The Bridge over the Kwai

My father's WW2 experience

By Mike Clarke

THE BRIDGE OVER THE KWAI

My Father Donovan Clarke was a Quad Driver during The Second World War. Serving with The 135th Hertfordshire Yeomanry (Tooseys Boys), 499 Battery, F Troop. He was a Prisoner of The Japanese for three and a half years following the fall of Singapore. He kept most of his experiences to himself. It is only after his death ten years ago that I have become very interested in this event in history.

Changi

Dad was taken to Changi prison initially and then to Bukit Timah building a shrine to The Japanese dead. He then spent eight months helping build “The Bridge over the Kwai” and then went up country to “Hellfire Pass” and “Hell Corner”. Being extracted from this area, as ill, he returned to Chungkai and then onward to Kanchaniburi, Nong Pladuck and Nakom Pathom. He finished the war at Ubon before returning home on “The Duchess of Richmond” from Rangoon.

135 Regiment

During my investigations on my Fathers experience I have become very interested in all members of 135 Regiment and am actively collecting information. Most of The Regiment appears to come from The Hertfordshire area, particularly Hertford, Hitchin and Peterborough. I am particularly keen to record names together with their Battery, Troop and Job Description. Not many of these FEPOW’s are with us today. But many relatives of these brave soldiers must have information that is valuable to all their memories. If you can help in any way please get in contact by adding a comment.

This page was added on 01/11/2010.

Comments about this page

  • Stevenage Museum has a collection of items relating to a Stevenage man, Cecil Warrel Denson who was a Gunner (Lance) Bombardier and “Quad Driver” in the 344 (Hitchin) Battery 135 (East Anglian) (Herts Yeo) Field Regiment RA (TA). He was also captured at Singapore on 15 February 1942 and sent to work on the “Railway”.
    According to his Liberation Questionnaire which we have obtained from the Children and Families of the Far East Prisoners of War website, he was held at the following camps in Thailand; Banpong (20 June 1942), Kanburi (14 March 1943), Tamwa (15 January 1944) and, Lampang – Chiang Mai Area (27 May 1944).

    His family were informed of his captivity from an announcement in, The Catholic Times dated 20 August 1943 which stated, “On Thursday August 12 Vatican Radio announced the following prisoners of war in the Far East in Thai ……L/Bdr Denson, Cecil RA” and from an Imperial Japanese Army Post Card sent to his Mother in Walkern Road, Stevenage, with his name, nationality, rank and camp on the front and, on the back the following six options:

    I am interned in (this has been completed with, “No. 1 POW Camp Thailand”)
    My health is excellent
    I am ill in hospital (this option has been deleted)
    I am working for pay
    I am not working (this option has been deleted)
    Please see that …….. is taken care of (this has been completed with, “Family”)
    My love to you (Signed Cecil Denson)

    After liberation Cecil Warrel Denson returned to Stevenage and died in 1991 aged 79.

    There are two other Stevenage men listed on the Stevenage War Memorial who also served with 135 (Herts Yeo) Field Regiment RA; Bombardier Jack Stanley Allen, 499 Battery, who died of wounds at Singapore Hospital on 13 February 1942 aged 22 and Sergeant Douglas Watson who, having survived captivity died on 5 June 1946 aged 26, as a result of his treatment as a Prisoner of War. Further details of these two men can be found on http://www.stevenageatwar.com.

    By Alan Ford (Volunteer Stevenage Museum) (13/04/2017)
  • I would like to contact Andy and John. I have put other details onto COFEPOW website as I am an area co-ordinator.

    Mike

    By MIKE CLARKE (05/02/2016)
  • My partners father was in this unit and also suffered the consequences of being captured in Singapore. His name was Archibald George Saunders . We have some of his effects from that time if you would be interested in seeing them

    By John Gardner (30/08/2013)
  • My Grandad was a member of 135th & taken POW at the fall of Singapore 15th Feb 1942 Walter Stanley newberry was a Gunner born 28 November 1915 & died at home in bed 27th December 1987 Lived in Stevenage Herts

    By Andy Newberry (20/06/2012)
  • in answer to mike clarkes enquiry. my dads best mate “dick guy ” was also a pow at this time and survived but died in early 1960s. i remember he still had the scars on his body from his terrible treatment at the hands of the japanese.My Dad avoided going with him to singapore because he luckily had leave at the time to get married to my mum, he himself went on to serve in europe and the middle east.They both lived in Tea Green near Hitchin.(dads name Ron Wallis ).Hope this is of some use to your investigations

    By david49 (14/06/2012)
  • Have you tried the BBC People’s War Website? It contains 47,000 stories and 15,000 photographs from the public. Alan French.

    By Alan French (29/11/2010)

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