Reuben William Cecil Borley was Welsh-born and may have been one of an influx of Welsh people who moved to Chelmsford in the 1930s. He worked in the building trade before joining the army. He was sent to the Far East and captured by the Japanese at the fall of Singapore in February 1942. His parents lived in Springfield Park Avenue.
Reuben was born in Wales in 1916 the youngest son of Bertie Welshman Borley (born 1883) and Martha Ann Borley (nee Palfrey) (born 1884). His parents had married in Wales in 1909, the year his brother Bertie Theodore Borley was born. Bertie had a second brother, Edward Oswald Borley, born in Wales in 1913, and a younger sister, Edna I. Borley (1922-1946).
Prior to the war Reuben worked in the building trade.
During the Second World War Reuben served as Private 6020734 in the 4h Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment. He was captured by the Japanese at the fall of Singapore in February 1942.
It was not until July 1943 that Reuben's family received confirmation that Reuben was a prisoner of war - prior to that he had been listed as missing.
Many of the men in the 4th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment suffered appallingly through a combination of brutality, disease and starvation. Reuben died whilst a prisoner of war in Japanese hands on 23rd November 1943 in Thailand. He was 29 years old and was one of more than 250 men from the battalion to die whilst prisoners of war, many while working as forced labourers on the notorious Siam to Burma 'Death Railway'.
The railway, built by Commonwealth, Dutch and American prisoners of war, was a Japanese project driven by the need for improved communications to support the large Japanese army in Burma. During its construction, approximately 13,000 prisoners of war died and were buried along the railway. An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 civilians also died in the course of the project, chiefly forced labour brought from Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, or conscripted in Siam (Thailand) and Burma (Myanmar). Two labour forces, one based in Siam and the other in Burma worked from opposite ends of the line towards the centre. The Japanese aimed at completing the railway in 14 months and work began in October 1942. The line, 424 kilometres long, was completed by December 1943.
Reuben William Cecil BORLEY, Private, 4th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment
Killed in Thailand while a Japanese prisoner of war. Aged 29
Where found, the graves of those who died during the construction and maintenance of the railway (except for the Americans, whose remains were repatriated) were transferred from camp burial grounds and isolated sites along the railway into three cemeteries at Chungkai and Kanchanaburi in Siam (now Thailand) and Thanbyuzayat in Burma (now Myanmar).
At the time of his death Reuben’s parents were living at 113 Springfield Park Avenue, Chelmsford. He was unmarried.
Today Reuben lies at Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery in Myanmar (grave: B1. O. 3.). The cemetery contains all the former graves along the northern section of the notorious Burma-Siam railway, between Moulmein and Nieke. A fellow Chelmsfordian, Alexander Bowles lies in the same cemetery.
News of Reuben’s death did not reach home until December 1945. Weeks earlier a nephew of Reuben's had been named after him.
His father died four years later; his mother died in 1973.