To honour those who served their country

“In this their finest hour”

Royal Corps of Signals-tn



John William Purcell

Known as Jack

Purcell-John-William - 03

1918/04/04 - Born Roby, Liverpool

Son of Philip and Barbara Purcell

Occupation Pressman, C.W.A. Mills


Royal Corps of Signals

attd. 3rd Indian Signal Corp

C Despatch Rider Section



1940/05/19 - Jack wrote home from Saltburn by the Purcell-John-William - Riftswood HallSea. Having been sent from Catterick to here. He was billeted in Riftswood Hall. The hall opened in 1937 as a Youth hostel. A grade 2 listed Victorian villa originally built in the late 19th century for Mr William Eden Walker, a local ironmaster born in Stockton.

Jack writes ‘We are stationed in a big mansion called Riftswood there are about 50 in its 35 rooms.

There is not much to do only to patrol up and down the sea front for about an hour. There is plenty of enjoyment on the prom and beach, we are allowed out until 12 at night and the weather is smashing, we are all sunburnt’.

Purcell-John-William -Top right

1941/01/11 - Transported from Britain with William Sail 5B Convoy

(William Sail Convoys were knicknamed Winstons Special Convoys)

The convoy consisted of:-

4 ships from Bristol Channel

6 ships from Liverpool

11 ships from the Clyde

1941/01/11 - Rendezvous at Moelfre Bay, Anglesey

1941/01/12 - Departed Moelfre Bay as WS 5B Convoy

1941/02/10 - Cape Town

1941/02/12 - Departed Cape Town

1941/03/03 - Arrived Bombay

1941/03/11 - Arrived Singapore

1941/03/17 - Message Jack had arrived safely

Purcell-John-William - Kuala Lumpur Sep 1941-01

Purcell-John-William -Bottom right

1941/12/08 - The Japanese landed from ships on the Thailand Malaya border

Quickly establising a foothold in Malaya they pushed the Allied troops back to Singapore

1942/02/15 - Singapore surrendered to the Japanese


1942/05/11 - WO 417/43, Casualty List No. 820. Reported ‘Missing’.

1943/06/14 - WO 417/62, Casualty List No. 1160. Previously shown on Casualty List No. 820 as Missing, 15/02/1942. Now reported a ‘Prisoner of War’.


Japanese PoW

1942/02/15 - Captured Singapore


PoW No. M-5262

River Valley Camp

Japanese Index Card - Side One


Japanese Index Card - Side Two

Transcribed by Terry Manttan, Manager of TBRC

The front of the card shows us that he was captured in Singapore and would have been held initially in Changi POW Camp. In the Number box we see the characters for Malai POW Camp Roll 3, which I believe would have been River Valley Road. The Malai characters have been crossed through and replaced by the one for Thailand POW Camp 1. This means he was transferred to Work Group 1 (Allied terminology), or Camp 1 (Japanese terminology) on the Thai-Burma Railway.


1942/11/08 - Transported overland to Thailand with Great World Party, train 1

32nd train to Thailand

Group 1

New PoW No. I 10192

Purcell-John-William - 04

Rail Laying

New PoW No. I 13202

1943/08/06 - Taken ill

Extract from



‘Then came the cholera.  Johnny Purcell, another DR, was the cleanest man you could imagine, always kept himself smart, and his mess tin was always sparkling.  We went to bed that night and we were now …………under canvas. Twelve of us in the tent, and by the morning Johnny Purcell was dead, and three others were in agony with the cholera.  You can imagine how we felt - the Japs were in a real panic’.


1943/08/07 - Died of Cholera at Kinsaiyok Station

Buried Kinsaiyok Station Cemetery, grave No. 4

(After the war the bodies were moved to Commonwealth War Cemeteries)


1945/10/11 - WO417/98, Casualty List No. 1881. Previously shown on Casualty List No. 1160 as reported Prisoner of War. Previous Theatre of War, Malaya. Reported ‘Died’.



Age 25


Cause of Death Cholera

Place of Death Kinsaiyok Station



Loved Ones

Son of Philip and Barbara Purcell, of Roby, Lancashire




8. H. 48.


Purcell-John-William -Kanchanaburi War Cemetery Site Plan1

Kanchanaburi War Cemetery








1939-1945 Star-tn

Defence Medal

Pacific Star

War Medal

1939-1945 Star


Hilary Purcell

In 2008 I had a holiday in Thailand meeting up with my daughter living in Australia. Having done only a minimal amount of research I realised we should take the opportunity to fly up to Bangkok for a few days and go up to the cemetery in Kanchanaburi.  With information from the CWGC as to his grave location, we made a day visit. I was very moved at the peacefulness, tranquillity and how beautiful it was kept.




Hilary Purcell - Researching My Uncle John Purcell

Andrew Snow - Thailand Burma Railway Centre

Tim Lloyds

Alan Hilton

Tan DingXiang

Japanese Transports

Thailand - Burma Railway

Commonwealth War Graves Commision

KEW Files:- WO 361/2172, WO 361/1526, WO 361/2053, WO 392/25, WO 345/42, WO 361/1955, WO 361/2190, WO 361/1585, WO 361/2165, WO 361/2165, WO 361/1623, WO 361/1585, WO 361/2063, WO 361/2190,


''Our Thanks are for being a Chapter in Life.''




Keeping The Candle Burning


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