Eastleach War Memorial – Hedley Hayden Adams

Hedley Adams, the son of Robert Edward and Elizabeth Adams, was born on 22nd November 1904 in Eastleach Turville. By the 1911 census,  Robert and Elizabeth had been married for fifteen years and there were seven children in the family, from Stanley aged 14, Lucy aged 11, Leonard aged 10, Lionel aged 8, Hedley aged 7, Daisy aged 5 down to Edward aged 3, all  born in Eastleach Turville. Robert was a stone-mason by trade, born in Eastleach Martin. Elizabeth was from Worminghall near Oxford.

At some point Robert Edward took up the tenancy of Macaroni Downs Farm. The children grew up helping on the farm. Sadly, Robert liked a drink and life was far from easy for them. When he was about seventeen, around 1921, Hedley decided that he had had enough and enlisted with the Dorsetshire Regiment who were recruiting in Fairford. He sailed to Malta, where he served for two years, then to India for a further five years. When he returned he found it difficult to settle to life in Eastleach and went to work at South Lawns, an estate near Swinbrook. Here he met Edna Mockridge from Derby, who was a lady’s maid to Lady McKinnon. They married on Christmas Eve 1938 in Witney and went to live in Lew, near Bampton. Ted, their son, was born at Rose Cottage, now known as The Cottage.

By 1939, Hedley was employed as a civilian at Brize Norton which was attacked quite early   in the Second World War. In 1940, he told Edna that he felt duty-bound to do his bit for the war effort, even though he was by now well into his thirties.  He joined the RAF and with 242 Squadron was sent to the Far East, after training in Skegness then twenty-one days embarkation leave. He sailed from Liverpool, destination unknown, in December 1941, the same day as the attack on Pearl Harbour. The first contact received by Edna was a letter from a South African family who had met him when the ship called into Cape Town. The ship was diverted to Java, as Singapore, the original destination, had by then been taken by the Japanese.

Hedley was in Java for about three months until Java was also taken by the Japanese and he was captured. Over two thousand prisoners, including one doctor, were taken to Haruku Island, part of the Dutch East Indies, where their task was to build an air-field from crushed coral. The island had no infrastructure so they had to build their own bamboo huts. Food was scarce and their captors, including their guard, Gunso Mori, were evil beyond description. Their incarcerators were hung at Changi at the end of the war in Japan. By this time, less than five hundred of the original prisoners had survived their ordeal. Despite the doctor’s attempts to provide more hygienic facilities, requests denied him by Gunso Mori, many had died of dysentery and malnutrition, including Hedley, who had passed away on 17th December 1943. His son was three years old.

Edna had received a letter from the Air Ministry in June 1943 to say that he was missing but didn’t finally know his fate until 1945 when she received an official telegram.

Ambon War Cemetery, Hedley’s last resting place, was constructed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on the site of one of the prisoner-of-war camps, Tan Touy. Edna stayed in Lew until her death on 28th February 1971. Their son, Ted, now lives in Minster Lovell with his wife, Mary.