George Edward BUNDOCK
Grave of Gunner Bundock
Written by Julia E Smith (nee Bundock)
Dad was born in Canterbury England on February 8 th 1904. He was the middle child of five children. When he married my mother, Elizabeth Glen, on March 3 rd 1928 he was a Coal Miner. I was born on February 3 rd 1929 with brothers John born on July 28 th 1931 and Peter on February 7 th 1939. Dad had to give up Coal Mining due to health reasons. With the depression years during this period and very little work around Dad had to take whatever he could in the way of work that became available. My mother had to do the same to keep us going and times were very tough indeed.
As a ten year old at the start of World War II I cannot remember much of my father. He was a good, quiet man who enjoyed rolling his smokes and a pint of beer on the weekend. Dad joined the army in October 1939 and we did not see much of him from then on. He did take part in the evacuation of Dunkirk. Back home in Canterbury the family were under strict food rationing and endured the numerous blitz of the German bombers. Dad was then due to go to the Middle East but my Mum became very sick so he received compassionate leave until she was well. After that he departed per ship on February 6 th 1942 from Glasgow in Scotland, bound for the Middle East. Whilst at sea the news of the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbour and other cities in Asia came in and their orders were changed. After a stop off in Durban, South Africa they headed for Java. George and his unit later took part in one of the most spirited defensive actions against the Japanese in the whole S E Asian campaign of 1942, an action in which the 49 th Battery covered themselves in glory!
After sweeping down through Malaya and Sumatra, the Japanese invaded Java with a large force. They landed at several spots, one of the landings leading to Subang in West Java with its nearby airfield of Kalijati. This airfield was defended by a mixed force of Royal Dutch Netherlands East Indies Army, 49 th Battery of the 48 th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment RA, a detachment of RAF acting as ground troops, and a company of light tanks of the 3rd Kings Own Hussars RAC. During the night the Dutch forces were withdrawn without notice from the airfield. Soon after dawn the next day, March 1 st 1942, the remaining defenders unexpectedly discovered Japanese armoured vehicles advancing onto the edge of the field. They hastily assembled and flung up a remarkable defence, one in which many of the defenders laid down their lives, 49 th Battery losing over fifty of their men. The survivors were taken prisoner. When later that week the Allied commanders met with the Japanese in connection with the capitulation negotiations, the Japanese commanders congratulated the British on the courageous stand their men had made during the defence of the Kalijati airfield. George spent some time at a camp in the Bandung area, probably Tjimahi, before being brought down to Batavia ( Jakarta) by train. There the RA men were mostly housed in Makasura Camp or in Bicycle Camp. In all, about 15500 British & Commonwealth men were taken prisoner in Java alone. They were shipped out in batches and ended up all over Asia. Dad left Java with a large party of gunners led by Capt J D Mills of the 77 th Heavy AA Regiment RA. They travelled from Tanjong Priok at Batavia to Singapore, then to Jesselton on October 9 th 1942, dropping off a party of men at Kuching enroute. After six months in Jesselton constructing an airfield, where fifty-one of the British POW’s died, 200 prisoners, including Dad, were then sent onto Sandakan to construct another airfield. They arrived at Sandakan on April 8 th 1943.
In over three years as a POW we only received three postcards from Dad, then nothing until October 1945 when the War Office wrote saying Dad had died on the 21 st April 1945. This news was so very hard for all our family to take. Like so many others, Dad had heard the call of his King and Country and paid the ultimate price to ensure that we have the freedom that we do have today. My mother never re-married and raised my brothers and I by herself. As not one British POW survived the Sandakan Camp the circumstances of his death are unknown. Official Japanese records state that he died of Malaria at Sandakan Number One Camp. His body was recovered and he now rests at plot V.B.13 Labuan War Cemetery. I have visited and commemorated his grave in Labuan but have never attended the Sandakan POW Campsite.
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