5828305 5th Battalion Suffolk Regiment
Attached A Company
George Cecil was born around 1921, the youngest of 5 sons of Thomas Henry and Mary Amelia Louisa Cecil. The family lived at Ballingdon Grove Cottage, Middleton Road, Sudbury. Before the outbreak of war George was a member of the Territorial Army and he was employed as a machinist at Rippers of Hedingham. All his brothers served in the army overseas during the Second World War. His father saw action in France during the First World War whilst serving with the Royal Fusiliers.
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 As they landed the Allied forces were being withdrawn from the mainland to defend the island.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 George 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.
In September 1943 his parents received a preprinted postcard that he was well and a prisoner of war in Thailand. By the time the postcard had reached them George aged 22 had already died of Cerebral Malaria at Konkwita on 20th August 1943. 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 a secret diary kept by Reg Gray, a fellow prisoner of war. The diary is held at the Suffolk Record Office.
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