CYRIL BEVAN 1904-1944

In Memory of Sergeant Cyril Bevan 848210

241 Bty., 77 H.A.A. Regt., Royal Artillery who died on Tuesday 24 October 1944 . Age 35 Son of Josiah and Sarah Jane Bevan; husband of Esther Ann Bevan, of Pentre, Glamorgan

On 1 January 1940 Battery 241 was added to the Heavy Artillery Anti-Aircraft Regiment: 77th (Welsh) H.A.A. My Aunt Betty remembers parting with uncle Cyril BEVAN, at Cardiff railway station. He was rejoining the regiment, she her war work, (building Churchill Tanks in Bedford). She remembers him as an impressive soldier.

Cyril sailed with Betty's husband on Convoy WS14 from Gourock, Glasgow . It was the day Pearl Harbour was attacked by the Japanese: 7 December 1941. The convoy arrived at Freetown Sierra Leone in time for Christmas. They continued on to Cape Town where they were allowed ashore. There were many Welsh miners in the 77 H.A.A. They were known by their singing, and attempts were made to entice them to the Gold Mines of Johannesburg.

When they reached the Indian Ocean the convoy split. Betty's husband was in The Royal Air Force and continued to the Middle East, while Cyril was diverted to protect the airfields of Java in the far East. The first attacks occurred there, on 3 February 1942. The Convoy arrived the next day, and were immediately under enemy fire as they unloaded. The Exeter replied, and shot down one aircraft. There was chaos around the dock as the Anti Aircraft Battery were deployed for protection. Of 77 HAA Reg.: 239 Battery stayed to defend Batava, while Cyril's Battery 241, and 242 were sent by express train toward Sourabaja the Dutch Naval base East Java. Some forty-five miles South of their destination they collided with a goods train and three officers and twelve other ranks were killed.

After more than eight weeks at sea, the survivors continued on by convoy to Sourabaja. On the 7 February Sourabaja was bombed. Fifty-one were killed and fifty-two injured, Cyril's Regiment: 77 Heavy Anti-Aircraft, accounted for three enemy aircraft in that raid. They were again attacked, and repulsed raiders on the 10th and 11th of February, and then there was a lull in the fighting as the enemy built up their forces, On 18 February British A.A. forces shot down five of the twenty-four aircraft attacking Sourabaja, while to the East of Java the Island of Bali fell to the enemy.

The war was becoming increasingly desperate in the Far East. Many "essential personel" were evacuated as Java became a lost cause. Churchill wrote:

In the event, with the exception of those units already diverted or able to arrange evacuation, the troops on Java would in the main fight it out against hopeless odds.

On 26 February 1942, with Java in a hopeless position, Churchill signalled to Air Vice Marshall Maltby in command of air forces:

I send you, all ranks of the British Army who have stayed behind in Java my best wishes for success and honour in the great fight that confronts you. Every day gained is precious, and I know you will do everything humanly possible to prolong the battle.

On the 27th February a small fleet left from Sourabaja including seven destroyers and three cruisers with HMS Essex, they engaged the approaching Japanese fleet returning from their sucess at Pearl Harbour. They attacked one hundred ships including ten cruisers (with 10-inch guns) without air cover they held up the invading force for one day before being overwhelmed.

The battle for the Java Sea was over, and soon after midnight of the 28th February the enemy landed at Java. The invasion was resisted and on the 7 March 1942 part of 77 (Welsh) Heavy AA regiment met up with B Troop 79 Battery. They intended to fight to the last, but the next day it became evident to the British Commanders that the Dutch (in overall command) were surrendering, and soon, they too were instructed to surrender, by a senior Dutch Officer.

A few days after the surrender Sitwell and other allied commanders were tortured to reveal where the Australian 1st Corps was. The Japanese could not believe they had fought only the troops they now held in captivity. To their cost, the Japanese later discovered that the Australian 1st had never disembarked at Java, and were now at New Guinea. Soon the Japanese were to have a disaster at the battle of Midway (3-7 June 1942). From September of 1942 surviving prisoners of the fight for Java were now scattered throughout Japanese Occupied Asia. Many were to die in appalling conditions in the prisoner of war camps. Some prisoners were sent to Japan where they witnessed the bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Some died while being transported by ship. In the appalling heat below deck, packed like sardines, they lay on the ballast, with rats running over their bodies. American Submarines sank some ships like the notorious Suez Maru, where those not drowned, were machine gunned in the water by the Japanese. Japanese soldier believed their prisoners were a gift, sent by Churchill to work as slaves for the Japanese people. These slave labourers were often forced by the Japanese to create "unsinkable aircraft carriers" from the tiny South China Sea Islands, with their bare hands.

Cyril's regiment 77 HAA unloaded supplies at Ambon on April 28 1943. On 7 Oct 1944, 450 prisoners were removed from Ambon on two wooden motor boats; One under Major Gibson, the other Major Mossford RA. Many had to be carried off the boats at Raha Moena (now known as Pula Muna), a tiny island South of Sulawesi. Camp Raha was known as the worst of the worst. From the 14 Oct to the end of the month 60 prisoners died at Raha, mainly from Beri-beri, with a few from dysentry. Cyril died Tuesday 24 October 1944 . Age 35. We understand he was mistreated for stealing food for his comrades.

Cyril was awarded the 1939-45 Star, the Pacific Star and the Defence Medal. His award of the Oak Leaf Emblem was recorded in a supplement to the London Gazette 12 September 1946:

The King has been graciously pleased to approve that the following be Mentioned in recognition of gallant and distinguished service while prisoners of war.

Royal Regiment of Artillery.
848210 Sgt. C. Bevan

Cyril Bevan survived two and a half years in captivity. While a prisoner of the Japanese: his second daughter was born on the other side of the world. He is now buried at Ambona War Cemetery in Indonesia. Ω

signature of Howard Fear