Monday, May 06, 2013

Jonathan Cooper's talk - Beyond the trenches, wire and hell fire

On a Friday evening on 26 Apr 2013, I had the pleasure to attend a talk by Jonathan Cooper, whom I shall henceforth address as Jon Cooper. This talk, Beyond the trenches, wire and hell fire, focused on the Adam Park estate which was the site of an intense phase of the battle for Singapore in the year 1942. Subsequently, Adam Park also served as a POW camp during the Second World War.

During the talk, Jon Cooper fascinated the members of the audience by taking us into stories in the past. He spoke of the building of the Shinto Shrine, the Adam Park Project, the Sime Road Camp and Bukit Brown.

During the talk, Jon Cooper showed us maps of missing soldiers whose bodies have not been recovered yet even though it has been more than 70 years since the battle for Singapore. From a glimpse of the map, some of them were last seen or reported to have been found dead at locations which appear to be present-day Adam Road, Bukit Brown Cemetery and perhaps near Sime Road. The positions of the killed and missing soldiers from the 4th Battalion Suffolk Regiment were based on the six-figure map grid references found in the recently discovered Bureau of Records and Enquiry (BRE) archives.  I was pretty intrigued by the existence of the Bureau of Records and Enquiry.Will the remains of these missing soldiers be found eventually?

Image: Mok Ly Yng.

After the talk, one of my friends, Mok, got in touch with Jon Cooper regarding the information of the missing soldiers. The information from the records suggests that the last known positions of a few of the missing soldiers from the 4th Battalion Suffolk Regiment are in the positions whereby a part of the proposed highway cutting across the Bukit Brown Cemetery would be built. Based on the records (Ref: WO 361/2125), the names of some of these soldiers whose bodies have yet been recovered are:

  • Corporal David Angus Adcock (22), Fate: Missing. 
  • Private Harry Thomas Cattermole (24), Fate: Missing. 
  • Private P Sawyer (no age), Fate: Died at Singapore. 
  • Lance Corporal Cecil George Meadows (26),  Fate: Killed. 

With Mok's help, courtesy of Jon Cooper, I learnt that the information of war dead could be found from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's website and database. The information regarding the nominal roll of 4th Battalion Suffolk Regiment from 1 Jan 1942 - 31 Dec 1943 could be found under Reference WO 361/2125 of The National Archives. I felt curious why the bodies half of the known "killed in action" soldiers were recovered but the other half have yet been recovered even 70 years later. What had actually happened to the soldiers whose bodies have yet been recovered? I was reminded of how impersonal war can be. May peace prevail.

The intersection of Sime Road and Adam Road.
I was reminded how much history exists at this intersection.
This intersection was referred to as the "Hellfire Corner" due to the amount of Japanese artillery fire this intersection attracted.

During the talk, Jon Cooper also mentioned about previous residents of the Adam Park and how he had found out more about them with the help of the digitalised newsprint library offered by the National Library Board.

Jon Cooper spoke about his hopes to identify the exact location of what had used to be the Adam Park Chapel and more about the Adam Park Project. Anyone who is interested to support or volunteer for the Adam Park Project can find more information on it below:

The Adam Park Project

Overall, it was an enriching talk. Many thanks to Jon Cooper and the organisers for the talk at the Asian Civilisations Museum.

Speaker: Jonathan Cooper
Date: 26 Apr 2013 (Fri)
Time: 7.00 p.m.
Ngee Ann Auditorium, ACM Empress Place

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