Captain J.M. Bentley-Taylor, M.C. of the 3rd The King’s Own Hussars kept a meticulous diary of his time commanding ‘B’ Squadron when they were prisoners of war of the Japanese in Java.
Here is his report on his soldiers.
To: Officer Commanding 3rd Hussars. R.A.P.W.I – Oct. 1945 From Captain J.M. Bentley-Taylor, M.C. 3rd The King’s Own Hussars.
Reports on ‘B’ Squadron, 3rd Hussars, from September 1942 to May 1945, during which period Captain JM Bentley-Taylor was in Command of ‘B’ Squadron 3rd Hussars.
Major Lancaster O.C. ‘B’ Squadron 3rd Hussars, October 1945, has asked me to write a report on ‘B’ Squadron covering the period from the time (September 1942, when Major William-Powlet M.C left the Squadron on draft to Japan, until May 1945 when the Squadron came under Command of Major Lancaster at Bandoeng, Java.
The Particular object of this report is to bring to the notice of Officer Commanding 3rd Hussars, the outstanding character and good qualities of the Officers, N.C.O.’s and O.R’s reported on individually as attached.
Period 1. September 1942 – April 1943
Place of Confinement as P.O.W.’s – Tanjong Priok, Batavia, Java.
Major William-Powlett left me in Command of ‘B’ Squadron in September 1942 when he proceeded on draft to Japan with 25 (approximately) 3rd Hussars. The Squadron’s strength was then 3 Officers (myself, Lt. Branfoot and 2/Lt. Williamson) and (approximately) 97 O.R.s.
The Squadron was billeted as a Squadron in a sub-camp of the main P.O.W. camp. The Squadron was sub-divided into the same Troops as per pre-capitulation and a Sergeant’s Mess was run.
In light of the Squadron’s later experiences, the conditions in this camp were good. The morale and discipline of the Squadron were good. ‘B’ Squadron 3rd Hussars, was accepted as the best unit in camp.
N.C.O’s and men were regularly employed on Japanese working parties at the docks. Those N.C.O’s and men who were later to become the backbone of the Squadron in more difficult times were already coming to the fore and standing out from the inevitable gradual demoralization of P.O.W’s as a whole caused by conditions of life which were, of course, bad as judged by normal standards.
Period 2. April 1943 – September 1944
In April 1943 Lt. Branfoot and I with 81 O.R’s joined a draft of 1000 men going to AMBON to construct aerodromes. This draft was under command of Major L.N. Gibson R.A. Conditions were from the beginning very bad. The accommodation was unsanitary, unhygienic and overcrowded. Food was not sufficient to support even a low standard of health.
Work was hard with long hours and no recreation. Medical supplies and facilities were poor. General demoralization and loss of all discipline in my Company of 250 men might have resulted if it had not been for ‘B’ Squadron, which gave the other personnel in the Company a lead.
The Squadron suffered 50% casualties. The majority of these were presumed drowned while on sick draft to Java. On the whole, ‘B’ Squadron casualties were lower than those of other units which was due largely to its better morale and discipline.
Again ‘B’ Squadron was generally accepted as the best unit in Camp. The N.C.O’s and men worked on the same footing i.e. White Coolies. Only N.C.O’s of real character and personality retained their position and the respect of the men. O.R’s of the same quality became, in their way, leaders.
A new translation of the Regimental Motto was often heard by me – “They (the Japanese) will never get us down, Sir”. It is on these outstanding men, in cases where they are still alive, that reports are attached.
Period 3. End of 1944 until May 1945.
The squadron returned to Java in various ships and was complete in Batavia by Christmas 1944. The strength was then 2 Officers and (approximately) 40 O.R’s. Conditions were not so good as in period 1, but after Ambon and especially after the return ship journeys life in Java was comparatively good.
The Squadron was not billeted as a unit during this period but retained its identity and unit spirit. Early in 1945, approximately 20 3rd Hussars were sent on fresh drafts to Singapore, the remaining 20 were part of an ‘English Group’ of several hundred under my Command in ‘Cycle Camp’ Batavia.
‘B’ Squadron was still a fighting unit and helped me, as in Ambon, to recover and maintain morale and discipline amongst a group of very ‘ragged’ Ambon survivors of all branches of the service. 3rd Hussar N.C.O’s were in positions of authority and trust. R.A.F. personnel requested on one occasion that a 3rd Hussar N.C.O. should be placed in charge of them.
‘B’ Squadron never failed to support me in barrack-room discussions on my policy.
In May 1945 the Squadron came under the command of Major Lancaster in Batavia, Java.
Individual Reports on the following are attached.
Officers:- Lt. Branfoot.
Lt. Branfoot 3rd Hussars.
During periods 1 and 2, this officer was my second-in-command. Throughout he carried out his duties efficiently and retained the respect and strong affection of the Squadron. He adapted himself quickly to the conditions.
In period 1 he was Squadron Sports Officer and turned out regularly to Captain the Squadron Football Team. He gave a lead in all other sports and instructed many of the Squadron in Contract Bridge. His activities went far to provide in Period1 the necessary recreation which was so much missed in Period 2.
In Period 2. Lt. Branfoot demonstrated his character and excellent qualities to the full, although he suffered from gradually failing health and received several beatings from Japanese guards. These beatings took place on the Aerodrome Working Parties where he stood up for his men against the Japanese Tyranny. Both in Camp and on Working Parties he handled the men and the Japanese with firm tactfulness. He never complained unduly of the hardships he was enduring. Lt. Branfoot, to conclude, was my right-hand man and a very loyal supporter.
During Period 3, Lt. Branfoot was in Hospital in Batavia.
S.Q.M.S. Feakes –
During period 1 this N.C.O. carried out his normal duties. During period 2, he was employed as my Company Clerk – a multiple job. During Period 3, he was employed in a general administration capacity in the English Camp mentioned above.
Throughout all these periods S.Q.M.S. Feakes carried out his duties efficiently and cheerfully. He tackled any job enthusiastically. Whether it concerned discipline morale, administration, shaving the men or keeping the billets in repair. I trusted S.Q.M.S. Feakes and on occasions when I had to take him into my confidence he never failed me.
Sgt. Cassie –
Sgt. Cassie was ‘B’ Squadron’s, Mechanist Sergeant. He was employed during Period 1 Japanese Working Parties.
During Period 2 he became ‘Ward Master’ of the General Ward in Liang Ambon P.O.W. Hospital. He had had no previous experience with such work, but quickly became efficient and maintained order. He was highly thought of by the S.M.O. Men in the Hospital felt great confidence if they were put in Sgt. Cassie’s Ward.
He is a very good type of N.C.O. and very capable and honest
Sgt Wilkinson –
Sgt. Wilkinson was employed in all Periods as a Troop Sgt. And on Japanese Working Parties. Although working with the men he maintained his dignity and position both in Camp and at work. He handled 3rd Hussars and others with quiet assurance and kept going himself with great determination.
Sgt. Downing –
Sgt. Downing was employed in Camp Hospitals in Java as a Dispenser. He was working under Colonel Maisey R.A.M.C. and Major O’Donnell R.A.M.C. I know that he was highly thought of by both of these officers.
Corporal Fisher –
Cpl Fisher was promoted from Trooper to full Corporal by Major Willam-Powlet.
During Period 1. Cpl. Fisher was employed on Japanese Working Parties. He did much to shorten long days for the men by playing up to Japanese guards in the most amusing way. Later he was put in charge of a party of 3rd Hussars chopping wood in the Camp Cookhouse and was well thought of by O.C. Cookhouse.
In Period 2, he was in charge of the camp ‘Tea-Point’. This job entailed handling Japanese Dutchmen and thirsty, tired Englishmen. Cpl. Fisher showed great personality and fairness. Behind a tough façade, there was a generous heart. He was ‘Uncle’ to all ‘B’ Squadron. He also took charge of Defaulters. Later he was put in charge of the Hospital Fatigue Party and was a popular, heartening figure in a dreary place.
His last job was burying over 300 men at sea. In hard times Cpl Fisher always came to the fore. He was intensely loyal to me personally and his stimulating influence was widely felt.
Corporal Pearce –
Cpl. Pearce was promoted by me to Full Rank while carrying out the duties of Section N.C.O. during Period 3. Throughout all periods he was a good example of a smart capable Junior N.C.O. In my opinion Cpl. Pearce could carry considerable responsibility.
Trooper Chad –
Tpr. Chad was employed during all Periods as an inside Camp Worker. In Period 2, he was under Cpl. Fisher and later was in charge of the ‘Tea Point’. He showed himself to be an unselfish capable and cheerful man.
Many 3rd Hussars were kept straight and encouraged by him behind the scenes. A talk with Tpr. Chad about the Squadron was always a tonic. He was loyal to the Squadron and looked after Lt. Branfoot when he was sick in Period 3, as well as he had cared for his fellow men.
Trooper Leyland –
Tpr. Leyland did good work on one of the ships returning to Java. About 12 Hussars were on board. They decided to get a corner of the Hold to themselves, there they fought everything that came for 3 months.
Four died and nearly all were very weak by the end of the journey, but the spirit of that group was a bye-word. Tpr. Leyland kept fitter than most and worked very hard to help the others; all, subsequently recovered.
Trooper Morley –
Tpr. Morley was employed mostly on Japanese Working Parties during Period two, he did much to hold the Squadron together, in that he would never stand for any criticism of the Squadron or of myself, from anybody within or without the Squadron.
He was all for law and order, although he used his own rather irregular methods to support it.