Lance Corporal Herbert Hardwick Humphrey

18th Divisional Provost Coy., Corps of Military Police

Town Memorial World War II

Lance Corporal

Service Number 7690040
Died 17/10/1943
Aged 33
18th Divisional Provost Coy.
Corps of Military Police
Location: Myanmar
Cemetery/memorial reference: B6. Q. 5.

Historical Information
The notorious Burma-Siam railway, built by Commonwealth, Dutch and American prisoners of war, was a Japanese project driven by the need for improved communications to support the large Japanese army in Burma. During its construction, approximately 13,000 prisoners of war died and were buried along the railway. An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 civilians also died in the course of the project, chiefly forced labour brought from Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, or conscripted in Siam (Thailand) and Burma (Myanmar).

Two labour forces, one based in Siam and the other in Burma worked from opposite ends of the line towards the centre. The Japanese aimed at completing the railway in 14 months and work began in October 1942. The line, 424 kilometres long, was completed by December 1943.

The graves of those who died during the construction and maintenance of the Burma-Siam railway (except for the Americans, whose remains were repatriated) were transferred from camp burial grounds and isolated sites along the railway into three cemeteries at Chungkai and Kanchanaburi in Thailand and Thanbyuzayat in Myanmar.

Thanbyuzayat became a prisoner of war administration headquarters and base camp in September 1942 and in January 1943 a base hospital was organised for the sick. The camp was close to a railway marshalling yard and workshops, and heavy casualties were sustained among the prisoners during Allied bombing raids in March and June 1943. The camp was then evacuated and the prisoners, including the sick, were marched to camps further along the line where camp hospitals were set up. For some time, however, Thanbyuzayat continued to be used as a reception centre for the groups of prisoners arriving at frequent intervals to reinforce the parties working on the line up to the Burma-Siam border.

Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery was created by the Army Graves Service who transferred to it all graves along the northern section of the railway, between Moulmein and Nieke.

There are now 3,149 Commonwealth and 621 Dutch burials of the Second World war in the cemetery.

Surrey Advertiser
Saturday 22 May 1943
Mr. J. F. Humphrey, of Highwoods, Leatherhead, has received the news that his son, Corpl. H. Humphrey, Corps of Military Police, who was reported missing after the fall of Singapore is a prisoner of war in Japanese hands.

Surrey Advertiser
Saturday 03 November 1945
Information has been received that L/Corpl. Herbert H. Humphrey, Corps of Military Police, died from pneumonia in a hospital at Burma on October 10th, 1943. Formerly on the staff of the Borough Treasurer at Guildford, he had been employed in the Borough Treasurer’s department of the Slough Borough Council since November, 1933. L/Corpl. Humphrey, whose wife, formerly Miss Hunter, is employed at the Municipal Offices, Guildford, joined H.M. Forces in October, 1940, and was captured at Singapore in February, 1942. His father lives at Compton, Highwoods, Leatherhead [He was listed in the 1939 England & Wales Register at 10 Highwoods].

The UK Allied Prisoners of War 1939-1945 records list him and he appears in 1633/1: Far East: Unreported Allied Prisoner of War Death.

His life

He was born on 19th April 1911 and baptised at St John's, Knaphill, Surrey (archived by Holy Trinity Church, Knaphill, Surrey) on 6 July 1911. His entry in the Baptism Register is preceded by that of his brother Charles Henry Humphrey who was then aged 5.

His father was John Frederick Humphrey, born 22 March 1871 at Fetcham, Surrey, a Master Butcher. He died in 1961.
His mother was Jessie/Jessica Maude Mary Humphrey née Rooksby, born  4 February 1869 at Irthlingborough, Northamptonshire, and died in 1931.
They were married on 26 December 1900 at St Mary's, Fetcham, Surrey. Her father, Jacob Rooksby, was described as a Boot Manufacturer.

At the time of Herbert's baptism in 1911 the family were living at Connaught Road, Brookwood, Surrey and in the Census that year two brothers Frederick Roy and John Fillingham were also listed.

Herbert's father John Frederick Humphrey remarried in 1934 to Irene Senior in Mere, Somerset. In February 1936 they had a son Robin Senior Humphrey, who died in 2015. In the 1939 England & Wales Register Irene is recorded as attached to Surrey 22 Red Cross, Assistant Pharmacist. She and John Frederick Humphrey and young Robin were living at 10 Highwoods, Leatherhead. 

In 1940 Herbert Humphrey married Olwen Forence Hunter at Guildford Cathedral:
Surrey Advertiser
Saturday 17 August 1940
The wedding took place at the Cathedral Church, Guildford, on Sunday, of Mr. Herbert Hardwick Humphrey, youngest son of Mr. and the late Mrs. J. F. Humphrey, of Compton, Highwoods, Leatherhead, and Miss Olwen Florence Hunter, only daughter of Mrs. J. F. Hunter, of The Top House, Dapdune-road, Guildford. The bride was for nine years in the town clerk’s department at Guildford Municipal Offices, and the bridegroom was formerly on the staff of the Guildford Corporation, and is now in the treasurer’s department of Slough Borough Council.

The wedding was conducted by the Rev. P. V. Bruckin, and Mr. J. A. Sowerbutts was the organist. The bride was given away by Mr. E. Hillman (friend), and wore a dress of ivory taffeta broche. She had a pill-box hat, with a veil and silver shoes. Mr. John Humphrey (brother of the bridegroom) was best man, and the groomsmen were Mr. Owen F. Hunter and Mr. Gerald O. Hunter. A reception of 50 guests was held at Nuthall’s Restaurant. The bride wore, when leaving on honeymoon, an Angora dress of Air Force blue. Among nearly 100 presents were a canteen of cutlery from the staff of Guildford Municipal Offices, and a refectory table from the Slough Borough Council staff.

Herbert's Probate Record is dated 26 April 1946:
HUMPHREY Herbert Hardwick of 34 Daphne Rd Guildford died 17 October 1943 in Burma Probate London 26 April to John Gillingham [Fillingham] Humphrey and Frederick Roy Humphrey master butchers Effects £925 13s 8d.

John and Frederick were two of his brothers.

The 1950 Kelly's Directory for Leatherhead lists Humphrey Bros, Butchers, 14 High Street, Leatherhead. Herbert evidently had decided to follow a different career path, in local government.


Royal Military Police

the website editor would like to add further information on this casualty
e.g. a photo of him, his headstone, and of any recollections of him

last updated 5 June 20