Edward Bullock was the son of the Reverend Edward Bullock of Radwinter in Essex, and his wife May, nee Smethurst. Born in All Saints Vicarage, Camden Town, he came to Southgate House, later Hawkins’, in 1926, three years before his brother, John Raymond Bullock (F 1929-1934). Keen on all games he was for three years in OTH XV and two years On Dress for VIs. He was in the 2nd soccer XI and on Boat Club Committee. He was a Sergeant in the OTC in 1931. Commoner Prefect that year, he became Head of his House in 1932. From Winchester he went to Christ Church, Oxford.
After three years there he took the post of Agent at Rycote Park, near Oxford. Here he also set up a successful carpentry training establishment for boys from the poorer areas.
On the outbreak of war he joined the Territorial Army and was quickly promoted to Battery Sergeant-Major; he was subsequently commissioned into the 35th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery, formed for the defence of the RAF airfields in the area.
On 13th November 1941 the regiment, with Bullock as Battery Commander, sailed for the Far East on the liner Empress of Japan, arriving in Singapore on 13th January 1942. Bullock’s 144 Battery was sent to Malaya, but despite brave resistance against attacking Japanese aircraft, they were forced to withdraw. When the order for the capitulation of Singapore was given on 15th February 1942, 144 Battery and the regimental HQ were captured and the men taken to Changi Prisoner of War Camp where they stayed for four months. Eventually the battery was split up, with only Bullock, a junior subaltern and Lieutenant F W Jackson, whose letters provide much information on conditions at Changi, remaining.
Jackson, Bullock and others were posted as “missing at sea”, when prisoners of war, on a journey between Singapore and New Guinea on October 18th 1942. The Japanese blamed the Allies for this, claiming that the prisoners had been drowned on a ship in Rabaul harbour, when shipping there was attacked by American planes. However, the truth only emerged some fifty years after the end of the war.
144 Battery had been split up after capture, 100 men going to Saigon, of which 95 returned home at the end of the war. The remainder left Singapore on 18th October 1942 and boarded the “Nagara Maru”, a “hell ship” as such transports were known. The prisoners originally thought that they were bound for Japan, but this was not the case and on November 5th, the vessel arrived at Rabaul, on the island of New Britain, Papua New Guinea. There they disembarked, and in spite of the appalling state of their footwear, indeed some had none at all, forced to march to a camp at Kokopo, twenty miles away. The journey took them along dirt tracks, ankle-deep in volcanic ash. Taken to the mission square at Vunapope, they were forced to provide work parties until late November.
On November 16th 1942, five hundred and seventeen prisoners – the fittest remaining of the original 600 or so – were transported to a small island called Ballalae, south of Bougainville in the Solomon Islands. Ballalae, two days’ voyage from Rabaul, is four miles in diameter. Not one of these men survived, dying of illness or ill-treatment, some were executed, and, sadly enough, from Allied bombing raids (from which they had no protection), although by the end of February 1943 there still seem to have been over four hundred still alive. At Ballalae the artillerymen were ordered to build an airfield for the Japanese. When the airfield was finished, the Japanese received orders to dispose of the surviving prisoners ‘by whatever means were available’.
On July 1st 1943, the remaining 438 men were massacred and buried in a mass grave. It is probable that they were forced to dig this themselves before being killed. When the Allies re-occupied the island in 1946, the bodies were found and although none could be identified individually, their uniforms and badges showed that they were Royal Artillerymen. The bodies were removed and re-buried in a temporary war cemetery at Torokina on the island of Bougainville, but now rest in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Bomana in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, in a communal grave. A single plain plaque reads: “Here lie the bodies of five hundred men of the Royal Artillery, their names known only to God”.
The relatives of the men who died on Ballalae were never told officially how or where they died. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds no listing for Bullock; it may never be known whether he was one of the last 438 on Ballalae, or had died earlier.
Lieutenant Jackson, whose letters home provide so much information, developed dysentery followed by malaria, fell into a coma, and died at Rabaul on 8th March 1943. His final letter, written over a period of time and last dated December 26th 1942, was delivered to his wife by one of the few survivors after the war.
- Surname: Bullock
- Forenames or initials: Edward
- House: F
- Years in School: 1926-1932
- Rank: Major
- Regiment: LAA Regiment, Royal Artillery
- Date of Birth: 14th February 1913
- Date of Death: June 1943
- How Died: Died as a Prisoner of War
- Location in War Cloister: Inner F1
- Decoration: NA
- Burial Site: Unknown