James Roland Gregory
1914/03/13 - Born as James Roland Cartner
James changed his surname to Gregory
1939 - Enlisted
Next of kin - Mother, Mrs Florence Amelia Cartner, Halstead St., Newport, Monmouthshire (Born 1879/12/21)
Royal Norfolk Regiment
53rd Infantry Brigade
September 1st 1939 in Norwich saw the battalion mobilised with 24 officers, 27 warrant officers and sergeants, and 483 other ranks. Lt.-Col. D.C.Buxton was in command and Maj. H.S.Ling MC was second in command. The battalion was organised into three rifle companies at the outbreak of war with a further “D” company being formed on November 30th when the battalion reached a strength of 785 in all ranks. At the end of 1939 they were moved to Sheringham and were billeted in the town. During the bad winter of early 1940 the brigade helped the Norfolk County Council with snow clearing in the area, it was very cold work with high drifts of snow. As the spring came night patrols were performed and the Sheringham golf course became their training ground with a rifle range in Upper Sheringham.
On May 22nd, Lt.-Col. Buxton was relieved in command by Lt.-Col. F.L.Cubitt. Further coastal defences were laid.
In August they were relieved of their coastal duties by the 2nd Cambridgeshires and moved to the Gresham School at Holt for a month of training. During this period Lt.-Col. J.F.Ross took over command and Maj. F.M.E.D.Drake was put as second-in-command from the 1st Battalion.
The 6th Battalion relived the 5th Battalion at Weybourne on September 21st, training continued till October when the battalion was relieved by the 9 Lincolns, this took the whole of the 18 Division into reserve with quarters at Swaffham in Houses and farms.
In January 1941 a move to Scotland for the 18th Division saw more advanced training, the 6th Battalion being entrained for Dumfries. The day before their departure a German bomber dropped its bombs on the Swaffham Railway station, causing the death of six privates who were loading the train.
February saw the Scottish weather prove hostile with snow on most days, training continued in the companies and it wasn’t till the weather improved during March that battalion, Brigade and Divisional exercises could take place.
The hills helped develop the men physically, and by the beginning of April 1941 the battalion looked in shape.
1941/10/30 - Sailed from Liverpool in ‘Duchess of Atholl’
Within Convoy CT.5 sailing for Halifax
1941/11/08 - Reached Halifax
1941/11/08 - Transferred to USS Mount Vernon
1941/11/23 2000 hrs - Crossed Equator
After a brief visit to Trinidad to refuel, Cape Town was reached on December 9th. Shore leave was granted before sailing on the 13th December for Bombay only to be then ordered on the 23rd to sail for Mombassa and then finally Singapore. She was escorted by the H.M.S. Emerald and reached Singapore Harbour on January 13th 1942, the battalion disembarked in heavy rain and moved to Tyersall Park Camp by truck.
No training was given before they were dispatched and the hope they were to receive any in Malaya was quickly demised as they were put straight into the battle for Malaya.
On January 16th Advance Battalion H.Q. were moved along with “C” and “D” companies by transports to Yong Peng, on the following day Maj. A.B.Cubitt and the rest of the battalion joined them.
Moving west from Yong Peng “C” and “D” companies took up defensive positions along the Bakri Road at the defile marked on the map. “A” and “B” companies were moved in just to the rear to support. The battalions task was to cover the lines of communication with the 45 Infantry Brigade who were under heavy attack near Muar.
It was around this point that James was wounded as rations arrived in lorries the Japanese planes swooped in machine gunning both sides of the road. James was hit twice in his ankle. Operated on in the field he was then taken to the General Hospital in Singapore to be put in plaster.
The battle for the 6th Norfolks continued as on the 19th January they patrolled the road and the Simpang-Kanan River although they made no contact with the enemy, the Australian “B” Echelon transport passed through the battalion lines and was attacked six miles north.
On the 20th a patrol suffered casualties when attacked near the river, then later a full attack took place. The Japanese attacked from the forward positions and also having infiltrated got behind “C” and “D” companies and attacked them from the rear, cutting off help from “A” or “B” companies.
On the 23rd the battalion was moved to Skudai, just south of Ayer Hitam. Early on the 24th the battalion moved up again to Benut on the coastal road, where it was reorganised as Battalion H.Q. and “A” and “B” companies, their support was by the 4.5 Howitzers and one section of Royal Engineers. There orders were to keep the road open for the 5th Norfolks and 2nd Cambridgeshire’s, this also included a mixture from the Leicestershire and East Surrey Regiments. “A” company supported at Rengit whilst the remainder moved forward to Senggarang, eight miles south of Batu Pahat. Although no enemy were reported in the area the rear of the force came under heavy machine-gun fire and suffered casualties, snipers did not help their situation neither.
Having taken control of Senggarang, they could not cover their rear and the enemy infiltrated and set up road blocks behind them. cutting them off from “A” company. The 15 Brigade was then ordered to withdraw from Batu Pahat to help at Senggarang. Late on the 26th the Cambridgeshire’s were ordered to fight their way south and “A” company to attack from the south, to try to clear the road, both failed. The bridge at Senggarang was then blown and the 250 transport vehicles destroyed, the troops were ordered to find their way back through the jungle.
After the withdrawal from Senggarang about 200 men made their way through the jungle to Ponggor on the coast, where they were taken off by Royal Navy gunboats to make a rather uncomfortable trip back to Singapore, they were then housed near the Seleltar River.
The day the Causeway was bombed, 31st January, the General Hospital was evacuated and James was taken to a smaller hospital where he remained until the fall of Singapore.
1942/02/15 - Singapore fell to the Japanese
1942/03/31 - WO 417/41, Casualty List No. 785. Reported ‘Missing’.
1942/11/04 - Casualty List No 972. Previously shown on Casualty List No 785 as Missing, Rank Corporal. (Wounded, Date not reported). Reported ‘Wounded and Missing’.
1943/09/22 - WO 417/66, Casualty List No 1245. Previously reported on Casualty List No 972 as Wounded and Missing now reported ‘Prisoner of War’.
1942/02/15 - Captured Singapore
As he was on crutches he was trucked to Changi.
PoW No. M-187
Japanese Index Card - Side One
Japanese Index Card - Side Two
1942/10/26 - Transported overland to Thailand with Letter Party ‘W’, train 2
20th Train to Thailand with 650 PoWs
Commander Lt-Col. R. McL. More, 2 H.A.A. RA
New PoW No. I 26507
Work Group 2
As taken from the IWM Interview with James
Helped build the bridge at Kanchanaburi, where civilian engineers organised the work and the Japanese and Korean guards made sure it was carried out. The tools were very primitive for instance the spades were cut out of metal barrels. Col. Toosey explained to James, who was mixing concrete for the bridge, not to mix it in correct proportions, to sabotage the work.
The PoWs bought duck eggs from the natives by trading clothing, when the guards were not looking. At first the eggs were taken back into camp but then the Guards started searches so the eggs had to be eaten at work on the bridge.
On one occasion James had bought two duck eggs and hid the under his hat on the way back to camp. He was searched by a Korean guard called the Undertaker, who smashed his hand down on James head and laughed when the yoke trickled down James face. He then gave James a packet of cigarets.
News of the ill treatment the PoWs were getting in the camps got back to Britain. To counteract this, the Japanese organised radio broadcasts from Bangkok using the PoWs to say they were in a lovely country and paid for working in good conditions and eating well. For this the PoWs were promised new cloths to wear but nobody volunteered.
After this a table was set up which the PoWs had to pass to work, on it were bottles of wine, food and a picture of a nude oriental girl, with a notice that this could be yours if you gave a radio interview, but this also did not work.
One day new clothing for the PoWs was distributed with cigarets and ash trays made out of cocoanuts mounted on sticks were distributed around the camp. The PoWs were given the day off and told they could wear the new cloths and sit around the camp smoking. Next, a Japanese officer arrived at the camp to inspect it as the feedback was grave. He saw the PoWs in good clothing smoking and sitting in the sun smoking. Directly he left the clothing was taken back, also the ash trays and the unsmoked cigarets, the PoWs were then sent back to work in very bad conditions working on the bridge.
Work detail was a ten day period in which tasks were set. If the work was completed in nine days, the tenth day was a day of rest (Yasmin day), if not the they worked the ten days and then started the next ten days work schedule. The bridge completion got behind so the PoWs worked continuously up till 10-11pm using flares to light up the work area. It was obvious to the PoWs that the civilian engineers were suffering under the military with physical abuse and in turn the engineers metted out the same abuse to the PoWs. Generally dished out by the Superior Private. There were three ranks of Privates, 2nd Class was the lowest rank, then a 1st Class Private and the highest was a Superior Private.
When the Railway was finished at the end of 1943 and maintenance work carried out, James was transported back to River Valley, Singapore.
1944/12/ 29 - Transported oversea to French Indo China with 286 British PoWs
New PoW No. I 41863
Saigon, Thailand Camp 10, French Indo-China (Vietnam)
Camp 10 was situated on the Rue Catinat, which was a main thoroughfare between the native quarter and the French quarter. The huts were of timber construction except for the hospital which was of bamboo structure with an attapi roof. All the huts had electric light.
Rice was still their main diet but they now received meat twice a week and eggs to buy in the canteen, within no time their weight improved.
1945/09/12 - Liberated Saigon Camp when English and Dutch paratroopers entered the camp.
Flown via Bangkok to Rangoon
Then by ship home
1945/11/19 - WO417/99, Casualty List No. 1914. Previously reported on Casualty List No. 1245 as Prisoner of War now Not Prisoner of War. Previous Theatre of War, Malaya.
Norfolks in the Far East
IWM Interview - This interview with James is worth listening to.
KEW Files:- WO 392/24, WO 345/21, WO 361/2005, WO 361/2027, WO 361/2165, WO 361/2060, WO 361/2177,