October 5, 2016

Branch, Bertie

Service number: 2070769 | Rank: Sapper| Regiment: Royal Engineers

Died, June 7, 1943.
Remembered at KANCHANABURI WAR CEMETERY, Thailand. Sp Mem. 9. M. 4.

Aged 23.  Son of Mr. and Mrs. F. Branch, of Brandon, Suffolk.

WHAT I KNOW ABOUT BERTIE …

Bertie’s birth was registered in Thetford in the 1st quarter of 1920.  According to the 1911 census his father, Frederick, was a horseman in a timber yard.  Bertie’s mother was Helen (nee Ashley).

Bertie was caught up in the fall of Singapore in February 1942.  His family heard no news of his fate until this report appeared in the Bury Free Press in May 1943 …

“Mrs F Branch, Thetford Road, has been officially notified that her son, Sapper Albert Bert Branch, Royal Engineers, is a Prisoner Of War at a camp in Malaya. This is the first news of her son for 14 months. Mrs Branch has another son and son-in-law also missing, as well as two nephews. Another son is currently serving with His Majesty’s Forces in India.”

Bertie’s sister died in April 1942, while her husband (Bertie’s brother-in-law) was also taken prisoner by the Japanese.  Again, the Bury Free Press reported on another local man who was being held by the Japanese …

“Mrs F Branch, Thetford Road, has received official notification that her son in law, Sapper George Alfred Keys, Royal Engineers, is a Prisoner Of War at Malai Camp. Sapper Keys was reported missing in February 1942 and in April the same year his wife died at the West Suffolk Hospital, leaving a 6-year-old son.”

It also seems Bertie had a brother held captive by the Japanese, from the Bury Free Press 1944 …

“Mrs Branch, 139 Thetford Road, has received a card from her husband, Sergeant Branch, who is a Prisoner Of War in a camp in Taiwan. The card states that he is fit and well.”

Sergeant Branch’s 10 year old daughter, Sheila, died in 1942, just after he had been captured.  It seems the Branch family really had an emotional time during that year – two brothers held captive, a brother-in-law also captive, a sister died and a child died.

Bertie’s fate seems tied up with the Burma ‘death’ railway, where the Japanese used his engineer skills and it was likely during this time he died, either through brutality or disease.