BUTTLE, Clifford William

No.5831149, Private, Clifford William BUTTLE
Aged 28

2nd Battalion, Cambridgeshire Regiment
Died at Sea in Captivity on Thursday, 21st September 1944

Clifford William BUTTLE was born in Haverhill on 14th August 1916 (Risbridge Q3-1916 4A:1626) son of William and Beatrice Laura BUTTLE (née SMITH). Baptsed at the Old Independent Church just over a year later.

By the time Clifford was about 12 years old they had moved to the family's final home at 17 The Pightle, just a short walk from the Board School. It was here perhaps, combined with attendance at the Old Independent Church, that Clifford's undoubted musical talents were spotted and nurtured to become a passion in adult life.
Outside of work, as a shorthand typist on the Clerical Staff at Gurteens, Clifford pursued his interest in music, rising to become the leader of the 'Co-operative Society Silver Prize Band'. He was also welcomed to various musical functions as a pianist and organist of considerable promise, - cut all too short by the outbreak of war.

The 1939 register has him as a shorthand typist at the clothing factory, living at 17 The Pightle, Haverhill with his parents, William [29-5-1965] a stock keeper in clothier's factory and his mother Beatrice [9-7-1885]. No closed records.

Sadly Clifford was a victim of the "Hell Ships". These were used to transport prisoners of war across the pacific , mainly for slave labour in mainland Japan. Unfortunately they were never marked as carrying our men and since the Allies were aware of the whereabouts of these convoys, many were sunk en route. Conditions on these ships were such that a strong stomach is required to read the various books about them.

Clifford joined the 2nd Battalion of the Cambridgeshire Regiment, formed as a Territorial unit of raw recruits at the end of 1939, which was to become part of the 18th Division. In October 1941, the Battalion moved to the port of Gourock, Scotland, where on the 31st they sailed aboard the M.V.Sobieski a Polish Free State vessel,to Halifax, where they joined the USS Mount Vernon which took them via Mombassa to Singapore. On the 13th January they arrived at Singapore in the middle of an air raid but providentially heavy rain and mist concealed their ship. They were quickly to see action whilst defending the north of the island and the attacks continued, often at close quarters. By 15th February the situation had deteriorated so badly that the order to cease-fire was given and Clifford found himself a prisoner of war of the Imperial Japanese Army. The survivors were to face years of being subjected to the harshest treatment by their captors, including working in the jungles of Thailand on the infamous Burma Railway.
Back home his parents waited anxiously for more news of their son. In January 1944 they received a postcard, undated, saying that he was interned in No 2 P.O.W. Camp, Thailand, was in good health and working for pay. Another card followed in the summer raising their hopes still further.

Unfortunately worst was to come, as one of the so called "fit" prisoners, he was brought back to Singapore in October 1943 after the completion of the railway. He was possibly on his way to work in the Japanese coal mines when he was loaded onto the Hofuku Maru, the cargo ship that left Singapore on 4 July 1944. It was in a convoy consisting of 10 ships - 5 of which carried POWs. There were about 5000 POWs in total, making this the largest group of POWs shipped at one time during the war.

This old ship was forced to call in at Manila, where it waited for a month with the prisoners still kept below in the hold, many dying of starvation and disease
Eventually,on September 20, 1944, the Hofuko Maru [KA-27] (with 1,289 prisoners on board) and 10 other ships formed Convoy MATA-27, and sailed from Manila for Japan. The following morning, the convoy was attacked 80 miles north of Corregidor by American carrier planes from the USS Hornet. All eleven ships in the convoy were sunk. Of the 1,289 British and Dutch POWs on board the Hofuku Maru, 1,047 died including Clifford and another Haverhill man, Stephen Radford see here

photo from asiawargraves.com

Clifford Buttle is commemorated on the Singapore memorial in Kranji War Cemetery. column 58
also in the Old Independent Church and on his parents headstone

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details

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