5828494 5th Battalion Suffolk Regiment
Attached HQ Company
Philip Cahill, known as Ronald was born around 1918, the son of Mrs. E. Cahill, who later remarried to become Mrs. Boutell. The family lived at 3 Cross Street, Sudbury. Before the war Ronald was employed at Clover’s mill in Sudbury and was a member of the Territorial Army. His brother Leslie served during the war in the Royal Navy.
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 As they landed the Allied forces were being withdrawn from the mainland to defend the island.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 Ronald 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.
Ronald was reported as ‘missing in Malaya’ along with a photograph in the Suffolk and Essex Free Press on 15th May 1942. His mother later received a postcard in 1943 stating that he was ‘safe and well’.
Ronald died aged 25 on 6th June 1943 from cholera at Changaraya. He lies buried in Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, Thailand.
A Cross of Remembrance was laid by his grave in April 2007 by Mr. Peter Smith during a visit to Thailand.
Some of this information came from the secret diary kept by fellow prisoner of war Reg Gray. The diary is held at the Suffolk Record Office.
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