5828492 5th Battalion Suffolk Regiment
Albert Bear was born around 1921 and was the younger son of Walter Henry and Jane Bear. The family lived in Melford Road. On leaving school Albert was a reporter for a time with the Suffolk and Essex Free Press and was very keen on junior football. He was then employed at Vanner and Fennells Silk Mills as a clerk. During the war Vanner and Fennells were engaged in war work making silk parachutes.
Albert was in the Territorial Army and was called up immediately at the outbreak of war. His older brother Ernest, who survived the war served as a Leading Aircraftsman with the Royal Air Force in India.
In October 1941 the 5th Battalion sailed from Liverpool via Halifax in Nova Scotia, down along the South American coastline then across to Cape Town, arriving in Singapore on 29th January 1942. As they landed the Allied forces were being withdrawn from the mainland to defend the island. The Japanese attacked the island on 9th February 1942, Singapore fell on 15th February and Albert was taken prisoner.
Many of the prisoners were forced to work on the notorious ‘Death Railway’. A railway they were forced to build through dense jungle from Thailand through to Burma living in appalling conditions, on half a cup of rice issued twice a day. There were scarce medical supplies and many died from disease or punishments metered out by their captors. They were paid 1 penny a day and they used this to buy fruit from traders who passed by the camps to add to their meagre diet. Approximately 13,000 prisoners of war and 100,000 civilians died during the construction of the railway.
Albert’s mother received 3 postcards from him during his captivity but these were preprinted with lines that had to be deleted and took over a year to reach her.
Albert died just days after being liberated on 22nd August 1945, aged 24. He lies buried in Kanchanaburi Cemetery, Thailand.
A Cross of Remembrance was laid by his grave by Mr. Peter Smith during a visit to Thailand in April 2007.
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