Corporal 7604194 Eric Smith - Captured at Singapore

Discussion in 'REME/RAOC' started by John French, Feb 12, 2020.

  1. John French

    John French Member

    Eric was captured by the Japanese at the fall of Singapore on 15th April 1942, he survived as a prisoner of war in Thailand for over 4 years, but died on 20th March 1946 in an accident in England, apparently still on active service (he has a CWGC gravestone).

    Is it possible to identify which REME units were in Singapore in 1942? I suspect Eric may have joined REME before WW2 - is it possible to confirm this from his service number?

    Our local history society are researching a number of local men who died in WW2, so we cannot afford to order individual service records for each man.

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  2. travers1940

    travers1940 Well-Known Member

    His probate just adds that he died at Essex County Hospital, Wanstead, and gives his address as 1 Council Houses, Great Chesterford.

    CWGC adds that he was 27, is buried at Great Chesterford in a family grave, his parents are Arthur George & Blance Edith of Great Chesterford & his brother Ralph Nathaniel also fell.
  3. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    According to his POW liberation questionnaire, he was with the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, 18th Infantry Division. Sadly, the image of his card which shows his details including POW camps, is really poor in resolution. However, someone with more knowledge of these camps may recognise the names. The first camp is unsurprisingly Changi.

    SMITH, Eric

  4. AB64

    AB64 Senior Member

    One of the files on Findmypast has him as attached to 118 Field Regiment RA, not sure if that helps work out where he was

  5. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    Casualty list 160 dated 23 March 1940
    Reports him dangerously ill
    RAOC - 7604194 SMITH Pte E - 11th Army Field Workshop 21.3.40

    Casualty list 782 dated 27 March 1942
    RAOC - 7604194 SMITH Cpl EDF 15.2.42

    Casualty list 1198 dated 28 July 1943
    Previously reported missing now POW
    REME (unit corrected from RAOC) - 7604194 SMITH Cpl EDF

    Casualty list 1871 dated 29.9.45
    Previously reported POW now not POW
    REME - 7604194 SMITH Cpl EDF

    Casualty list 2023 dated 29 March 1946
    Location stated as 'Home' ie not overseas.
    Reported died
    REME - 7604194 SMITH Cpl EDF 20.3.46

    Edit - note change in initials from E to EDF and on POW lists he appears as Sgt?
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2020
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  6. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    Liberation Questionnaire
    Second line is Havelock Road - another Camp in Singapore
    Third line is Kinsayok - a Camp on the Thai/Burma Railway. Camp leader is Lt Col R A O Clarke, RA
    I'll try and read/identify the others tomorrow.
    Further info on the railway:
    Japanese Index Card for Eric:

    Do not be confused by RAOC/REME. REME was only formed in Oct 42 from parts of RAOC, RE and RASC.
    When Eric joined up it was with the RAOC and was probably allocated to REME on return to UK.

  7. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

    Poor chap, his address was quite close to me in Essex.

    Neat Liberation Questionnaire and also has a card in WO356 which actually cross-references to a guard. Worth looking out the full liberation questionnaire to see the back of it, also the index for WO 347. Also WO311/547 which is the home-based Judge Advocate General's file for Tamuang. The only file of many prepared by the British JAG ( as opposed to the Deputy JAG and the war crimes investigation teams out in the Far East ) dealing with Thailand camps which has been sent to Kew.

    On the LQ I can read Changi, Havelock Road, ( both Singapore ). Then Kinsayok, Wanye ?, Kinsayok, Hindato, Kanburi, Tonchan and last unreadable. All these in Thailand.

    The WO356 card notes places mentions in his "Q" form which form may be on WO311/547 and are JC26 = Tamuang, JC35 = Tamakan, and JC36= Kinsayok. However, it may be on the Kinsayok file, which is not at Kew.

    Went to Thailand in late October 1942.

    In the RAOC pilot roll which suggests he was attached to either 6 HAA or 35 HAA in Malaya ( but see above for 118 Field Reg attachment. ) Attached first page and also his entry. Then WO356 witness card and the guard at Kinsayok who was cross-referenced to his "Q" form number, "C512." Also an extract from JAG's notes on WO311/547. ( I haven't got photos of the complete file.)

    I've got the 118 Field Reg file but could not see him ( Now Found,see below ): attached men sometimes found in the BRE rolls, sometimes in RAOC rolls.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Feb 13, 2020
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  8. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Thanks Gents, quire some headway made on this thread already.
  9. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

    I have now found him in the 118 Field Regt Roll 20 and in the RAOC 18th Division Roll 69, both in WO 361 at Kew. ( The Find my Past list is also a file in WO 361 at Kew.)

    See the numbers before the name in AB64's post above, which refer to the rolls of the BRE.

    The BRE was the Changi based organisation called the The Bureau of Record and Enquiry which was run, largely in secret, by Allied officers to supplement the Imperial Japanese Army POW registration card system. In order to ensure that at least one other record survived a small band of dedicated individuals spent long hours listing and copying to other "rolls" and lists basic information about individuals. These were then hidden in all sorts of locations in and around Changi.

    Attached Files:

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  10. John French

    John French Member

    Sorry for the delay in responding and thank you Travers, Bamboo, AB64, Tony, TimUK and Papermache for your excellent work in tracing Eric's Smith military records. Just a few point to clarify my understanding:
    - Japanese and BRE records show him as Sergeant, but later record (e.g. CWGC) list him as a Corporal. I assume he was an Acting-Sergeant at the time of capture.
    - The Liberation Questionnaire shows his date of enlistment at September 1939 and the Japanese index card shows his occupation at 'motor engineer'. Was this possibly his civilian trade or would the RAOC trained him from scratch?
    - Casualty List 160 reports him dangerously ill on 23/3/1940. Would this have been in England or could he have been sent to the Far East at this date.

  11. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    CWGC details, for record:
    Service Number 7604194
    Died 20/03/1946
    Aged 27
    Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
    Son of Arthur George Smith and of Blanche Edith Smith, of Great Chesterford.
    His brother Ralph Nathaniel Smith also fell.
    Location: Essex, United Kingdom
    Number of casualties: 5
    Cemetery/memorial reference: Row 1.

    His brother:
    F/O 185078 Ralph Smith - 271 Squadron
  12. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    He is listed under 'Expeditionary Force'
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  13. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    War time ranks are confusing and there are threads on this Forum which will explain War Substantive/Acting/Local acting/Paid/Unpaid etc. In Eric Smith's case it is likely that his War Substantive rank was Corporal but that he had been promoted to Sergeant to meet the Regiment's needs.
    It is usual for the occupation on the Japanese Index Card to show the civilian occupation.
    Interesting that he is listed in Casualty List 160 as Expeditionary Force. This means he would be part of the BEF and as previously shown part of 11th Army Field Workshop.
    Without a Service Record it is difficult to be certain of the following but the BRE/Changi RAOC Roll lists Eric as 18 Division Workshop.
    18 Div Workshop was embarked in the USS Mount Vernon which arrived Singapore 13 Jan 42.
    Troop Deployment

    NB. Today is the anniversary of Eric's capture at the Fall of Singapore.
  14. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    Just for interest; his probate address of 1 Council Houses is where his mother was living in 1939:-

    1) - SMITH Blanche / Female / 20 Feb 86 / Married / Housewife
    2) - Closed record
    3) - LEDERER Ernest / Male / 13 Mar 07 / Single / Solicitor (Refugee)
    4) - WEISS Walter / Male / 30 Sept ?? / Single / Chemist (Refugee)
    6) - PIPER George W / Male / 30 Jan 74 / Married / Gas Co Foreman retired
    7) - PIPER Annie / Female / 10 Sept 76 / Married / Housewife

    Note, I assume that missing No 5 was an enumerator error.

    Blanche died 2 Oct 1947.

    In 1939 it looks like his father, Arthur George Smith (dob 3 Feb 83), a retired police constable, was living with another of their sons Harry Alfred Major Smith (dob 28 Apr 12) an auto engineer, address 17 Marjorams Ave, Chigwell, Essex. Harry was executor to both Arthur's and Blanche's wills.
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2020
  15. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    If he died as the result of an accident rather than illness in Britain even if on active service there should be a coroner's report even if only a perfunctory one, giving cause of death
  16. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Hi John,

    In my experience, many NCOs received in-house promotions whilst POWs. These happened especially if the soldier had a specialist skill that might be need during these times, or was placed in charge of a group of POWs, perhaps as hut NCO etc. These promotions were of course unofficial and given by his senior officer in the camp for the duration. Some men did keep these promotions post war, but that often depended on the officer being available to confirm this fact.
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  17. John French

    John French Member

    Robert-W, I am unable to access the Coroner Report without permission of the next of kin - now deceased. We have death certificate which says the cause of death was intestinal issues (possibly post surgery).

    Tony56, Is Casualty Report 2023 available at the National Archives and would it give more detail about the unit in which Eric was serving at the time of his death? Would that unit file reasons for death if it was a service-related injury.


  18. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    The information in my post #5 is it I am afraid. Casualty lists do not provide details of the circumstances. literally just a list:

  19. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    Surprised - Coroners reports should be in the public domain as the whole point is to reveal cause of death
  20. travers1940

    travers1940 Well-Known Member

    When I applied for a coroners report for 1946 from the Surrey History Centre it was technically subject to a 100 year rule, but was able to access as was NOK.

    This cost aprox £ 30 most of which was a fee for checking wether they had it etc.

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