Released from Hospital.
1945/09/01 - Liberated Thailand
In Bangkok, transferred to Royal Australian Army Lt-Col. C.A. McEachern.
Flown from Thailand to Rangoon
Letter Home from ‘The Same Old Fred’
From letters it is believed Fred left Rangoon as below:-
RMS Corfu sailed to Singapore, where she embarked survivors of the Japanese prisoner of war camps, before moving on to Rangoon on the 12th September, where more survivors embarked.
1945/09/16 - The RMS Corfu sailed from Rangoon.
1945/09/19 - Travelling via Colombo where shore leave was granted.
Suez Canal (1945/09/27), Departed Port Said (1945/09/30).
1945/10/07 - Arrived Southampton with 1,500 Japanese PoWs.
On his return home he resumed his life in Teesside with his wife Hilda, raising his two sons Graeme and Keith and working for ICI.
Fred continued to suffer with Malaria for a number of years, and was moderately disabled as a result of his time in Thailand, but lived a relatively active life.
1967 - Fred, with Hilda, grandson Stephen (on Hilda’s lap), grandson Michael and daughter in law Marion
1965 - Son Graeme, Stephen (being held), Michael and their gradfather Fred
1967 - Fred with Granddaughter Kathryn
1979 - Fred and Hilda’s Golden Wedding
Leeds District, Yorkshire
Michael Dewison - Grandson
Andrew Snow - Thailand Burma Railway Centre
Tan DingXiang - Translating Japanese Index Card
Convoy William Sail 12X
Liberation Questionnaire - COFEPOW
KEW Files:- WO 345/14, WO 392/23, WO 361/2172, WO 361/1979, WO 361/1979, WO 361/1954, WO 361/2196, WO 361/2069, WO 361/2059, WO 361/1987, WO 361/2169, WO 361/2189,