Albert George O’Brien
1919/04/09 - Born Enfield, Middlesex
Son of Albert John and Emily O’Brien
1939/10/26 - Enlisted
With Japan entering the war, the HMS Dragonfly along with two other gunboats, the ‘Grasshopper’ and ‘Scorpion’, sailed from Hong Kong to Singapore.
The Dragonfly and Scorpion helped rescue a brigade of 2000 men cut off at Batu Pahat.
1942/02/10 - The HMS Dragonfly left Singapore for Batavia, commandeered by Commander Alfred William Sprott, R.N. Evacuating about 250 troops from Singapore to Sumatra they were equipped with life jackets.
Japanese aircraft were first seen at 0800 hours but did not seem to notice the two ships.
At approximately 0930 hours a recognisance flying boat flew overhead , dropping two bombs , both missed, the Captain ordered a change in course to try and get the Dragonfly in the lee of one of the small islands in an attempt to evade any aircraft sent to attack them.
Unfortunately 63 enemy bombers appeared and attacked the two ships , scoring direct hits on the Dragonfly and she came to shuddering stop , the Captain later stated that the whole of the ship aft of the smoke stack was a mass of twisted metal and the stern had completely disappeared.
The Commander gave the order to abandon ship, the ‘Dragonfly’ later sank.
Singkep was the biggest island in the immediate area and many of the escapees from the sunken craft were gathered there. Junks were used to transport many of them to Sumatra.
The Survivors able to travel were taken up the Indragiri River to Temilahan then onto Rengat , their final destination would have been Iyer Molek were they would have transfered to road transport taking them to rail head at Swahlunto and then it would have been a railway journy to Pagang.
Map of Route Across Sumatra by Kevin Snowdon
The group then travelled across Sumatra to Padang on the West Coast and eventually tried to reach Emmahaven to board a ship to Colombo, but they were stopped by Javanese troops at a road block and turned back to spend the night at a school. But next morning there was an episode which would change their lives for the next years three and a half years.
1942/03/17 - Captured Padang, Sumatra
PoW No. 153
1942/06/ - Gloegoer, Medan
Commander Major Campbell, Indian Army
Able Seaman O’Brien was moved to Gloegoer camp in Medan , Northern Sumatra , to work on various Japanese projects .
1944/03/ - Atjeh Camp
Commander Lt. Henman, Royal Navy
He was part of the Atjeh Party forced marched 85 miles in six days to the town Atjeh , here they joined Romusa building roads.
Japanese Index Card - Side One
Japanese Index Card - Side Two
In October 1944 they were again force marched 85 miles but this time in 81 hours , including a 8 hrs night march to a rest camp promised by the Japanese but instead they were then sent to work on the Sumatran railway.
1944/11/ Pakan Baroe
New PoW No. 8170
Commander Captain Garoon, Royal Artillery
Sumatra Railway Camps No. 6, 4 & Logas
The death railway ran from Pakan Baru to Muara.
1945/08/15 - Pakan Baroe, Sumatra
1945/10/15 - Liberated Pakan Baroe
Ken O’Brien - Son
Liberation Questionnaire - COFEPOW
KEW Files:- WO 361/2006, WO 392/25, WO 345/38, WO 361/1948, WO 361/2013,