Unit: 122 Field Regiment
Service Number: 940705
Date of Death: 28 November 1943 – Died [PoW]
Age: 25 years
Cemetery / Memorial: Chungkai War Cemetery
Grave / Panel Ref.: 6. B. 8.
Leslie was born in Ruskington in the September quarter 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 them living at High Street, Ruskington.
Probate Records show that in his Will Leslie left £411 13s 10d [£411.69 – about £15,700 today (2015)] to his widowed mother, Annie. His father, Thomas, had died in November 1927, aged 48, and Annie lived in the village as a widow until her death, aged 76, in December 1954. Thomas and Annie now lie in adjacent Graves 45 and 47, the Old Plot, West Border, Ruskington Cemetery.
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 1 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 3 January 1941 the Regiment embarked at Glasgow in the ironically named Canadian Pacific liner ‘Empress of Japan’ and arrived in Malaya on 11 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 15 February 1942, the men were ordered to pile their armoury in a public park near the War Memorial, Singapore.
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 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. ”