Forenames: William John

Surname: Bennell

Date of Birth: 08 Aug 1913

Place of Birth: New Norfolk, Tasmania

Father: John Walter ("Jack") Bennell

Mother: Louisa Bennell née Osborne

Siblings: Frank Tasman, Elaine Louisa, Rita V.

Date of Marriage: 06 Jun 1938

Spouse: Doris Marguerite Harding

War Service

Battalion / Unit: 21 Lt. A.A. Regt.

Regiment / Service: Royal Artillery

Rank: Gunner

Service Number: 1555676    


Father born at Nettlebed, living at The Gardens, Millfield, Cobham in 1911, occupation gardener.

Mother born in Mile End, living with brother in High Street, Cobham in 1911, working in family greengrocers' shop.

Uncle William was born in Australia but grew up in Cobham from the age of 6.

Parents returned from Australia in 1920; living at 21 Mount Cottages, Cobham, then 3 Albert Cottages, Tartar Hill, Cobham by 1939. Married at St. Andrew's Church, Cobham. Living with wife at 17 Rectory Close, Byfleet in 1939, occupation grocer's roundsman.

Enlisted to Royal Artillery. 21 L.A.A. Regt. on 20th of March 1940 at Kingston, Surrey.

Posted to 79 Light A. A. Battery at Walton-on-Thames and sailed from the Clyde in Convoy WS14

on 6th December 1941, arriving Batavia 4th February 1942.

William was in B troop of the 79 battery and they remained in Java. Troops A and C of the 79 battery were sent to Timor. B Troop of the 79th, with 48th and 69th Batteries deployed at airfields in eastern Java before retreating to Tasikmalaja. Captured 8th March 1942 by the Japanese in Java. In April 1943 over 2000 British POWs were sent to Ambon and Haruku islands to build airfields. 5 men of 21 L.A.A. Regt. were buried at Liang, Ambon.

After World War II a collar for each of the people in Cobham, who were killed in the war, were fitted to a row of cherry trees. Over the years most of the collars went missing. A new war memorial was erected in 2009. In 2023 the Cobham Historical Society decided to replace the missing collars. This was completed in September. Relatives were invited to an event to see the collars on the 11th of November.

CWGC Date of Death: 29 Nov 1943

CWGC Plot Reference: Column 13

Memorial to the Missing: Singapore Memorial




CWGC Link:


Research copyright (c) John Bennell

Gunner William Bennell

8 August 1913 ~ 29 November 1943

William and Doris Bennell (c) Bennell Family

(c) Bennell Family

(c) Bennell Family

(c) Bennell Family

(c) Bennell Family

The front of the card (except English sections)

Camp - the three vertical lined characters - JAVA  (1942 (17th year of the the emperors reign) August 15th)

Nationality given as British/English

Place of capture - JAVA, and another character,

PoW number: The box marked No. is the PoW number a man had. I think the crossing out denotes when the PoW was transferred (for the SM men) to the Moluccas.

So I think originally at Java Base, then [moved to] Java Camp III (3). Camp (3) beling Ambon.

The two red vertical stamps on either side of the main box have been translated as ‘Supplement’ and ‘Telegraphed’ - relates to the ‘processing' of the deaths, sending (via telegram)

The red diagonal line across the whole front of the page is a rather callous way to indicate the person was deceased.

Image (c) TNA WO345

Reverse of the index card

Top line: Other Informations

noted that a stamp was made for the first section of red text, and a smaller (4-character) stamp for the end of the same line; the Japanese text  translated-

2nd line: The ship was on its way to deliver the prisoners when it was hit by a thunderstorm. [4 characters after small gap] Suez Maru

3rd line: When the attack happened. [date - 18th year of emperor's reign, 11th month, 29th of the month: 1943, November 29th]  18.11.29 [time of sinking] 09:20   [KA text here - unclear what this refers to]

4th line: [first text, then coordinates] Where the attack happened S 6  20'  E 116  30’  [description of location of sinking] North of Bali Island near Kangayan [Kangean] Island.

Some reverses have additional information, but for the vast majority (of Suez Maru men), their card reverses are identical

Image (c) TNA WO345

Far East PoW Japanese Index Card

William Bennell (c) Bennell Family