George MAUGHAN 1914 – 1942

3322838 Private G. Maughan, 2nd Battalion, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders died on or around 18 March 1942 aged 27 and is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial and the Evenwood War Memorial.[1]

Family Details

George was born 23 June 1914,[2] the son of Moses and Margaret Maughan of Evenwood Gate and brother to Sarah and Meggie.[3]  In 1939, Moses, Margaret and George lived at 1 New Moors, Evenwood Gate.  Moses worked as a coal miner [hewer] and George was employed as a public works contractor [labourer]. [4]

Service Details [5]

The service details of Private George Maughan have not been researched.  The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Museum has been visited and staff showed us exhibits, personal diaries and accounts, most interestingly, the Record Book of QMS Aitken.[6] Private G. Maughan served in “A” Company and he was noted as “Missing” on the 13 January 1942 and the Roll of Honour records “on or around 18 March 1942”.

“It is impossible to say if George died in connection with a camp in the jungle…He died at the fall of Singapore in February so he had to have died in captivity or died in the jungle whilst evading capture.  There were small groups of men who were separated from the main battalion whilst fighting the Japanese.  Some were caught or killed and others died from various diseases and health problems as they made their way back towards the battalion which was fighting down Malaya to Singapore.  Some of these groups were still in the jungle after the fall of Singapore [15 February 1942] which would also explain the date of death.  However, it is impossible to say that is definitely what happened.”   [7]

There follows a brief summary of the fall of Singapore and then further details.

When war broke out, the 2nd Battalion was in Malaya and valiantly fought the Japanese down the length of Malaya.  They were one of the very few British units that were prepared for the jungle warfare. During the withdrawal of the Indian 11th Infantry Division, the 2nd Argylls slowed the enemy advance and inflicted heavy casualties on them.  The battalion held the Causeway into Singapore and fought a strong rear guard action during the retreat down the west coast of Malaysia.  They suffered many casualties and the battalion was practically destroyed during the Battle of Slim River.  The survivors were sent back to Singapore where they were amalgamated with the Royal Marine survivors from HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse.  They took part in the final battles for the island of Singapore before surrendering 15 February 1942 with the rest of General Percival’s army to become Prisoners of War.  Many died in captivity or in the jungle trying to avoid capture.

 The Battle of Slim River

7 January 1942: By 6.30am, the Japanese tanks approached the 2/Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who were positioned around the village of Trolak itself and protected 12th Brigade HQ. This was a regular British Army battalion and very experienced, considered to be one of the best jungle fighting units the British had in Malaya. The Argylls were in a defensive position but without fixed anti-tank obstacles or mines. They had only a little warning of the rapidly approaching Japanese, fought ferociously and managed to delay the Japanese infantry, holding them up until about 7.30 am. The force east of the road, “C” and “B” Companies under Colonel Robertson fought their way into a rubber estate and tried to flank the Japanese advance by heading south through the jungle inland and breaking up into small parties. Six weeks later some of these soldiers would still be in the jungle.  “A” Company, west of the road, managed to break out of the encircling Japanese and cross the river before the rail bridge was blown. “D” Company, further north, suffered the same fate as Robertson’s party, having to scatter into the jungle and attempted to reach British lines. Most of “D” Company would be captured before they could reach the river.  Only 94 Argylls answered roll call on 8 January, nearly all from “A” Company.


An instance of a Japanese atrocity was committed in the area around Trolak where there were a number of wounded Argyll’s. Second Lieutenant Ian Primrose reported that after he regained consciousness from an injury during the fighting he discovered that the Japanese were dividing the wounded into those who said they could walk and those who said they could not. Primrose decided he could walk, which was fortunate as the Japanese soldiers proceeded to shoot and bayonet the wounded who could not. Afterwards, the survivors were forced to dig graves for the dead and then told to carry the Japanese wounded.


The 11th Indian Infantry Division suffered huge casualties and though some eventually made their way back to join in the fight for Singapore, many more would still be in the jungle after the surrender. Large numbers of these survivors were captured but a few, like Lt. Colonel Lindsay Robertson and his party of Argylls, attempted to evade capture.  They were unable to keep ahead of the rapid advance of the Japanese. Robertson was killed 20 January 1942. The remaining survivors from the two brigades were scattered all over the Malayan Peninsular. Some of the Argylls were still at large by August 1945. A Gurkha NCO, Naik Nakam Gurung, was found during the Malayan Emergency in October 1949.  He had lived in the jungle since 1942.


17 February: The Argylls and Marines held at Tyersall Park were ordered by the Japanese to march to Changi which was the site of the main POW camp in Singapore.  Headed by Piper Charles Stuart they marched out of Tyersall Park and hundreds of soldiers from other units stood to attention as they passed. In fact, Captains Aylwin, Lang and Slessor, 2/A & SH had no intention of letting their men march to Changi. A few hundred yards along the way, what was left of the battalion transport drew up and bussed them into captivity passing marching columns of POWs. At first the Plymouth Argylls were quartered in the Changi Village shops area. Many were subsequently sent to smaller work camps at River Valley, Havelock Road and Kranji.

18 March: Since it is recorded that Private George Maughan died 18 March 1942, some 4 weeks after the surrender of Singapore, it may be presumed that he was a POW but this may not be the case.  He may have died in unknown circumstances with other Argylls offering further resistance.

The Singapore Memorial, Kranji War Cemetery [8]

Private George Maughan has no known grave and is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial.  The cemetery is 22 km north of the city of Singapore.  There was a cemetery located at Changi POW camp but the graves were moved to Kranji in 1946.  There are 4,458 Commonwealth Second World War burials at Kranji War Cemetery.  Within the cemetery stands the Singapore Memorial bearing the names of over 25,000 casualties of the Commonwealth land and air forces who have no known grave.

In June 1942 the movement of POWs from Changi to Thailand to build the Death Railway began. From Singapore to Ban Pong in crowded rice wagons, then force-marched to Kanchanaburi and Chungkai and then on to jungle camps further up the line to Burma. Many of those who survived this were sent in 1944 by sea to Japan as slave labour, many of the ships being sunk by Allied submarines on the journey with huge loss of life. When liberation finally came in September 1945, 192 Argylls and 33 Plymouth Argyll Royal Marines had died in captivity.


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] 1939 England & Wales Register

[3] 1911 census

[4] 1939 Register

[5] “Moon over Malaya, a Tale of Argylls and Marines” 2001 Jonathan Moffatt and Audrey Holmes McCormick, “The Thin Red Line, 2nd Argylls in Malaya” 1947 Brigadier I M Stewart Recently reprinted by the Regimental Museum, “Who Dies Fighting” 1944 Angus Rose, Captain R G S Lang’s Report, Plymouth Argyll box and Peter Dunstan’s documentation of both Royal Marine Detachments can be viewed by appointment at the Royal Marines Museum Archive, Southsea, The Papers of Major C D Aylwin RM can be viewed at the Imperial War Museum Reading Room by appointment. This includes a nominal roll of the HMS Prince of Wales RM Detachment and a detailed Captivity Diary, Jack Wardle, formerly HMS Repulse, has produced a nominal roll of the HMS Repulse RM Detachment & Researchers on the 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders will find a wealth of material in the Regimental Museum and Archive, Stirling Castle. Particularly interesting is the Battalian Record Book of QMS Aitken.

[6] I’m certain that this was the diary shown to me by staff.

[7] Letter dated 28 July 2011 Rod Mackenzie, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Home HQ, The Castel, Stirling

[8] CWGC

Thanks to Bryce Fuller for taking photographs of the Singapore Memorial in 2011.