Kenneth Jack Howell
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Kenneth is from Coogee Beach, Cockburn, near Perth, Western Australia.
Kenneth Jack HOWELL (Private)
WX5181, 2/4th Machine Gun Batttalion, Australian Imperial Forces
Australian 1939-45 Service Medal
(also entitled to 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star, 1939-45 War Medal - all missing)
Kenneth Jack Howell served in 10 platoon, "C" company as part of the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion who were sent to the defence of Singapore at the beginning of 1942. Upon arrival as one of only two machine gun battalions available for the defence they were quickly split up. "C" company was sent to support the Indian 44th Brigade in their defensive positions at the junctions of the Reformatory and Ulu Padan roads along the path of the expected Japanese assault.
The full force of the Japanese attack fell on the Indian 44th Brigade and their supporting Australians on the 11th February 1942. During the savage fighting the Indians lost over half their number and Kenneth Howell was sadly killed by a mortar bomb.
After the fall of Singapore, the Japanese had successfully advanced over 650 miles, taking 9,824 battle casualties. The British forces losses, amounted to 8,708 killed or wounded and 130,000 captured. The Australians made up the majority.
In all the confusion it was nearly impossible to keep proper records. Kenneth was simply listed among the "Missing" on a list compiled in July that year. On the 29th June 1944, Kenneth's Mother contacted the war office to enquire about an update regarding her son. No further information was available.
The Japanese finally surrendered on 2nd September 1945 and all remaining prisoners of war were finally released. (* see footnote)
On arrival back in Australia, the returning POWs began to recount their experiences, as well as try to help fill in the blanks regarding missing men. It was established that Kenneth Jack Howell had, indeed been killed in action on 11th February 1942. His Mother was finally informed on the 3rd October 1945.
Kenneth's body was never recovered and he is remembered, with honour on the (Kranji) Singapore Memorial along with over 24,000 others.
The memorial was unveiled on 2nd March 1957. The design of the central memorial represents the three branches of military: the army – its precise pillars; the air force – its soaring ‘wings’; and the navy – its steady ‘periscope’. The entrance stone reads "THEY DIED FOR ALL FREE MEN".
37,583 prisoners from the United Kingdom, Commonwealth and Dominions, 28,500 from Netherlands and 14,473 from the United States were released after the surrender of Japan.
According to the findings of the Tokyo Tribunal, the death rate of Western prisoners was 27.1%, seven times that of POWs under the Germans and Italians. At the end of the war, the Japanese Armed Forces destroyed all documents related to the POW Camps. Furthermore, the Japanese Government had been very negligent in keeping records of such historical facts during the war.
The POWs had been subject to murder, beatings, summary punishment, brutal treatment, forced labour, medical experimentation, starvation rations and poor medical treatment. The most notorious use of forced labour was in the construction of the Burma–Thailand 'Death Railway'.
In addition to the number of POWs who reached Japanese camps, approximately 11,000 POWs tragically lost their lives when allied air and submarine forces attacked the ships transporting the POWs to Japan. Cruelly & ironically the Japanese frequently painted supply ships with Red Crosses, yet did not do the same for those vessels that actually deserved these markings.