Leatherhead War Memorials
Two members of the Sturt family of Leatherhead, John and George, are among the service dead of WWII but are not included on the Town War Memorial. Both were officers in the Royal Artillery.
They are commemorated on a family grave in the churchyard of SS Mary & Nicholas Leatherhead. Susan Howatch, the novelist, is the daughter of Captain George Sturt.
The wreath was put back where it was found after this photo was taken on 1st August 2004. The headstone has been since been replaced see 2015 photo
Eric Evans writes: In researching my genealogy, I've been working on my grandmother's brother, [Joseph Andrescavage] who was a gunner on a B-24 bomber that crashed in China. All aboard were killed. His squadron was being used to fly fuel and supplies from India over the Himalayas to the Chinese and United States Army Air Forces based in China.
2004: source Haslam
2018: source Haslam
I've got a copy of the aircraft accident report and, in addition to the 8 man crew, it lists a Captain GS Sturt, Royal Artillery, serial number 156965.
I've been in contact with his daughter, Susan Howatch, who says that George's brother John Sturt was prisoner of the Japanese.
In Dec 2010 Susan Howatch's daughter Antonia added further findings by Eric Evans: Although it was originally reported that John was killed in the sinking of a Japanese transport ship on March 5th 1943 when American planes bombed a Japanese transport ship that turned out to be carrying several hundred PoWs, thatís not how they actually died.
"John Edward Sturt was part of whatís come to be called the 600 Gunners. In October 1942 the Japanese shipped 600 Royal Artillary POWs from the Changi prison in Singapore to Rabaul on the island of New Britain in the Solomon Islands. At the end of November, 517 of the men, including your uncle were shipped to Ballale Island (part of the Solomons: Editor - also spelt Bailale). There the Japanese used them to construct an airfield. When they finished the Japanese killed any men who had survived the horrible treatment, starvation and disease.
The Japanese told the Red Cross that the men had been killed when the ship they were on was sunk, but after the war Australian forces re-occupied the island and the mass graves were discovered. In the end 436 bodies were exhumed and laid to rest in the Port Moresby War Cemetery in Papua New Guinea. None of the men taken to Ballale survived."
The editor adds: The CWGC record for Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery states "The unidentified soldiers of the United Kingdom forces were all from the Royal Artillery, captured by the Japanese at the fall of Singapore; they died in captivity and were buried on the island of Ballale in the Solomons. These men were later re-buried in a temporary war cemetery at Torokina on Bougainville Island before being transferred to their permanent resting place at Port Moresby." That would explain why although John Sturt is named on the Singapore Memorial as having No Known Grave, he almost certainly lies in Port Moresby War Cemetery among his fellow gunners, all of them with no known individual grave. A photograph of the cemetery can be seen via its CWGC page.
Antonia says "my mother and I feel very strongly that the most important thing now is for the truth to be known".
The recent generations of the Sturt family have recently re-established their connections with Leatherhead.
Name: STURT, GEORGE STANFORD
Regiment: Royal Artillery
Date of Death: 08/08/1944
Service No: 156965
Son of Frank and Zara Sturt; husband of Ann Sturt, of Leatherhead, Surrey.
Grave/Memorial Reference: I. C. 10.
Cemetery: SAI WAN WAR CEMETERY
Captain George Stanford Sturt's grave in Sai Wan Cemetery, Hong Kong "Born in Epsom Surrey, England, he was the son of Francis Edward and Zara Beatrice Irene Sturt. He was killed when American B-24J bomber serial number 44-40846 crashed twenty miles south of Luliang, China. All aboard were killed. The aircraft was part of the 10th Air Force, 7th Bombardment Group, 9th Bombardment Squadron. The Squadron was being used to fly fuel and supplies from India over the Himalayas to the Chinese and United States Army Air Forces based in China. Sturt, a member of the British Royal Artillery, was flying as a member of the crew in the capacity of qualified Armorer-Gunner-Observer. A stockbroker in civilian life, Sturt was survived by his wife Ann and daughter Susan."
The Epsom & Ewell History Explorer website also has information about George Sturt
Name: STURT, JOHN EDWARD
Regiment: Royal Artillery
Date of Death: 05/03/1943
Service No: 156870
Son of Francis Edward and Zara Beatrice Irene Sturt, of Epsom, Surrey.
Grave/Memorial Reference: Column 3.
Cemetery: SINGAPORE MEMORIAL
The Epsom & Ewell History Explorer website also has information about John Sturt
Two other Royal Artillery men from Leatherhead are known to have suffered the same fate as John: George Shaylor Mundy and James Walter Rowland.
Both John and George are listed in the Borough of Epsom and Ewell Book of Remembrance which is kept in Epsom Town Hall - this is their page in that Book.
They were both at Haileybury School and are on their Roll of Honour:
- George Stanford Sturt
- John Edward Sturt
Royal Artillery Association
Far East POW Community
The Ballale Island Gunners - report by liberating forces
Pacific Wrecks - Ballale Island - has links to wartime aerial photos
page last updated 5 May 15: CWGC links updated 7 Nov 17: 19 Dec 18: 18 Aug 20