Service number: 5833070 | Rank: Private | Regiment: 4th Btn. Suffolk Regiment.
Died, July 29, 1943.
Remembered at THANBYUZAYAT WAR CEMETERY, Myanmar. B4. C. 2.
Aged 29. Son of Mr. and Mrs. W. Norton; husband of Olive Norton, of Brandon, Suffolk.
WHAT I KNOW ABOUT SYDNEY …
Sydney was born in 1913 and his birth was registered in the final quarter of that year. His mother’s maiden name was given as Spooner. Sydney’s marriage to Olive (nee Grass) was registered in Thetford, in the summer of 1937.
The fact that Sydney was in the 4th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment, would indicate he volunteered as a Territorial in 1939 to defend the British mainland from a potential German invasion. A couple of years of training followed before the men of the 4th Suffolks, during October 1941, embarked on “S.S. Andes”, at Liverpool and were destined for Egypt. First port of call was Canada, where the men transferred to a huge troopship, “U.S.S. Wakefield”, capable of carrying 4,600 men across the Atlantic. In December the ship docked in Cape Town, South Africa. The plan was to then sail north up the east coast of Africa, going through the Suez and docking in Egypt. However the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor put British-held territories in South East Asia under threat from the Japanese Imperial Army. The troopships were then diverted to Singapore.
On 29th January 1942 the troopships eventually docked at Singapore. The 4th Suffolks were thrown straight into the defence of Singapore, suffering heavy casualties. On 15th February the British surrendered Singapore to the Japanese Imperial Army and 450 men of the 4th Suffolks were taken prisoner, which included Sydney Norton.
By the end of the year it was suggested that 50% of the men were suffering sickness, chiefly diarrhea or malaria. In 1943 the men were put to work on the infamous “Death Railway”. At the end of April the men were marched almost 95 miles in a week, ending at Camp 203-Kilo, Mantona. By this time the men numbered 255. Over the coming weeks the men worked on the railway, or were force marched to their next camp. Meagre rice rations were supplemented with whatever meat the men could forage – pig, rat, cat, or whatever animal wandered into the camp. During this time many men died from sickness, starvation or beatings meted out by the guards. Sydney was one of those to die while in the custody of the Japanese. He was buried close by and his body exhumed in December 1945, re-buried in Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery. He was 29 years old.