John Edward Spencer
Known as Jack
1916/04/08 - Born
Son of George Robert Arthur and Alice Elizabeth Spencer
Husband of Doris Spencer
1940/03/15 - Enlisted
Royal Norfolk Regiment
September 1st 1939 in Norwich saw the battalion mobilised with 24 officers, 27 warrant officers aand 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 quaters 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
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.
The 19th January was spent patrolling 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.
1942/02/15 - Singapore fell to the Japanese
1942 - WO 417/41 - Reported Missing
1943 - WO 417/62 - Now reported as a PoW
1945 - WO 417/98 - Previously Reported Prisoner of War now not a PoW
1942/02/15 - Captured Singapore
PoW No. M 5229
Japanese Index Card - Side One
Japanese Index Card - Side Two
!942/11/07 - Transported overland to Thailand in 30th train from Singapore
New PoW No. I 26901
Various Camps Thailand with No. I Group
Transported back to Singapore
1945/02/02 - Transported oversea to Saigon, French Indo-China (Vietnam) in Haruyasa Maru
New PoW No. I 44685
1945/09/12 - Liberated Saigon
Flown via Bangkok to Rangoon
KEW:- WO 392/26, WO 345/48, WO 361/2005, WO 361/2027, WO 361/2165, WO 361/2165, WO 361/2178,