TURNER, Peter Walter

No.5828399, Private, Peter Walter TURNER
Aged 23

5th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment
Died of Illness in Captivity on Sunday, 15th August 1943

Peter Walter TURNER was born on 20th January 1920 in Haverhill (Risbridge Q1-1920 4A:2163), son of Harry and Elizabeth Ann TURNER (née MARSH).
By 1922 when Peter Walter was baptized in St Mary's Church the family had moved down the road to 16 Wratting Road which was to remain their home until a further move took them to 45 Crowland Road.
On leaving school, Peter found employment as a flour miller at the Hovis Mill. With the outbreak of war, he enlisted locally in May 1939, joining the 5th Battalion Suffolk Regiment (TA).

In the 1939 register, at 45 Crowland Road, Haverhill were his father Harry TAYLOR [9-4-1887] farm labourer; his mother Elizabeth A [29-12-1886]; sister Olive M.W. [11-5-1922], laundry hand, later Mrs EVANS and then Mrs PLEDGER; brothers Frank N [15-11-1926] and Edward [13-4-1929] both scholars. No closed records.

Initial training took place at North Walsham with the first few months spent in the Norfolk area performing guard duties at river bridges; coastal defence in the sand dunes of Hemsby and also in and around stately homes. The unit was then moved on to other locations, being stationed at Fulbourn near Cambridge, then to Hawick, Scotland; Liverpool; Isle of Anglesey; and finally Leominster in Herefordshire. In early October 1941, whilst at Leominster, they were informed that they would be going overseas, possibly for service in the Middle East. On 27th October they made their way by train to Liverpool Docks, where they embarked on a troopship named the 'Reina del Pacifico' which, as a part of the 18th Division Convoy, sailed for what was to prove a great misadventure. On reaching Halifax, Nova Scotia, the troops transferred to an American troopship, the 'USS Wakefield', which was once an ocean-going cruise liner. Compared to the previous ship this one was magnificent, everything about it being first class, the accommodation and food was excellent. On the 9th December, the convoy docked at Cape Town still under the impression that they were due for action in the Middle East, but after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour they found themselves diverted to Singapore instead.

The 5th Suffolks were fighting until the last minute, before Singapore was surrendered to the Japanese on 15th February 1942, which is when Peter was captured and then put to work on the Burma-Siam railway.
A year after his parents were notified of his death, they received a letter from the Adjutant, now back in England, giving full details of Peter's death. Paying tribute to his character, the letter said, 'I can honestly say your son was an outstanding member of what the Commanding Officer thought was a very fine body of men. Always exceptionally well turned out and efficient, always cheerful and never grumbled… He set everyone an example in the way he carried on with his job until we were ordered to surrender.'

photo from asiawargraves.com

photo: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Peter Turner is buried in Chungkai War Cemetery, grave 5:P:7

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

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