Extra family information courtesy of Eric’s daughter – Rosemary Fell – Secretary – Malayan Volunteers Group
Images and additional information courtesy of Chung Chee Min the Victoria Institution Malaysia.
Born: 24th May 1907, Ipswich.
Died: 23rd December 1943; age: 36; as a Japanese PoW after a leg amputation – death caused by jungle ulcers, dysentery and pellagra at the Chungkai Hospital Camp – Thailand & Burma Railway.
Death certificate signed on the 18th March 1946 by M.A.Willis – International Red Cross Committee, Geneva.
As a PoW, Eric was sent from Singapore to Thailand on the 28th October 1942.
Family note – Rosemary:
After the capitulation of Singapore and capture, my father was imprisoned in Changi Barracks before being sent to the Burma-Siam Railway on 28th October 1942. He was moved to several camps in the Konyu/Hintok area of the Railway but after developing a jungle ulcer he was moved down to Chungkai Hospital Camp where he died on 23rd December 1943 aged 36.
Residence in England: 51, Lattice Avenue, Ipswich.
Occupation: Malayan Education Department, Singapore – Headmaster – Bandar Hilir English School, Malacca.
Eric was called up in January 1942, as a Sergeant with the 4th Battalion, Malacca Volunteer Force, and sent to Singapore. Eric was promoted to Lieutenant and became a Signals Officer and Burials Officer.
Family note – Rosemary:
From about 1940 onwards all able-bodied European men were required to join the Local Defence Forces which became known as the Malayan Volunteer Forces. The local inhabitants were allowed to volunteer to join their local defence force, but the European men were required to join. So my father joined the Malacca Volunteer Corps – which became the 4th Battalion Straits Settlements Volunteer Force, and as a 2nd Lieutenant was put in charge of the Signals Section of the battalion.
The Battalion was called up on 3rd December 1941 as news of the imminent invasion of Malaya by the Japanese was sent out. They were entrained for Singapore over the night of the 5th/6th and deployed to defend the south coast of the Island.
Regiment: Straits Settlements Volunteer Force, 4th Battalion (Malacca Volunteer) Force). H.Q. Wing, Malayan Civil Service Force.
Relatives Notified & Address: Son of Robert Charles Ennew Reeve & Agnes Sophia Reeve; husband of Kathleen E.B. Reeve, of East Ham, London.
1911 Wymondham, Norfolk.
Eric was 3 years old and living with his widowed, maternal grandmother, aunt & brother.
Ann Butler, 65, a fruiterer & Florist – own account, born Colingham, Nottinghamshire.
Florence Ada Butler, 30, an Assistant Fruiterer & Florist, born Lincoln, Lincolnshire.
Cyril Douglas Reeve, 3, born Ipswich.
In 1911, Eric & Cyril’s parents were living at the family home – 102, Hervey Street, Ipswich.
Robert Charles Ennew Reeve, 34, a Book Keeper Salesman – Boot & Shoe Makers, born Ipswich.
Agnes Sophia Reeve (nee Butler), 34, born Lincoln, Lincolnshire.
Eric Agnes Cyril & Robert Reeve
Eric’s father, Robert Charles Ennew Reeve, died June 1935, at 51, Lattice Avenue, Ipswich.
Eric was educated at Ipswich Central Council, 1914-1917; Secondary – at St. Joseph’s College, Ipswich 1919-1924. Before moving up to Bristol University – Matriculation Exam.: London General Schools Exam. Date of matriculation at UoB: 19th October 1925, aged 18. BA (Hons.) in History (3rd Class), June 1928. Diploma in Education (2nd Class, Second Division), June 1929.
Whilst at Bristol University Eric was Chairman of the Men’s Athletic Committee, Hon. Sec. Men’s Athletic Club, and Capt. Men’s Hockey Club.
Bristol University information courtesy of Ian – https://www.bristol.ac.uk/library/special-collections/
Eric became a European Master for the Federation Malay States in 1929. He became European Master in 1933 at the High School, Malacca. Then on to Raffles Institution at Bishan, Singapore in 1934 – 1937, followed by the Victoria Institution, at Kuala Lumpur, Malaya where he taught History. In early 1939, Eric became Headmaster at Bandar Hilir English School, Malacca.
At the Port of London, on the 28th July 1934, 27 year old Eric, of 51, Lattice Avenue, Ipswich sailed 1st Class onboard S.S.’Gleniffer’ of the Glen Line Limited bound for the Far East. Eric was contracted to land in Singapore. He was employed by the Malayan Education Service.
On the 12th July 1938, at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Singapore, Eric married Kathleen Emily Beatrice Jolliffe, born 1907, Middlesex. Kathleen was a Nurse who had trained at the East Suffolk and Ipswich Hospital.
They had 1 daughter:
Rosemary Ann Reeve, born 1940, Singapore
Kathleen Emily Beatrice Reeve (nee Jolliffe)
At the beginning of 1942, the Army, Navy and Air Force evacuated their women and children. But the Government did nothing to help the families of their employees. Eric became worried and concerned for the safety of Kathleen and Rosemary and bought tickets for his family to leave Malaya on the next available ship. On the 16th January 1942, with Japanese bombs dropping on the docks, Kathleen and Rosemary escaped Malaya unscathed on board ‘Aoranji.’ They eventually docked at Fremantle, Western Australia, on the 21st January 1942. After a stay boarding in Perth, Kathleen and her daughter flew across the continent to Sydney, New South Wales, their journey taking a day and a half. At the end of March they left Sydney on board the British steam cargo/passenger ship ‘Ulysses’ of the Blue Funnel Line – Master James Appleton Russel. Their destination was Liverpool crossing the Pacific and through the Panama Canal and on into the Caribbean Sea. On the 11th April, 5 miles off Palm Beach, Florida S.S. ‘Ulysses’ was torpedoed twice by U-160. All crew, gunners and passengers were safely picked up from the lifeboats and rafts by U.S.S. ‘Manley’ and landed at Charleston, South Carolina.
Finally, 35 year old, Kathleen (described as 5ft 8ins in height, fair complexion, with blue eyes and brown hair) and 2 year Rosemary sailed on board M.V.’Myrmidon’ of the Anchor Line from New York via Halifax, Nova Scotia to the Port of Glasgow, Scotland – Master A.M. Caird. They arrived safely on the 22nd May 1942. Their final destination was the home of Eric’s widowed mother – Mrs. Agnes Reeve, of 51, Lattice Avenue, Ipswich.
On the 15th October, 1946, 39 year old, Kathleen, of 51, Lattice Avenue, Ipswich sailed Grade A Class from Southampton to Singapore on board S.S’Moolton’ of the Shipping Line P.&O. – Master C.H. Baxter. Kathleen had decided to return to Malaya as a State Health Matron, at Johore. Rosemary stayed at a boarding school in England.
Probate to Kathleen Emily Beatrice Reeve – widow.
In memory of the Victoria Institution’s fallen, 11 yellow flame trees were officially planted – the 4th tree planted was in memory of Eric Reeve. Eric is also remembered on the Second World War Memorial Board at Bristol University.
An extract from Victoria Institution memorial page :
St Gerard’s Monastery
April 8th 1946
Dear Mrs. Reeve,
I cannot tell you how glad I was to receive your letter, which was forwarded from Singapore after I had left there last month. I had tried many channels to try and find your address, but R.A.P.W.I. & S.S.V.F H.Q could not assist. I particularly wanted to write to you because Eric was one of the closest and most valued friends I had as a P.O.W.
My first contact with him was on joining the Malacca Volunteers about 5 weeks before Singapore capitulated. He was Signals Officer and also Burials Officer. At that time we were in a camp out at Jalan Eunos – the continuation of Still Road, Katong. Some of our Eurasian boys were killed out at Changi when cleaning mangroves, and Eric and I went out with a party to bury them. I remember how many little incidents on that occasion impressed me with his extraordinary thoroughness and sense of responsibility. I saw him on and off in the days that followed but (as I used to joke him afterwards) he seemed to have a lurking suspicion that I had a tail and cloven hooves, or was a Father Holt on Thackeray lines!
Then our unit was sent into action not so far from Ford’s Works on the Bukit Timah Road and we kept retreating till we ended up on Malcolm Road (between Thompson Road and Bukit Timah Road in the vicinity of Newton Circus). Eric had his signals in very efficient order despite the constant changing of place. His men in the Signal Section were very attached to him – they were all Eurasians and Eric was one of the few who they felt was really sympathetic towards them. There was no patronage or condescension in his handling of them. And as most of my flock were Eurasians I had a better opportunity of realizing how they liked and trusted him. We went out to Changi Barracks two days after capitulation and all the Volunteers were occupying the floor of one of the big barracks there – Officers and men together.
I don’t recall very much about Eric during that fortnight beyond a rather wordy battle on Communism and the Catholic Church’s attitude towards it. I do recall how cheerful Eric kept, and how readily he hopped into any fatigues that were called for in that rather chaotic period of our existence. Many found it very difficult to settle down to realities and tried to wriggle out of doing what might quite reasonably be asked of them – Eric, as you might expect – more than pulled his weight. He was always so practical and resourceful in emergencies, and co-operated with complete self-effacement with anyone else’s honest efforts to get things done. Then about the first week in March the Officers were made to live separately from the men in what was known as the married quarters – rows of flats. Erie and I found ourselves together on a small verandah, and that was where we really got to know each other.
I remember each week, generally on a Sunday morning, he would write down an account of current events, and of his thoughts and reactions to things, in the form of a letter to you and Rosemary. He spoke constantly about you both about Malacca, your home there, the garden you made, the friends you had there etc. Also he spoke a lot about Suffolk, his school days at Ipswich, his University days at Bristol. What most impressed me in everything he ever said about his home life with you and he spoke much of it because obviously it was the supreme thing in life that mattered to him – was the remarkable peace and completeness he derived from it. He gave me the impression that all he had hoped for in marriage had been realized in you. It must be a great source of consolation to you that you did mean everything to Eric, that you had given him everything he could have desired. I suppose the notes he wrote in the exercise book in letter form to you must have been lost in Thailand – so little had a chance of surviving even in the case of those who survived – any written document was ordered to be destroyed.
His main form of recreation at this time was chess. Poor David Waters (R.I.P.), Bob and Pat McGarry, Ted Barker, Bill Horne and many others had a current competition. Eric, I think, was runner-up. He loved discussion and arguments and as our back-grounds were so divergent and our whole philosophy of life so at variance, you can imagine what battles royal we had. By temperament I am excitable and quick, Erie was the complete contrary, and the wonder of it was that no matter how hectic the controversy it never made the slightest difference to our complete amiability.
Conditions were very primitive indeed, but Eric got the idea that we should try and observe what niceties we could to keep up our own self-respect. Hence he manufactured a small tablecloth for the diminutive box that served as a table for meals on our verandah and other similar things, I used to say Mass each morning which meant I was late for breakfast, and having to visit the hospital and attend to other professional jobs, I am afraid I was very irregular in comings and goings. Always I would find on return not only that my food had been drawn for me but that special precaution had been taken to keep it warm etc. Whatever each of us acquired in the way of food or anything else was common property – Eric had a knack of somehow giving the other party a larger share than he was entitled to. At Changi he became a member of the Male Choir which John McNeish conducted. He was very enthusiastic on this. He had a big oversense of humour and the trials and inequalities of life never succeeded in getting him down – his appreciation of the humour of even the grimmest situation came to his rescue.
In October 1942 we were draughted up to Thailand – five days by train to Bang Pong. I was not in the same carriage (cattle truck) as Eric, but at the far end, we were together again on the march up to Tarsao. It was a pretty dreadful journey – we had to carry all we had on one’s person through the jungle tracks, through padi fields etc. for four days. I had my Church paraphernalia and my Mass Kit. As this was vital I dumped a good deal of personal gear. Even with this I found myself at the end of my tether. I began to fall back in the march. Eric kept with me and encouraged me to keep going. Then when he saw I was getting knocked out he took my Mass Kit himself and carried it. It was something I can never be sufficiently grateful to him for – without it I should have been at a complete loss to do the essential thing for my Catholic men. May God bless him for it.
The first camp we were in in Thailand was Kinsaioke. Food was very scarce. I remember a Catholic Nip guard gave me a little McClean bottle full of salt – it was gold in worth to Eric and me. Then we were shifted down to Kann. Things were quite endurable for two months or so and then the “speeds” on the railway began. We were together for a few weeks and than Eric went to a satellite camp four kilometres away under Major Roland Lyne (Y.M.C.A. S’pore). The two McGarrys were also there. It was indeed a testing time and Eric’s characteristic tenacity and determination enabled him to hang on and go through with it. The other men who were with him at the time often spoke afterwards with special admiration for his heroic tenacity that refused to be depressed.
Then came the last chapter in the up river period. A party of 100 men and 2 Officers were detailed to go to another camp. The Officer appointed made representations which prevailed and he was relieved from the job. Eric was then named. It was a mercy for the 100 men that he was. They had the greatest difficulties from the Nips in charge with regard to security rations, cooking utensils and much besides. Eric fought tooth and nail to get all he could. They had been forbidden to contact a British Camp close by which was under a different Nip Administration – but he and some others slipped into the camp at night and successfully begged for food and utensils. It was a very grim ten days. Then they returned to the main camp at Lower Kann. I met him down there. We had a long talk about his experiences. I spoke to his men. They were full of admiration and gratitude for what he had saved them from. There was a F.M.S. Volunteer officer called Fitzgerald, a young Irishman, who had been with Eric during this period. He was thought to have contracted cholera so the whole party was isolated. Never did I see Eric shoulder a disagreeable responsibility with greater determination. His own foot had a bad ulcer, and he was put into the hospital. Orderlies were short and anyone who could assist was called upon. His uncomplaining fortitude was something I shall always admire during those particular days.
I saw him quite frequently at that time. He was quite suddenly put on a ‘down river’ party and the barges left at very short notice. I was away for a short time that day and he had gone when I returned. He left a battered book with beautiful illustrations in it – The Beauty of England (or some similar title). Unfortunately I lost it later. I did not see him again. He went on to Chungkai, and when our turn came for evacuation we only got as far as Tarsao. It was Ted Barker who told me of his death in December. Pat McGarry (c/o Bank of Scotland, Edinburgh, I think his address is) whom I met months afterwards saw a good deal of him in Chungkai.
There was so much that made Eric a unique and admirable character that I find it hard to specify what I admired most in him. I think it was the extraordinary rectitude of his intention and will. He was chary and tinged with a certain skepticism – difficult to persuade or convince, but few men I have met have excelled him in sheer honesty of mind and sincerity, and I find it difficult to recall anyone who regulated his conduct by the very definite and high principle of moral conduct that he believed in, with greater integrity and determination. Eric by no means (at least as long as I knew him) shared my own religious beliefs, but I tell you in all simplicity that I pray each morning at Mass for the happy repose of his great soul and in doing so I feel the greatest confidence that his sheer sincerity of mind and heart have won him an everlasting reward of happiness. I count it a great privilege to have known and to have enjoyed the friendship of so noble and genuine a character.
You asked did he receive letters from you. I distinctly remember him mentioning that you and Rosemary had been torpedoed en route which implies he did hear from you.
We have this belief in common dear Mrs Reeve that the upright and sincere are eternally rewarded by God and the thought of the great reunion that shall never end, which await you, does give a ray of consolation. I fear to suggest ideas I would recall to one of my own people lest I obtrude our own beliefs upon you. But if the ache of loss is keen, there is yet so much to thank God for whilst He gave Eric to you, and there is so much to look forward to – beckoning to you and reminding where your true home and happiness lie. May God strengthen and console you and Rosemary.