Whitcombe, Hugh Templeton Hawkes

He was the younger son of Eric Aubrey Hawkes Whitcombe and Nancy Templeton Whitcombe, of Wallingford, Berkshire, and brother of J.D.H. Whitcombe (H1931-35). He came to Winchester (Mr. Altham’s House) in Short Half 1932. He reached Sixth Book (b) in three years, won the Gillespie Prize, the German Prize and was second in German Speech. He played in OTH XV, and kept wicket for 2nd XI cricket.

On leaving school he went up to Magdalen College, Oxford, and was gazetted to a commission in the Oxford OTC in April 1939. Transferred to the Royal Artillery (Berkshire Yeomanry) on the outbreak of war, he was promoted Captain in 1941, and served in the British Liberation Army in north-west Europe from July 1944 to January 1945.

After the Japanese surrender in 1945, Indonesian nationalists in Java proclaimed independence from Dutch rule. The Netherlands government refused to accept the declaration of independence, and attempted to re-assert control of the area. As Japanese troops withdrew to their barracks, there was a breakdown of law and order, and the Allies became concerned for the well-being of former prisoners-of-war and civilian internees. In early September the Supreme Allied Commander in SEAC, Lord Mountbatten, ordered British forces into Java to restore order.

Whitcombe was killed in an ambush at Domas, north of Bringkang, Surabaya, in eastern Java, on January 11th 1946, at the age of twenty-six. Five of his men died with him when their column was ambushed by Indonesian extremists.

“On January 11th the Division and the Indian Army suffered very severe loss. The 2/1st Punjabs had pushed forward from their positions some miles outside Soerabaja, and when this battalion’s tactical headquarters was about to enter a place called Domas, the small convoy was ambushed. The battalion commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Sarbjit Singh Kalha, in the foremost jeep, was killed outright. A battery commander of 145 Field Regiment (Berkshire Yeomanry), Major Whitcombe, who was following in the second jeep, was also killed. The wireless sets were put out of action by small-arms fire, and the isolated column lost touch with the other companies. One platoon under Subadar Karim Khan took up defence positions and beat back four attacks by the Indonesians – attacks that went on for an hour and a half. The situation was later restored when Major Duncan’s company, who were quite ignorant of what had happened on the outskirts of Domas owing to the breakdown of communications, came up to the same place despite machine-gun fire. The bodies of those who had been killed were eventually recovered and buried with full military honours.”

He is buried in grave 5.L.3 of the Jakarta War Cemetery.


War: World War 2

  • Surname: Whitcombe
  • Forenames or initials: Hugh Templeton Hawkes
  • House: A
  • Years in School: 1932-1937
  • Rank: Major
  • Regiment: Berkshire Yeomanry, Royal Artillery
  • Date of Birth: 29th March 1919
  • Date of Death: 11th January 1946
  • How Died: Killed in Action
  • Location in War Cloister: Inner A1
  • Decoration: NA
  • Burial Site: Jakarta War Cemetery: Grave 5.L.3