Unit: 1/5th Battalion
Service Number: 4967751
Date of Death: 24 August 1945 – Died [Prisoner of War]
Age: 39 years
Cemetery / Memorial: Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, Thailand
Grave / Panel Ref.: 6. D. 70.
Bertie was born on 13th July 1906 at Cranwell, Lincolnshire, the son of Jane Marriott (She never married and the name of Bertie’s father is unknown.). Jane’s older brother was Henry Marriott (Scaffolder) (see Footnote below).
The 1911 Census (RG 14/19618) shows Bertie living at Knipton Houses, Ruskington, the home of his widowed grandmother, Martha (née Woods) Marriott, with his mother, Jane (Martha’s daughter), and his older brother, George (born 31st October 1904). A year later, on 23rd July 1912) a younger brother, Reuben Woods (see Footnote below), was born, and on 4th January 1915 brother, Arthur, was added to Jane’s family.
When War was declared in 1939 Bertie was still living in the family home at 5 Knipton Cottages, Westcliffe, with his 90 year old grandmother, his parents and his brother, Arthur. Jane was at the same address when she died, aged 60, on 26th October 1948, she never married.
At the outbreak of the war the 1/5th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters, was in the Derby area, but after mobilization were moved to Aldershot, being in the 148th Brigade of the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division.
Without Bertie’s Service Papers it is not possible to say when he enlisted in the 1/5th Battalion.
They were sent to France landing at Cherbourg on the 18th October 1939, when they acted in the roll of Lines of Communication Troops with the 25th Infantry Brigade of the BEF. In July 1940 the Battalion moved into the 55th Infantry Brigade of the 18th Infantry Division being based in the UK. William probably joined the Battalion at about this time.
With this formation they sailed from Liverpool on the liner “MS Orchades” (right) at the end of October 1941, bound for India. At Nova Scotia, Canada, the Battalion was transferred to an overcrowded America transport, arriving in Cape Town, South Africa, on 10th December and leaving 3 days later.
By this time Japan had entered the War after the attack on Pearl Harbour. The Battalion was diverted and landed in Singapore in January 1942. They were part of the British Garrison of Singapore, which was taken POW by the Japanese on 14th February 1942 and spent the remainder of the war in Japanese POW camps and working on the Burma Railway.
On 1st February Bertie’s 1/5th Battalion had been placed in Divisional Reserve about 4 kms. (2.5 mls.) to the south near the Brigade Headquarters. Their orders were to prepare a counter-attack on the west bank of the Punggol River. On the 5th February the Japanese began shelling the 1/5th’s positions.
By 8th February the Japanese had landed on the NW coast of Singapore Island and advanced inland. On the 10th Bertie and the 1/5th were ordered to the junction of the Syme and Lornie Roads, north of Singapore City, an assembly point for “Tom Force”, with the intention that this Force would form a reserve.
That night (10th) the Battalion took up a position facing west either side of the Duncarn Road. On the 12th ‘Tom Force’ advance with a view to clearing the area towards Bukit Timar, getting to within 400 yards (365 m.) of the village, but had to withdraw to its original positions by 5.00 p.m. One report puts their most forward position at “milestone 8 on Jurong Road“.
The situation in Singapore had become critical and Japanese tanks were advancing. The order went out for all troops to form a ring around the city, although the 1/5th were already in position. No actual attack had been launched on the 18th Division’s position, but by the morning of 15th February small parties, including enemy snipers, had infiltrated the defence.
By about noon that day the Senior Officers realised the situation was hopeless and negotiated a ceasefire to come into effect at 8.30 p.m. Hence Bertie’s 1/5th Battalion, having played little part in the major fighting, had no choice but to join the surrender. After just 16 days on the island they went into a brutal captivity for the next 3½ years.
….. the fall of Singapore and the Surrender of British and Australian Forces.
The survivors spent the rest of the war as prisoners of war. The Battalion’s men were among the thousands of Prisoners sent to work on the infamous Burma Railway. (Map left)
CWGC Records show that during their time in captivity 352 Officers and men of the Battalion were either killed by the Japanese or died of debility through overwork, disease and/or malnutrition.
Japan surrended to Allied forces on 15th August 1945, but it was too late for Bertie, who died 9 days later and now lies in Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, Thailand.
CWGC “Grave Concentration Report” (41/GRU/214) shows that Bertie was originally buried in Grave 147, “Nong Hin, Mergui Rd.“. This is the Non Hin Railway Station Cemetery (12 Kilo Camp), and records show he perished due to his ill health (Malaria and Beri beri) due to the privations of working on the railway as a POW.
Bertie was re-buried in Grave 6. D. 70., Kanchanaburi War Cemetery on 2nd April 1946.
Bertie is one of 5,084 Commonwealth casualties of the Second World War buried or commemorated in this cemetery – 84 are from his 1/5th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters 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.”
Footnote: Bertie’s uncle, Private 27095 Henry MARRIOTT, enlisted in the 6th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment, aged 39 years 210 days. He served in France with the BEF from 14 – 24 October 1916, when he was wounded.
Footnote: Bertie’s younger brother, Trooper 7881873 Reuben Fallier Woods MARRIOTT, served with the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment in North Africa. He was killed in action on 24 November 1941. He has no known grave and is commemorated on Panel 23, Alamein Memorial.
- I am grateful to ‘The War Graves Photographic Project’ for the photos of Bertie’s Grave and Cemetery.
- The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/6388J
- “History of the Sherwood Foresters” – A. McDougall
- Also commemorated on the Mergui Road – Roll of Honour