William Charles Harry Preston
1919/01/21 - Born Gorefield, Wisbech
Son of Sydney and Ethel Preston
Husband of Edith (nee Calver) Preston
On November 1st the Battalion concentrated for the first time as a complete unit at Melton Constable in Norfolk, and was shortly afterwards transferred to the 53 rd Infantry Brigade of the 18th Division, thus parting company with 1st Battalion which remained in 55th Brigade. At the end of the month a further move took place to Holt , where companies were assigned a variety of billets, including a condemned school and a disused chapel.
In January 1940, The Battalion marched to a new station at Stiffkey , on the coast, which being a hutted summer camp by design, received the full benefit of the extremely severe weather of that winter; the camp was on the edge of the salt marshes and everything froze solid.
In August, coast defences were again taken over, this time at Sheringham and West Runton; here the Battalion sustained it’s first air attack, but suffered no casualities, though some were rudely awakened from their Sunday afternoon siesta. Finally the defensive role ceased , and it was moved inland to Houghton Hall, Raynham and nearby villages, where the second Christmas was spent in greater comfort.
With the move of the Division to Scotland early in January 1941, the 2nd Battalion was sent to Dumfries. It was expected that orders would be given to prepare for service overseas, but these failed to materialise and the unit settled down to intensive company and battalion training over new and formidable country, followed by Higher Formation exercises in severe weather.
In April the Division moved down into Western Command, and the 2nd Battalion took up quarters in Crewe Hall, Cheshire.The summer was principally occupied by Divisional exercises carried out over large distances into Lancashire and Yorkshire.
In October, orders were at last received to prepare for foreign service, and on completion of mobilization the Battalion was inspected by H.M.The King in the grounds of Crewe Hall.
1941/10/31 - Sailed from Gourock in the Polish Free State vessel,
‘M,V. Sobieski’ and joined Convoy CT.5 (18th Division) off the Irish Coast
1941/11/08 - Transferred to USS Mount Vernon with 53 Infantry Brigade
1941/11/10 - Sailed from Halifax in Convoy William Sail 12X
Via Port Spain, Trinidad and Cape Town to Kenya
1941/12/08 - Japan invades Malaya
1941/12/29 - Mount Vernon left Kenya for Singapore in Convoy DM.1
1942/01/04 - Mount Vernon anchored at Addu Atool in the Maldive Islands, mail going ashore and taking on water. The next morning at 0900hrs, Convoy DM.1 got under way escorted by HMS Emerald , Exeter and Jumna.
1942/01/13 - At 1315hrs Mount Vernon docked at the Navy Yard, Singapore
2nd Cambridgeshire Regiment was attached to 15th Indian Brigade and dispatched to Batu Pahat in North Johore to relieve a composite Leicester-Surrey Battalion (the “British Battalion”) and prevent the enemy occupying the town and it’s airfield. Within a few hours of arrival on the mainland, the first causalities were sustained from dive bombing attacks.
The British Battalion was brought back from reserve to reinforce the small garrison of the town which consisted of the 2nd Battalion, a company of the Malay Regiment and a battery of the 155 Field Regiment.
The Japanese attacked the troop positions of the Field Regiment, taking them by surprise; a company each from the British Battalion and the 2nd Battalion had to be sent to disperse the enemy and rescue the guns. This done with the loss of one gun only.
The enemy now began to feel their way towards the town by the Yong Peng road, after crossing the river some miles outside the defence perimeter. The garrison was by now so hard pressed for men that this road could not be effectively patrolled so far from the main defences, since all available reserves were in daily use attacking enemy infiltration parties nearer to the town itself. But though the Japanese were thus able to effect a crossing of the river, they soon ran against “A” Company’s positions astride the north – eastern entrance to Batu Pahat. They were promptly driven back into cover each time they tried to break through. Similar attempts to cross the Muar Road Ferry in the harbour area of the town were held by "B“ & "C“ companies with the assistance of the gunners.
On the 23rd, , orders were received by wireless for a withdrawal from Batu Pahat to a position some mile down this road, where it was intended that the garrison should halt and fight a delaying action to cover the establishment of a further defence line through Benut.
Throughout 24th, ,the Japanese made a sustained effort to retake the Batu Pahat and pressed heavily on the defenders from all sides; the brunt of these attacks were borne by 2nd Battalion and causalities began to mount up.
On the night of the 25th the Batu Pahat force, having fulfilled the demand made upon them, it finally withdrew down the coast road to the village of Sengarang where it found that the last way out of the trap had been already blocked and the force was surrounded. An enemy landing force had erected blocks across the road and prepared strong positions to prevent a break out.
From dawn on the 26th until 1630 hours in the afternoon continual attacks were launched against these blocks in the hope of being able to clear the road to allow the ambulances and other vehicles of the Brigade to pass through; but in vain. Once again, the brunt of this action was borne by the 2nd Battalion, and every man was thrown into the fight, including cooks, drivers, signallers and batmen; the opening of the road was a matter of desperate necessity, for the Brigade was still carrying with it the accumulated causalities of the last four days’ fighting in the town, for whom there was no chance of evacuation to hospital.
When finally it was found to be impossible to open the road for the passage of vehicles (there were found no fewer than six blocks and ambushes between Senggarang and Ringit) the Brigade Commander gave orders to destroy all guns and transport and to attempt to break out through the jungle and link up with the nearest British forces, who were believed to be at Ringit or Benut. A bitter decision had to be made – such of the wounded as were too ill to be moved were left in the village under the care of two doctors of the 168 Field Ambulance. When the 2nd Battalion Padre heard of this he elected to stay with them and share their fate.
When the break – out order was given at Senggarang, the Battalion was widely deployed amongst the swamps on both sides of the roads with every man in action. As a natural result, it was impossible to collect the scattered sub – units into a complete Battalion in the time given in the order; however, in companies, platoons, sections and groups of every size and sort, under their respective officers and N.C.O’s, the great majority of the Battalion managed somehow to break out of the enemy ring and make their way back to Singapore, 70 mile distant.
Now arrived on Singapore Island and contact was made with the 1st Battalion again. But this rest period lasted a bare five days, after which the unit found itself once more in the line, taking over a sector of coast to the east of the naval base. Here there was a complete lack of any sort of defence works, and much digging and wiring was involved, principally by night and often under shellfire from the enemy batteries across the Straits; any movement by day drew artillery and mortar attention. Here the Battalion returned to 53rd Brigade. Air attacks increased in intensity daily.
Shortly afterwards, as a result of the Japanese landings on the west coast of the Island, the 53rd Brigade was ordered to carry out a withdrawal in stages to the south, to conform with the movement of the left of the general line. This operation was successfully concluded although at one time the enemy cut the road behind the Brigade, and nearly caused a second Senggarang. Finally positions were taken up on the evening of 13th February to the north of Braddell Road, but owing to darkness the positions could not be thoroughly reconnoitred the same evening and information of the positions of other units were scanty.
Soon after midnight, the enemy attacked the Battalion line in several places, and a force which outflanked the Brigade came in from the left and assaulted Battalion H.Q., which though mustering only 15 all ranks, fought back stoutly and thus contained a complete company on its own. Confused and bitter fighting ensued in the darkness, and the Battalion found itself assaulted from front, flanks and rear. The C.C. was killed while manning an L.M.G., and the Adjutant with several of the Battalion H.Q. met their deaths in a gallant attempt to drive back the enemy with the bayonet.
The following night further attempts were made by strong enemy patrols to find a weak spot in the defences, but these were countered and the line held. Throughout the 15th the Battalion continued to hold its ground though its left flank was now in danger and communication with the rear was no longer possible.
1942/02/15 - Singapore surrendered
1942/02/15 - Captured Singapore
Japanese Index Card - Side One
Japanese Index Card - Side Two
Transported to Thailand
New PoW No. I 1900
1944/09/21 - Transported to Japan in Hofuku Maru which was sunk off Corregidor
New PoW No. I 43993
Son of Sydney and Ethel Preston
Husband of Edith (nee Calver )Preston, of Garston, Watford, Hertfordshire
KEW:- WO 392/25, WO 361/1742, WO 361/758, WO 361/2057, WO 345/42, WO 361/2005, WO 361/758, WO 361/758,