|Hugh McMichael 27 Squadron India.||Thanks for the additional details, Steve. You and I walked the same ground in Plot 9, Row B of Rangoon War Cem, just 15 or so years apart. Similar emotions, I'm sure! Between your grandfather's marker (9.B.2) and Jack King's (9.B.6) was another Rangoon Jail casualty's marker (9.B.4) -- 122726 RAMC Major Hugh McPherson Kilgour MBE. In 1993 I accompanied 924109 RAF AC1 Douglas Bowler, a Rangoon Jail & forced march survivor, as he made his emotional visit to Maj. Kilgour's marker. He credited the Major, a medical doctor, for keeping him alive during their epic, but failed attempt with 9 others to reach India from Sumatra in a small sailboat in 1942, and then especially following capture. Major Kilgour died of dysentery in Rangoon on 30 Aug 1942. To see Doug standing over the grave marker, head bowed and weeping gently, was a powerful moment that I shall never forget.
One of the tragic stories from the forced march of Rangoon Jail POWs is that of a 22 Squadron Beaufighter pilot, 129511 S/Ldr Desmond Hugh Fenton. S/Ldr Fenton has a gravesite in Rangoon War Cemetery, unlike some of the POW casualties of the march, who you pointed out are commemorated on the Rangoon Memorial at Taukkyan War Cem.
On 5 March 1945 he failed to return from a sortie over the River Thazetayo-Henzada area, per Shores/Air War for Burma. (His navigator is not listed.) Upon arrival at Rangoon Jail (date unknown to me), he would have been thrown into Block 5 solitary for an initial breaking-in period. I'm guessing that from Block 5, before he would have been released into the relative freedom of Block 8 (all aircrew), he was deemed fit enough to make the forced march out of Rangoon; the Japanese were trying to take these 400-plus POWs with them as they fled the city and the advancing Allied forces.
The memoir of another of the force-marched POWs, RAF 355 Squadron wireless operator/air gunner Alan Bailes (captured 16 September 1944 after his 355 Squadron Liberator, EV902, collided with 356 Squadron Liberator EW114 over Burma), describes Fenton's shocking, unexpected bayoneting death -- killed apparently for failing to rise to his feet quickly enough after a rest period on 28 April.
S/Ldr Fenton is buried in grave 3.D.20 in Rangoon War Cemetery. His grave marker gives a 3 May 1945 date of death, but this is off by five days; he died on the 28th.
An excerpt of the Bailes unpublished memoir:
All was resolved by April 26th. That evening over four hundred of us, including over 50 aircrew (including one newly-captured Beaufighter pilot, S/Ldr Fenton, still in flying kit) were to march out. With us would be Brigadier Hobson, the senior British officer, Captain Hunt, the senior American officer, Colonel McKenzie, the Scots M.O., and the new Japanese troops who had replaced the guards we knew. Food, cooking equipment and other impedimenta were to be carried on handcarts. Feelings were mixed: which offered the better chance of s ....Read More.||Matt Poole on 30th April 2011 10:17:46|