ARMIGER Leonard Allen

Leonard Allen ARMIGER 1919 – 2002

Family Details

Leonard Allen Armiger was born 31 May 1919 at Brixworth, Northamptonshire,[1] the son of Frank and Florence Armiger and brother to Doris Maude, Ronald Frank and Elsie Joan.[2]  In 1939, the family lived at Frog Hall, Brixworth where Leonard Allen Armiger worked as a Loco Fireman in an ironstone quarry.  He lived with his mother Florence, brother Ronald and possibly one other who’s “record is officially closed.”[3]

Service Details

The service details of Leonard Allen Armiger have not been researched and the date he enlisted is unknown.  There are a 3 references which refer to a serviceman which could be “our” Alan Armiger, as he was known in Evenwood.  They are:

  • 1515124 Gunner Leonard Allen Armiger, Royal Artillery was held as a British Prisoner of War in Japan or Japanese occupied territory [military date 15 February 1942]. [4]
  • 1515124 Gunner L. Armiger was transferred overseas and overland from Singapore. [5]
  • British Gunner A. Armiger was interred at Hakodate POW Camp, Japan [date 15 August 1945].[6]

The first 2 references seem positive but there are doubts about the third.  It is thought that he was captured at Singapore in February 1942 and initially held at Changi POW Camp until at least November 1942 when POWs were despatched to mainland Japan to partake in forced labour.  At some time later, he may have been transported north to Hakodate POW Camp.  The date when he was liberated and repatriated is unknown.

War in Southeast Asia: some significant dates [7]

  • December 1941: Japan invaded Thailand and attacked the British possessions of Hong Kong and Singapore.
  • 7 December 1941: Japan bombed Pearl Harbour, the US Naval Base in Hawaii.
  • 8 December 1941: Japan invaded Malaya and bombed Singapore.
  • 25 December 1941: Hong Kong fell to the Japanese.
  • 31 January 1942: Hong Kong POW Camp was finally established holding 10,972 detainees.
  • 15 February 1942: Singapore fell and a further 50,000 Allied troops were captured.

More than 50,000 British forces personnel surrendered to the Japanese between the fall of Hong Kong and March 1942 when the vast territories of the Dutch East Indies surrendered.

POW Camps : some details [8]

During the Second World War, the Japanese Armed Forces captured nearly 140,000 Allied military personnel from Australia, Canada, UK, India, Netherlands, New Zealand and USA in the Southeast Asia and Pacific theatre of war.  More than 30,000 POWs died of starvation, disease and mistreatment.  The Empire of Japan didn’t sign the Second Geneva Convention of 1929 thus did not abide by conventional means of humanity.  The death rate of POWs was 27.1%, 7 times higher than that of POWs held by the Germans or Italians. Allied POWs were forced into hard labour in constructing railways, roads, airfields etc. which were used by Japanese Forces in the occupied areas.  About 36,000 were transported to the Japanese mainland to supplement the shortage in the workforce and compelled to work in coal mines, shipyards, munitions factories etc.

37,583 prisoners from the UK, Commonwealth and Dominions were released after the surrender of Japan.  The organisation of POW Camps on the Japanese mainland were often reformed and rearranged but it is estimated that there were about 130 camps detaining 32,418 POWs.  Approximately, 3,500 POWs died in imprisonment in Japan.

2 February 1942, the Japanese entered Singapore and the naval base was captured 15 February 1942.[9]  This date correlates with the date given in one of the lists which includes the name of Gunner L.A. Armiger. It is therefore assumed that he was captured 15 February 1942 when Singapore surrendered to the Japanese.

The main camp for British and Commonwealth prisoners held in Singapore was Changi POW Camp which held about 50,000 British and Empire troops.  Work details were sent to various projects on Sumatra, Burma, Thailand and other Japanese occupied territories.  One of the most notorious examples is the construction of the Burma – Thailand railroad [or Death Railway].  Of the 60,000 Allied servicemen forced to work on the railroad, more than 12,000 died from maltreatment, sickness and starvation.[10]

All POWs leaving Singapore did so via the Keppel harbour.  It is known that Gunner L.A. Armiger was sent to a work camp in Japan but the name of the POW Camp is unknown.[11] Dates of departure and destinations to Japan were:

  • 28 November 1942: on arrival some went to Kobe [Kawasaki] Camp and others to Naoetsu [Tokyo No.4] Camp
  • 26 April 1943: left Singapore on the Kyokko Maru with 1500 POWs and arrived at Moji in Japan where POWs were sent onto Taisho sub-camp, one of the group of camps around Osaka and Kobe.
  • 16 May 1943: on arrival, POWs were sent to Moji and Kobe camps.

Their treatment in the POW Camps and work places was brutal, for 3½ years, they faced unrelentingly lethal conditions and much has been written:

  • Over a quarter died in captivity, the rest returned home sick and damaged.
  • The average prisoner received less than a cup of filthy rice a day. The amount was so meagre that gross malnutrition led to loss of vision or unrelenting nerve pain.
  • Diseases were rife. Malaria and dysentery were almost universal. Dysentery, an infective disease of the large bowel, reduced men to living skeletons. Tropical ulcers were particularly gruesome.

There is a Gunner A. Armiger listed in Branch 1 Hakodate POW Camp which on release, 15 August 1945 held 509 prisoners comprising 349 British, 155 Dutch and 5 American. [12]  Whether this POW is 1515124 Gunner Leonard Allen Armiger is uncertain.  It is understood that “our” Alan Armiger was in the vicinity of one of the atomic bomb explosions at Hiroshima [6 August] or Nagasaki [9 August] and suffered from radiation burns having to undergo treatment following his repatriation to the USA.[13]  The Hakodate POW Camp in located on Hokkaido island to the north of Japan.  Hiroshima is on Honshu island and Nagasaki is on Kyushu island, both cities are well to the south.  Maybe this serviceman is not “our” Alan Armiger.  Alan stated that he saw the mushroom cloud therefore, it seems likely that he was much nearer to Hiroshima and Nagasaki than Hakodate.  An exhaustive search of records has not taken place.

Significant dates are:

  • 6 August 1945: Hiroshima
  • 9 August 1945: Nagasaki
  • 15 August 1945: Japan surrendered to the Allies [VJ Day]
  • 20 August 1945: One of the instruments of surrender was that the letters PW had to be drawn on the roofs of buildings at POW Camps so that relief supplies could be dropped by air.
  • 25 August 1945: Commencement of air drops of provisions, food, medical supplies and clothing to POW Camps – eventually some 4,470 tons of supplies were dropped to 158 camps in Japan.[14]
  • 29 August 1945: The occupation of Japan officially began.[15]
  • 31 August 1945: Details of the handing over of POWs to Allied representatives were agreed.
  • 2 September 1945: Having agreed the principle of unconditional surrender on 15 August 1945, Japan formally surrendered ending the Second World War throughout the world.

Post War

In 1946, Leonard Allen Armiger married Elizabeth Howe.[16]  Elizabeth was the daughter of Robert and Beatrice Howe, sister of John, Ralph, Vera and possibly 2 others who’s “record is officially closed”.  The family lived at Salisbury Place, St Helen Auckland where Elizabeth worked as a domestic servant and in a fish and chip shop. [17]  She died in 1947.[18] In 1972, Leonard A. Armiger married Phoebe [nee Lamb] Race.[19]  Leonard A. Armiger died in 2002 aged 83.[20]  Mrs. Phoebe Armiger’s residence was 4 Devonshire Place, Evenwood, Bishop Auckland.[21]

PHOTOGRAPHS

These photos are typical of POWs held by the Japanese and do not specifically show Allen Armiger.  The POW Camp shown is typical and may not be any in which he was held.

CAPTURE CARD

POW Camp awaiting an air drop of supplies prior to liberation

REFERENCES

[1] Family tree on Ancestry & England and Wales Birth Index 1916-2007 Vol.3b p.137 1919Q3 Brixworth, Northamptonshire

[2] England & Wales Marriage Index 1837-1915 Vol.3b p.317 1912Q4 Brixworth, Northamptonshire and Family tree in Ancestry

[3] 1939 England & Wales Register

[4] Ancestry website UK Allied Prisoners of War 1939-1945 – 2 references, one gives his service number as 5124

[5] Ancestry website

[6] See http://www.mansell.com/images/natl_archives/Page_01aa.jpg and The Recovery Team #56 Documents courtesy of Michael Dolder, archives file no.3601-1 [Hakodate POW Camp as of August 15 1945 p. 16 of 42.

[7] http://factsanddetails.com/asian/ca67/sub427/entry-5330.html and https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4879862/WWII-heroes-reduced-skin-bone-Japan-s-POW-camps.html

[8] https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/prisoners-of-war-of-the-japanese-1939-1945

[9] http://factsanddetails.com/asian/ca67/sub427/entry-5330.html

[10]https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4879862/WWII-heroes-reduced-skin-bone-Japan-s-POW-camps.html

[11] Conversation with Gina Cox

[12] http://www.mansell.com/images/natl_archives/Page_01aa.jpg and The Recovery Team #56 Documents courtesy of Michael Dolder, archives file no.3601-1 Hakodate POW Camp as of August 15 1945 p. 16 of 42.

[13] Conversation with Gina Cox

[14] http://www.mansell.com/images/natl_archives/Page_01aa.jpg

[15] http://user.xmission.com/~tmathews/b29/56years/56years-4508b.html

[16] England & Wales Marriage Index 1916-2005 Vol.10a p.434 1946Q1 Durham Western

[17] 1939 England & Wales Register

[18] England & Wales Death Index 1916-2007 Vol.1a p.579 1947Q3 Durham Western

[19] England & Wales Marriage Index 1916-2005 Vol.1a p.1355 1972Q4 Durham South Western

[20] England & Wales Death Index 1916-2007 ref.C4D 4421C June 2002 Durham Western

[21] UK Electoral Registers 2003-2010