Arthur John Stagles
Signal Platoon, 5th Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment
Transcribed from notes written by Arthur Stagles in 1991 from his wartime recollections
by Ian Stagles
At the time of departure in 1941 my father had no idea where he was destined to serve his country although the best guess was a desert somewhere as they had been issued with light coloured khaki uniforms. One of the troop ships was the Mount Vernon which took the regiment first to Nova Scotia and then across the equator to their final destination of Singapore. Once landed the Battalion headed north into Malaya.
I can recall my father saying that the first action they saw came as a rude shock to everyone as the Japanese were supposed to be poor marksmen, unfortunately this was far from true. And to make matters worse the khaki uniforms the Royal Norfolk’s were wearing really stood out well in the dark green jungle.
It didn’t take Lance Corporal Stagles, and the rest of the Battalion, long to realise that the more stripes you wore on your arm the more likely you were to be targeted by snipers. But a few minutes rubbing mud into your stripes improved your chances of survival.
The Battalion’s second major action was when they headed up the eastern side of Burma and relieve Australian forces there. They ended up fighting a rearguard action just about all the way back to Singapore with the enemy being constantly landed by sea in front of them to make their life even more difficult.
Dad told me one story of an incident on the way back to Singapore that nearly resulted in him being put up for a commendation. Unfortunately the officer who was to do this didn't survive the next 24 hours to complete the paperwork. On three occasions my father tried to tell me the story that led up to this event and each time broke down at the same point in the tale. So I never did find out what happened back then.
He spent the next three and a half years as a POW including working on the Burma railway.
To remain silent on these years was again Dad’s choice.
This is his story.
Training for War
Sailing to War
Singapore then Malaya
The Nightmare Ends
After the war Arthur returned home to Lily, no doubt grateful to have survived three and a half years of Japanese captivity. As a result of the hardships and deprivations he had suffered as a POW he was understandably not quite the same Arthur Stagles that boarded the troop ship in 1941.
His time as a Japanese POW had a profound long-term effect on him. Back then no counselling was available for returned POWs and brutalised men were simply sent back into the workforce to re-build the country.
However, he kept a small picture of Mum, wrapped in cellophane, hidden from the guards for the duration of his capture and the picture came home with him.
Arthur Stagles died on 6th June 2003, in Perth Western Australia, aged 82
We Will Remember Them
Our thanks to Ian for sending in his dad’s story