Family Notification that a Far East POW had died

Discussion in 'War Against Japan' started by Mike Selcon, Jan 13, 2021.

  1. Mike Selcon

    Mike Selcon Member


    I know that Japanese record keeping in relation to POWs was very poor, and that they didn't engage in any meaningful way with the Red Cross, but does anyone know how long it might have taken for the family of a Far East Pow to have been notified that he had died?

    I am researching a soldier who died when the Hofoku Maru was sunk on the 21st of September 1944, (1085384 Gunner Ernest Goodland 135 fFeld regiment RA) and the earliest records of the notification of his death I have found come from a telegram from the ICRC dated the 2nd of August 1945, a pro forma letter prepared by the War office dated the 23rd of August 1945 for families of the missing and a newspaper report from my man's local newspaper dated the 3rd of November 1945.

    Does anyone know whether this gap of almost a year have been normal or would the War Office have been notified before this?


  2. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

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  3. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

    Casualty PW did not exactly chase the Japanese Prisoner of War Information Bureau. They were used to not getting answers from the JPWIB. After the first Hofuku Maru survivors returned to England ( they had been rescued in the Philippines ) they were interviewed in Buckinghamshire in April 1945. Lists of deceased both in Thailand and at sea and in the Philippines were compiled but I have not seen these. I just know that lists were made. Each survivor completed a special casualty form asking the circumstances of their being in the Philippines and asking for the names of other survivors and deceased. Cas. PW waited for the JPWIB before listing the missing and contacting next-of-kin. My grandparents were told that my uncle had died on 21st September 1944 ( I cannot be completely certain he did not die before or just afterwards ) in July 1945 by a survivor whose name I do not know. I believe from the IJA cards I have of 99% of the men that the soldier who was good enough to visit my grandparents lived in the next street to my grandparents. However, I do know that an advert was placed in a Hertford newspaper at Christmas 1945 seeking news about the fate of a man on the Hofuku Maru who had died in September 1944.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2021
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  4. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

    This is my photo and transcript of a memo by a G.T.H. Rogers on file WO361/758 which gives more details about interviews of Hofuku Maru survivors by Cas. P/W. Plus three completed forms by 135 Field Regt RA survivors. I haven't got the other " missing men " files for 135 Field from WO361. One file is on FMP but appears to refer to deaths at Changi. It is possible that further statements about the Hofuku Maru missing are on the files. It is common to find units making statements about their own men and to find such statements in WO361. They can also be found in regimental history papers at local county archives or regimental archives.

    "P1380313 WO361/758

    Mr. Weston
    I formally report that a preliminary interrogation of the second party of recovered prisoners of war to arrive from the Far East (those rescued by American Forces at Manila and Luzon) was carried out at No. 94 Reception Camp, Dropmore, Bucks., on 3rd, 4th and 5th April, 1945. I personally reached the Camp on 2nd April and was able to distribute our introductory pamphlet and forms - specimens attached - to every man with the result that when the remainder of the interrogating party (Mr. Perry, Miss Howell, Miss Gebbett and Mrs. Weston) arrived on morning of 3rd April, the men came prepared with lists of names which considerably facilitated our work. We interrogated 70 men and we expect the remainder of the 126 army prisoners freed to return to the U.K. as and when practicable and possible when we will insure that they too are similarly questioned.

    Nearly 2,000 names of missing personnel and of prisoners of war who, to the knowledge of these 70 men, had died or were on ship sunk, were obtained and these are being "processed." As soon as possible the next of kin concerned will be notified of the preliminary news; later when the men return from leave we shall ask for detailed signed statements enabling us to make official casualty postings in accordance with the information received. I would add here that the G.O.C. 45th Div who is handling all matters connected with recovered prisoners of war, was good enough to visit us on 11th April in order to discuss arrangements for our detailed interrogation of the men when they return from leave; we expect to go to Newcastle-on-Tyne on 30th May for a minimum period of 2 weeks though this is not yet definite.

    P.W.3 are preparing a general report as a result of seeing the latest party, but it can be said that the ex prisoners were generally from No.2 Camp, Thailand, and that they were being transported to Japan in 2 ships. The first, the "Hokopoku ( or Hopokoku) Maru" left Singapore on 27/6/44
    It arrived Manila on 23/7/44 sailed from Manila on 20/9/44 Bombed by American aircraft and sunk in 4 1/2 minutes in Subic Bay on 21/9/44.

    The second the "Osaka (?) Maru" left Singapore on 18th/19th June, 1944 arrived Manila 20/7/44 disembarked sick at intervals to 26/9/44 When the ship left for Japan.

    ( There was a third ship - name unknown - which left Manila with prisoners in December 1944 but this is not material to our present investigations.)

    (Sgd.) G.T.H. Rogers.

    Cas.P.W. 13/4/45

    Copy to A.U.S. Asst Sec. "

    Attached Files:

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  5. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

  6. Mike Selcon

    Mike Selcon Member

    Yes that is me! I do mostly WW1 Western Front but at some point in the future, having researched the fall of Singapore, the Death Railway and the Hell Ships it's an area I would like to see. Unfortunately I can't see it happening anytime soon!.
  7. Mike Selcon

    Mike Selcon Member

  8. Mike Selcon

    Mike Selcon Member

    Thank you all for your replies. I had never really researched this theatre of the war but it is fascinating and horrifying in equal measures. My father told me about a man he knew in the 1970's who had survived the Japanese POW camps and who would have nothing to do with anything Japanese. Never really understood it until now! I'd heard and seen about the atrocities that were carried out in films, books etc, but reading accounts of survivors and researching what they went through makes it all too real. We have a lot to be thankful for and the what the FEPOWs and the men of the 14th Army went through in the Far East, an often ignored theatre of war should never be forgotten.

    Once again thank you all for your help. It has really opened my eyes.

    Best regards and stay safe

  9. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Hi Mike,

    In my own Nan's experience in relation to my grandfather and that of the British POWs who perished inside Rangoon Jail during the war. Official notification of death came through on the 4th May 1945, two days after the jail had been liberated and records were at last able to be passed on to the powers that be. Her first communication from the Army Records Office, sent two years previously, informed her that he had been reported missing in Burma on the 12th May 1943.

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