Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1944, Sergeant Errol Frederick Eckford, 3rd (Penang and Province Wellesley Volunteer Corps) Battalion, Straits Settlement Volunteer Force, died while being held as a prisoner of the Japanese.
Sergeant Eckford was educated at Lancing College, where he excelled in academic subjects as well as sports. He had been born in China due to his father’s work as a merchant, and educated in England. On leaving school in 1934 he returned, shortly afterwards moving to Penang. There he worked as an engineer for Borneo Motors, and then enlisted with the Straits Settlement Volunteer Force. This was a military reserve force in the Straits Settlements while they were under British rule.
In February of 1942, Sergeant Eckford was captured in Singapore by the Japanese and interned in Changi Prison. Just over a year later he was part of the one-thousand strong E Force sent out on a former Dutch cargo ship to Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu) in the northern part of Borneo. In the summer of 1944 he was among a hundred British and Australian prisoners who were set to work on setting up a camp on the island lf Labuan in order to construct an airstrip to protect the anchorage at Victoria Harbour and in Brunei Bay. Two hundred new prisoners arrived within weeks, but by October malnutrition, mistreatment and malaria had caused dozens of deaths.
Sergeant Eckford contracted malaria and beri beri, which combined with the conditions at the camp proved to be fatal. He was buried in the camp cemetery, and is remembered on the Singapore Memorial which stands in the Kranji War Cemetery.
Errroll was 29 years old.