Letter written by Private Costley to his mother Bertha, Malaya 1941

Historical note: 

Private Rod Costley wrote this letter to his mother Bertha from Malaya in days before Christmas 1941. 34 year old Costley was a truck driver with 2/3rd Reserve Motor Transport Company. Costley and his mates were providing support for British and Indian troops as they fought their way back to Singapore in the face of an overwhelming Japanese force. In the letter Costly shares none of the tension and terror of enemy attack or dismay at the discomfort of his circumstances. 

Costley and over 400 men of the 2/3rd Res MT Coy made it to Singapore. From Singapore they were ordered to Java where they fought on until captured when the island fell in March 1942.

Pte Costley and his mates were sent to the Burma Thailand railway construction camps by their Japanese captors. They laboured in dangerous conditions with meagre rations under brutal guards. In August 1943 36 year old Pte Rodney Costley succumbed to disease and died in a camp by the railway in Burma. 

Category: 
Diaries and personal papers
Conflict: 
Second World War
Story: 
Private Rodney Marwood Costley
Production Date: 
December 1941

On this day

On this day
16 February

1942— BANKA ISLAND MASSACRE. Following the sinking of the SS Vyner Brook, many of the survivors, including 22 Australian nurses, reached the shore of Banka Island. Realising that their position was desperate, an officer from the ship set out with most of the women and children to surrender the group to the Japanese. The officer returned with 20 Japanese soldiers who ordered all the men capable of walking to move to hidden part of the beach and killed them. They then returned to the beach and ordered the 22 nurses and 1 British civilian woman to walk into the water. They were machine-gunned in the back. All the immobile survivors were then killed. Sister Vivian Bullwinkle pretended to be dead and was the only survivor