November 7, 2016

Ridgeon, Reginald

Service number: 5830481 | Rank: Private | Regiment: 2nd Battalion, Cambridgeshire Regiment

Died, August 25, 1944.
Remembered on SINGAPORE MEMORIAL, Singapore.  Column 60.

Aged 25.  Son of Mr. and Mrs. W. Ridgeon, of Brandon, Suffolk.

WHAT I KNOW ABOUT REGINALD …

Reginald’s birth was registered in Thetford, during the first quarter of 1919.  His mother’s maiden name was given as “Snell”.

In March 1936 he appeared before local magistrates due to a lack of lights on his cycle.

Reginald joined the army as a Territorial when the threat from Hitler’s forces loomed over Britain.  As a Territorial he would have remained on UK soil, manning beach defences, training in warfare or even helping farmers with the harvest.  When the threat of invasion diminished then the Territorials were directed to enter into the theatre of war.  For Reginald and many other territorials from East Anglia, serving in the Norfolks, Suffolks or Cambridgeshires, this looked like being North Africa and Egypt.  However as the Territorials were on the sea events took a turn in December 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  Singapore now looked vulnerable, so the Territorials were diverted there.  In February 1942 they landed with few weapons and within weeks had surrendered to the Japanese.  Reginald was destined to spend the rest of his life as a prisoner of the Japanese.

Singapore was wracked in chaos and news slowly filtered out.  The Thetford & Watton Times reported on 18th April 1942 that Reginald was officially listed as “missing”.  The next news that Reginald’s widowed mother received was two years later, in 1944, when the Bury Free Press stated,

P.O.W. – Mrs M Ridgeon, 16 George Street, has recently received the first news of her son, Private R Ridgeon. He has written to say that he is in a Prisoner Of War camp in Thailand and is in excellent health and working for pay.”

This was likely to be a false story.  Just two months later Reginald was dead.  There is evidence that Reginald “died at sea”, which may indicate that he was one of the P.O.W.s who were being transferred to Japan toward the end of the war.  Many of the ships transporting the prisoners were mistaken for Japanese troopships and were attacked and sunk by Allied submarines.  So it is possible that Reginald either drowned or died of illness while being transported.