1709708 Wilfred COOKSON, 5 Searchlight Regiment Royal Artillery: FEPOW

Discussion in 'Burma & India' started by Jordan1977, May 10, 2020.

  1. Jordan1977

    Jordan1977 Member

    A distant relative, Wilfred Cookson was a Gunner in the 5 Searchlight Regiment, Royal,Artillery, Service Number 1709708.

    Wilfred died on 5 March 1943 in Malaya but has no known grave. He is commemorated on the Singapore War Memorial in Kranji, Singapore.

    Ancestry.co.uk records say that he was a Japanese Prisoner of War. Can anyone tell me if I can access the Japanese Prisoner of War Records (when current restrictions are lifted) and what they would tell me?

    Also where can I find out more about the Regiment and what happened to the soldiers in Malaya in 1943?

    Thank you in advance and stay safe.
     
  2. ozzy16

    ozzy16 Patron Patron

    Hello Jordan,

    Wilfred Cookson. Gnr
    Born 1912.
    Age 31.
    Death date 5th March 1943.
    Service no 1709708.
    Unit, 5 Searchlight regt, Royal Artillery.
    Son of Anthony and Rebecca Cookson, husband of Clara Cookson, of Colne, Lancashire.

    The two images below show his casualty record and his Attestation. you will note other names were posted to 5 searchlight regt
    on the same date.

    regards...…….Graham.

    zzz1.jpg
     
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  3. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    There were many deaths in 5th searchlight Regt on 5th march 1943 (as well as other dates, but this in particular).
    As they were PoW's it's likely that this large a number must have been on a transport ship that was sunk on 5th March 1943.
    At the moment, i can't trace a specific sinking, but others may have better information.

    UPDATE: Regrettably, he died at the Japanese camp on Balalae Island
    The island was the scene of a Japanese war crime during the Second World War. A work party of 517 British prisoners of war from various artillery regiments captured after the Battle of Singapore were transported to the island under the command of Lt. Col. John Bassett to build an airfield. When the airfield was completed the prisoners, including their commander Bassett, were executed. The mass graves were discovered after the war. Japanese authorities claimed that the prisoners were lost at sea when their transport was torpedoed.
    His Name appears on the Roll of Honour for Balalae 'The Gunners 600' | COFEPOW
    One obvious question is that if the graves were discovered, whilst they couldn't necessarily be individually identified, their remains could have been buried in a collective cemetery?
    [​IMG]

    Joseph Reynolds may give some better idea.
    As to whether 300 died in air raids or were executed when the Commander feared the island would be invaded I can't say.
    Somehow, someone was able to give the 5th March 1943 as a death date for some 46 PoW's in the 5th Searchlight Reg't....
     
  4. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

    Jordan,

    Very few of the Judge Advocate General's investigation into Far East war crimes files have been released to the The National Archives. Remarkably, The Judge Advocate General's file on Ballale Island is in WO311/549 at Kew. The Australian Judge Advocate General investigated the case. A search for "Ballale" at Australian Archives brings up references to Australian files either in the NAA or at Australian War Memorial. ( See below for the search return in plain text)

    John

    MP742/1 336/1/1965 PART 11 War crimes: Reports of investigations by 2 Australian War Crimes Section - Reports on investigations conducted by Sgt A H Weston [period covered 21 October 1949 - 27 January 1950] [component 11 of 13]
    Access status: Open Location: Melbourne
    1949 - 1950 10526043
    AWM54 1010/9/11 [War Crimes and Trials - Investigation of Atrocities:] Investigation Ballale Island, War Crimes Committee, Investigation by Graves Commission, 13 November 1945
    Access status: Open Location: Australian War Memorial
    1945 - 1945 479638
    AWM54 1010/9/65 [War Crimes and Trials - Investigation of Atrocities:] Ballale Island case - Investigations into the fate of 300 Europeans, Interrogations of Senior Japanese Officers with a view to ascertaining the unit and its responsibility for the custody of Europeans
    Access status: Open Location: Australian War Memorial
    1945 - 1946 479821
    AWM58 1/726 [Pacific Fleet Translations, Combat Intelligence Centre South Pacific Force (CICSPF) translations of captured Japanese documents - Detailed Strategical Description of BALLALE, ERVENTA, MOILA POINT, and TORIPOIRU in the BOUGAINVILLE Area - Source: Taken in the MUNDA Area about August 10, 1943. (This translation is Headquarters New Georgia Occupation Forces Serial No. 11) - Item 726]
    Access status: Open Location: Australian War Memorial
    1943 - 1943 8728925
    AWM58 1/731 [Pacific Fleet Translations, Combat Intelligence Centre South Pacific Force (CICSPF) translations of captured Japanese documents - Table of present Personnel in the Butai under 17th Army Command (Reika Shikika), Feb 20 (TN: year on given) (In Bougainville, Buka, Shortland, Ballale) - Source: Captured in the MUNDA Area, August 1943, recieved at COMSOPAC - Item 731]
    Access status: Open Location: Australian War Memorial
    1943 - 1943 8728931
    AWM349 29/2/31 [Records of Flight Lieutenant Harry Morrell Williams, RAAF:] Headquarters, Allied Air Forces - Southwest Pacific Area - Directorate of Intelligence - Central Intelligence Unit - Objective Folder 40 - Subject: Buin, Tonolei, Kieta, Shortland, Faisi, Ballale Areas - Date: April 1943
    Access status: Open Location: Australian War Memorial
    1943 - 1943 8726440
    MP742/1 336/1/1460 PART 1 War Crimes - Ballale [Ballalai] Island - Massacre of 400 British PW [Prisoners of War] [1] general correspondence [component 1 of 6]
    Access status: Open Location: Melbourne
    1945 - 1950 1105572
    MP742/1 336/1/1460 PART 2 War Crimes - Ballale [Ballalai] Island - Massacre of 400 British PW [Prisoners of War] [2] envelope containing one colour map 1:63,360 'Solomon Islands: Shortland Island (Special)' [component 2 of 6]
    Access status: Open Location: Melbourne
    1945 - 1950 32823735
    MP742/1 336/1/1460 PART 3 War Crimes - Ballale [Ballalai] Island - Massacre of 400 British PW [Prisoners of War] [3] envelope [repackaged into black acid free folder]containing photographic copies of statements by Osaki Toshihiko, (two copies of 15 pages, Japanese with the title page in English), and statements of Chinese: Kwung Lim, Chong Sy Kwong, Lee Kong, Wong Chee and Lee You Min, (two copies of 10 pages each [component 3 of 6]
    Access status: Open Location: Melbourne
    1945 - 1950 9694098
    MP742/1 336/1/1460 PART 4 War Crimes - Ballale [Ballalai] Island - Massacre of 400 British PW [Prisoners of War]); [4] general correspondence, statements (some in Japanese), interview reports etc. (includes 2 photographs); [component 4 of 6]
    Access status: Open Location: Melbourne
    1945 - 1950 32823736
    MP742/1 336/1/1460 PART 5 War Crimes - Ballale [Ballalai] Island - Massacre of 400 British PW [Prisoners of War]) [5] interrogation reports, witness statements, lists of witnesses [component 5 of 6]
    Access status: Open Location: Melbourne
    1945 - 1950 32823737
    MP742/1 336/1/1460 PART 6 War Crimes - Ballale [Ballalai] Island - Massacre of 400 British PW [Prisoners of War]) [6] interrogation reports, witness statements, lists of witnesses (includes 2 photographs duplicating those in [4 of 6]) [component 6 of 6]
    Access status: Open Location: Melbourne
    1945 - 1950 60240391
    MP742/1 336/1/1965 PART 3 War crimes: Weekly reports of investigations by 2 Australian War Crimes Section - Investigation reports by Major H S Williams [period covered 14 May 1947 - 27 May 1949] [component 3 of 13]
    Access status: Open Location: Melbourne
    1947 - 1949 10526047
     
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  5. Jordan1977

    Jordan1977 Member

    Thank you to you all who have replied. I never expected to hear that Wilfred was executed by the Japanese. Now I want to find out more about the man, his Regiment and Ballale Island. His fate was never talked about in my family and now I want to make sure that he is never forgotten.

    Thank you again and stay safe.
     
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  6. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    All I can add is Wilfred's entry on the main POW WO392 listing:

    Cookson W..jpg
     
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  7. travers1940

    travers1940 Well-Known Member

    Left Changi 1942/10/18, commander Lt-Col. J. Bassett, R.A., 35 L.A.A.. Dying with 517 other gunners, the remains of those found are laid to rest at 12 mile north of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
    c_died_33.htm
     
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  8. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    They were, in Port Moresby (Bomana War Cemetery). Cemetery
    More info on the Gunners 600 Party can be found at:
    600 Gunners Party

    Tim
     
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  9. ozzy16

    ozzy16 Patron Patron

    Jordan,

    This record shows when your relative was missing/captured, along with other members of 5 searchlight regt.

    regards..........Graham. zz3.jpg
     
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  10. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    timuk: The CWGC entry simply shows
    Commemorated at SINGAPORE MEMORIAL Column 16.

    There's no cross reference to a communal grave at Port Moresby (Bomana War Cemetery)
    History Information
    After the Japanese landed at Lae and Salamaua in March 1942, Port Moresby became their chief objective. They decided to attack by sea, and assembled an amphibious expedition for the purpose, which set out early in May, but they were intercepted and heavily defeated by American air and naval forces in the Coral Sea, and what remained of the Japanese expedition returned to Rabaul. After this defeat they decided to advance on Port Moresby overland and the attack was launched from Buna and Gona in September 1942. Early in 1942, and almost without resistance, the Japanese established a considerable force and developed a useful base on Bougainville, the largest and most northerly of the Solomon Islands. This they held until Americans and Australians began offensive operations towards the end of 1943, when Bougainville was the only one of these islands remaining in Japanese hands. By August 1945, when the Japanese surrendered, most of the island had been recovered. Those who died in the fighting in Papua and Bougainville are buried in PORT MORESBY (BOMANA) WAR CEMETERY, their graves brought in by the Australian Army Graves Service from burial grounds in the areas where the fighting had taken place.
    The unidentified soldiers of the United Kingdom forces were all from the Royal Artillery, captured by the Japanese at the fall of Singapore; they died in captivity and were buried on the island of Bailale in the Solomons. These men were later re-buried in a temporary war cemetery at Torokina on Bougainville Island before being transferred to their permanent resting place at Port Moresby. The cemetery contains 3,824 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, 699 of them unidentified. There is also 1 Non war and 1 Dutch Foreign National burials here. The cemetery was designed by Mr. A.G. Robertson and was unveiled by the Governor-General of Australia, Field Marshal Slim, on 19 October 1953. The PORT MORESBY MEMORIAL stands behind the cemetery and commemorates almost 750 men of the Australian Army (including Papua and New Guinea local forces), the Australian Merchant Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force who lost their lives in the operations in Papua and who have no known graves. Men of the Royal Australian Navy who died in the south-west Pacific region, and have no known grave but the sea, are commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial in England, along with many of their comrades of the Royal Navy and of other Commonwealth Naval Forces. Bougainville casualties who have no known graves are commemorated on a memorial at Suva, Fiji.

    It's therefore confusing to refer to them as being on the Singapore Memorial when they do have known graves, just no individual identification.
     
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  11. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    I rather think the problem lies in the fact that not all remains were recovered from Ballale and eventually interred in the Bomana War Cemetery. Apparently it's 435 recovered out of 512 (?) unaccounted for, so it is impossible to say for an individual that they have a known grave.

    Tim
     
  12. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    Ah! Thought all had been recovered, but a reference to these men could be added on the CWGC website entries?
    I'm not asking for headstones, carvings changed, just on the internet information, otherwise relatives of other men may ask the same question(s) (as Jordan did) repeatedly? Not challenging anyone, just making the suggestion to aid clarity on this topic.
     
  13. Jordan1977

    Jordan1977 Member

    Thank you again to everyone who has posted. RIP Wilfred Cookson.
     
  14. Julie Kilshawe-Fall

    Julie Kilshawe-Fall New Member

    Hello my great uncle Alan James Brown was also part of the RA in 7 Coast Regt Who was one of the 600 party sent to Ballale Island. My father told me the story of the ship going down as was told to him by my great grandparents (his parents) but now I have found out his fate along with all the other brave men who died there but I can’t explain to my father now as he has dementia. RIP to them all god bless them x
     
  15. Julie Kilshawe-Fall

    Julie Kilshawe-Fall New Member

  16. Jordan1977

    Jordan1977 Member

    Hello Julie, I hope it this news was not too much of a shock for you. At least your father has been spared the knowledge of his uncle’s terrible fate. May your great uncle Alan and my relative Wilfred both RIP.
     
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