Unit: 122 (West Riding) Field Regiment
Service Number: 940705
Date of Death: 28 November 1943 – Died [Prisoner of War]
Age: 25 years
Cemetery / Memorial: Chungkai War Cemetery
Grave / Panel Ref.: 6. B. 8.
Leslie was born in Ruskington on 24th July 1918, the son of Thomas (Farm Labourer) and Annie Elizabeth (née Rushby) Louth. Although they married in Horbling, Lincolnshire, in 1910, the following year (1911 Census RG 14/19618) saw Thomas and Annie living on High Street, Ruskington.
Before Leslie’s birth three daughters were born, Bertha (who was about a year old when she died in early 1915), Doris (born 6th May 1915) and Elsie (b. 25th June 1917). He also had two younger brothers, Eric Henry (born 26th August 1919) and Cecil William (b. September quarter 1920).
The 1939 Register shows Leslie still living in the family home at Westcliffe, Ruskington, with his widowed mother and three siblings. He was working as a “Glazier and Painter”.
Probate Records show that in his Will Leslie left £411 13s 10d [£411.69 – equivalent in value to about £23,200 today (2022)] to his widowed mother, Annie. P.o.w. Records give Annie’s address at the time (1943) as “Westcliffe Road, via Cranwell, Sleaford“, though now Westcliffe Road is on the edge of Ruskington.
His father, Thomas, had died on 16th November 1927, aged 48, and Annie lived in the village as a widow until her death, aged 76, on 3rd January 1955. Thomas and Annie now lie in adjacent Graves 45 and 47, the Old Plot, West Border, Ruskington Cemetery. (right)
Without his Service Papers it is not possible to say when Leslie joined the 122 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. However, it was a Territorial Regiment formed in Bradford on 1st June 1939 along with 70 Field Regiment. The 122nd became known as ‘THE HALIFAX MASHERS ‘.
Both Regiments had the title ‘West Riding’. No 122 had headquarters opposite Valley Parade Drill Hall and units in Halifax and Heckmondwike. It had two batteries, 278 and 280.
On 3rd January 1941 the Regiment, Commanded by Lieut. Col. George St.John Armitage Dyson, embarked at Glasgow in the ironically named Canadian Pacific liner ‘Empress of Japan’ and arrived in Malaya on 11th March to become part of the 12th Indian Brigade.
When the Japanese invaded Malaya the following December, 278 Battery was sent up country to face them and fought its way all down the Peninsular to re-join 280 Battery in the short battle for Singapore Island. When the Surrender took place, on 15th February 1942, the men were ordered to pile their armoury in a public park near the War Memorial, Singapore. P.o.w. Records identify Leslie as a “Signaller“.
….. the fall of Singapore and the Surrender of British and Australian Forces.
The three and a half years of captivity in inhuman conditions cost the Regiment dearly. Its members were scattered all over the Far East. Many were sent as slave labour to build the infamous Burma/Siam Railway (Map left) on which it was reckoned that one prisoner died for every sleeper laid.
Today 41 soldiers of 122 Field Regiment lie buried in the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery in Thailand. Another 13 are buried at Chungkai.
There are graves of 17 others in Kranji Cemetery, Singapore, and the Kranji Memorial to those with no known grave lists another 43. Others from the Regiment were shipped in appalling conditions to Korea and to mainland Japan and 10 are buried in the War Cemetery at Yokohama.
Out of the original complement of 500 men, 122 Field Regiment lost 132, including 3 who died before war started in the Far East. Effectively, the Regiment ceased to exist with the surrender of Singapore. It was never re-formed and came to be called ‘The Forgotten Regiment’ by the survivors.
Leslie is one of 1,426 Commonwealth and 313 Dutch burials in Chungkai Cemetery – 12 from his Regiment. The CWGC says this of the Cemetery where he now lies:
” The notorious Burma-Siam railway, built by Commonwealth, Dutch and American prisoners of war, was a Japanese project driven by the need for improved communications to support the large Japanese army in Burma. During its construction, approximately 13,000 prisoners of war died and were buried along the railway. An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 civilians also died in the course of the project, chiefly forced labour brought from Malaya and the Dutch East Indies or conscripted in Siam (Thailand) and Burma (Myanmar).
Two labour forces, one based in Siam and the other in Burma, worked from opposite ends of the line towards the centre. The Japanese aimed at completing the railway in 14 months and work began in October 1942. The line, 424 kilometres long, was completed by December 1943.
The graves of those who died during the construction and maintenance of the Burma-Siam railway (except for the Americans, whose remains were repatriated) were transferred from camp burial grounds and isolated sites along the railway into three cemeteries at Chungkai and Kanchanaburi in Thailand and Thanbyuzayat in Myanmar.
Chungkai was one of the base camps on the railway and contained a hospital and church built by Allied prisoners of war. The war cemetery is the original burial ground started by the prisoners themselves, and the burials are mostly of men who died at the hospital. ”