Sketch by Jack Chalker

Reverend John Wanless

This story is not Public Domain. Permission must be obtained before any part of this story is copied or used.

This site is dedicated to the memory of the

Reverend (Squadron Leader)

John Thirwell Wanless RAF VR,

1904 - 1945

Service Number 77336

Died as a POW in the Far East 1945


John Wanless was born on 13th December 1904 into a poor coal-mining family at Crawcrook, Ryton-on-Tyne, Co Durham, the fourth in a family of ten children.

He was ordained into the Methodist Ministry in 1932, and commissioned into the RAF as a Free Church Chaplain on 1st February 1940.

Evacuated from Singapore as it fell, John Wanless was taken prisoner at Tasik Malaje, Java on 8th March 1942.

He died on 30th June 1945, the Japanese gave cause of death as Acute Enteritus but we now know it was from starvation, sickness and savage treatment in Jungle camp no 2, at Ranau, Sabah (then British North Borneo) East Malaysia.

No known grave.


Jesselton Jesselton

Sandakan Sandakan

The Rescuer The Rescuer - John Allen Hodges

Operation Kingfisher Operation Kingfisher

Japanese Occupation Japanese Occupation

Kranji War memor Kranji War Memorial

Dispatches Dispatches - London Gazette

Borneo Investigation Report Borneo Investigation Report

Sandakan Roll Sandakan Roll - Australian and British

Australian Booklet Australian Booklet (pdf document)

Sandakan Day Sandakan Day



Sandakan was based on:

Research at KEW

Laden, Fevered, Starved - The POWs of Sandakan, North Borneo, 1945

Researched by Dr Richard Reid

with assistance from Robert Pounds and Courtney Page

‘Sandakan - A Conspiracy of Silence’ by Lynette Ramsay Silver

(1998); Athol Moffitt, Project Kingfisher(1989), an account of the secret plan for a rescue which never happened

‘Knights of Bushido’ by Lord Russell

London Gazette - 1st October 1946

‘Sandakan: The Last March’ by Don Wall

Selfpublished: originally 1988, now in its revised fifth edition 

Don was 2/20 and F Force himself.

‘Kill the Prisoners’ by Don Wall

‘From Hell to Eternity’ by Peter Firkins,

‘Borneo: Australia's Pround but Tragic Heritage’ by Kevin Smith

‘Escape From Hell’ by Walter Wallace


Sharing information with others is rewarding in itself, the pieces from the jigsaw begin to fit together and a picture begins to appear. Improve your knowledge and help make the Fepow Story an everlasting memorial to their memory.

Any material  to add to the Fepow Story please send to:

and their story will live on.


[John Wanless] [Jesselton] [Sandakan] [The Rescue] [Operation Kingfisher 2] [Japanese Occupation] [Kranji] [Dispatches - London Gazette]


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