Life of Riley
I was privileged to meet Dennis Riley after reading an article about him in the Nottingham Evening Post sometime in 1999. The article gave details of him being a prisoner of war of the Japanese in Borneo, and as my dad had died as a prisoner in Borneo, I rang him and hopefully asked if he had known him. To my surprise, he said he had and had even made the cross for his grave when he died. As you can imagine, I was excited and immediately made arrangements to see Dennis that evening.
I arrived at his home in record time and spent a few hours with him and his wife, Edna, listening to the experiences he suffered. At last I had some information about my dad. I now knew what camp he was incarcerated in, what ship he had sailed to Singapore on, and between Dennis and another ex p.o.w. I met, named Sam Barker, dates and places he journeyed to when trying to escape from the fallen Singapore.
Unfortunately, both Dennis and Sam did not know my dad personally, but they did know who he was as they were all in the same regiment, the 78/35th LAA. Royal Artillery.
Sam and Dennis had been in the same hut (No.10) but my dad was in the hut opposite (no.11).
I visited Dennis again the following week to return photographs I had copied and sadly, I didn’t see him again. It was the same with Sam Barker.
Five years later with information gleaned from the Far East Prisoners Of War web site (FEPOW), I entered my dad’s name on the Roll Of Honour to the P.O.W.’s.
It was when I saw this roll of honour that I thought of Dennis and Sam. Their names should be there too. Upon realising that five years had passed, I was a bit wary of phoning them in case they had died. Dennis would be 89 and Sam, 95. As it happened I’m happy to say, both were still active though both had been poorly.
A visit was arranged and once again I met up with Dennis at his home. I told him that his experiences should be written down for the record. He said he had wanted to, but with arthritis in his fingers he could no longer use his typewriter. This is why I took it upon myself to write down his story.
The Early Days
78th/35th LAA Royal Artillery
Empress of Japan
Escape from Singapore
Paratroops at Pladjoe
Japanese at Batavia
Tanjong Priok Camp
Back to Singapore
Glimmer of Hope
Liberation September 1945
Back in England
National Memorial Arboretum
The irony of the title of this book is in the saying, “he leads a life of Riley” indicating a carefree life, unlike Dennis’.
As his story has unfolded, accept this as just a chapter in
“The Life of Riley”
I would like to end by thanking him for being a chapter in mine.
I only hope I have done him justice
Edward (Ted) Marriott (Jnr)
“When you go home,
Tell them of us and say,
For their tomorrows
We gave our today”
John Maxwell Edmonds 1875-1958
Photos taken by Paul Nice on his trip to Borneo
Dennis Riley died today aged 94 years
June 12th 2013
QMC Hospital, Nottingham
Edward Marriott, 58, Rutland Rd, Westwood, Notts, NG16 5JQ