Former commanding officer of Cambridgeshire Regiment who completed heroic Second World War Singapore escape dies
PUBLISHED: 15:25 22 May 2014
A former commanding officer of the Cambridgeshire Regiment has died at his home in King’s Lynn, just a few weeks short of his 100th birthday.
Walter Page moved to Lynn in 1946. He was a chartered accountant and a partner in the East Anglian firm of Larking, Larking and Whiting until retirement in 1981.
Though born in London, his parents were both from Norfolk; they returned with their young family during the First World War to live near Norwich. Walter went to boarding school, first to Taverham Hall, then on to Canford School in Dorset. He excelled academically and in sport, playing at Junior Wimbledon at school and going on to represent Norfolk at tennis and hockey.
In 1938, he enrolled with the Territorial Army in Wisbech and was deployed with the 18th (East Anglian) Division to Singapore during the war.
As an officer of the 2nd Battalion the Cambridgeshire Regiment, the then Capt Page saw fierce fighting in the weeks leading up to the fall of Singapore. He was later awarded the Military Cross for gallantry.
With the fall of Singapore in 1942, tens of thousands of allied troops were to pass into long and brutal captivity, but Capt Page was ordered by his commanding officer to form an escape party. In the midst of constant bombardment and with many setbacks, they managed to get away from Singapore Island, just half an hour before it fell, by taking a lifeboat from a burnt-out ship and loading it with food, before starting to row.
Of the 20,000 men in the 18th Division, who had arrived four weeks earlier, just 30 got away. They reached Sumatra after several days of mishap and danger and were then evacuated to Java and then in an old Chinese flat-bottomed river steamer, they crossed the Indian Ocean to Ceylon. Captain Page joined Ceylon Army Command as a staff officer.
He rejoined the Territorial Army after the war and went on to become commanding officer of the Cambridgeshire Regiment. In later life he enjoyed visits to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford and in particular to the Cambridgeshire’s regimental collection, to which he had contributed a number of items.
He was a freemason and for many years was the deputy provincial grand master for Norfolk.
Married for over 50 years, his wife Ruth died many years before him.
His funeral will take place at King’s Lynn Minster on Tuesday, June 3, at 2.45pm.