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Private Raymond Suttle

Raymond Suttle (private collection, reproduced courtesy of Diane Bayliss)

Raymond Suttle was born in 1920, the son of Charles and Eva Suttle of Hadleigh. He was one of the many men of the 4th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment who were captured at the fall of Singapore in February 1942. The Suffolk Regiment had been in Singapore less than a month when the Allies were forced to surrender.

Raymond spent nearly two years as a Japanese Prisoner-of-War, being transferred between different camps. By December 1943 he was in Muroran camp on Hokkaido island in northern Japan. He died there on 23rd December, aged 23. News of his death did not reach his parents until December 1945.

Raymond appears in a secret diary kept by Major Francis J. Murray, an Irish doctor who acted as chief medical officer in the prison camps he was confined in. He recorded that Raymond died after spending several days in solitary confinement without even a blanket in sub-zero conditions. Major Murray’s son, Paul Murray, has spent four years trying to track down the relatives of the 13 men who died on his father’s watch and who are mentioned in his diary. In 2017 he managed to find Raymond’s niece, who provided a small wooden cross made from a Hadleigh church pew for Paul to lay on Raymond’s grave on a visit to Japan.

Raymond’s case also appears in records from the trial for war crimes of the commandant of Muroran camp, Kaichi Hirate. One of the charges was specifically about Raymond, with witnesses reporting that his solitary confinement in freezing conditions was a punishment for stealing food. You can see the trial records here (please be aware that these records contain sensitive information which could be upsetting, including descriptions of cruelty and violence). Hirate was found guilty and hanged.

Suffolk and Essex Free Press, 20th December 1945

Raymond’s ashes are interred in the Commonwealth War Cemetery at Yokohama, south of Tokyo. The cemetery contains the remains of 1,500 Allied soldiers who died as POWs or during the post-war occupation of Japan.  After the war, efforts were made to collect the remains of Allied soldiers and transfer them to a limited number of locations; a document meticulously records the transfer of Raymond’s ashes from a mausoleum to the Yokohama Cemetery.

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