RADFORD, Stephen Henry

No.5833097, Private, Stephen Henry RADFORD
Aged 27

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

Stephen Henry RADFORD was born in St Ives on 1st July 1917 (St.Ives Q3-1917 3B:359), son of Richard Chapman and Minnie F RADFORD (née ALDRIDGE ).

His mother was at Boyton Hall Cottages, Haverhill on his prisoner of war records

Stephen’s father Richard, born in 1881 in St Ives, was a grocer, who brought his family to 13 Queen Street, Haverhill in the 1920s. Sadly, Richard was to die in 1928 at the age of 47. The family continued to live at 13 Queen Street for at least six years before Minnie moved to Boyton Hall Cottages.
Like so many boys of his age, Stephen was a member of the 1st Haverhill Scout Troop. On leaving school, he found employment as an assistant manager in the Textile Department at Chauntry Mills.

In the 1939 register, at Boyton Hall Cottages, Haverhill were his widowed mother Minnie [19-11-1886], his brother Eric R. [23-11-1918] a hotel chef and his sister Olive M. [21-10-1921] warehouse girl in wholesale clothing. There are two closed records.

Stephen enlisted at the start of the war, joining the 2nd Battalion Cambridgeshire Regiment. Following the Fall of Singapore in February 1942 he found himself a prisoner of war of the Imperial Japanese Army. Back home his mother waited anxiously for news of her son and seventeen months later, on 1st July 1943, The Echo reported that she had received a postcard stating that he was a prisoner of war. She had previously had no news other than official intimation that he was missing following the Battle for Singapore. It was apparently obvious from the card, although no address was given, that Pte Radford was in Japanese hands.
A year later, on 15 July 1944, the Echo reported that Stephen's mother, who had moved to 106 Withersfield Road, had received two undated postcards from him. As these postcards arrived together at her new address it was presumed that at least some mail from home was getting through to the POWs.

Stephen Radford 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.

Captured at the surrender of Singapore to the Japanese on 15th February 1942, Radford survived working on the Burma-Siam railway.
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 Stephen and another Haverhill man, Clifford BUTTLE see here

photo from asiawargraves.com

Stephen Radford is commemorated on the Singapore memorial in Kranji War Cemetery. column 60

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

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