27 Line Section

If you recognise a name and wish to get in touch you can email me at: threadgoldpressatgmaildotcom

Key: Surname, rank & first name ‘nickname if any’; pre-war occupation; known family; letters (if we have them); died/survived

Royal Corps of Signals, 27 Line Section
  • Appleton, Driver Thomas; Driver; Wife & 2 daughters; letters; survived.
  • Arnott, L/Sgt John; telephone lineman; wife & son; letters; died.
  • Baker, Capt Lancelot Barton Hill Custance ‘Barry’; Regular Army; wife & son; survived.
  • Bamford, Sigman William; waiter; sister & parents, letters, died.
  • Blackburn, Sigman Stan; Sheepbridge works; mother; letters; died.
  • Bridge, Sigman Jim; Pentographer; wife & 2 daughters, letters, died.
  • Brown, 2nd Lieut Sutherland; wife; died.
  • Canning, Driver Hugh; wife daughter & 2 sons, sister, mother; letters; survived.
  • Carr, Sigman Stephen ‘Steve’; telephone operator; mother; letters; died.
  • Carter, Sigman Walter Henry ‘Harry’; Baker’s roundsman; wife; letters; survived
  • Dawson, Sigman William Eric; telephone hand; father (mother died); letters; survived.
  • Douglas, Driver Gilbert Black ‘Gibby’; mail van driver; wife & son; letters; survived.
  • Earnshaw, Cpl Jack Kenneth Sunderland ‘One Long Man’; apprentice compositor; father, fiancée; letters; died.
  • Farrell, Sigman Henry ‘Harry’; ?plumber; mother, sister; letters; survived.
  • Garrod, Lieut Robert Arthur ‘Bob’; Architect/surveyor; wife; letters; survived.
  • George, L/Sgt Cyril ‘Ciggy’; Draughtsman; fiancée, brother; letters; died.
  • Gilbert, Sigman Clarence Victor ‘Jim’; warehouseman; mother; letter; survived.
  • Goddard, Sigman Samuel ‘Sam’; parcel wrapper in bleach works; girlfriend, mother; letters; died.
  • Graham, L/Cpl Andrew S ‘Andy’; GPO telephone section; mother; letters; died.
  • Graham, Driver George Albert ‘Judd’; cycle mechanic Halfords; mother, wife; letters; survived.
  • Grant, Driver James ‘Jimmy’; carrier for father’s firm; mother; letters; died.
  • Grierson, Sigman J; wife; letters; died.
  • Hannam, Driver Reginald ‘Reg’ T; survived.
  • Hann, L/Cpl C; survived.
  • Harrison, L/Cpl Ernie G; clerk in Gaslight and Coke Company; mother; letters; died.
  • Hedges, Driver Reginald Albert Walter; delivery driver/Regular army; parents; letters; survived.
  • Hobson, Sigman George; bleachworks anti-crease dept.; wife; letters; died.
  • Holmes, Driver Leonard E; mother, sister; letters; died.
  • Holmes, Sigman Reginald S; died.
  • Hunt, Sgt Gordon Leonard; family printing business; mother, fiancée; letters; died.
  • Jackson, Cpl Lewis ‘Lew’; printer; mother, fiancée; letters; survived
  • Jardine, Driver J C ‘Big Jock’; postman; wife, 1 daughter, 1 son; letters; survived.
  • Jennings, Sigman Reginald Edmund ‘Reg’; PO engineer; letters; died.
  • Johnston, L/Cpl Charles ‘Charlie’; steelwork labourer; wife, 4 daughters, 1 son; letters; survived.
  • Jones, Driver Douglas Henry ‘Jeny’; stockroom leather factory; fiancée, mother, aunt; letters; survived.
  • Kittwood, Sigman William; GPO London; aunt, cousin; letters; survived.
  • Knee, Sigman Charlie; friend of L Whitton; survived.
  • Lovell, Sigman Dennis ‘Curly’; mother; letters; survived.
  • Lyons, Driver John Henry ‘Harry’ Lyons; bus conductor Stockton; wife; letters; survived.
  • McCarthy, Sigman Daniel ‘Mac’; electrician; mother, sister; letters; survived.
  • McDonald, Driver Neil George ‘Neilly’; postman driver; wife; letters; survived.
  • McNicholl, L/Cpl Daniel ‘Danny’; Electrical Engineering dept PO; mother; letters; survived.
  • McWhirter, Cpl Robert C ‘Bobby’; Linesman in GPO; sister, fiancée; letters; survived.
  • Minshull, Sigman C A ‘Andy’; joiner; died.
  • Morris, Sigman Hugh B.; market gardening?; survived.
  • Murrell, Sigman Ronald M ‘Ginger?’; solicitor’s clerk; Moorgate, mother; letters; survived.
  • Nairn, Sigman H; wife, 3 children; letter; died.
  • Newton, Sigman Arthur H; printer’s apprentice; grandmother, friend; letters; died.
  • O’Donnel, Sigman HP; died.
  • Parker, Driver Ernest Bernard ‘Ernie’; tyre fitter; wife; letters; died.
  • Pawson, Sgt EW; survived.
  • Pike, Driver W; survived.
  • Plane, Driver John ‘Jack’; butcher; mother; letter; survived.
  • Potter, Sigman Thomas; wife; letters; survived.
  • Povey, Sigman N ‘Nobby’; PO engineer; wife, daughter; letters; survived.
  • Randle, Sigman Horace; timber selector; wife; letters; survived.
  • Russell, Sigman Leonard Charles ‘Len’; wireman at GPO; wife, 2 sons; letters; survived.
  • Sampson, L/Cpl Peter ‘Pat’; PO engineer; wife, mother; letters; survived.
  • Shaw, Driver Percy ‘Pip, Perce’; van driver; mother; letters; survived.
  • Sinclair, Sigman David ‘Davie’; sailed world; later GPO linesman; mother, brother; letters; survived.
  • Stewart, Cpl James; engineer for PO telephones; father; letters; survived.
  • Taylor, Sigman J A ‘Jacky’; linesman in PO engineering dept; wife, 1 son, 1 daughter; letters; survived.
  • Tomkinson, Sigman David Lloyd; electrician; fiancée; letters; died.
  • Wakeling, Sigman C ‘Ginger’; worked in jam factory; mother; letters; died.
  • Walls, L/Cpl John J ‘Scotty, Jock’; sister, wife; letters; survived.
  • Walstow, Sigman AE; died.
  • Whitton, Driver Lawrence ‘Larry/Lol’; in brickmaking; mother, wife, daughter; letters; survived.
  • Wilson, Sigman Charlie ‘Chuck’; bricklayer; mother; letters; died.
  • Woodend, J Driver Alf ‘Dabber’; shipyard labourer; mother; letters; died.

I would be very happy to hear from any members of the families of the men from 27 Line Section listed above or the additional men listed below, though I have very limited information about the latter. There are letters from the families of all those men who have the word ‘letters’ in the notes after their name.

Men added to Phyllis’s dossier for the War Office, but not in 27 Line Section. Their fates are for the most part unknown.
  • Bartram, Corporal Jim ‘Lofty; 2 Co East Surrey Reg; mother; letter
  • Black, Driver William G. ‘Bill’; RASC; wife; letter
  • Cassels, ? W. J.; A troop 49/48th LAA; wife; letter.
  • Gimson, Lieutenant George Stanley; Royal Artillery; mother; letters; survived.
  • Goldie, ? James; RASC; mother; letter
  • Gunn, Gunner Alexander; 155 Lanarkshire Yeomanry, later Signals & Wireless; mother; letter.
  • Hewitt, Private William ‘Muffin’; 2 company East Surrey Reg.; mentioned in Bartram letter.
  • Jennings, Co Sgt Major Norman Edward; ?; stock exchange; wife & daughter, letters
  • Kirkpatrick, Captain Scott McMurray ‘Kirk’; Straits Volunteer Force; Rubber Estate Manager; wife & son; letter; survived.
  • Lamont, Signalman Alex; Royal Signals; mother; letter.
  • MacArthur, Private James Neil; 2nd Bn Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders; piper; sister; letter.
  • McNicol, Signalman Alex; Royal Signals; mentioned in Lamont letter.
  • Monaghan, Signalman Hugh; Royal Signals; PO Linesman; girlfriend (no letter).
  • Murray, Signalman George Archibald Brown ‘GAB’; Royal Signals; PO engineer; wife; letter.
  • O’Neill, Corporal James ‘Sally’; Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders; regular army; mother; letter.
  • Peters, Signalman S.; Royal Signals; mother; letters
  • Renfrew, Sergeant Arthur; RAOC; fiancée; letter
  • Stewart, Lance Corporal James Albert (Albert); ?; Engineering dept of PO; father; letters; survived
  • Taylor, Gunner James ‘Jim’; 2/80 A/T reg. R. A.; father, letter.

28 thoughts on “27 Line Section

    • Thanks so much for looking here. I have just discovered that the email address I had here does not work, I have replaced it. I have numbers for these guys too, and a whole lot of scraps of information about them, plus photos of about half of them.

      • You seem well prepared, what exactly are you hoping I’ll discover? I’ve come across some rather interesting web sites.

      • Thank you for your interest. I cannot really imagine that there is anything out there. My father was the senior officer of the unit when they worked around Malaya before the Fall of Singapore, I have his letters home, but unless there are chance records somewhere mentioning the Unit, that as much info as I’m going to get. After the Fall, there is more information and good records, for instance at the Thailand Burma Railway Centre (TBRC) and the Imperial War Museum (IWM) (his senior officer kept a diary). My personal hope is to get in touch with more of the families, especially those to whom I can show letters.

  1. Following a letter to John Simpson drive,Stranraer I write about my grandfather from jsd Stranraer, William(jock) White, butcher. Ship transport was torpedoed and he was taken POW. Worked on the Burma railroad and knew many local men there too. Any information you have would be gratefully appreciated.
    Grandad never recovered full health and suffered terribly but spoke no ill of Japanese. He told dad, as a boy of catching/poaching all sorts of creatures in order the men survive as they were starved. He spoke of leech pits also. Hoping you can help us understand better. Many thanks

    • Hello Joanne, can you tell me what regiment your grandfather served with and which transport ship he was on? Every POW in the Far East had a different experience, as they were moved about so often and a lot depended on which camps they started or ended up in and who with. I hope I will be able to give you helpful information.

  2. Hello. Dad thinks it was 27, he and Bobby mcwhirter grew up together, schooled together, and possibly signed up together. Dad recollects family receiving word ship carrying troops over from Liverpool was torpedoed and the family were told no survivors. His mother remarried a soldier she met at Cairnryan army base within a few years……then after war, her ‘husband’ came home having spent years as Jap POW. He was told of letters sent by survivor’s to their family of how Jock (who was a butcher but keen poacher too!)had managed several times to sneak out, catch something edible and return with it for men who were starving. Whether this is storytelling I don’t know….. the eldest family member (93) recalls Jock talking of leech pits where the POW s spent long time, hence he developed COPD which eventually killed him. He never talked to dad thoroughly about his experiences but would never speak ill of the Japanese, only how everyone did their bit for king and country.
    My Dad is terminally ill, and I’m trying to find out more for his peace of mind. His own world was torn apart though his parents survived war, misinformation led to remarriage, leaving Stranraer for London etc. I’ve struggled gathering information so would be delighted with anything you may have.
    Dads cousin Donnie Nelson,Stranraer is local historian and also has little detail, though thoroughly knowledgeable of Galloway activities and folk during ww2.
    Regards, Joanne McQuillan

    • Hello, Joanne, I will be answering this more fully by email. This is one of the saddest stories. I am hoping that the information I have about how little those at home knew about what was happening in the Far East, will help your father. It sounds as if your grandfather may have been in the original 27 Line Section – there were 72 originally – but only 69 sailed together and reached Singapore together. Their ship, the Orontes, was not torpedoed.

  3. Pingback: #Bookreview Surviving the Death Railway: A Pow’s Memoir and Letters from Home by Hilary Custance Green (@HilaryCustanceG) A touching reminder of the people behind the history books and a well-deserved memorial – authortranslatorOlga

  4. Alex McNicol signalman mentioned in the Lamont letter, am sure was my grandfather. He is dead now but my granny is still alive and would love to read this.

    • Hello Trina, I am always so happy when someone from the families of these amazing men gets in touch with me. Can you email me at threadgoldpressATwaitroseDOTcom? I have a scan of the letter that mentions your grandfather and a photo of him with Alex Lamont, but I need to have some kind of clue to know that we are talking about the right person. Hilary

  5. Ah I mailed you at this one before but without the hyphen! Will explain more in the email.. will send now!

      • I ,misphrased that and apologise…. I put a hyphen in the email I sent yesterday! Have sent you a more detailed email.

  6. Hello just finished reading surviving the Death Railway having been loaned the book from Meg Parkes from liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. My uncle was John William Purcell Royal corps of signals 2589375 died at kinsaok camp on 7th August 1943 of cholera . I have a letter dated 5-12-45 from a major J English with a little information about his time in camp . I am waiting to hear from the national archives at Kew but just wondering have you ever come across the name in your research?

    • Hello Hilary, thanks for getting in touch. I’m so sorry to hear your uncle died on the railway but good to hear you are researching his life. I have looked at the only other list of names that I have, but without finding either Purcell or English amongst them (this is the list my father preserved of all the men he lent money to after his windfall very early in captivity). As a signalman he is very likely to have come into contact with my father or some of the men in his section at some stage during his time as a prisoner. I hope the National Archives can come up with more information. I have found Terry Manttan (admin@tbrconline.com) at the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre (TBRC) http://www.tbrconline.com/ extremely helpful at discovering details of individual men. You might also try Stephen Walton at the Imperial War Museum (SWalton@iwm.org.uk) who covers the whole of WWII. He is busy but also very helpful. While the Royal Signals Museum hold the file of letters from FEPOW families to my mother, they have not been very pro-active with their history and archives, but you might still try getting in touch with them. Martin Skipworth (HeadOfResearch@royalsignalsmuseum.co.uk) took over the research side as I was finishing my book. If you go there you will need advance notice, a passport etc. Do keep in touch (threadgoldpressATgmailDOTcom) and let me know how you get on.

  7. I am starting the process of piecing together my father’s experience during WW2 so that my sons and grandchildren have knowledge of this time in his life. He was Daniel McNicholl.
    I will contact you by email directly. Thank you for creating this site.

      • Hilary,

        I have been contacting my brother and sisters to ask them to retrieve any photos or letters relating to Dad’s time in the army. I have one picture, a letter dated 1-8-41 while on the Orontes and a couple of post war credit certificates. Happy to share with you. My email is danbo@3peaks.net
        Like many of his section, Dad never talked about his time as a POW. He did suffer nightmares that i remember from childhood. Mum was always nervous when he went back home to visit family as Ulster catholics who joined the British Army were not popular in Co Derry. His faith was a great source of strength to him through his life and he was a regular reader in church. The state visit by Hirohito made him stand up, switch off the TV and walk out of the house.

        I am posting this on your blog as I cannot see your email address on the Threadgold Press site.

        If you are still researching this period I am happy to talk to you about the little I know. Best regards, Danny

      • Hello Danny, I emailed you on the 11th May, but have heard nothing back. You may be waiting for the scans I promised to send, but I was waiting to hear from you and make sure we were in touch by email. If you have not seen my emails, perhaps you could check your spam/junk folder. If you have seen them, could you reply just to say you are there and we can go forward by email.
        All the best, Hilary

  8. Hi, I have been researching my great-uncle William Eric Dawson and discovered this page and all your research. I don’t know much about him except that he was captured in Singapore and worked on the Thailand-Burma railway. He was from Birmingham and I’m assuming it is the same person. I have a copy of his POW card but would love to know more about what happened to him during the war and especially after he was captured. Sadly, his mother died in 1942 just a few weeks/months before they received word that he was still alive.
    If you have any further information I would be really grateful.
    Many Thanks

    • hilarycustancegreen on May 17, 2020 at 11:35 am said:
      Hi Elaine, I am so pleased you are in touch. Your great-uncle is, I am sure, the cheeky-looking chap I know as Billy Dawson. I have scans of one letter from his father to my mother in 1944 and it mentions that his mother had died. I also have a scan of a lovely photo of him. Can you email me at threadgoldpressATgmailDOTcom (using symbols instead of the capitals), then we can correspond.

  9. My papa was danny mcnicholl that you mention. He too made stranraer his home.

    It was a shock to see his picture. Who took it ? Where and when? No answers I’m sure.

    He is listed as having his mother as next of kin but in actual fact he had my nana waiting for him in near by minigaff. They married and were together through thick and thin until their deaths in the early 90s.

    He returned to his old position with the post office and retired at 60 (as were the rules) and in 1976 left stranraer to run a pub in Cumbria. He was also a well known figure behind the bars in stranraer.

    • Hello Elliot, I am always very happy to be in touch with the relatives of the men who served with my father. Are you related to the Danny McNicholl who was in touch with me last year about his father (see the comments above) and was your great grandmother Rose McNicholl?Let me know that we are talking about the right person and I will share the materials I have. all the best, Hilary

      • Yes Danny is my uncle and Rose was my great grandmother although I never met her. She was from Garvagh in Northern Ireland. I do believe that my papa had 12 siblings and the majority made a good life in America but papa was number 11 and was not born until 1916 and thus adds to this narrative.

      • Hi Elliot, I never knew that about the 12 siblings! I will send you the material I sent Danny last year. There is also a book about 27 Line Section. I’ll explain in an email. All the best, Hilary

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