war memorial at dusk, photographed by Michelle Cooper




Ron Adley


Ronald Adley was just 21 when he succumbed to cholera in August 1943, thousands of miles from his family in Dover. He was in Singapore serving as a medical orderly with the RAF when it was overrun by the Japanese, and spent his final months doing backbreaking manual labour on the infamous Burma Railway.

His little sister Rose was just 12 when she last saw her brother in 1941. Sitting in the immaculately tidy front room of the small flat she shares with husband Ernie in Harold Street, Dover, Rose, now 80, remembered her mother telling her of her brother's death before they had received a telegram. Rose recalled, "One morning she came to speak to me and she told me "Ron's dead". She said he came to her in her sleep and said, "I'm all right now mum, you don't have to worry any more. The telegram arrived later the same day. She was very upset at first, obviously, but she actually became calmer afterwards. She had been so worried because there was so much uncertainty."

The family - mum Minnie, dad Charles, and siblings Bill, Doris, Fred, Bob, and Rose - had no contact with Ron after he left for Singapore in 1941. It was his first posting overseas. He had returned to the family home in Primrose Road only briefly after finishing his training and married Dover girl Phyllis in a hurried wedding at Buckland church. Rose was a bridesmaid.

Rose, who has three children, seven grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren, remembered Ron as a friendly and caring older brother who spoilt his little sister. "All my brothers spoilt me," Rose remembered with a smile.  

Ron was quite quiet, but he was charming and very friendly, and everybody liked him. "He knew that I used to like dancing and singing, and he used to take me up Bunker's Hill where they used to have dances."

Ron's middle name was Charles, after his father, and Rose remembered the admiration her brother had for her dad. "He always wanted to be like my father, who was a medical orderly in the First World War. He used to sit down and tell us these fascinating stories about it - this was when they used horse-drawn ambulances."

Ron went to Barton Road school as a child, and attended Sunday school at the apostolic chapel in Primrose Road. He joined the airforce as a cadet as a teenager, for which he played the bugle. When he joined the RAF in 1941, still in his teens, he was sent out to patch up troops in the Far East. He was taken prisoner when Singapore fell to the Japanese in February 1942. Rose, Ron's sister

As prisoner of war, Ron was put to work building the Burma Railway, as well as continuing to nurse his fallen comrades. He died of cholera on Sunday August 1, 1943, and was buried in the Chungkai war cemetery in Thailand.

Rose, the last surviving sibling in the family, has never been to Thailand to visit the grave. She does have a photograph of it, which was given to her by former Mayor of Dover, Mike Farrell, after he returned from a visit to the Far East.

Rose added, "It was really lovely, he was in Thailand at the cemetery and he saw the grave. He wasn't looking for it, he didn't know who Ron was but he saw that he was from Dover so he took the picture. When he got back he sent it to the Dover Express and offered to give it to any relative that got in touch. That's how I got it, and I am very grateful."    

This article first appeared in the Dover Express, p28, 8th June 2006
reproduced with permission

Copyright 2006 Marilyn Stephenson-Knight. All Rights Reserved