26.42 – Jack, James, and Mary Ann Ingham

This grave is one of a small number at Christ Church which contains a father and son who served in the World Wars, and only one is buried here – but the one missing is not, as is more commonplace, the WW1 veteran.

Jack Ingham was born in Todmorden on the 15th September 1919, the son of James and Mary Ann (nee Vickers) Ingham. James and Mary Ann married in the third quarter of 1914 in Bolton, almost certainly in preparation for James’s enlistment. Mary Ann herself was an economic migrant to Todmorden, having been born in Worksop. In 1911 she was living at 359 Burnley Road as a boarder and working as a card-room hand. James was a cotton twister at that time – maybe they met at work? Why they married in Bolton is a mystery, but marry they did.

Todmorden Advertiser, 24th May 1918

James survived the war after being taken prisoner during fighting and on his return worked as a postman. In 1921 the family were living at 3 Mechanic Street in Shade. Jack had one elder brother, Fred – probably the one year old mentioned in the above newspaper article. James died in December 1922 when Jack was three from tuberculosis. Whether that was contracted as a result of his service is still unknown, which is why he is not designated as a CWGC grave.

James has many relatives in the graveyard, including the “displaced” Fred Ingham (his brother) and his mother Ellen Tasker Ingham and sister Elizabeth Alice Ingham at 36.24. James’s son Fred is undoubtedly named for his lost brother, who died just shy of a year before the son was born.

In the final quarter of 1940 Jack married Dorothy Saltonstall and they lived at 10 Back Castle Street, Todmorden. We haven’t been able to find what school he went to or what his occupation was before he enlisted.

Jack and Dorothy on their wedding day, 1940

Jack enlisted in the Royal Artillery in 1938 and was initially assigned to the 68th Anti-Tank Regiment (Territorial Army) which had been formed in Bridlington and became part of the 46th Infantry Division. Jack had his first experience of the war with this Division. The 46th Infantry Division was a 2nd Line Territorial Army formation and was part of the British Expeditionary Force sent to France in 1940. It was assigned as a labour and training unit, but ended up fighting in the retreat to Dunkirk and the evacuation to Britain.

On his return from France Jack had some time in the UK. But then, in September 1941 four Anti Tank Divisions, one of which was the 68th, were amalgamated at Walsingham, Co. Durham, to form the 85th Anti-Tank Division. After training in Essex they, Jack included, left the UK in a convoy on board the SS Narkunda (a converted liner) in November 1941 with their intended destination being Basra, but whilst they were en-route the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour. And when they got to Durban they were diverted to Singapore to reinforce the garrison there. They arrived in Singapore on the 13th January 1942 but Singapore’s defensive capabilities meant that they were unable to hold back the Japanese and the British Commander, Lieutenant General Arthur Percival, surrendered on the 15th February 1942. Churchill called this “the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history”.

After his capture on the 15th February 1942 we think Jack may have initially been sent to Changi Camp before being sent to Thailand, but that’s not certain. There are references to him being at both Malai 3 (River Valley Camp) and Malai 4, which appear to be transit camps, so he was definitely involved in the construction of the Thai-Burma Railway, but which camps he was at whilst building it is impossible to guess. Information on Malai 3 that comes from ex-Burma Railway POW Jack Jennings’ book “Prisoner Without A Crime” notes that:

“The POWs lived in huts about a hundred feet long with wooden sleeping platforms that could accommodate up to 150 POWs. There was once a Roman Catholic Chapel and also a small library consisting of books collected from some of the houses near the camps. Unknown to the Japanese, there was a radio secretly hidden by the POWs on the grounds, which provided them with news from the outside world”.

There is some evidence that POWs here received the most humane treatment from their Japanese captors and were given a significant amount of privileges not found elsewhere. Havelock Road and River Valley Road Camps also had the unusual distinction of running a Masonic Lodge but this ended when numerous POWs were sent to the infamous Burmese “Death Railway”.

There’s a memoir at Todmorden Library by Robert Duffield, who survived working on the Burmese railway, and it paints a terrible picture of conditions where he was imprisoned – there’s no mention of Jack in there either, and he makes mention of many prisoners who were there from Tod and surrounding areas, so Jack may well have been elsewhere.

On the 6th September 1944, Jack, along with 1300 other POWs was packed into the ‘Rakuyo Maru’ one of the Japanese ‘Hellships’ when it sailed from Singapore on its way to Japan where the POWs were being taken. The ship sank on the 12th September, taking Jack with it. Jack is commemorated on the Kranji War memorial, Singapore. He was awarded two medals, the 1939 – 1945 Star and the War Medal 1939 – 1945.

If his death was reported in the local newspapers none of us managed to find it – all we could find was a notice from the Manchester Evening News dated 9th December 1944. It reads simply: “Lost – Bombardier Jack Ingham, Back Castle-Street, Todmorden”

Mary Ann lived on. Prior to Jack entering the war she could be found living at Croft Carr at Lumbutts in 1939 with son Fred, who at least by that point had not married. She died in 1968.

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  1. Pingback:*ADRIFT* – Fred Ingham - F.O.C.C.T.

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