Horobin, William Henry

William Henry Horobin was born on the September quarter of 1920 in the Hawarden Registration district (Hawarden Vol. 11b Page 405), the son of Thomas Henry & Dinah Elizabeth Horobin (nee Liversage), who had married in a Civil Ceremony at Hawarden in the June quarter of 1920 (Flintshire (Mold) HAW/07/12).

Thomas Henry Horobin is seen on the 1911 census living with his family at 89, Ewart Street, Saltney Ferry, Chester.    This was the first census that was written by the head of the household, who was Harry Horobin, 41, a Railway Goods Guard, born in Walsall, Staffordshire.   His wife Louisa, 40 had been born in Tipton, Staffordshire.    She tellsus that they had been married for 20 years and that 14 children had been born, 5 of whom had sadly died.   Their children were :- Thomas, 17, was single and a Stopper Up at the Artificial Stone Works.  Joseph, 15, was a Mottld (sic) Oiler (Crossed out) Labourer Artificial Stone Works.  Their daughter, Rosena, all three had been born in Walsall, Staffordshire.     By the time Bertie, 10, was born, they had moved to Saltney Ferry.  May Piece, 8 was registered in Hawarden as Eva May Horobin, Gladys, 7 and Dorothy, 5, made up the family and had also been born in Saltney Ferry.

Dinah Elizabeth Horobin (nee Liversage) had been born in Saltney Ferry (Flintshire (Mold)HAW/42/46), and she is seen on the 1901 census as Elizabeth D. Liversage, living with her parents and siblings at 9, Saltney Terrace, Saltney Ferry and on the 1911 census she was visiting Joseph & Jane Whitehouse and their 3 children at 10, North Street, Tarvin Road, Boughton, Chester.

Her family, on the 1911 census was still living at 11, Saltney Terrace, Mold Junction, Nr. Chester.  Head of the household was William Liversage, 51, a Foreman Platelayer (London N.W. Railway) born Bretton, Flintshire.   His wife Catherine, 45 had been born in Coed Poeth, Denbighshire and she tells us that 10 children had been born and one died.   Their children were David, 21, single and a Moulder (Iron Work), Hannah, 19, single, Catherine , 17, an Apprentice Dressmaker, and single. Robert William Ewart, 12, John Evan*, 11 and Mary Ann, 7, were all at school and all the children had been born in Saltney Ferry.   There was a Boarder living there, Thomas Reynolds, 62, a Roadman for Flintshire County Council and single, but born in Bretton, Flintshire.

*John Evan Liversage, Dinah Elizabeth’s brother, was in the Territorial Army and he sadly died on the 1st March 1919, he is buried in St Mary’s Churchyard, Broughton,Flintshire, please click on the link to read his story.

However, by 1920, Thomas Henry and Dinah Elizabeth had met and married in a Civil Ceremony at Hawarden (Flintshire (Mold) HAW/07/12).  But the following year, on the night of the 19th June, 1921, the census was taken and they are seen in different households, Thomas Henry with his parents at 89, Ewart Street and Dinah Elizabeth (referred to as Elizabeth), with her Mother and siblings living at 11, Saltney Terrace.  Her father William had died in 1917.   Also in the large household with her was William Henry, age 9 months.    This is the first time William Henry is seen.

The next time, he is seen on the 1939 National Register, which was taken on the 29th September 1939.   This source gives us the dates of birth, and they are seen as a family living at 11 Stone Cottages Saltney Terrace,Saltney Ferry, Chester, (Hawarden R.D.).    Thomas Henry Horobin was born on the 5th October 1893 and was a Railway Locomotive Driver.    Dinah E. Horobin ha dbeen born on the 18th February 1896 and as most married women, who did not have a job, was described as doing “Unpaid Domestic Duties.”   William Henry Horobin, had been born on the 26th August 1920 and was a Butchers Assistant & Cook Hand and was single.   Marjorie J. Horobin had been born on the 26th July 1923, was single and a Electric Switch Gear Machine Hand.   There was a William Gilbert E. Liversage living there and he had been born on the 19th May 1898, he was a Steel Furnace Labourer Heavy Worker and single.

There are some newspaper cuttings that shed some light on William Henry’s youth and life before the war, they are seen below, they tell us that he was educated at Saltney Ferry Council School and was a prominent outside left for the school team.

He joined the R.A.F. in August 1940 when he was 20 and was trained as an Aircraftman 2nd Class, he was sent abroad in November 1941.   I have no information except that, again, from the newspaper cuttings, he went to India first, as he sent a letter to them when he arrived, then the postcard that he sent was sent at Christmas 1942, they did not receive it until the 30th December 1943.   I don’t know exactly where he was stationed or died, but the websites below, will add a little, I believe, to what he went through and what he endured:-

Taken from the Commonwealth War Graves Database:-

History information – Before 1939 the Kranji area was a military camp and at the time of the Japanese invasion of Malaya, it was the site of a large ammunition magazine. On 8 February 1942, the Japanese crossed the Johore Straits in strength, landing at the mouth of the Kranji River within two miles of the place where the war cemetery now stands. On the evening of 9 February, they launched an attack between the river and the causeway. During the next few days fierce fighting ensued, in many cases hand to hand, until their greatly superior numbers and air strength necessitated a withdrawal.

After the fall of the island, the Japanese established a prisoner of war camp at Kranji and eventually a hospital was organised nearby at Woodlands.

After the reoccupation of Singapore, Kranji War Cemetery was developed from a small cemetery started by the prisoners at Kranji, by the Army Graves Service.

The SINGAPORE CIVIL HOSPITAL GRAVE MEMORIAL stands at the eastern end of the Singapore Memorial. During the last hours of the Battle of Singapore, wounded civilians and servicemen taken prisoner by the Japanese were brought to the hospital in their hundreds. The number of fatalities was such that burial in the normal manner was impossible. Before the war, an emergency water tank had been dug in the grounds of the hospital and this was used as a grave for more than 400 civilians and Commonwealth servicemen. After the war, it was decided that as individual identification of the dead would be impossible, the grave should be left undisturbed. The grave was suitably enclosed, consecrated by the Bishop of Singapore, and a cross in memory of all of those buried there was erected over it by the military authorities. 108 Commonwealth military casualties buried in the grave are commemorated on the Singapore Civil Hospital Grave Memorial.

This page commemorates Aircraftman 2nd Class William Henry HOROBIN (1109882) of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

Circumstances of Death: POW Death. Captured on 1942-03-20 at Java. Died in a POW camp at Liang, Ambon Island. (Chris Hobson)

Death of Death 1944-04-25 Age : 23 years.

Burial/Commemoration Details : Column 442. at Singapore Memorial, Singapore (Map)


Casualties and losses:-

340 killed[4]

2,182 captured[4]

309 executed[5]               95 killed[6]

185 wounded[6]

1 minesweeper sunk[7]

2 minesweepers damaged[7]

Dutch East Indies campaign – The Battle of Ambon (30 January – 3 February 1942) occurred on the island of Ambon in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), as part of the Japanese offensive on the Dutch colony during World War II. In the face of a combined defense by Dutch and Australian troops, Japanese forces conquered the island and its strategic airfield in several days. In the aftermath of the fighting, a major massacre of many Dutch and Australian prisoners of war (POW) followed suit.

The Fall of Ambon – The Japanese landed on the island of Ambon on 30 January 1942. After just four days of bitter fighting, the under-equipped and poorly prepared Australian and Dutch forces on the island surrendered.

The Australian battalion group of about 1100 men known as ‘Gull Force’ had arrived in Ambon on 17 December 1941 after a three-day trip from Darwin. The group comprised the 2/21st Battalion, which was part of the 23rd Brigade, 8th Australian Division, together with anti-tank, engineer, medical and other detachments. Their task was to join Netherlands East Indies troops – about 2500 men – to help defend the Bay of Ambon and two airfields at Laha and Liang. The Dutch commander, Lieutenant-Colonel J R L Kapitz, was senior to the Australian commander, Lieutenant-Colonel L N Roach, and took control of both forces, dispersing them into two groups. One group was sent to defend the airfield at Laha on the west side of Ambon Bay and the others were deployed to the east of the bay, south of the town of Ambon. Both the Australian and the Dutch forces were inadequately prepared and under-equipped. Lieutenant-Colonel Roach, aware of the futility of their task, made repeated requests for reinforcements of both men and equipment from Australia, even suggesting that Gull Force should be evacuated from the island if it could not be reinforced. Instead, he was recalled to Australia and Lieutenant-Colonel John Scott, a 53-year-old Army Headquarters staff officer from Melbourne, replaced Roach as commanding officer of Gull Force in the middle of January.

The first Japanese air attack on Ambon was on 6 January and by 24 January the Japanese were less than 1000 kilometres from the island. The last of the Allied aircraft were withdrawn on 30 January.

The Japanese landed three battalions on Ambon during the night of 30-31 January. The Australians lost contact with the Dutch who capitulated the next day on 1 February. Scott, the Australian commander, surrendered two days later on 3 February. Some small groups of men escaped and made their way back to Australia but almost 800 surviving Australians became prisoners of war. The Australians together with about 300 Dutch prisoners of war were put back into their barracks at Tan Tui, north of Ambon town.

On 25 October 1942, about 500 of the Australian and Dutch prisoners were sent to Hainan, an island in the South China Sea off the coast of mainland China. Led by Lieutenant-Colonel Scott, they left Ambon in the Taiko Maru and arrived in the Bay of Sama on Hainan Island on 4 November. The next day they sailed up the coast to a camp at Bakli Bay.

The Japanese government had recognised Hainan Island’s potential and planned to use the POWs to build roads and viaducts in order to develop agriculture and industry on the island. The prisoners were forced to do hard manual labour under difficult and brutal conditions with a completely inadequate diet. By 1945 the survivors were all starving. Worse still, Scott was an unpopular senior officer who was unable to command the respect of his troops. His unpopularity increased when he organised Japanese rather than Australian discipline for men who violated Australian army regulations.

Early in 1944, 40 of the Australians were sent to work at the Japanese garrison at Hoban, north of Bakli Bay on Hainan. While out on a work party one morning, they were fired on by Chinese guerrillas, some of several thousand nationalist and communist guerillas still operating against the Japanese on the island. Nine Australian POWs were killed, three were wounded and ten others were captured by the guerillas but were never recovered.

At the end of August 1945, Americans liberated the POWs from Hainan. On Ambon the surviving Australian POWs waited another four weeks to be rescued by the Royal Australian Navy corvettes, HMAS Cootamundra, Glenelg, Latrobe and Junee. The very high (over 75%) death rate on Ambon had been exacerbated when an American bomber dropped six bombs on the Japanese bomb dump right next to the Tan Tui POW camp. The dump ignited and exploded, killing six Australian officers, including the doctor, four other ranks and 27 Dutch women and children. A number of Dutch and Australian casualties died later.

After the Japanese surrender it was discovered that about 300 servicemen who had surrendered at Laha airfield had been killed in four separate massacres between 6 and 20 February 1942. Not one had survived. The prisoners on Ambon and Hainan were subjected to some of the most brutal treatment experienced by POWs anywhere during World War II. Over three-quarters of the Australian prisoners there died in captivity.

East Indies Camp Archives

The Retreat: 1942 – Malaya, Singapore, Dutch East Indies

By January the Allied army had been pushed back onto Singapore Island. Although valiant attempts were made to reinforce the air defences they proved too few and too late. Before Singapore surrendered the surviving remaining aircraft were evacuated to the island of Sumatra.

Although attempts were made to defend Sumatra against invading Japanese forces the Allied air units were decimated and driven back to the island of Java. By the beginning of March, British and Dutch air resistance was over and surviving personnel made desperate attempts to escape to Australia or Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Few succeeded with the majority either killed or captured.

William Henry Horobin is remembered here:-

HOROBIN, Aircraftman 2nd Class, WILLIAM HENRY, 1109882. Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. 25th April 1944. Age 23. Son of T. H. and Dinah E. Horobin, of Saltney Ferry, Chester. Column 442.

The prisoner of War Lists that I have found show that William Henry was captured on the 20th March 1942 and died on the 25th April, 1944 of Beri Beri, he was 23 years old.

So his family were left in the dark over a long period, the newspaper cuttings show that he sent them a letter when he landed in India and also that :-

Chester Chronicle 8th January 1944 – Saltney Ferry

Prisoner of War Aircraftman William Henry HOROBIN has written to his parents Mr. & Mrs. T.H. HOROBIN, 11, Saltney Terrace, stating that he is a prisoner of war in Java and is in excellent health.   He is an only son and before joining the R.A.F. in August 1940, was employed as a cook by Mr. John Irving, butcher, Saltney.    He is 23.

Cheshire Observer 8th January 1944 – Saltney Ferry

Prisoner of WarMr. & Mrs. T.H. HOROBIN, of 11, Saltney Terrace, have received a postcard from their only son, Aircraftman W.H. HOROBIN, R.A.F., stating that he is a prisoner of war in Java, and that his health is excellent.   The last letter received by Mr. & Mrs. HOROBIN from their son was written in January 1942.  He was employed by Mr. John Irving, butcher, as a cook, before he joined the R.A.F. in August 1940, at the age of 20.

Of course the Postcard would have renewed their hopes that their only son was safe and be able to come home relatively healthy, but I do believe that the Japanese probably made them write these, or perhaps William Henry didn’t want his family to worry.     About 21 months later, they were to receive the terrible news of his death in Japanese hands, William Henry had been dead for 19 months and they must have carried the hope that he would survive.

Cheshire Observer 24th November 1945

Death of A.C. W.H. HOROBIN

Mr. & Mrs. T.H. HOROBIN, of 11, Saltney Terrace, Saltney Ferry, have been officially notified this week, that their only son, A.C. William Henry HOROBIN, R.A.F., died on April 25, 1944, in the Dutch East Indies, while a prisoner in Japanese hands.    He joined the R.A.F. in August, 1940 at the age of 20, and was sent abroad in November, 1941.   The only correspondence received by the parents from their son since he left this country, was a letter on arriving in India, and a printed postcard from Java, stating he was well.   The card, which was dated Christmas 1942, was received on December 30th 1943.   A.C. HOROBIN was educated at Saltney Ferry Council School, and while at the school was a prominent outside left for the school team.

I believe that William Henry’s sister Marjorie J. Horobin married Frederick James Barton in the June quarter of 1946 in a Civil Ceremony at Hawarden.

His mother and father were alive to bear the grief of the loss of their son, but I believe that Thomas Henry Horobin died on the 21st January 1955 and Dinah Elizabeth Horobin died on the 11th April, 1973.    William Henry must have been missed so much and loved by his family, he must be rememebered for his sacrifice.


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