James Henry Deacon 1st Btn. West Yorkshire Regiment WW2 Burma

Discussion in 'Searching for Someone & Military Genealogy' started by WheresJimmy?, Jun 19, 2020.

  1. WheresJimmy?

    WheresJimmy? Member


    I'm trying to track down information on James Henry Deacon for his daughters (service records on request to confirm Service number of 4625842). His DOB is 17/3/1914.

    We have searched Ancestry and the Forces War Records website and the only info that's coming up for him is he was reported missing on 7/3/42 and not missing on 15/9/42. We find this odd as his other brother's records are popping straight up.

    His daughters believe he may have either been a POW or evading capture during the 6 months he was missing. He never talked about his time in Burma, apart from saying the Japs were very cruel and his loyalty to the men he served with was unwavering. Question: Is there anyway we would be able to confirm this and if he was a POW would we be able to find out where he was held?

    We have managed to track the 1st Btn. West Yorks though Burma (thank you for all the info on here!) and think he may have gone missing during the Battle of Pegu / Taukkyan roadblock as the dates seem to correspond with the missing report (BIG assumption on our part).

    Question: Would we be able to find out if he was allocated to A, B, C, or D within the 1st Btn.? This would impact on where he went missing and what he was involved with during his time in Burma.

    Question: How can we find out where he was reported "missing" and "not missing" and what happened to him after he was found?

    Question: Does anyone know of any diaries for the 1st Btn. W.Yorks that may help us understand what his time was like over there?

    I'm sure there will be tonnes of other questions, these are the ones that may get us on the right track (hopefully!) Thank you for your help, Marie
  2. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

    Hi Marie.

    Service record should give details in which units James Deacon served during the war. If it is really the 1st Battalion, The West Yorkshire Regiment then you can try to obtain War Diaries for this unit from TNA. WO 172/898 should cover 1st West Yorkshire for 1942

    WO 172/898 link on TNA webpage

    Maybe some of forum members could help you there, as some of them visits Kew for their own research and it will be much cheaper than trying to obtain it directly from TNA. Also not sure if TNA is currently open due all this situation with Covid-19.

    Keep in mind that majority of the war diaries during retreat from Burma in 1942 were lost and were recreated once the unit reached Assam. So they might not be complete and could not provide list of battalion personnel. They should provide some info about those killed, wounded and missing. I think that it is still a worth to try to get war diaries as they are probably the best place to start.

    March 7th, 1942 should suggest that we went missing during the Battle of Pegu. It is possible that he was captured and later escaped or that he got separated from his unit, either alone or in group, and rejoined his unit later. Both things did happen during the First Burma Campaign and it could happen to him too. But I doubt that he finished in the Rangoon Jail and escaped from there, I don't even know if anyone escaped from there during the war. Maybe Steve (bamboo43) could help you there as he knows mush more about Rangoon Jail then me. So if he was captured and succeeded to escape I would guess that he escaped soon after he was captured, maybe while he was transported to some of bigger location centers as it would be much harder to escape from there.

    Media, like photos or films from the Burma 1942 are quite rare but here you can find one film that could be interesting for you.

    The Burma Troops Arrive (IWM Film Collection)

    It, among some other things, is showing arrival of troops to Rangoon in early February 1942. Troops on the dock, with netting on their topees, probably belong to 1st Gloucestershire Regiment, but those on the ship and who are disembarking from it are almost centrally from 1st West Yorkshire as they are the only British troops that arrived around this time.

    I hope other members would be able to give you more details who to get war diaries from TNA, Kew or give you more info about 1st West Yorkshire in Burma 1942. Good luck with your research.

  3. WheresJimmy?

    WheresJimmy? Member

    Hello Enes,
    Thank you so much for the pointers and the link to the video, this is great information to be starting with, I hope we can continue uncovering more of Uncle Jim's mystery :cheers:
  4. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    Marie, unfortunately the information you found needs to be clarified from original documents. He was reported missing on Casualty List No. 800 dated 17 April 1942, the 'date of casualty' being 7/3/42. He was reported not missing on Casualty List No. 929 dated 15 September 1942. Note that this is the date of the list and not an indication he was missing for this length of time.

    Hasn't come up on POW lists.

    If you awaiting service records (good move) are you sure you have the correct service number or just assuming?
  5. WheresJimmy?

    WheresJimmy? Member

    Hi Tony,
    Right now the 1st W.Yorks is a bit of an assumption, his medals were claimed on his behalf and don't have his details on the back of them - He is the only James Henry Deacon we could find in Yorkshire - He was posted up there after he enlisted and married the lady he met up there after he came home from the war.
    There is another James Henry Deacon with lots of records but he came from Cornwall according to the Ancestry records. We did chuckle and wonder if the Cornish / Bristolian accent could be playing into it somewhere.

    Thank you for confirming the document numbers of the reports and for checking the POW lists - Another step closer for us! I've been going through the regimental timeline and 15/9/42 was when the W.Yorks moved to Ranchi. The mystery continues hehehe.....
  6. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Hi Marie,

    After reading your posts and the comments made by Enes, I had a look through my POW lists for Rangoon Jail and for those men held by the Japanese more widely and James is not recorded on any of these. As Enes suggested, it is more probable that he was held temporarily and escaped whilst in the field before reaching any main concentration camp.

    The National Archives does have two files with information about the men missing from the West Yorkshire Regiment in Burma. Of course with the Covid 19 situation, the Archive is not really of use to your research right now, but for future reference the files are:

    WO361/204- soldiers missing (West Yorks) on the retreat from Burma 1942.

    WO361/496-soldiers missing (West Yorks) during the Burma campaign.
    4jonboy, PackRat, sol and 1 other person like this.
  7. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

    First step should be obtaining service records. They should give you confirmation was he in 1st West Yorkshire or not and give you more details about his movements. Also I think there is a grater chance that he was separated from his unit and rejoined it later (around Prome, maybe?), like so many were during the Battle of Pegu, than that he was captured by Japanese and succeeded to escape.
    WheresJimmy? likes this.
  8. WheresJimmy?

    WheresJimmy? Member

    Thank you very much for checking your lists and confirming he isn't on them, my list of documents to get is growing nicely - I may need to take a helper if we are ever allowed back into the archives :)
    bamboo43 likes this.
  9. WheresJimmy?

    WheresJimmy? Member

    Thanks Enes, the more I am learning about the time in Burma the more humbled I'm feeling. I don't know a lot about Army life back then as my Grandad on the other side of my family was in the Navy and he helped to set up the Normandy Vets Association so as kids we had more involvement with that side.

    Uncle Jim died 10 years before I was born so I never knew him, however this journey of discovery is certainly an eye-opener and if it helps his daughters and the rest of the family feel close to him once more then that's a good thing

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