Date of birth: 1913
Date of death: 12.9.1944
Regiment: Royal Artillery
Family information: Son of Mrs and the late Mr John Hugh Pierce
Service number: 806657
At some point Robert enlisted and became Sergeant 806657 with the 9th Coast Regiment of the Royal Artillery. The Regiment was serving in Singapore during WW2 and were captured during the fall of Singapore on 15th February 1942. Robert was taken to a Prisoner of War Camp in Thailand where he was probably one of the poor men forced to work on the Burma – Thailand Railway.
In 1944 the Japanese took some of the prisoners of war back to Singapore, en route to Japan where they were presumably needed to work. They left Singapore as part of a convoy of six ships on 4th September. There were two ships carrying prisoners of war from Britain and Australia and Robert was on the SS Rakuyo Maru. On the morning of 12th September 1944, they were just off East Hainan Island when, at 5am, the convoy was attacked by three US submarines, unaware of the presence of the prisoners and the Rakuyo Maru was hit by a torpedo form the USS Sealion. Both ships carrying prisoners of war sank with the loss of the majority of the 1,350 men on board, with the Japanese abandoning the few survivors. Some of the survivors were found by another US submarine and saved. Sadly, Robert was not amongst them and he was reported as “missing on board ship” presumed deceased just 31.
On 12th June 1943 the Wakefield Express printed the following:
“IN JAPANESE HANDS – News has been received that Sergeant Robert Pierce of the Royal Artillery, who was reported missing 15 months ago is now a prisoner of war in a Malaya Camp. Sergt Pierce is the son of Mrs and the late Mr John Hugh Pierce of 212, Batley Road, Kirkhamgate. He joined the Army 12 years ago at the age of 17 and was educated at Wrenthorpe Council School and the Wakefield Grammar School. He has two brothers in the Navy (one in the M.E.F.) and a sister in the A.T.S.”
Robert is remembered on the Singapore Memorial.
(Some of the information courtesy of www.roll-of-honour.org.uk )
Robert, born in 1913, was the son of John Hugh Pierce (killed in WW1) and his wife Elizabeth (nee Ferguson). He had an older brother John Hugh jnr (b 1911) and two younger siblings Doris (b 1915) and Edward (b 1916). In the 1911 census his parents were living in Outwood, but by his father John Hugh’s enlistment in 1916 the family were living in Lawn’s Lane, Carr Gate. Tragedy struck in 1918 when Robert lost his father to pneumonia – dying in a military hospital in Shoeburyness. His mother went on to have four more children, Albert in 1920, Phyllis in 1921, Leonard in 1925 and Lilian in 1926. They were all registered with the surname Pierce. Elizabeth eventually remarried in 1932 to William Henry Peat at St Anne’s, Wrenthorpe.