Private Jesson was drowned when aboard a PoW transport sunk by Allied air attack off the Philipines in 1944, having already survived two years in captivity in Thailand.
Walter Jesson was born in Papplewick, a village midway between Nottingham and Mansfield, on the 29 March 1916. His parents were Edward Jesson, a farm worker and grazier, and Mary Elizabeth, nee Bembridge. Edward and Mary had married in Grantham district in 1903, and had at least children – William H in 1904, Edith Emily (1905), Esther (1908), Arthur Edward (1909), Frederick John (1911) and finally Walter. Edward moved from farm to farm, being recorded in 1901 as a batchelor horseman boarding at Ogden’s farm at Belton, near Grantham, then in 1911 at Silk Willoughby, near Sleaford, where he and his wife had four children at home: their sons Frederick and Walter were born later. They moved to Bottesford (date uncertain), and in 1939 Edward Jesson was a ‘grazier and dairy farmer’ who, with Mary and Frederick, lived on Barkestone Lane. Mary Elizabeth Jesson died in Bottesford on the 14th February, 1940, aged 61, during the winter of that year, and was buried in Bottesford churchyard. Edward died in Bottesford on the 20th November, 1956, and was buried alongside his wife. Their tombstones carries the inscription “also Pte Walter Jesson d.POW in Japanese hands, WW2”. Another of their children, Esther Jesson, was buried close by on the 4th January 1977, aged 68.
from which this summary has been taken: 1st Battalion remained in India until February 1941 when it moved to Penang. In May it sailed for the mainland of Malaya and was stationed at Sungei Patani. When Japan declared war on 7 December 1941, the Battalion was in position at Jitra. On the night of the 10/11 December contact was made with the enemy and from then on the Battalion was continually in action until the final surrender of Singapore in February 1942. During this time the Battalion fought hard and well against a little known enemy. Groups of men were continually being cut off, but in most cases fought their way back to the main body. Due to heavy casualties in both Battalions, on 20 December 1st Battalion amalgamated with the 2nd Battalion The East Surrey Regiment to form the famous British Battalion. Actions which will always be remembered were fought at Jitra, Kampar, Bata-Pa-Hat and Gurun Road. When the British Commonwealth Forces in Singapore surrendered to the Japanese in February 1942, men of The British Battalion became prisoners of war until 1945.
Detail of the ship and its tragic sinking are provided by the ‘wrecksite’ website (https://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?59634), which lists all the men on board, including Private Jesson. The ‘wrecksite’ post also includes the following brief account by Tony Allen (2008): Hofuku Maru SS was a Japanese transport carrying 1,289 prisoners-of-war en route from Singapore to Japan was attacked and sunk by US torpedo carrying bombers. Loaded with British and Dutch POW´s, it stopped at Manila to unload the sick and dying. It sailed again in convoy Mata-27 and was attacked for the second time about eighty miles north of Corregidor when only three days out. It took only a few minutes for the ship to go down drowning around 1,047 men who were trapped in the holds. Less than 250 survived.
Walter Jesson is remembered on Column 65 of the Singapore War Memorial at Kranji in Singapore. The inscription includes ‘Son of Edward and Polly Jesson; husband of Annie Jesson, of Londonderry, Northern Ireland’.
It appears that Annie Jesson was pregnant when Walter left her to go back to war, and that she had their son David whilst her husband was away. We do not know if Walter was even aware that he had a son.
More information about the sinking of the Hohuku Maru can be found on the Lakenheath Remembers website set up to comemorate the death of Stanley Mackender (Private, Norfolk Regiment), another of the PoWs on board.