William Renshaw RAF

One of the last families we visited before we left England in 2018, was the family of Dennis Tearle and Betty nee Renshaw. We told them about our stop-over in Singapore, and Betty asked us if we could find out what happened to her beloved younger brother, William Renshaw. All she knew of the circumstances of his death was that he was killed when the Japanese invaded the island. Dennis suggested there was a large Commonwealth War Graves Commission site somewhere in Singapore. We promised we’d have a look, and as is usual with these things, what we found far exceeded what we had expected to see. A few weeks after we landed in New Zealand, I arranged all the photos that best illustrated our experience at the Kranji CWGC, then wrote an accompanying text for each photo. The result is below – as much as possible, word for word. I wrapped the printed photos and the story we had to tell in a large envelope, and sent the whole parcel to Dennis and Betty.

26 July 2018

Dear Dennis and Betty

While we were in Singapore, on the return journey to New Zealand, we took the bus to Kranji in the north of Singapore and, after a few miss-steps we found the CWGC Kranji War Memorial. There are an incredible number of names on the various plaques; these commemorate all those who died, but whose bodies were never found. There were huge plaques for the Royal Indian regiments, with literally thousands of names.

We arrived at the same time as a group of early high school students turned up, with flags and tokens, to explore the memorial and to commemorate the memory of those who had been killed. Near the end of their time, there was a moving little ceremony of remembrance, and a particularly beautiful rendition of The Last Post by a single bugler.

I will explain each of the numbered prints below, in order of their appearance.

State Cemetery. The cemetery is a co-operation with the CWGC, but it is on Singapore land.
Cemetery Gate. There is a long walk of about 200m from the road to the gate, and a small parking area between the gate and the entrance to the cemetery. We could see the children alighting from the bus and walking to the memorial. We did not interact with them, because we felt it would be a distraction. One of their teachers told me they all came from the same school, but they individually came from many countries. Some of the children were carrying the flag of their parent country.
These are the main gates to the memorial.
Note to visitors to the memorial and its significance to Singaporean history.
Close-up of the writing on the memorial gate.
There is a visitors book, and Elaine has signed for all of us.
It took a while to find the book that had William’s name, but it led us directly to Panel 430, where he and his comrades were memorialised. Here is his name, for Betty’s sake.
Here is the close-up of William’s name on the Kranji Memorial.
The children are lined up ready for their ceremony and you can see the CWGC Great Cross, and the spire of the memorial itself. It is truly a magnificent sight.
If I remember correctly, there were more than thirty books in the brass cabinet that contains these things – I have never seen so many in one place.
Here is the note in the Book of Remembrance with a very short version of William’s life.
Here is a stepped-away view of the memorial. It looks like a huge bomber about to take off. You can see the headstones in the cemetery, but they were very few in comparison with the numbers of those missing.
Between the Great Cross and the memorial itself, there is a small ante-room containing this huge plaque. Behind this memorial there is yet another wall with about five thousand names of those found after the memorial was finished. Most of the names were from the Royal Indian regiments.
Wing Church, beautiful and historic.
The headstone in all Saints, Wing, which has the details of William’s life and parents.

There is an uncomfortable codicil to this story. Squadron Leader Roger C Miller was on post with the RAF in Singapore after the war, and his wife was an aircraft controller. Elaine and I know him because he has ties to Sandridge. He told me that it was not well known, but after the Allies found out what the Japanese did to prisoners of war, both the RAF and the Americans destroyed ships carrying prisoners. The tactic deprived the Japanese of fresh intelligence, and the prisoners were spared the horrors of Japanese prisoner camps. He was sang-froid, but I found the situation deeply disturbing.

I hope we have given you a flavour of the Kranji War Memorial, and we send you and Betty all the very best.