Gunners 600 Group

Gunners 600 Group

      Peter Tovey - My uncle, Gunner Ivor Thomas Powell, 1605186, who originated from the Rhondda, South Wales, was attached to the 3rd HAA when captured in Singapore.
      He left home on 27 January 1941 the day after he married Glenys Tovey. She never saw him again.
      My research leads me to believe that he was one of the eighty plus men left at Rabaul due to ill health when the remainder were taken to Ballale Island where they were later worked to death or massacred.
      I would love to hear from anyone who has first hand knowledge of Ivor's movements from the time he left home after his marriage. I believe that he is mentioned in Alf 'Blackie' Baker's book 'What Price Bushido' but I have failed to locate a copy for loan or purchase.
      Should anyone have any information pleae contact me as my aunt, now in her eighty seventh year, is frequently mentioning the fact she doesn't know what happened to Ivor.

      Keith Andrews - I picked up your message from the message board on the COFEPOW site. Rev.Baker's book, "What Price Bushido" should be available through the library service, although your local library may have to go out of county to get it. A copy should be with The British Library which they should be able to obtain for you for a fee. Don Wall's book "Kill the Prisoners" contains a chapter on the Gunners 600 party, or the Ballale 600. Gunner Thomas is listed as passing away on Rabul on the 1st of May 1943. A copy of this could be obtained from the same source.
      I know from another contact that of survivors from Rabul, one is still alive, but I have yet to make contact, and even then it may be too painful for him to provide details. There may be one other source that could provide you with a little more detail, I am awaiting his reply to a previous enquiry, once I get that, and the ok to establish contact I will be in touch again. I have no idea if the Rev. Baker is still alive, hence the copy to the fepow net, as there may be others who can help you in your quest. If you know what battery he was with I may be able to provide details of its service etc., but no more than that at this stage.

      Peter Tovey - Thanks for responding to my message on the COFEPAW site.

      Attempts to borrow 'What Price Bushido?' through my local library were negative. They assure they have tried every local authority in the UK to obtain a copy with a negative result and that the British Library would like to purchase a copy for themselves!!

      I have a library copy of Don Wall's 'Kill The Prisoners' and it is in the chapter re the Gunners 600 and Ballale Island that he mentions that Alf (Blackie) Baker was one of the 80+ left at Rabaul. In 'What Price Bushido?' Baker apparently gives quite a vivid account of what happened at Rabaul.

      The message you posted on the COFEPAW site re the 3rd HAA was helpful but I have no details of the Battery Ivor was with. My aunt can't remember any useful details but says Ivor joined up soon after the outbreak of war, trained in Oswestry and Woolwich, and returned to his unit the day after their marriage on 21 January 1941 prior to leaving for the Far East. She can however recite his service number perfectly. I am presently awaiting a reply from the Royal Artillery Association with some useful information - I hope.

      I have a printout called 'The 12th of September' written by R L Stark (see who gives an account of his training and travelling to Singapore where he was attached to the 3rd HAA on arrival. Although he was not one of the Gunners 600 Group I do wonder if Ivor trained and travelled with R L Stark (now deceased).

      Anything you come across which will help us fill the gaps would be most appreciated.

      Janet Jacobs - I have tried to find the message that Keith refers to on the COFEPOW list but haven't been successful (I'm a bit of a klutz with technology). I would like to see it because Keith says that re: the 3rd HAA it was helpful.

      My dad was 3rd HAA. He was in 11th Bty. I have limited information but if there is anything that I can help with or information that you would care to share with me, I'd be pleased to hear from you. There seems to be little recorded about RA units in Singapore during this period so any information that we can gather form any source is always welcome.

      Keith Andrews - It's that sauf lundun lad again!
      I picked up Peter's message from the COFEPOW Message Board, I always look at that from time to time. Peter responded today, and Jean I can but think the message on the COFEPOW Board may be a little out of date, and not as up to date as the details you have. Peter does not know the battery, but should he want some general information, I will try to supply, as you are, catching isn't it! Peter has tried to obtain, by various means without success, the book "What Price Bushido" by Alf (Blackie) Black. This covers the fate of the party left on Rabul. If any kind person with a copy, and in reach of a photocopier would like to send me a copy, I will supply my address off list, and pay the costs, I will then forward it to Peter, but I will make a copy for COFEPOW files. Others may seek the same information. Jean, regarding my message last night, if I can supply a contact, e-mail me direct.

      Stuart Meier - It is in British Library, so should be accessible by interlibrary loan. Peter had no joy with British LIbrary previously, but I found it today.

      Peter Tovey - I have made further enquiries with my local library and they have confirmed that the only copy of 'What Price Bushido?' is the British Library reference section. They do not have a copy for loan.

      Anthea Beckett - Alf (Blackie) Baker is dead, I think. He ended his days in Plymouth as a Free Church minister, much loved. I was able to borrow a copy of "What Price Bushido?" via Devon Library Services, 1.75 for 4 weeks' loan. It's a wonderful book, unsentimental and a tribute to the human spirit.

      There are also copies for reference only in University College libraries at Oxford, Cambridge and Dublin.

      Brian Pennington - I have copy of 'What price Bushido' inherited from my father and would be happy to loan it to, or copy it for, anyone interested.

      Alf Baker is alive, not so well but living still in Plymouth.

      Janet Jacobs - Keith thank you for your mail, I would love to know what you got from the P R O, it sounds by your tone to be alot of hassel as well as anything ealse !

      I will give them a try, I worked there as a student collating passport application forms ( Jesus, enough to send one over the top) but had no idea they were still in Hayes.

      Re dads friend, I only know him as BUDD Smith, I guess thats not at all his christian name, all I know is he died in Jan 45 as my dad described " Up country across the two rivers " in Burma, at that time my Dad was with a Capt Pitt who was mentioned in Dr Hardy's diary for Jan 45, and I know that the terrain was pretty hostile and that an officer ( not sure if that was Pitt or not ) read prayers from a prayer book, the old chap was always addament they would never recover his body from where ever it was, but he would be remembered on the memorial in Rangoon wouldn't he ? Dad was always heartbroken cos he was wounded in action in Singapore and managed to struggle on all that time, and was a good soldier, I'm not sure if I will ever find his memorial bless his heart.

      Peter Tovey - Firstly, I would like to thank all those who responded to my earlier message published on the FEPOW list, regarding my uncle, Gunner Ivor Powell, 3rd HAA Royal Artillery. I have referred to their messages, the information and advice given, and the following publications:

      'Kill the Prisoners' by Don Wall.
      'Survival Through Faith in Adversity' by Joe Blythe.
      'Hostages to Freedom: The Fall Of Rabaul' by Peter Stone.
      (Ivor's service record is subject of a three month wait).

      I am satisfied that Ivor was not left at Rabaul and was taken to Ballale Island. However, 484 men are recorded as having died on Ballale Island and given the same date of death - 5 March 1943, the date that the Japanese claimed all 517 men had been lost at sea so as to cover up their atrocities. A further 20 men are listed by Wall as having died at place and time unknown. Wall also lists 9 of the Ballale men with dates of death ranging from 21 October 1942 to 1 May 1943 (Ivor's date of death). It is not clear how these dates were established but these men, who definitely were not amongst the 82 left at Rabaul, must have died at Ballale Island.

      Can any one assist in explaining how and why only 9 of the 517 men who were taken to Ballale Island have specific dates of death other than 5 March 1943.

      Janet Jacobs - Can you please advise on how I can obtain details of my late fathers army service records please ? as you seem to be awaiting those of your uncle.

      Keith Andrews - I hope you are both keeping well. Janet, to answer the question you put to Peter, the address is:

      Ministry of Defence,
      Defence Records 2b,
      Bourne Avenue,
      Middlesex UB3 1RF.

      In your letter you should give the following information:
      name, rank, serial number,regiment, I also included date of birth, and a brief note of why you want the records and your search for your father's military history. It can't hurt, and lets them know you are serious. You will receive a reply informing you of the period of time the search will take, as the documentation is original, not computerised. Along with the letter will be a certificate of kinship, and a search questionnaire, both must be completed in full, and returned with a copy of your father's death certificate, and a cheque for 25. Always quote the reference
      number they give you. Good luck, let me know what you find. If you want an idea of what I got, let me know. One last question, what was your father's friends full name, as we may be able to trace the camp from his burial site, or at least those in the area. Hi Peter, to answer you question is going to take a lot of digging. The people who could help are as mystified as you are, so I will try another source in the hope they can help.

      Pauline - >Peter, I read with great intrest your e-mail to FEPOW about your uncle Ivor Thomas Powell, being in the 3rd Heavy Anti Aircraft Regiment Royal Artillery, as was my father. My father died in May 2000, and like most of his generation did not talk of their experiences.
      After his death I decided to do a little investigation,I have pictures of Dad with some of his comrades, my mother was very good in the fact she dated pictures.
      From what I can gather the Regiment were in training in Cornwall in March 1941, and I also have a picture of Mum and Dad at home dated August 1941, I believe that their unit left the U.K. about October 1941, I have a photo dated 23rd November 1941, which says Columbo (Ceylon) which would make them arrive in Singapore about the 8th December 1941.
      As you know the fallof Singapore was on the 15th February 1942. My father was taken to I think Changi geol, from there to the Island of Formosa to the hell camp of Kinkaseki till liberation in 1945 I hope this of some help to you, and would be gratful to here your reply.
      PSyour Uncle is the only the 4th person I have heard of to belong to that Regiment.

      padivitt - I am looking for any information on the 3rd Heavy Anti Aircraft Regiment Royal Artillery. Looking for any details of the ship that they the U.K. on.I believe that they left the U.K.around October 1942.I would be grateful for any information.

      Keith - The 9th Coast Regiment comprised of the following Battery's:

      7th Coast Battery manned,
      Jahore Battery, 3-15inch guns, mount 1 was a MK.1 mount which could not rotate, mounts 2 and 3 were Mk.2 mounts which could rotate, and fired off 194 rounds of AP ammunition against land targets, designed for use against ships, but that was all they had. The fact the guns could turn dispels another lie.

      Betang Kush Battery, 2-6inch guns.

      22nd Battery manned:
      Tekong Battery, 3-9.2inch guns. These were turret guns and could rotate, and fired 75 rounds of HE, and 200 rounds of AP.
      Sphinx Battery, 2-6inch guns
      Ladang Battery, 1-12pdr gun
      Pulau Sajahat Battery, 2-12pdr guns
      Calder Harbour Battery, 2-6pdr guns

      32nd Battery manned:
      Pengerang Battery, 2-6inch guns
      Changi Battery, 2-6inch guns
      Changi Outer Battery, 2-6pdr guns
      Changi Inner Battery, 2-6pdr guns

      Let me explain a bit of detail. The inch measurement of the guns is the diameter of the barrel, so you would find 15inch guns on Battleships, 6 inch guns on Cruisers. Those noted as pdrs, or pounders is the weight of the shell and were found on old Destroyers, minelayers and the like. All of the above were under the control of Changi Fire Command, which was based on Changi Hill.

      Files in the PRO record the destruction of some of these Battery's to prevent capture by the Japanese. My father's papers show that many of the Changi gunners were killed in this area.

      In the Documents section of the Imperial War Museum there may be found the Nominal Roll of the 9th Coast Regiment RA, written in Changi by G.H.V.Wilcox in 1942. This lists the personnel at the time of the surrender by name, rank, serial number, next of kin, their address, their date of departure from Changi, and if ovl = overland, or ovs = overseas. It will also show in pencil under the name, what Battery he was in. This will also help to narrow down the party he was in when he left Changi.

      I have yet to write to Firepower, so I cannot confirm what detail they do or do not have. I am going to write for details of my fathers Regiment, the peacetime digest of which should be with them, or after about 30 years, the PRO.

      Once our fathers became POWs, the Regiment as such ceased to exist, so you will not find your father's POW details at Firepower, this they have confirmed.

      I have a couple of questions for you:

      (a) Did your father send any POW postcards to your mother, and if so do they give a camp number. For camp number read work group, but again it would narrow the search.
      (b) Have you a copy of your father's Army Service Record and Pay book. If so it may have his POW medical record, and the camp in which it was signed after the Japanese surrendered.

      If you do not have this information, do not worry, there is nothing you can do about it. The Unit War Diary for the 9th Coast never made it out of Singapore, and would have been destroyed to prevent capture.

      So, try the Imperial War Museum, but hold on trying the PRO and Firepower until I can get you more details, or at least that is my advice. If you did try the PRO, WO172 lists the unit war diary records, but we need to find the UK peacetime records.

      Other files worth looking at, containing details of the destruction of the gun battery's are:
      WO172/176 - Fixed Defences - 1/40 to 2/42
      WO172/182 - 7th Coast Battery - 2/42
      WO172/189 - 9th Coast Regiment - 2/42
      I found these in my first visit, and will be going back to find more detail. I have copies of these files, and if it would save you a trip, let me have your address direct, and I will let you have a copy.

      I am also in touch with someone in Singapore, who is in the process of writing a book on Singapore, and the Coast Guns. On February 15th this year, they opened up the Mk.1 mounting gun tunnel of the Jahore Battery, and are turning the site in to an Historical and Educational site. Again, I can let you have details if you are interested.

      Jean - >Pauline, my father was with the 3rd HAA in Singapore. If you would like to mail me I may be able to help with some details about what happened to them during their time in Malaya and Singapore, and subsequently during captivity.

      Keith - >Pauline and Jean, It's about time the two of you met. Pauline, I think you mean left the UK around October 1941. I have a feeling a number of troopships left around then, most of them ex civilian Passenger Liners. I hope you may be able to help each other. If I can help, drop me a line.

      Ron - "What Price Bushido" is available from Rev Alf Baker as below:

      Price 12.50

      Postage & Packing 2.50


      Rev Alf Baker

      "The Anchorage"

      111 Trelawney Road


      Plymouth PL3 4JZ



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