Dennis Edward Chaplin
5775770, Lance Corporal Dennis Edward Chaplin, Age 26
6th Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment
Died 18 July 1943
Lance Corporal 5775770, 6th Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment. Died 18/07/1943. Age 26.
Born in Creeting St Mary, 26th March 1917, Dennis was the middle of three sons of Charles William Chaplin and of Mabel Masterson nee Stannard. Their father Charles died in 1918. His older brother Sydney Charles Chaplin b. 22nd September 1914 is found living in Graham Road, Walton with his wife in 1939. His younger Cyril was born 7th February 1918. In 1939 Dennis is living with his mother & step-father George Prew at Quinton Lane, Felixstowe, working as a butcher's roundsman.
The 6th Battalion was mobilised 1st September 1939, by November they had reached a strength of 785. Through the bad winter of early 1940 they were stationed at Sheringham and assisted with snow clearing, they had limited training during this time. In the spring they became coastal defence for Norfolk. In January 1941 they moved to Scotland for intensive training, not knowing at this time they were going to end up in the Far East. Training carried on at various locations throughout the year until October 27th when they boarded the "Duchess of Atholl" bound for Halifax, Nova Scotia. They called it the "Drunken Duchess" because she pitched & rolled so much, which made some sea sick. In Halifax they transferred to the USS Mount Vernon & headed for Trinidad to refuel, then Cape Town. From Cape Town they headed to Bombay only to be ordered to sail for Mombasa then finally Singapore.
They reached Singapore Harbour 13th January 1942. Preparations were made to move the troops to Malaya, with no jungle training they were put straight into the Battle for Malaya. The battalions task was to cover the lines of communication with the 45 Infantry Brigade who were under heavy attack near Muar. On the 20th January the Japanese attacked from front & also manage to infiltrate from behind and attack from the rear cutting off "C" and "D" Company. "C" Company were separated & lost contact, "D" Company stayed together but were in a dire position. On the 22nd now with less than two companies they were ordered to withdraw to Yong Peng. On the 23rd the battalion were moved to Skudai, then the next morning up to Benut where they were to keep the road open for the 5th Norfolks & 2nd Cambridgeshire, again they were infiltrated from the rear. Late on the 26th the bridge at Senggarang was blown & 250 transport vehicles destroyed. The troops were ordered to find their way back through the jungle. Around 200 men made their way to Ponggor where they were taken by gun boats back to Singapore.
Here they were reorganised under command of the 11th Indian Division & made responsible for defending the north side of the island. The coastal defences were worked on at night to avoid the daytime shelling & bombs. The Japanese still managed to infiltrate. On the 14th February they withdrew to support the 5th Royal Norfolks at Braddell Road. At 4pm Singapore capitulated. Three and a half years of torment and hunger then followed where one in three died in the Japanese prisoner of war camps.
Dennis was taken prisoner 15th February 1942. He appears to have been prisoner of war at Changi & would have spent some time working on the railway, he died 18th July 1943, his cause of death being given as Indigestion now deemed to be Cholera. Buried at Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, Thailand.
Grave at Kanchanaburi War Cemetery
The Norfolk Regiment
Far East Prisoner of War Report
USS Mount Vernon