WX16407 LACEY GORDON GIBBS was younger brother to Jim Gibbs. He enlisted 25 August 1941 and joined his brother in ‘D’ Company. Lacey and Jim survived the battle at Singapore, became POWs of Japan at Singapore on 15 February 1942.
Lacey and Jim were sons of Jabesz and Florence Gibbs.
Lacey was 27 years old when he lost his life in South China Sea.
‘A’ Force made up of 3,000 POWs, departed Singapore Harbour 14 May 1942, sailing for the south west coast of Burma to Victoria Point where most of Green Force (about 1,000 men) was offloaded to either repair and enlarge the aerodrome or working on the wharf loading/unloading cargo, most of which was of fuel. The remaining POWs sailed to Tavoy or Ye to again repair/enlarge aerodromes left damaged by the British prior to their evacuation of Burma.
By mid September 1942, the three airfields were completed and POWs began making their journeys to Thanbyuzayat (head of the railway in Burma). Journeys included marches and various small boat trips.
Their first work Camp was Kendau 4.8 km, Thetkaw 14km, Meiloe 75km, and finally Augganaung 105km from May to December 1943 when the Japanese informed the men the railway was completed. The POWs had slaved through the wet season existing on little food, Japanese bashings and tropical illnesses and tropical ulcers.
The POWs were now moved south to one of the larger Camps in Thailand, including Tamarkan and Kanchanaburi. Those too ill to survive the journey by train were left in the care of POW medical staff and died in Burma.
It was at these Thai Camps men considered ‘fit’ were selected by the Japanese to work in Japan with what would become known at ‘Rakuyo Maru’ party. The journey first included a train trip to French Indo-China to Saigon where it was planned the men would leave by ship for Japan. After several weeks in Saigon during which time the POWs worked on the wharves, the Japanese conceded the American Submarines had too successfully blockaded their ships leaving Saigon.
The decision was made to return POWs by train to Singapore where several weeks after their arrival the men were finally crammed into the hull of ‘Rakuyo Maru’ which sailed out of Singapore Harbour and was sunk by an American submarine about 14 September 1944. Only a small number of POWs were miraculously saved from the South China Sea.