Cartwright, Cyril George Fox

Born on 18th April 1911 he was the third son of the Reverend George Frederick Cartwright and Constance Margaret, nee Clark, of Church House, Lower Kingswood, Surrey.  He was fourth on a Roll which included several brilliant scholars.   He just failed to get the Frazer Scholarship at Balliol, but went there as a Commoner, thanks partly to the generosity of Sir Herbert Ingram, whose son Herbert Ingram (A 1925-1930) had been awarded the Frazer.

After obtaining his degree in 1933 he was appointed to the Colonial Administrative Service and was posted to Ocean Island in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands.  He sailed for  Sydney on the MV Moultan in January 1934, arriving sometime in February, leaving Melbourne in March for Ocean Island.     From May 1934 he toured the Gilbert Islands and over the coming months visited many of the Pacific Islands.  Cartwright’s letters include lively descriptions and some drawings of all that he saw: the transport (ships, surf-boats, canoes, railways and cable-cars); the food; the accommodation; local dancing; the rivalry between the Protestant and Catholic missionaries and he even describes the transfer of fifty lepers to the Makogai leper colony in Fiji.

In July 1934, Cartwright was appointed acting District Agent in the southern Gilbert Islands, based at Beru. He returned to Ocean Island in June 1935, where he eventually became Government Secretary.

Shortly after the outbreak of war with Japan, on December 9th 1941, the undefended island was bombed by the Japanese and the roof of the Residency blown off. A troop of Australian gunners was quickly dispatched to protect the island, but it rapidly became clear that Ocean Island was undefendable.   In February 1942, a French destroyer and a steamship took off almost all the European and Chinese personnel on the island.

Cartwright could have left with them, but elected to stay and do what he could to safeguard the inhabitants and their interests.  The island was largely ignored until 30th August 1942 when two companies of Japanese troops of 62nd Guard Force landed.  From the start they behaved agressively.     Cartwright was forced to submit to ill-treatment and malnutrition, from which he ultimately died on 23rd April 1943 at the age of thirty-two.  His body, and those of the other five Europeans on the island at the time of the Japanese arrival have never been found.

Cartwright’s letters are preserved in the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau of the Australian National University (reference PMB1261).  The letters were for the most part sent to his mother, but most of them survive as transcripts typed by his cousin, Maud, for circulation to other members of the family.



War: World War 2

  • Surname: Cartwright
  • Forenames or initials: Cyril George Fox
  • House: College
  • Years in School: 1924-1930
  • Rank: Civilian
  • Regiment: Colonial Administrative Service
  • Date of Birth: 18th April 1911
  • Date of Death: 23rd April 1943
  • How Died: Died in Japanese hands
  • Location in War Cloister: Inner E2
  • Decoration: NA
  • Burial Site: No known grave