5950504 Private Francis Edward (Ted) Rogers, 5th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment
Born 28th November 1919 in Ashridge Park
Died 25th July 1943 in Thailand
Francis Edward (Ted) Rogers was born in Ashridge Park, the only child of Francis Henry (Frank) Rogers and Lily, née Attenborough. His father was a Gardener and later a Garden Labourer; he had fought in the First World War and served in the Home Guard during the Second World War, until he reached his 65th Birthday.
From 1920 Ted’s family fostered two brothers: Thomas George (Tim) Sear, born 24th September 1912 and Charles Frederick (Fred) Sear, born in 1915; their parents had died during the First World War. Tim and Fred’s surname later became Sears. When Ted was young, the Rogers family lived at 39 Ashridge Park, now part of Cherry Tree Cottage in Alderton Drive; by 1930 they had moved to 2 Ashridge Cottages. In January 1932, Ted’s mother Lily died. In the 1939 Register, Ted and his father are shown living at 3 Little Gaddesden with his father’s cousin Alice, who kept house.
Ted attended Little Gaddesden School until he was 14. He is shown in photos taken in 1926 and 1930.
Ted and his foster brothers are on the front row of the 1926 photo: Ted Rogers, aged about 6½, is 2nd from left; Tim Sears, aged nearly 14, is in the middle and Fred Sears, aged about 11 is 3rd from right. May Batchelor, who later married Tim, is seated on the right hand end of the 2nd row.
In this 1930 photo, also from the School Archive, 10 year old Ted is shown on the left hand side. He is the 2nd boy from the left, standing behind two girls in white dresses and below a very dark section of window. He is wearing a dark jacket and an open necked white shirt.
On leaving school, Ted initially found it hard to obtain work. He was taken on by Sainsbury’s in Berkhamsted, first part time then full time. In the 1939 Register he is recorded as a “Butcher & Provision Shop Warehouse-man”.
Ted enlisted into the Suffolk Regiment in 1939, serving in the 5th Battalion, a Territorial unit.
A summary of the 5th Battalion’s activities, from the War Memoirs of Ken Bailey, is included on the COFEPOW (Children and Families of the Far East Prisoners of War) website. 7
Initial training 7
On 18th January 1940 the men of the 5th Suffolks reported to North Walsham for initial training. For a few months they undertook guard duties at river bridges, and coastal defence at Hemsby and in and around local stately homes. Further training followed at Fulbourn, Hawick, Liverpool, Anglesey and Leominster. Whilst at Leominster in early October 1941, by then a fully trained, efficient and well-equipped fighting unit, they were informed that were to go overseas, possibly to the Middle East.
To service overseas 7
Three months at sea followed. On 27th October 1941 they left Liverpool aboard the troopship “Reina del Pacifico”, to cross the Atlantic, docking at Halifax, Nova Scotia on 8th November.
Next day they set sail aboard the troopship “Wakefield” for Port of Spain, Trinidad. This ship was previously an ocean liner, comfortable and with a very friendly, American crew. They arrived in Port of Spain to re-fuel and re-stock on 17th November.
On 19th November they continued toward Cape Town, where they were treated to splendid views of Table Mountain and three days leave. Here they learnt that Pearl Harbour had been attacked and America was now involved in the War.
On 13th December they left Cape Town for Bombay, enjoying wonderful weather as they crossed the Indian Ocean. They arrived on 27th December, disembarked and, after a very uncomfortable overnight train journey, were accommodated in former Indian Army barracks at Ahmadnagar. Training exercises, route marches and sports helped to get them fit again after the three month voyage from England.
On 15th January 1942 the 5th Suffolks re-joined their ship at Bombay and were told they were heading for Singapore and should be prepared to fight the Japanese.
In Singapore 7
The 5th Suffolks disembarked at Singapore on 29th January 1942. They were “surprised and more than a little dismayed” to learn that the remnants of the R.A.F. were on board a ship leaving Singapore for Java. To the troops sailing into Singapore “it was unmistakably and painfully obvious that they were doomed”.
Over the next two days, while British, Australian, Indian and Malayan troops fought a rear-guard action in South Malaya, the 5th Suffolks took up a position at Ponggol Point in North East Singapore, overlooking the Straits of Johor causeway between Singapore and mainland Malaya. They were pinned down by Japanese mortar fire and forced to withdraw several miles to the area of Bukit Timah Road.
On 31st January the allied forces withdrew from Malaya along the causeway and on 8th February the Japanese attacked across it. The Suffolks received no orders or instructions; they were attacked by machine gun and rifle fire and mortar bombs.
On Sunday 15th February 1942, Singapore surrendered. The 5th Suffolks disposed of rifles, machine guns, small arms ammunition and grenades by dropping them in the malarial drains and amongst the mangroves. As part of a Brigade considered to be a well-trained and efficient fighting force, they had travelled 20,000 miles just to surrender. 100,000 men, including Ted Rogers, were taken prisoner at Singapore.
Ted spent the next 17 months as a Prisoner of War of the Japanese. He was moved to Thailand, where he worked on the Thai/Burma Railway.
On 25th July 1943, 23 year old Private Ted Rogers succumbed to Beri-Beri whilst a Prisoner of War in Thailand. His Prisoner of War Record shows his PoW Camp as “Thailand or 4D Camp”.
Commemoration in Singapore 9
Private Francis Edward Rogers has no known grave. He is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial, Column 56, in the alphabetical list of Private Soldiers in the Suffolk Regiment. His name is recorded as “Rogers, F.E.”
We will remember them
Edward Rogers is commemorated on the Little Gaddesden War Memorials on the village green and in St Peter & St Paul’s Church.
On his CWGC Debt of Honour entry, Edward is recorded as “Son of Francis and Lilly Rogers of Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire”. It is believed that Berkhamsted was named as the nearest town, as his father Francis continued to live in Little Gaddesden until his death in 1959.
2. Little Gaddesden Baptism Register 1813 – 1947
5. Little Gaddesden School Archive and Log Books 1906 – 1934 & 1934 – 1963
6. Leonhardt, John (ed), 2002, A Century Remembered – a celebration of the Millennium in Little Gaddesden, Rural Heritage Society of Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Ashridge.
Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson